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Green Is The New Black

#PeopleNotProfit: Reviewing The Year’s Climate Strikes In The Global South

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Last Friday, thousands of people coordinated a set of strikes across the world. For transformative processes, for the return of political power to the people, for redistribution and for a home that prioritises #PeopleNotProfit. This is a snapshot of what transpired in the Global South—know their face, their story. 

Our time is now

The global youth movement known as Fridays for the Future called on its members to organize protests around the world on Friday, March 25. Its rallying cry is “climate reparations and justice.”

As we highlight Fridays For Future strikes, a viral video recording of Vijay Prashad’s speech during COP26 feels relevant. “Colonialism isn’t something that happened in the past that we defeated. Colonialism is a permanent condition,” he said, “And this condition happens in two ways: there’s the permanent condition of the colonial mentality. You tell us that we are responsible when you [the colonisers] are the one principally to blame. You say we’re all in this together and so on. We’re not in this together. The United States, 4-5% of the world’s population, still uses 25% of global resources. Then there are colonial structures and institutions. You [the IMF] lend us money that is our money. It’s these colonial structures that reproduce themselves year after year. The climate justice movement says “we are worried about our future”. What future? Children in Asia and Latin America don’t have a future—they don’t have a present. We’ve got to be worried about now.”

This year, Fridays For Future is calling for reparations: not as charity/loans but as transformative justice practices that follow through on the demands from Indigenous, black, anti-patriarchal and diverse marginalised communities to get their lands back, giving resources to the most affected communities by the climate crisis for adaptation, loss and damages. A redistribution of wealth, technology, information, care work, and political power.

What drives the movement

Leading up to Friday’s protests, Somini Sengupta wrote a piece for The New York Times, taking note of the unique positionality of the youth driving these protests: “They’ve grown up in a pandemic. They’ve come of age in an era of strongman leaders. The climate crisis looms over their very lives.”

And they’re worried about the state of democracy. Guided by historical struggles and lived experiences, led by the most affected people and areas (MAPA), they are demanding climate reparations. As FFF MAPA notes, “The richest capitalist 1% must be held responsible for their actions and willful ignorance. Their profit is our death. Their profit is our suffering.”

Climate struggle is class struggle. Global South’s ecosystems and peoples have been sacrificed for the sake of “development” and everlasting “economic growth”. Meanwhile, the working class is used as tools to build the very system that is destroying them. Let’s get to the top moments of this year’s strikes calling for the abolition of such exploitative systems.

KEY HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE GLOBAL SOUTH’S CLIMATE STRIKES

BANGLADESH

Climate change is driving Bangladeshi families into exploitative garment and coal factories or out of the country entirely. Women, especially, are double oppressed. First, they suffer from a climate crisis they did little to create. Their carbon footprint is vanishingly small, yet they bear the consequences of the Global North’s emissions.

Second, companies are free from binding international regulations due to which workers endure dangerous working conditions, abusive employers, and long hours of fast-paced labour. While they are paid poverty-level wages, multinational branded retailers make massive profits (Kim Kardashian’s SKIMS, H&M and Zara, to name a few) by outsourcing all their labour to Bangladesh.

The two reinforce each other: climate change pushes people into becoming either exploited garment workers or refugees (they don’t have much choice) which only increases inequality and the disproportionate power of the rich. In this climate, reparations are the furthest from charity.

PHILIPPINES

This March 25, youth climate activists joined the Global Climate Strike by taking to the streets to clamour for a set of leaders that will contribute positively to the local and global struggle against climate change.

Why “no to Marcos-Duterte tandem in 2022”? It is crucial for the next set of elected leaders to lead the country towards a just and sustainable tomorrow, in the face of our ongoing climate crisis. Now more than ever, they need leadership that will act on climate, defend environment defenders, fight for climate justice locally and internationally, and listen to the demands of the people.

A non-exhaustive list on why the tandem is incompetent for the people and the planet: lack of transparency, track record of tax evasion and corruption allegations while also pushing for anti-people policies, vague climate politics and stance on its issues, especially when climate protectors and defenders go missing.

This is an important time for the Philippines. Marcos Jr. and Sara Duterte are clear opponents of people- and planet-centred action, and climate activists must resolutely oppose the possibility of six years of such a leadership.

ECUADOR

Indigenous communities in Ecuador recognize the role that global capitalism plays in creating climate change. Some indigenous leaders argue that the rejection of capitalist production and consumption is necessary not only to protect indigenous traditions but also to sustain the Earth for future generations.

April 2020’s oil spill is still fresh in our memories. And so is Chevron’s 2011 episode in Ecuador, with environmental lawyer Steven Donziger being persecuted rather than Chevron. On 29th January 2022, for the second time in two years, the OCP Ecuador pipeline ruptured and an oil spill occurred in the Ecuadorian Amazon on the banks of the Coca River. 27,000 Indigenous Kichwa living downstream on the banks of the river are facing the compound effects of both oil spills.

Bonus good news: Earlier this Jan, Ecuador’s Supreme Court ruled in favour of Indigenous People’s right to decide the future of their lands in the Amazon. This is an incredible win—the ruling provides Indigenous peoples to have the final say on oil, mining and other extractive projects that affect their land. The landmark ruling signals that the nation’s highest court backs the right of Indigenous peoples to be able to protect 23 million acres of their rainforest territories. The ruling is a blow to the ambitions of Ecuador’s president, Guillermo Lasso, who had planned to double oil production and expand mining in coming years.

MEXICO

Members of different anti-racist, anti-capitalist groups and members of native peoples carried out a march as part of a Global Climate Strike. These Mexican activists highlighted indigenous, LGBT and women’s groups to show how their experiences overlap with climate concerns.

“It’s actually easy to connect the issues because the climate crisis is also a social crisis,” said Regina Cabrera of Fridays for Future Mexico. She added that it is hard to separate the environment from topics like land grabbing, fighting over limited resources or overconsumption.

Intersectional environmentalism is essential because the world is interconnected and no problem is isolated. The same factors that cause climate change to happen are established under the pillars of social and economic inequality, systems of exploitation, and colonization. If we want to address poverty, racial justice, climate change, and economic inequality, we need to treat them as a whole and find holistic solutions that address all the gaps in these realms.

FEATURED IMAGE: via Reuters | IMAGE DESCRIPTION: A poster that reads “THE WRONG amazon IS BURNING” is in focus, with the orange arrow underlining “amazon” to highlight the role of corporations in the climate crisis.

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