Writer on environmental and social justice issues, Jeremy Williams, is just the latest polemicist to claim climate change and racism, ‘two of the biggest challenges of the 21st century’, are intertwined. In an article for the BBC, ‘Climate change divides along racial lines. Could tackling it help address longstanding injustices?’, he argues white supremacists are behind both. How generously ‘rich’ countries (primarily the Anglosphere) respond to demands from ‘vulnerable’ countries… will determine whether climate change becomes a problem that unites or divides humanity.
As evidence of climate injustice, Williams cites hurricanes Katrina and Harvey which disproportionately impacted already stretched black neighbourhoods in New Orleans and Houston.
While urban flooding affects a wide range of demographics, those who live in poorer, more densely populated neighbourhoods, where there is limited green space to absorb water, are most affected. These are predominantly black communities where ageing sewers, already near capacity, are easily overwhelmed by torrential rain. That much is true. But his proposition that the combination of climate change and racism is the reason people of colour were so affected, is not.
First, Williams assertions ignore the IPCC’s conclusion that, ‘There is low confidence in attribution of changes in tropical cyclone activity to human influence’. Current data sets indicate no significant observed trends in global tropical cyclone frequency over the past century, with 2021 being one of the quietest hurricane years in the satellite era.
Second, Williams ignores the reality that the authorities have used welfare to buy off poorer communities who, over time, have become trapped in perpetual incubators of poverty and violence. Children grow up with a sense of victimhood and learned helplessness. This restricts their social mobility and institutionalises inequality and misery. What Williams attributes to ‘racism’ is actually the cumulative failure of decades of ‘compassionate’ socialist experimentation and Tammany Hall politics.
Still, he remains secure in his ignorance. He acknowledges ‘that for some, it can be disconcerting to hear terms such as “racism” and “white supremacy” used in discussions about climate change. After all, most people believe climate change is an environmental issue’. But, for Williams, they are missing ‘institutional racism’. While there may be no one specific event or person identified, the problem lies in the way victims are treated. That he says is buried away in processes and systems – ‘racism without racists as it is sometimes described’.
For proof he instances Zambia. While Zambia’s CO2 footprint is low, innocent Zambians face environmental disaster from prolonged droughts. The resulting crop failures, livestock deaths and reduced GDP have left over one million victims in need of food assistance.
Of course, Mr Williams immediately sees institutional racism at work, conveniently ignoring that between 2001 and 2020, Zambia lost 1.87 million hectares of tree cover, equivalent to an overall decrease of 7.8 percent. Chinese loggers are particularly to blame. Compared to their foreign competitors, they have proven to be poor forest managers and engage in illegal timber trading.
As an environmental writer Williams should know that deforestation creates a negative climate feedback loop. As forests are cleared, the rain decreases at a faster rate, leading to longer droughts and higher temperatures. More prolonged droughts lead to longer and hotter fires, which clear more forest, thus speeding up the process.
Those living in rural areas, especially women, are hit hardest and make up the majority of those living in poverty. Traditionally, Zambian girls are taught to be obedient and subservient to men. Women account for 65 per cent of food production and processing, but remain dependent upon their husbands for access to land and financial resources. Gender-based violence is commonplace. The charity, Care International, reports that gender inequality is a major influence on food insecurity and poverty but there is little mood for change.
Yet Williams and his ilk insist Zambia is the victim of oppressive European (British) colonial powers. They have ‘colonised the atmospheric commons. They’ve enriched themselves as a result, but with devastating consequences for the rest of the world’. It’s they, not Zambian practices, which are primarily to blame.
Nowhere is China mentioned, even though its emissions are colonising ‘the atmospheric commons’. Indeed, China emits more greenhouse gases than the entire developed world combined. Its CO2 has trebled over the past 30 years. Undaunted, Beijing is building another 43 coal-fired power stations and 18 blast furnaces and, has directed coal production in Inner Mongolia to be increased by nearly 100 million tons annually. China has also agreed to stop funding fossil fuel projects in developing countries like Zambia, condemning them to more expensive energy and lessening the risk they will ultimately compete against Chinese manufacturers.
But the West’s oppressive colonial past is the focus. China’s use of eighteenth century mercantilist practices to colonise today’s developing nations is apparently of no consequence. Unless, like Sri Lankans, you are a victim of China’s debt trap diplomacy. Two-thirds of Colombo’s revenues now go in interest payments, leaving Sri Lanka struggling to pay for food.
Having watched this debt crisis evolve over 15 years, a distressed former Cabinet minister, Wijeyadasa Rajapaksheto, commented, ‘It is manifestly visible… you (Beijing) use our relations to achieve your ambition of becoming the world power at the stake of the lives of our innocent people’. He said he resigned from Cabinet because he ‘couldn’t stomach’ the level of Chinese corruption.
But who cares? The Chinese aren’t part of the Anglosphere and Mr Williams is so consumed with hate for it he is blind to everything else. Worse, the BBC like its counterparts in Australia and elsewhere, is eager to promote similar anti-white, climate change fantasies. They would rather contemporary Western values of reason, liberty and the devolution of authority, be sacrificed on the altar of revisionist history. Better it seems to return to a primitive world order based on self-delusion, superstition and coercion, where omnipotent non-white leaders will lead Zambians to the promised land. Try telling Sri Lankans that.
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