will be a long hot summer in Australia. Fires of almost biblical
proportions have swept across the country, devastating land, property
and wildlife. More than 30
have been killed, a billion animals have died, and more than 3,000
homes have been burned down. The cost of the bushfires has been
at $2bn and could climb even further.
heavy rain and lower temperatures this month have helped put out some
fires, the threat of the blaze coming back is still imminent.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison's response to this
environmental catastrophe has been to refuse
to expand measures to combat climate change. In December, as the
death toll was climbing and Australian fire brigades struggled to
control the fires, the prime minister left the country for a holiday
attitude and actions illustrate quite well just how the wealthy and
their political allies plan to rule
our burning planet.
harrowing and apocalyptic scenes coming out of Australia are only the
beginning of a new normal in which climate change will result in
climate apartheid. Those with the means and the resources will leave
climate catastrophe zones or otherwise protect themselves from the
worst effects of climate change, while poor communities and nations
of the Global South, indigenous people and people of colour will bear
global corporations will continue to lobby governments to take little
action on climate change and continue to undermine the efforts of
a July 2019 report, Philip
the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, warned
that climate change will push 120 million more people into poverty by
2030, causing displacement, food insecurity and worsening health, and
posing "dire threats" to democracy and human rights.
"Perversely, while people in poverty are responsible for just a
fraction of global emissions, they will bear the brunt of climate
change and have the least capacity to protect themselves,"
Australia, this is already apparent. The country has had devastating
bush fires for years, which have disproportionately affected
impoverished areas. Aboriginal communities continue to be subjected
to discrimination, marginalisation and dispossession, their land
seized to make way for more resource
the country - one of the world's top coal exporters - is clearly
suffering from the devastating consequences of climate change, more
coal mines are being built on aboriginal
and more coal is being exported.
the ruling political elite of the country has consistently refused to
take major action on climate change, dismantle the coal industry, and
undertake a massive divestment from fossil fuels. Its attitude of
climate change denial has been buttressed
by a regressive media establishment dominated by Rupert Murdoch's
is not the only country with a history of brutal colonialism which
has taken a cynical, cruel and nihilistic approach to the
environment, climate activists and vulnerable populations.
months ago, another country was experiencing devastating fires -
Brazil. There the Amazon forest, which is considered a bulwark
against climate change, was burning under the watch of Brazilian
President Jair Bolsonaro, another climate denialist.
of indigenous land falls within the Amazon, which means that forest
fires also disproportionately affect indigenous communities.
not only did not take adequate action against the blaze, but his
aggressive anti-environment rhetoric was also seen
as encouraging farmers to start fires and clear land for more farms
and pastures. Even worse, he has been accused
of inciting genocide, as his political stances have emboldened acts
of violence and murder against indigenous people.
has also implemented a number of troubling policies
that will hurt efforts to preserve the environment. Those include
cutting the budget of the Brazilian environmental protection agency,
easing fines for illegal pollution and deforestation, and lifting
bans on growing
sugarcane in the Amazon
and protected tropical wetlands.
situation in the US is not that much different, either. Last year, US
President Donald Trump, another proponent of climate change
to cut funding for forest fire management in California after the
state went through another wave of devastating fires. There, too,
impoverished communities have faced
of the blaze.
also personally intervened to cut and withhold billions
of dollars in funding to Puerto Rico,
which was devastated by Hurricane Maria and a recent earthquake,
because he claims the territory is corrupt and ungrateful. In doing
so he followed in the footsteps of President George W Bush, whose
administration launched a pathetic response to the devastation in
predominantly black communities in New Orleans from Hurricane
rolled back nearly 100
designed to protect the air, land and water, and is removing
environmental protection for half of the nation's streams
Under his watch, the US Department of Homeland Security labelled
as extremists alongside mass killers and white supremacists.
from these regressive policies in Australia, Brazil and the US,
wealthy nations around the globe are increasingly militarising their
borders to prevent a growing number of climate refugees from seeking
asylum on their territories. European nations, for example, have
increasingly relied on harsh measures and dubious deals with
repressive regimes and violent
to keep refugees away from their borders.
climate apartheid proponents behave as if their walled fortresses,
air-conditioned and high-altitude enclaves will insulate them from
the worst ravages of climate change and its most devastated
front-line victims. But the reality is that there is no bailout from
a climate catastrophe, even for the rich.
now it is clear that change will not come from the top. The business
and political elites are bent on maintaining the status quo, however
deadly it may be.
this reason, it is the grassroots that has to mobilise to defy
climate apartheid and push for urgent climate change that includes
not only divesting from fossil fuels and cutting back on global
emissions, but also reforming the world economy away from the growth
that currently drives it. Also, we must fight for robust economic and
social rights, including a strong social safety net, social security,
access to food, shelter, healthcare and decent work for all.
grassroots mobilisation is the only way to prevent climate apartheid
from taking root and taking adequate action to save the human
civilisation from dying out because of its own folly.
This commentary was originally published by Aljazeera.com