Monday, September 13, 2010

Carbon imperialism devastating Africa

Tony Iltis in Green Left Weekly (Australia): For five centuries, Africa has suffered at the hands of the West. Starting with the slave trade, through the colonial era, to today’s neoliberal global economy, the development of industrial capitalism in the West has come at a terrible price paid by Africans.

Food riots in Mozambique early this month and looming mass starvation in Niger after floods that were preceded by years of drought both reflect the ongoing economic exploitation. However, they also reflect another creation of the industrialised West adversely affecting Africa: climate change.

Parallels can be made between the drought and floods in Niger and those that are taking place in the Australian state of Victoria. Both are in historically drought-prone areas that experience occasional flooding. However, in both instances, the weather events are more extreme than in the past, in line with climate scientist predictions about the effects of climate change. On June 22, Niger’s hottest ever temperature was recorded in Bilma — 47.1ÂșC.

There are differences, however. Niger has been responsible for only a tiny proportion of the carbon dioxide and methane emissions that cause climate change.Another difference is in the human cost. The Victorian floods have caused hardship, and drought has created ongoing economic and social distress in much of rural Australia (including high levels of suicide).

However, the suffering in Niger is on a different scale. Reuters said on January 28 that the Nigerien government was already reporting that 7.8 million people (half the population) were facing malnutrition. By August, 12 million Nigeriens were facing food insecurity and 400,000 children were in danger of starvation, the August 1 Guardian said.

…A report released by Friends of the Earth International (FoEI ) on August 30 revealed that, despite the food insecurity caused by dependence on imported food, 183,000 hectares of agricultural land in Mozambique has become foreign-owned commercial plantations growing jatropha, a toxic plant used to make biodiesel….

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