THE CLIMATE CHANGE CRISIS IS A CRISIS OF RACE

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by Emmanuel Agu

Perhaps not in its inception, though undeniably, the climate change crisis is one of race. The protest today launched by the UK chapter of the Black Lives Matter (BLMUK) stands as a call to arms in opposition of worrying statistics of the UK’s Influence on both global climate change and the local effects — highlighting the disproportionate nature of these adverse affects on communities of colour in the west and world wide. 

 

This shrewdly timed protest in close proximity to the G20 summit should be one that inspires a full support from UK nationals regardless of race. This summit has a variety of nations giving their solid support behind the new Paris climate change deal — one which Theresa May is yet to ratify . This should sound many alarm bells considering one of her first actions after assuming office involved scrapping the Department for Energy and Climate Change in parliament.

In the past month the sheer impact of humanity’s presence on earth has markedly caused a shift from the geological epoch of the Holocene to the Anthropocene. This new epoch is one characterised by plastic pollutions and the mass domestication of animal produce — but experts also note the acceleration of CO2 emissions in recent history, rising sea levels, mass extinction leading to a lack of biodiversity, and the transformation of land by deforestation and development. It is this profound change that has caused the shift in demarcation of our current era.

This statistic in itself is one that should begin to illustrate the crisis of race in climate change.

The opening statistic of the above video notes the UK as “the largest per capita contributor the global temperature change and the least vulnerable”. This statistic in itself is one that should begin to illustrate the crisis of race in climate change. The UK, one of the most affluent economies in the world, can attribute its success in development of capita to the industrial revolution. This period of history saw a vast rise in industrialisation through the consumption of coal and a variety of natural resources we now know to characterise as CO2 emitters — but one must also note the overarching link between the economic growth fuelled by imperialism that co-opted the pillage of natural resources throughout the colonies inhabited by Black and Brown bodies. This includes (but is not limited to) in our precious gems, our oil, or our very bodies.

(UK Black Lives Matter shut down London City Airport 6th September 2016 as protesters erected a tripod and locked themselves together via BLM UK / Facebook)

(UK Black Lives Matter shut down London City Airport 6th September 2016 as protesters erected a tripod and locked themselves together via BLM UK / Facebook)

The way we characterise the racist nature of capitalism must extend past the historical enslavement of Black and Brown bodies, and move forward to identify the same nature in modern global development and politics. Today’s More Economically Developed Countries (MEDCs) (i.e The US, Germany, UK) are ones situated in temperate climates — in cases in which they do not, they posses the wealth to combat ecosystem destruction caused by natural (or man-made disasters). Experts have already illustrated that ecologically unsustainable development is a key contributory factor in increasingly chaotic natural disasters across the world. To have these nations with a long history of imperialism continually and unsustainably contribute to the ecosystem, knowing that the repercussions of these actions will hit Black and Brown bodies the first and the hardest, is truly racist.

The way we characterise the racist nature of capitalism must extend past the historical enslavement of Black and Brown bodies

Secondly, in the construction and industrialisation of metropolitan areas after the abolition of slavery — it is the non-white people (often children of the commonwealth) that were pushed into districts with substandard housing constructs, access to public services and environmental security. Residential segregation in the formation of ghettos — extending as far as whole districts and states in some examples — remains ubiquitous across these affluent states, even in this position of relative privilege it is these areas that face higher levels of Noxious gas emission, contaminated water and collapse from natural disasters and climate change; this is commonly termed environmental racism.

(A shirt worn by a man during a rally displays a poisonous logo alongside the text

(A shirt worn by a man during a rally displays a poisonous logo alongside the text “City of Flint MI Water Dept.” at City Hall in Flint, Michigan, 24th January 2016 © Getty Images/Brett Carlsen)

In America, this form of modern day ‘environmental racism’ looks like Black and Brown bodies in Flint continually exposed to lead and arsenic contaminated water; in the UK it looks like London boroughs with consistently higher concentrations of air pollutants with inhabitants that are disproportionately non-white and belonging to a lower socio-economic background. In Lower Economic Developed Countries (LEDCs) this is visualised by these Black and Brown bodies subject to increasingly chaotic ecosystems and weather patterns that inhibit economic growth and decimates local communities — this problem is further complicated exacerbated whilst considering the outsourcing of ‘dirty’ industrial growth from western superpowers to LEDC countries.

The humanisation of Black bodies must not end at protests against the state for the racist nature of policing forces, or xenophobic narratives that ostracise migrants

The humanisation of Black bodies must not end at protests against the state for the racist nature of policing forces, or xenophobic narratives that ostracise migrants. Black people are entitled to breathe an air quality as clean as yours, to grow in a world rich in biodiversity —  free from the toxins that inhibit our communities’ abilities to flourish and grow. What good is creating a state with equal opportunity here in the UK if members of the diaspora are subject to calamitous conditions? The struggles of migrants of War and Genocide are pictured throughout the entirety of history — the reality of Climate-based migrants (who will disproportionately be people of colour) is a future that I do not want to imagine, nor enter.

Featured image: still / BLMUK

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