Eyjafjallajökull and Social Justice

Paradoxically, the ashes of Eyjafjallajökull shed light on global interdependencies as well as on the qualities of these interdependencies. Not only do people, who have the means to travel or to enjoy vacations abroad, find themselves stranded far from home. Other people, whose livelihood depends on transcontinental travel to sell their products to those who can afford them, are exposed in their vulnerability and poverty. For them, there is not very much of insurance, I fear. They do not receive much of coverage in our western European news media.

These are realities of our interconnected world that, at least to first world consumers, remain hidden. They invite us to think about the quality of our planetary and global interconnectedness. Of course, planetary interconnectedness is not in itself a bad thing: it opens up new possibilities and opportunities, it promotes the concrescence of a living planet. At least that is what we hope for. However, what we discover more clearly today is that this interconnectedness is positive only if the relationships that constitute it are just and equitable relationships that promote human dignity and social justice worldwide. What is now becoming visible when the ashes sharpen our view is that there is a long way to go and that this way can only be gone if in the so-called first world we are willing to review how we organize the world we live in and how we attempt to live sustainably (for all) within its limits.

I don’t find it easy to write this, because I am myself aware of how much of a western consumer I myself am, with all the compromises I make every day and with all the blind spots that I attempt to hide for myself (blind squared) so as not to have to question my own life style and facilities. Eyjafjallajökull touches some of the scary places in my life, some of my deep seated insecurities and fears.

And when I delve deeper, I observe that Eyjafjallajökull is speaking not only about the unjust relationships between human beings on a worldwide scale: (s)he is also reminding me, through very natural processes, of the pains of a tortured and badly respected nature and planet. As it stands now, the rage of Eyjafjallajökull is not, of course, the consequence of human misbehaviour towards the planet and its creatures (in a way that today’s climate change is), but it prefigures in its groaning as a world that is shaping itself, the forces that a growling world may unleash against the excesses of human abuse. We should not count on our ideologies of control that makes us think falsely that we can twist the planet as an object into what we want it to do and to yield. I do hope that we learn some humility in the face of the forces and powers of a player, whom we all too often ignore or neglect.


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