The images are horrific: muddy water all you can see, with tiny objects that turn out to be houses sticking out of it. In another video, a powerful stream of water is washing away entire towns.
Pakistan is suffering from historic floods which have already affected over 33 million people.
And although we have to do everything we can to help the people of Pakistan now, the bigger story is not about this country. This tragedy – a man-made disaster – is a harsh reminder that the people who are most contributing to our climate emergency are not necessarily the ones who are paying the price.
To see it clearly, we have to look at three dichotomies. These are types of debates we often hear and something that can change the way we see, understand, and talk about the climate crisis.
Production vs. Consumption
It answers the question of how to measure the very thing we are talking about. When we talk about polluters (and let’s only take CO₂ emissions in this case) in terms of nation-states, are we looking at how much a country produces, or are we focusing on how much a country consumes? These are very different questions to ask – with very different answers.
For example, when we look at total CO₂ emissions, we see China at the top. If we look at CO₂ emissions per capita, China falls by 40 points. In Pakistan’s case, it is low on both of these scales, producing only 0.5% of the world’s CO₂ emissions.
Yet what is more revealing is not so much production but consumption. Now here we see a very different picture: as expected, wealthier countries consume significantly more per capita. This doesn’t come as a surprise, yet we have to remember this next time when we hear that these are countries that are going through higher levels of industrialisation that are the polluters we need to point our fingers at. Instead, it’s a reminder that what also needs to be addressed and changed drastically are the literally devasting consumption habits of the Global North.
For a deeper analysis of the production vs. consumption lens, please watch this video on Democracy Now.
Non-military vs. Military Pollution
The second dichotomy we need to inspect is the one that answers the question of what to include in our measurements. In short, there is one major polluter that rarely gets included in the already horrifying statistics on climate change that we’re seeing: that is military pollution. How do we account for institutions that have their branches abroad and don’t pollute just their own native soil? It turns out, this question is crucial to ask if we want to get to the root of the climate emergency we find ourselves in.
When we take the US military – the largest military in the world – the numbers are shocking here. As The Conversation reported,
The US military is one of the largest polluters in history, consuming more liquid fuels and emitting more climate-changing gases than most medium-sized countries. If the US military were a country, its fuel usage alone would make it the 47th largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world, sitting between Peru and Portugal.
The conclusion is simple: if we don’t count it, it doesn’t count. That’s why we can’t talk about climate change and all the disastrous forms it is showing itself to us without addressing one of its major causes.
The Global South vs. The Global North
Everything leads to one more dichotomy that I invite you to notice. It answers the question of who gets shamed in this debate. Having looked at the two previous dichotomies, it is clear that it’s not enough to say that everyone needs to do their part. And it’s simply unfair to blame the Global South that the North is treating as a complex of cheap factories and a place to dump its trash (literally). It is incorrect to point to countries that are moving to higher development levels which indeed results in higher levels of CO₂ consumed without pointing that finger at the regions whose consumption levels are already high.
And not to add the war machine to this one long equation is either intentional (and it is, so we have to campaign for it) or completely ignorant.
It’s time to see these dichotomies for what they are. It’s time to deconstruct them. And it’s time to raise our voices because the people of Pakistan are not only paying the price for our ignorance – they are paying the price for our inaction.
To take action, please consider donating to a fundraiser here and telling President Biden to declare a climate emergency.
Massacre in Jenin: The World Continues to Look Away as Israeli Forces Murder Palestinians in a Refugee Camp
As Israeli forces raid Jenin and murder nine Palestinians – making it ten in a day – will we see any international condemnation? And what’s the role of the media here?
To ask what good happened in any year might sound like a controversial question. Yet we have to train ourselves to notice – and to celebrate – the victories for human rights throughout the world. This is what I do in my episode as look at 2022 and identify what good happened in the UK/Palestine,…
On January 8, 2023, Brazil suffered yet another form of attack on democracy. What was it exactly? How does it compare to the January 6 insurrection in the US? And how is the country moving forward with president Lula ahead?
Both mainstream media and state-owned media have their agendas. Can we educate ourselves to notice them or do we continue attributing concepts like “propaganda” to “the other” and words like “liberation” to what our governments are doing?
When it comes to your political education, how do you decide what sources to trust? What are your criteria to choose what you consume and what source to give more importance to? In my episode, I present my own criteria but, more importantly, encourage you to define your own.
Yet the killing of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh is yet another reminder that Israel operates with complete impunity. As the months are passing, we can see no meaningful external investigation is taking place.
How does a county fall from the podium of democracy? And is it always a sudden fall? When it’s not something sudden and obvious, like a military coup, but a gradual process, it can be more difficult to spot, point a finger to, and name. So what does it entail?
Israeli groups and their supporters seem to be outraged by Farha, a Palestinian movie that shows the violence by Zionist forces that took place when the state of Israel was being established. I invite you to deconstruct this criticism.
How the Israeli press is being treated – the fact that not all football fans want to talk to them at the World Cup in Qatar – reminds us to check how Israel itself treats Palestinian journalists. In short, that treatment is so bad that this comparison can hardly be made.
2022 has been the deadliest year for Palestinian children in the West Bank in 15 years. To fully understand how the Israeli state policies work, we have to understand how they affect – not unintentionally, but by design – the Palestinian children.
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