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Joan Carling: Sustainability and Justice in a Post-COVID World

Every year since 1999, Beloit College has hosted a Weissberg Chair speaker to speak on human rights issues. Each speaker has been dedicated to human rights and social justice and has provided insight and new perspectives to the Beloit community, and has sparked conversations about a variety of topics and issues regarding human rights. This year, human rights activist Joan Carling holds the Weissberg Chair residency. 

   Joan Carling has been a defender of human rights for over two decades. Carling is from the Philippines, and a part of the Kankanaey tribe, residing in the northern region of Cordillera. She has personally seen how logging, mining, and construction can destroy land and displace Indigenous people. She has seen how tribal leaders, such as Macli-ing Dulag of the Kalinga tribe, are assassinated while protecting land, and how other members are silenced as they are displaced. 

   As with any human rights or environmental justice activist, Joan’s path in speaking up and advocating for indigenous people and the environment has not been an easy one. She has faced much criticism and even threats to her wellbeing as a result of her work. She has been displaced from her home in the Philippines after being labeled a terrorist and considered to be an armed rebel. Despite these threats, she is now determined more than ever to have her voice heard and advocate for those silenced. These experiences have prompted her to focus her activist career on environmental justice and indigenous rights. Her lecture on Wednesday night concentrated on this very topic.

   Her lecture, titled “Sustainability and Justice Movements in the Post-COVID Environment,” brought up the effects of COVID and its ramifications on the environment and world around us. The pandemic has had many effects on the world around, and Carling shared both the negatives as well as the positives that have come out of the pandemic. 

   As a result of people working from home, there has been reduced pollution, decreased omissions, and an increase of healthier, more environmentally conscious practices such as biking to work. Unfortunately, there has also been an increase in domestic abuse, a new abundance of medical waste cluttering up ecosystems, and an increase in poaching. In talking about these issues, she speaks about how it impacts indigenous peoples and their relationship to the environment. 

   Carling raises the idea that in devastating the environment, indigenous people are also negatively affected, and in protecting the environment, it helps the prosperity of future generations. Carling advocates for respecting the rights of ingenious people and the land they reside on.

   Carling also talked about demands she would like to see enacted, like universal healthcare and access to the COVID-19 vaccine, a redistribution of wealth, and observing and respecting indigenous people around the world. She noted that there are many factors that play into sustainability and justice, and indegenous people and the environment is a big part of that. 

   Joan Carling has another Weissberg Chair lecture on April 14. This feature lecture is on “Climate Change and Global Solidarity” and is at 6 p.m. on Zoom, and can be found on the Beloit College website under Events Calendar in News & Events. 

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