Every Day | Earth Day

Happy Earth Day Eswatini! (though it’s debatable how happy the Earth really is these days). In the 51 years since very first Earth Day event in 1970, we have pumped more pollution into the air, rivers, ocean, soil and lungs of the planet than all of previous human history combined. These trends have been consistent, and show little sign of abating. At the same time, it’s fair to say that humanity has never been as aware, united and ready for radical, positive transformation as it is today.

Whilst we celebrate the Earth, our ever-gracious host, it’s good to take a step back and do two things:
1. Close your eyes and appreciate the very fact that you exist – that we exist – that life exists.
2. Understand and accept the depths and scale of the problems we are facing and how this very existence is fundamentally at risk.

Both of these things are incredibly important. If you just do #1, you run the risk of blissful ignorance and complacency. If you just do #2, you run the risk of depression, panic or paralysis. If we are to find balance for the Earth, we first need to find that balance within ourselves.

If you’re interested in understanding the root causes of the environmental and social problems that we’re living in today, read over the incredible work being done by the Climate Justice Charter in South Africa. And if you have some spare time, and data, consider joining the COP26 Coalition’s Global Gathering event this weekend: From the Ground Up #2: Taking Action Nowmoving our thinking towards how we can collectively tackle the multiple crises we are facing.

We will be publishing some stories and articles on what Climate Justice is all about and what this could mean for the present and future realities of Eswatini. For now, in honour of Earth Day, we will leave you with the following statement released by the COP26 Coalition which gives a pretty direct overview of the global calls to action that we require.

COP26 Coalition Statement #3
The super-rich won’t fix the crisis they caused. We need a global movement.

On Earth Day, 22nd April, US President Joe Biden is convening a summit of 40 world leaders with the stated aim of catalysing efforts to keep a 1.5oC limit on global heating within reach. Five years since the Paris Agreement, however, we are dangerously close to inevitable disaster. Will this be the day that the world’s richest countries acknowledge the scale of transformation needed to keep the goals of the Paris Agreement in sight?

It’s unlikely. Current global commitments predict at least a 3oC temperature rise. This terrifying reality would mean reduced food production, large-scale loss of settlements to sea-level rise and desertification, and massive loss of biodiversity hitting the poorest nations – and the poorest within nations – hardest and first. Instead of sleepwalking into this catastrophe, we must fight the climate crisis from the ground up by taking the necessary action to create the world we know is possible.

The rich countries who talk of climate ‘leadership’ have built their wealth through the ongoing exploitation of others – primarily in the global South. Their governments and corporations have pushed us to the brink of ecological collapse – yet there is still minimal recognition of the deep-rooted inequality which lies behind the climate crisis.

The effects of the multiple crises and  inequality we face are systematically linked. We will not overcome COVID-19 until all peoples in all countries are protected. Rich countries are blocking equitable access to the vaccine, meaning many low and middle-income countries have yet to receive a single dose. At the same time, big pharmaceutical companies  producing vaccines are making enormous profits.

The power of multinational corporations  is also shaping climate action. Through trade laws such as the Investor-State Dispute Settlement transnational companies can sue sovereign states over virtually any government measure that impacts their investments. Cases bought by fossil fuel companies are increasing and are having a huge impact on the ability of communities to defend their territories from the impacts of mining, deforestation and soil degradation.

So-called market based ‘solutions’ promoted by rich countries and backed by corporations  reinforce global inequality and fail to prevent catastrophic temperature rise. Climate finance piles debt on to countries facing the worst impacts of climate breakdown. Offsetting and trading emissions reduces the incredible diversity of our environment to tradable carbon: triggering a massive new land grab from Indigenous Peoples, peasants and local communities. Meanwhile, the false promises of carbon capture and storage and ‘Nature-based Solutions’ are repeatedly wheeled out by governments to justify burning more fossil fuels.

We urgently need to transform our societies and economies towards a real-zero carbon world, and do so in a way that tackles the interlinked crises of ecological destruction, racism, and inequality. Global summits dominated by rich countries and corporations – whether it’s the Biden summit or the G7 in June – will not put people before profit or offer real change.

We propose focusing demands and action on:

  • The waiving of patents for the purposes of preventing and treating Covid-19, so no one is denied access to vaccines or treatment
  • A global ban on fossil fuel expansion, and global cooperation to manage the dismantling  of the industry through a just transition
  • An end to false solutions including carbon markets
  • Cancellation of debt and massive increase in additional grant-based finance for development and climate adaptation
  • A global Climate Damages Fund to finance loss and damage, funded by the biggest polluters

We know a different future is not only possible but urgently needed. Let’s build our power From the Ground Up.

Solutions not Pollution – by Anisa Makhoul