The joint report produced by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and INTERPOL in 2016 paints a rather grim picture of the extent of environmental crime worldwide. It identifies it as the fourth largest criminal enterprise globally, right behind drug smuggling, counterfeiting, and human trafficking. Two questions are worth pondering here: to quote George Monbiot, how did we get into this mess and what can we do about it?
Northern African countries are key suppliers of natural resources to the global economy, from large- scale oil and gas extraction in Algeria and Tunisia, to phosphate mining in Tunisia and Morocco, to water-intensive agribusiness paired with tourism in Morocco and Tunisia. The commodification of nature and privatisation of resources entailed in these projects has led to serious environmental damages, and forced these countries into a subservient position in the global economy, sustaining and deepening global inequalities.
Jun Borras, Jennifer Franco, Clara Mi Young Park, Mads Barbesgaard, Yukari Sekine, Ye Lin Myint, Thant Zin
02 March 2018
Dominant approaches to climate change mitigation are putting new pressures on small farmers and village dwellers, justifying dispossession by powerful actors who cast villagers' traditional ways of life as ecologically destructive or economically inefficient. In order to address the twin challenges of agrarian justice and climate justice, it is critical to understand the way new conflicts and initiatives intersect with old conflicts and the way they are compounded by undemocratic settings, and inequality and division along fault-lines of gender, ethnicity, class, and generation.
Popular protests that erupted in Vietnam in 2016 after a toxic spill by a Taiwanese steel factory have shown that environmental-focused campaigns can engage and mobilise the public to resist authoritarian practices, create a cohesive public voice and help build collective power.
Global pressure on land and natural resources is mounting, with mainstream narratives about climate change often intensifying pressure to replace so-called "inefficient" users of land, including small farmers and pastoralists with market-based dynamics and actors. This dynamic makes the pursuit of socially just land policy ever more important and urgent, while at the same time creating new challenges. The fundamental connections and tensions between agrarian and climate justice must be reckoned with, and movements on both sides must deepen their understanding.
An ethnocratic state produces a form of fascism in which the state supports the rights and welfare of the dominant ethnic group, but not others. By contrast, a tolerant multicultural state or plural society permits all people, regardless of ethnicity, to be recognised as equal members and thus achieves social justice. This comparison suggests that narrow nationalism is a chief source of the failure of Myanmar to become a modern and successful nation-state.
The growing call for the feminisation of politics – and energy politics for that matter – is about much more than merely increasing the representation of women in decision-making positions. We need to question the ways energy politics are shaped. We need to ask, energy for whom and energy for what?