Saturday 4 July 2020

Climate and ecological breakdown – THE WORST CASE OF RACISM

We may not think of ourselves as racists.  Maybe it is true that in our day to day lives we do treat people, whatever their background, with equal respect.  Yet our privileged lifestyles rely on a world system where we create devastating problems, and it is people in other countries (generally those who are least responsible for causing them) who suffer most.  We therefore benefit hugely from a society that is inherently racist. 

Our lifestyles are driving climate and ecological breakdown.  This statement is not even scientifically controversial, it is a matter of fact. 

In Britain we are noticing changes: more floods, droughts, storms, rising seas, wildlife collapsing, soils washing out to sea and fish populations plummeting.  But these are tiny compared to the devastating effects that impact other areas.  Low lying islands will disappear under the sea, some people are already having to relocate.  Forests are burning, indigenous peoples are displaced, sometimes even murdered.  Floods and monsoons will flatten vast areas.  Crops will fail in regions made more arid by climate change.  Millions will starve.  It will not be long before parts of the globe will be uninhabitable, temperatures having tipped over a point where humans can survive.  And this is in places that are populated today, so where will the inhabitants go?  Oxfam has estimated that there are already 20 million climate refugees – people made homeless by climate change - probably a huge underestimate.  The worst drought in 900 years was one stimulus to the problems in Syria.  Wars and conflict are almost inevitable. 

And it’s only just the beginning. 

People forced into destitution by climate and ecological breakdown happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Most have played little part in this devastation, yet they will suffer most from it.  We cause the problems – they suffer from them.  And we are “fine” with that!? 

There is a horrible tendency to dismiss “other” people – they are often black or brown, live a long way away and are not like us, so we care about them less.  “Othering” people is a justification to treating them differently.  Our lifestyles cause devastation to other people but we are not prepared to give up our luxuries just because it affects those “others”!  Racism at its worst!  Maybe we’ll send a patronisingly small amount of oversees aid to make ourselves feel better.

But is this the worst case of racism?  How about historic racism – stealing other people’s lands and forcing them into slavery.  Surely that is worse?  But, put to one side that our current global economic system was fuelled by past racist exploitation, perhaps we can’t take responsibility for the past.  However, this same economic system is driving environmental collapse today and will disproportionately impact hundreds of millions, perhaps billions of people globally before the end of the century.  Being part of a global system that is inevitably causing the death and destitution of millions of “other” people of colour far away surely is the very definition of racism? 

In our defence, this is not about individuals.  It is very difficult for an individual to recognise the problem, let alone change something that operates on a global systemic level (even more so when that same system deliberately aims to isolate us from the consequences of our actions). 

Some paint concern about the ecological and climate emergency as a luxury that just concerns the white, rich, middle class.  They imply you are racist if all you are bothered about is tree-hugging!  The very opposite is the truth – it is failure to address the ecological and climate emergency that is racist, catastrophically racist, unforgivably racist.  Inactivity leaves us complicit.

1 comment:

rachel said...

Interesting thoughts. First of all I am vegan for many years and see things a bit differently. Most humans are malnourished and eat poorly which stress our blood pH and immune system to keep up. Thus, we are vulnerable, like an old car battery, to stressors. One acidic malnourished disease leads to another. Second, as humans demand more and more animal flesh, factory farms get bigger and bigger, Confined animals all over the world have caused many diseases to create and spread, including Covid. Plus, eating animal hormones, steroid drugs, antibiotics, and so on have absolutely no benefit for humans.
Because we know the CAUSE, we know the solution. Its' not dealing with symptoms which is costly in terms of time and money. It is removing the cause by the willingness to change, so we do not repeat the past. Going whole food vegan, and eliminating the factory animal farms, makes sense for everyone. I started this journey in 1987. All we need to do is get humans to release their intense fear of letting go of their unnatural omnivore addictions.
I believe in the UK, Viva has great online resources. Peace. Rachel the vegan mentor (USA)