The restorative justice process revolves around three key questions:
- What happened?
- Who has been affected and how?
- What needs to happen to repair the harm and make things right?
These three questions are the building blocks to a powerful alternative justice process, but also hold wisdom for other areas of life. I frequently use these three questions working through conflict in my personal life, and they are also a helpful lens through which to view the issue of climate change.
It is not a novel approach to apply justice frameworks generally used for people to the environment and animals. In New Zealand, the Whanganui River has the rights of a legal person. Along the same vein, I recently saw a with animal rights lawyer Steven Wise, who is working to change the legal status of animals from “things” to “persons.” These changes in legal status are an attempt to extend the respectful treatment we have created laws to uphold beyond human-to-human interactions to impact the way we interact with the planet and other species.
The benefit of the restorative framework is that it is something we can each apply to the issue of climate change individually. We can educate ourselves about what is happening and gain an understanding of the wide range of negative impacts (to different ecosystems around the world, to animals, to the safety and livelihood of fellow human beings, etc.). We can work to understand the interconnected web in which all life exists. We can then push for collective responsibility to make things right through activism and voting, but can also take the important step of personal responsibility, making changes in our own lives to repair the harm and make things right.
If you are looking for ideas of changes you can make in your own life or things you can do, check out the for the Sustainability, Energy and Environment Community (SEEC) at the University of Colorado Boulder. They have a great collection of actions you can easily take in your own life to work towards making things right with our planet. This includes ideas for how to use less and cleaner energy, buy fewer and higher-quality products, choose sustainable transportation, as well as policy information and other resources. Each of us can play a constructive and restorative role in our own lives and our interactions with the natural world.
One particular action I would like to highlight has to do with making climate-responsible decisions in the food you eat. This is an action that often gets less attention than other lifestyle changes such as transportation, recycling, and reusable products. Everyone eats and it offers an easy daily opportunity to do something good for the planet. The best thing you can do is eat less meat. As the website explains, “A typical family of four that decides to cut their meat intake in half could avoid roughly three tons (6,000 pounds) of emissions annually.”