by INA ALLECO R. SILVERIO Bulatlat.com
According to IBON data, TNCs account for 50 percent of all oil, gas and coal extraction and refining. Only 10 TNCs account for about 41 percent of world production of oil and gas, and TNCs control 80 percent of land worldwide which is cultivated for cash crops. Only 20 TNCs account for about 90 percent of the sales of hazardous pesticides and other agricultural chemicals. As one of the activities of the International Festival for Peoples’ Rights and Struggles (IFPRS) which ran from July 5 to 6 in the Philippines, environmental networks held a forum dubbed “the Current Challenges of Climate Change” in Quezon City. Organizers said that they wanted to raise awareness on the science and politics of climate change as well as present critiques on the various responses to climate change. Guests from New Zealand, Cambodia, India, Bangladesh and Uzbekistan shared how their respective countries deal with climate change and its devastating effects. Unquantifiable loss of culture, heritage Dr. Timote Viaoeleti of Impact New Zealand shared that it was also urgent to address the issue of climate change because of its impact on the cultural life, heritage and history of peoples. “This loss is not quantifiable, and what has been destroyed can never be restored,”he said. He explained that the massive floods that hit areas like Kirabati, Rarotonga, Somoa and Fiji destroyed more than the terrain and the livelihood of residents, but also the burial grounds and ancestral lands of the people. The other effects of climate change such as coral bleaching, soil erosion, decreased water supply, storm surges, ocean acidification also alter the face of New Zealand and with it comes the destruction of cultural history and the people’s emotional connection to the land. Resource persons on the Forum on the Current Challenges of Climate Change said that the issue of injustice is at the root of the climate crisis. They said that for all their posturing, governments of advanced capitalist countries and their corporations have not only refused to fully honor their obligations to reduce emissions and support climate actions in the more impoverished countries, they have also exploited the climate crisis to enforce false solutions that create new profit opportunities, expand their control over natural resources and worsen global warming. (From left Vaioleti, Tek Vannara , Irina Gilfanova)(Photo by Ina Alleco R. Silverio / bulatlat.com) “It’s not usual that the social, spiritual and epistemological issues are considered when discussing the effect of climate change; but in the case for instance of New Zealand, these issues cannot be neglected. Take the destruction of burial grounds or the flooding of ancestral lands — the emotional relationship of people with the land is all but erased, and memories are not enough to contain the grief over what was lost. People are forced to move and leave behind all that they have built and nurtured for centuries. There is a saying and a belief in Samoa: If my village is good, then I am good. If there is something wrong with my village, then there’s something wrong with me. The connection between the environment and the self is very present; there is the acknowledgment that environmental destruction destroys more than forests, oceans or livelihood: it eradicates the self,” he said. Devastating impact on people’s livelihood The presentation given by Tek Vannara from the group Culture and Environment Preservation Association (CEPA) in Cambodia,in the meantime, gave emphasis on the loss of livelihood in his country because of the climate change. According to him, Cambodians are being forced to find alternative means of livelihood because the industries of fishing and animal husbandry have been severely affected. “Two main rivers in Cambodia, the Tonesap and the Mekong have alternately flooded or overflowed or loss massive quantities of their water because of droughts. Floods and droughts are among the major contributors to the poverty of Cambodians. Rice production decreased by as much as 70 percent from 1998 to 2002, and the following years have not been much better. The quality of water has also been affected. Our economy is tied to farming, raising animals and fishing, but the effects of climate change have been drastic and thousands have lost their livelihood,” Vannara said. Uzbekistan has not been spared from the effects of climate change either. Irina Gilfanova, head of the Youth Environmental Network of Uzbekistan said that the changes in her country have been alarming. She said that 90 percent of all accessible water sources in Uzbekistan are used for irrigation needs, but because of the droughts, farmers have found it almost impossible to cope. “Even our lakes are shrinking. One of the biggest lakes in the world is the Aral Lake, but it has shrunk to 10 percent of it original size in recent years. There is constantly high temperature even in our mountainous areas, and there’s a decreasing number of frosty days and snow covers. There is almost no more difference between the hot periods during daytime and the colder weather at night time. There is also decreasing mountain snow-glacier resources,” she said. Gilfanova shared that they can no longer predict or determine changes in the country’s precipitate levels. ? “We are an agro-industrial country and deeply reliant on irrigation from natural water sources, but now there’s widespread drought. Connected to this is the worsening desertification of our soil. The survival of many plant varieties and animal species has been affected. As of now we don’t know if any have become extinct or drastically altered if they have been able to adapt to the climate change,” she said. In the year 2000, Uzbekistan suffered the worst drought in 100 years. Gilfanova said that water levels dropped by an average of 20-40 percent in all rivers. A famine also occurred, affecting one million people of Uzbekistan’s 27 million population. According to Gilfanova, their government was unable to provide adequate relief for the people and was forced to seek the help of the international community. Blame Climate Change on corporate greed and destruction The speaker from Bangladesh, S. Jahangir Hasan Masum, said that most people do not really understand what climate change is,” but they can understand it when we mention floods, tornadoes, cyclones, droughts, erosion and earthquakes. These are all effects of climate change. But more important than knowing the effects of climate change is knowing what causes it, or who,” he said. Masum said that it is crucial for people of the world to know that it is the leading governments in the world and their corporations and industries that are at fault when it comes to climate change. “They have done their best to destroy the environment by clearing thousands of hectares of forests. They have mined the earth to destruction, and poisoned the seas and the air. Because of their insatiable greed for profit, they have killed the planet. The ice covering the Himalayas is melting, and how else can you deny that there is something seriously wrong with the climate?” , he said. According to Masum the island country of Maldives might disappear under ocean waters in 100 years. “The tsunamis are getting bigger and stronger all the time, and they are also an effect of climate change,” he said. The Bangladeshi activist presented tabulations of countries most vulnerable to climate change, and he said that it was highly ironic that the countries who have the least CO2 emissions are the ones most seriously affected.
