Beginning from October 29, world leaders will assemble in Scotland to discuss one of the most important global problems that face every person, which is the question of Climate Change. This issue is so important that it can spell the end of life as we know it on earth and therefore demands more than talk but immediate action.
This is a real tragedy. I say this because we have been warned about this situation for decades. Since the late 1960s and early 1970s scientists have been warning us about the terrible dangers that can befall us if we did not change our relations with nature.
The world leaders have met on many occasions. Since 1995 the UN has convened 25 such conferences, this is the 26th. At all of these conferences commitments were made but not kept or only partially kept. Despite the many convincing speeches that were made in the past, despite a full understanding of the cause and cure of the problem the situation is getting worse.
This is manifested in the increasing frequency and intensity of natural disasters. It breaks the heart to see how much sufferings are caused by these phenomenons.
The cause is fundamentally due to human economic activities a drive for wealth that has become unsustainable. This has resulted in serious damage to the world ecology. Carbon stored in forests, the oceans and in the earth are being released as we over exploit the resources of the world.
Added to this is the industrialization that has pumped millions of tons of toxic gasses in to the environment of our planet.
The cure is also clear. We have to preserve and protect nature so that the earth can sustain our activities. We must live more harmoniously with nature. We cannot behave as conquering heroes over nature. We have to understand nature’s laws and co-exist with them.
We may well ask why have mankind failed to arrest the situation seeing that we know the causes and the cure.
In my view we have been putting forward only technical solutions so far to deal with the problem. We have heard talk and we have seen the implementation of new technologies; solar power; wind power; thermal power; nuclear power and much more to generate energy. That is indispensable to our existence for we do need clean non polluting energy generation.
Scientists have also built cars and other motor vehicles that are not polluting the atmosphere. These are all very positive steps and scientists should be complimented for their achievements and their continuing efforts.
Despite all of these marvelous technological advances the situation is deteriorating at a rapid pace. Indeed this conference that will be held in Scotland will call for bringing forward the time frame for countries to arrive at zero pollution emission.
What is abundantly clear is that the technical approach, important as it is, is not the solution. Never before in our history have we had at our disposal so much fantastic technology. Yet our world is in a worse condition environmentally than it has ever been.
That is not to downplay the importance of technical solutions. They are vital! But it is not the main problem.
The main issue is the socio-economic relations that dominate our world. It is fundamentally a system controlled by very powerful corporations whose main objective is the maximization of profits. They would always pay lip service to environmental issues but as soon as they think that it would affect their bottom line environmental issues are promptly ignored. This is the nature of the system that dominates and controls the world.
More than one hundred years ago J. P. Dunning wrote the following “…Capital is said to fly turbulence and strife and to be timid, which is very true; but this is very incompletely stating the question. Capital eschews no profit or very small profit, just as nature was formerly said to abhor a vacuum. With adequate profit, capital is very bold. A certain 10 per cent will ensure its employment anywhere; 20 percent certain will produce eagerness; 50 per cent, positive audacity; 100 per cent will make it ready to trample on all human laws; 300 per cent, and there is not a crime at which it will scruple, nor a risk it will not run even to the chance of its owner being hanged. If turbulence and strife will bring a profit, it will freely encourage both.”
We also know from our own experience that this is true. For instance we can recall the case of the US vs. Reynolds Tobacco, Lorillard and Phillis Morris. The Tobacco companies knew that cigarettes were the main cause of some types of cancers, lung and stomach. Yet they lied about it and aggressively marketed it including to children. The profit they were making was so huge that they hired the best lawyers to be their lobbyists. No lives mattered to them.
We also know that the oil companies were aware of the danger to the earth that their extracting oil was creating. It is among the main reasons for climate change. They knew this more than forty years ago. Instead of trying to correct it and to look for solutions, they spent billions to discredit the findings of the scientists who have first raised the alarm. They spend billions more on lobbyists and have invested heavily in political parties by financing elections campaigns. Even now they are investing heavily in more extensive exploration and exploitation of hydro-carbon resources. This means that they have no intention to observe any restraint.
Clearly therefore for these huge profit making organizations nothing is more important than making plenty money. Human lives mean nothing to them. The Mighty Sparrow’s 1970s Calypso “Capitalism Gone Mad” is playing out before our very eyes.
Therefore we have a fundamental contradiction. The drive for profits is pushing the corporations to disregard the environment; to over exploit the world’s resources. On the other hand to slow down and reverse climate change we have to think and act more on conserving, preserving and enlarging nature. This environmental crisis is telling us that the international economic system that we have being operating under has outlived its usefulness and, for the sake of life on earth, must be changed
Without doubt the conference in Scotland will be useful but it would not bring the solution. This calls for mass action and a demand to change the international economic order. We need, as Cheddi Jagan said, a New Global Human Order.
By Global Indian Ambassador Donald Ramotar – Former President of Guyana