Health, Disability & Climate Change: Navigating the Politics of Energy Depletion

March 24, 2023 – March 24, 2023
02:00 pm – 03:30 pm

Join EnGRG for the third talk in their 2023 Health x Energy Webinar Series. Dr Sarah Bell (University of Exeter) will examine the links between disability, health and climate change; links rooted – in part – in energy and energy depletion (things which are fundamental to human life).

Health. Disability. Vulnerability. Words often used when discussing the risks of accelerating climate change. These discussions warn us of the potential for climate change to ‘undermine 50 years of gains in public health’ (as stated by the Lancet Countdown on Climate Change). Increasingly, such discussions also acknowledge climate injustice, examining who will benefit or lose out from climate change, in what ways and why. The embodied vulnerability of disabled people is often assumed within such discussions, with less consideration of the social or political conditions that create this vulnerability.

The ordering of the global economy around a quest for continuous economic growth drives both climate change and disability. It creates and perpetuates asymmetric, extractive power relations that drive unsustainable energy consumption and colonise the atmosphere. It overworks, exploits and debilitates labouring bodies, while undermining structures for collective care and inclusive forms of social organisation. It tasks individuals with carbon mitigation – in ways that demonise disabled people whose survival depends on energy-intensive equipment – rather than addressing the systemic problems that drive climate change. Problems that create a ‘politics of exhaustion’ and stigmatise energy-depleted bodies as ‘burdens’ to society.

In this talk, I will reflect on these links between disability, health and climate change; links rooted – in part – in energy and energy depletion. Energy is fundamental to life. It keeps us healthy, warm, cool, connected, engaged. It powers the tools, structures and devices we rely on to participate in society. Yet, it’s also unevenly distributed and taken-for-granted. In this talk, I will explore how the ongoing failure to address the exploitation of bodies and bodily energy – human and otherwise – is both compromising health and hindering societal transformations characterised by mutuality, solidarity and intersectional climate justice.


For more information and registration click here.