“The industrialized countries with their high technology industries are the least affected, but they are the ones who have the highest carbon output and emissions,” he said. “The destruction is caused by the economic activities of the economically advanced countries, but the suffering is mostly borne by those living in the poorer countries. This is a point that constantly needs to be raised when we demand a stop to climate change and call for environmental reforms,” he said.
Masum said that the global fight against climate change should be led by the poor people of the world because they are the ones most affected and the least to blame. He pointed out that there is worldwide livelihood and food insecurity because of how unstable the environment has become, and this should be enough reason for the poor and working people to fight for definitive reforms.
“People are not sitting idly by; 200 people can come up with 200 ideas on how to fight climate change. We have the capacity to see and understand the problem as it is and we have the capacity to come up with solutions if we all unite. We cannot and should not rely on politicians because they are more focused on using issues of the environment to promote and bolster their own careers,” he said.
Consult the grassroots for policy reforms
The presenter from India Dominic D’ Souza of Indian Network on Ethics and Climate Change (INECC) said that in crafting policy reforms and advocacies on the environment, the people must be consulted first and their voices heard. “This is an ongoing practice in India where residents of the severely affected communities conduct multilateral dialogues with environmental advocacy groups and political leaders to put together campaigns on how to mitigate the impact of climate change,” he said.
Speaker from Bangladesh, S. Jahangir Hasan Masum (Photo by Ina Alleco R. Silverio / bulatlat.com)
D’Souza said that the parties most affected are the working people, the farmers, fisherfolk, those who make a living from cultivating the earth. “The economic activities of the ordinary people produce very low levels of carbon, but they are the most severely affected by climate change because they have no means to cope. We have to address the cause of climate change — the irresponsible and undisciplined economic and industrial practices of the rich nations. If we cannot see that this is the problem, then we cannot come up with viable solutions,” he said.
According to the People’s Movement for Climate Change (PMCC) the issue of injustice is at the root of the climate crisis, saying that a tiny minority of the world’s population based in the advanced capitalist countries are primarily responsible for accelerating climate change. The group said that for all their posturing, governments of these advanced countries and their corporations have not only refused to fully honor their obligations to reduce emissions and support climate actions in the more impoverished countries in the world’s southern hemisphere, but they have exploited the climate crisis to enforce false solutions that create new profit opportunities, expand their control over natural resources and worsen global warming.
Global warming due to chaotic capitalist system
Rosario Bella Guzman of IBON Foundation said that industrialized countries and their transnational corporations (TNCs) promote a chaotic production system and unsustainable pattern of consumption.
“They are to blame mainly for global warming. The vulnerability of the poorer countries may be due to due to their geographic and climatological features, but this natural vulnerability is worsened because TNCs have control over their economies and critical resources. In the meantime, the supposed “solutions” and “assistance” industrialized countries and their multilateral organizations and international financial institutions are all within the profit-oriented framework and undoubtedly still at expense of the peoples of the Third World,” she said.
According to IBON data, TNCs account for 50 percent of all oil, gas and coal extraction and refining. Only 10 TNCs account for about 41 percent of world production of oil and gas, and TNCs control 80 percent of land worldwide which is cultivated for cash crops. Only 20 TNCs account for about 90 percent of the sales of hazardous pesticides and other agricultural chemicals. TNCs also dominate and control extractive industries that have irreversible effects on the environment, such as metal mining and energy extraction.
“In our fight against climate change, we have to reject false solutions that allow rich nations and their TNCs to continue harming the environment. Climate funds are compensation and not aid — what we are calling for is climate justice, and we can start to achieve this by demanding the abolition of all carbon markets; by ending emissions trading and offsetting as mechanisms for northern countries to meet emission commitments,” she said.
Stop destructive mining projects, agrofuel production
Center for Environmental Concerns’ Ces Quimpo said that “Global warming is affecting everyone across continents now and it is the majority of the world who are poor are the ones paying the dearest price with their lives. It is for this reason that the poor people of the world must also unite in the fight for climate justice,” she said.
Quimpo said that the CEC and the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment have been campaigning for a stop to large-scale commercial production and use of agrofuels in the country and against large-scale, open-pit mining that .She said that large-scale agrofuel production worsens GHG emissions by forcing the extensive conversion of farmlands, forests and grasslands into plantations that release carbon into the atmosphere. Mega-mining projects in the meantime cause massive dislocation of farmers and indigenous peoples even as it destroys forests and agricultural lands contributing to climate change.
Dr. Giovanni Tapang of the Agham Scientists for the People group said that all the organizations involved in the global campaign against climate change should strengthen their networks and hold united climate actions worldwide.
“We should all advance a strong, grassroots-based movement on climate change that puts to the fore the people’s agenda on climate action and social transformation. The fight against environmental destruction and climate change is a fight against imperialism,” he said.
The participants also asked for deep and drastic cuts on greenhouse gas emissions particularly of the United States, the European Union and Japan. They said that focus on the negotiations should be on protecting the people’s needs and welfare, reducing existing vulnerabilities from the local to the regional levels, and reviewing and repealing policies, frameworks and programs which contribute to the cumulative effect of reducing people’s capacity to adapt to climate change impacts.