By Ladi Fagbola
A new report by WWF claims that “humans” have wiped out 60% of the animal population on Earth. A United Nations report also made a similar claim about “humans” being responsible for a likely inevitable climate catastrophe. What is always missed in these conversations is which “humans”? Which group of humans are responsible for the outright destruction of the Earth? To give a hint, Carbon Majors’ report claims only 100 companies are responsible for 70% of Green House Emissions.
Now, I’m sure you can now guess who are the CEOs of these multiple billion pound companies and where most of the profits of these companies are spent. As you guessed, they are Western. Originally European, now including Europe’s settler-colonies; USA, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. The UK’s particular over-represented role in Europe’s Industrial Revolution cannot be over-stated.
Most indigenous societies survive on maintaining harmony with their immediate environment, contrary to capitalism’s subordination and destruction of the environment. An interesting system I’ve come across is the “Evil Forest” of the Igbos in South-East Nigeria. Where each community often has an “Evil Forest” that is off limits to human activity, leaving the forest to maintain its own internal biodiversity and sustainability. Only when all available land is beyond repair, will a small part of the “Evil Forest” be open to farming and other human activities. In direct opposition, nothing is sacred to Euro-capitalist profitability.
Anything and everything will be subject to exploitation and eventual destruction. Even with the mantra of improving efficiencies, this is only focused on reducing wages and removing human/environmental protections. The extractive industries are typically highly inefficient; producing significant amounts of waste and toxins. And, many of these destructive 100 companies are extractive in nature.
Now, many of my Christian folk love to trumpet Bible passages of “man having dominion over the Earth”. As sexist as this is, it misses the point of stewardship. Having “dominion” over the environment does not give humans the right to wipe out 60% of the other permanent members of the Earth. Imagine handing someone a beautiful garden and in only 50 years they completely destroy it for selfish reasons.
In addition to this, most of the benefits and profits all go to Europe and her colonial-settler offspring. This leads us into Sylvia Wynter’s critique of modern ideas of man/human. That implicit in all these assertions is that man/human mostly refers to “white, typically heterosexual, man”. Black people and people of the Global South have gotten only death, disease and famine from Western Capitalism. Therefore, using the terms man, human and humankind as responsible for these atrocities cynically distorts the facts. These findings should be reported as is; “the white man is responsible for wiping out 60% of animals”. Once we start having these conversations in their true form, we can properly hold those responsible to account. Any other conversation is simply transferring responsibility to the victims.
What makes the issue of a climate catastrophe worse, is that those who benefitted the least from Euro-capitalism will suffer the most. Both from their proximity to precarious environments and their lack of financial capacity to mitigate the worst consequences. The conversation about reparations might fit here but that simply will never go far enough. As the UN report suggests, you can have capitalism or sustainability. You cannot have both. All talk of Green Energy is a distraction. Every year, new records are set on temperature, hurricanes, rainfall, drought, famine, etc.. No amount of wind farms and solar panels can cure this. Capitalism must GO! And not just capitalism in the abstract sense, but its concrete enablers must give up their helm of it. And we must move to a new Global political and economic system of sustainability and collective responsibility.
Photo by Derek Keats