Climate Change Victims: What Will You Do Next?

Professor Joshua Castellino is Executive
Director of the UK-based Minority Rights Group International

By Joshua Castellino
LONDON, Jul 8 2019 (IPS)

Contemporary politics generates a lot of noise and smoke, with
little attention devoted to understanding, analysing and fixing the
causes of the noise and smoke. The global public discourse is
dominated by statements made by politicians and aspirants to power,
designed to shock, awe and draw support.

But the statements are
rarely about real underpinning threats facing society: not on
climate change, and not on the urgent need to generate employment
in the face of increased mechanization.

Anger and resentment at the loss of jobs on account of shifts in
manufacturing are dismissed as a design fault to be overcome
through simple solutions: building walls, departing clubs like the
EU, increasing tariffs on ‘foreign produce’ and keeping
migrants out since they are apparently responsible for the failure
of the economy to generate employment.

Irresponsible as that simplistic politics might be, it pales in
comparison to how climate change is treated. The sheer abdication
of governance is appalling and shameful, calling into question the
essence of why governments are needed at critical times in human

While scientists have produced compelling evidence for decades,
the recent impact of climate change is difficult to refute for even
the least educated person. When Greta Thunberg called for urgent
action she received adulation and patronage in equal measure, but
none have yet been able to respond with the urgent action she
called for.

Many in government around the world appear to accept the
realities of climate justice, but see it as an issue for the future
– unlikely to affect their time driven mandate of adhering to

In its Key
Trends Report 2019
, focussing on climate justice, Minority
Rights Group (MRG) provides evidence of the impact of climate
change on the most vulnerable communities in society.

The overarching facts on climate change are not new: Lake Chad,
a key water body in Africa has shrunk by 90 per cent since the
1960s, while the Arctic is currently warming twice as fast as
anywhere else on earth. These stark facts, in the public realm for
long, have not yet focussed on the impact on people.

The push for Canadian indigenous communities to leave their
ancestral lands in the face of climate impact is mirrored by those
in the Pacific in Tuvalu and Kiribati.

The degradation of forests around key water towers in Kenya, and
their occupation for commercial use, impacts their traditional
custodians, depriving them of their homes, and disrupting the flow
of water across Africa, into the Nile and onwards into the

As the desert eats into Chad, pastoralists face a heightened
crisis, stimulating migrant flows into Europe, while Nigeria is
heading in a similar direction with tensions rising as
pastoralists, faced with shrinking grazing areas, make incursions
into others’ territories.

Pastoralists and sedentary communities are also building up to a
stand-off in Morocco as competition for land and water becomes

The continued exploitation of natural wealth in the form of oil
and gas by wealthy companies, despite stark warnings about the
carbon economy, are creating devastating immediate consequences for
the communities cursed with living in proximity to these.

This is as true in Kenya as in Ecuador, Thailand and Russia. In
every case communities are forced to contend with pollution,
dereliction of their environment, impact on their livelihoods and
the eventual loss of their homes. That they were not consulted in
any of the processes is a given, only exacerbated by the shocking
governance failures over what ought to happen to them.

A new theme is also emerging that treats indigenous communities
and forest dwellers in particular as inconvenient nuisances that
through their very existence negatively impact the push towards
climate conservation.

This phenomenon pits environmentalists against super
marginalized communities, who appear to be considered as collateral
for the few pitiful moves being made in the name of environmental
protection. The argument being made appears to posit communities
that have lived in a sustainable and traditional manner for
centuries being tagged with responsibility for environmental

This deeply flawed argument goes against all evidence, making
scapegoats out of subsistence driven communities, for activities
that have been sustainable for centuries and create an overall
negative carbon footprint.

It also facilitates the biggest polluters and corporate actors,
who continue to reserve the right to make profits out of natural
wealth in conjunction with governments, that no matter what
property regime is used, do not belong to them.

Alongside each of these relatively ‘new’ phenomena, lies the
time-honed discrimination that has erected structures over
centuries that seek to maintain the hegemony of a small privileged
elite in each society.

Thus, the plight of Black Americans in New Orleans affected by
Hurricane Katrina lies in stark contrast to the urgent action taken
in the face of the flooding experienced by Manhattan as a result of
Hurricane Sandy.

The Valladolid Controversy of 1550 was the first publicized
debate concerning the rights of colonized peoples. Bartolomé de
Las Casas argued that native Americans were human despite their
‘unchristian’ customs, while Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda believed
they were barbarians rather than human, and therefore had to be
suppressed. The dispute may seem like a historical footnote that
captured the fatal attraction and insecurity towards Otherness.

Yet in this the most recent crisis facing humanity its echoes
are alive and well. Climate change affects us all, of that there is
little doubt. At what point this becomes survival critical for you
is merely a reflection of the accident of birth.

Wealth and proximity to power may keep you insulated a while
longer. Indigenous peoples and minorities the world over on the
other hand, have continued to be treated as objects whose consent
to anything is irrelevant and unnecessary, and therefore they form
the frontline to the crisis.

Sane, scientifically validated well-informed voices have called
for urgent action. MRG’s Key Trends Report of 2019 provides
evidence of the current impact of climate injustice on communities.
If governments continue to abdicate responsibility to solving this
problem, we need to sweep them away and bring in others who can
respond to this need.

Each of us have a responsibility to hold our governments to
account for issues that matter, while not being drawn into
meaningless games that maintain the power of the few over the many.
If climate change is not highest on your agenda it ought to be, and
you must act politically and responsibly to make sure your voice

If not for the indigenous and minority communities now, then for
yourself and your own loved ones tomorrow.

The post Climate
Change Victims: What Will You Do Next?
appeared first on
Inter Press Service.


Professor Joshua Castellino is Executive
Director of the UK-based Minority Rights Group International

The post Climate
Change Victims: What Will You Do Next?
appeared first on
Inter Press Service.

Source: FS – All – Ecology – News
Climate Change Victims: What Will You Do Next?