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Green Colonialism, Greenwashing, and the Many Technologies of Exploitation PART 2

Author: Felipe F. Castro, Staff writer

Powerful waves hit the Marshall Islands on January 20, causing mass evacuations. Flooding from the storm, driven by a small tsunami, affected multiple buildings and two airports. On February 3, wildfires ravaged central Chile, destroying at least 3,000 homes in the Valparaíso region. A few days later, a capsized cargo ship leaked oil along 15 km of Tobago's coast, overwhelming local resources and necessitating international aid. El Niño's intense rain and flooding in Ecuador since February 20 led to five deaths and a rapid spread of dengue fever, submerging crops and straining emergency services. On February 22, a forest fire on Guatemala's Agua volcano damaged vegetation but caused no casualties. Heavy rainfall in Brazil's Acre State on February 25 affected almost 40,000 people and left 18,000 homeless.

March brought further chaos. Bolivia's Aruntaya River overflowed on March 6, killing sixteen and damaging homes. A storm between March 8 and 10 caused localized flooding in the UAE, severely affecting Dubai. Mongolia's harsher winter led to the current risk of spring floods from overwhelming rapid snowmelt. Cyclone Gamane struck Madagascar on March 27, killing 19 and displacing over 20,000. Severe weather wreaked havoc in Cape Province, South Africa. In late April, Kenya's Old Kijabe Dam burst, causing 50 deaths. Floods and landslides in Indonesia's South Sulawesi killed 15. Relentless storms in Brazil's Rio Grande do Sul left nearly 100 dead and over 141,000 homeless. These are only a few examples of what has already happened in 2024. And we have just reached the year's halfway mark.

Disaster in the making 


While natural disasters are fairly common, from earthquakes, storms, tornados, and wildfires, there is more than enough evidence that its occurrence is now tenfold when comparing data since the 1960s, as shown by the Ecological Threat Register (ETR). Events we are witnessing today are much more common, intense, and destructive than ever before. Climate change has been the slow moving turning point that has been happening to the world since colonialism started. 

From regions completely devastated since the arrival of Christopher Columbus, to the industrial revolution, our planet was transformed in numerous ways. Then, the extraction and burning of tons of coal, whale hunting, the advent of neo-colonialism and the extraction of minerals deep underground. And the rigging of oil fields, the massive manufacturing of plastic and petrol. The atomic era with the simultaneous boom of neoliberalism, living through the extraction of lithium and cobalt to build electronics: the thing is, everything has changed many times over. And we kept extracting, exploring, degrading.  

What we have already addressed in Part 1 as the Anthropocene has been causing worrying deep planetary transformations. Earth’s climate has been drastically morphing into conditions that may no longer support what the current living organisms are capable of enduring and flourishing on - and this includes humans themselves. This slow burn of a change is directly connected to our increasing exploitation of the environment, removing limited resources at alarming rates, transforming landscapes while carving mountains, causing oil spills, removing thousands upon thousands of square km of native flora, and so much more. 

Changing temperatures causes not only a rise in ocean levels due to the ice caps melting, but it also means the forming conditions for massive snowstorms, cyclones, tornados, and heavy rains, The delicate balance of our planet, maintained over millions of years, has been significantly disrupted by various large-scale human activities. 

These include deforestation, both deliberate and unintentional, as well as projects like Israel's colonial forestation efforts in once barren regions. Additionally, the widespread burning of fossil fuels and environmental pollution have further tipped this balance. This imbalance comes despite the planet's resilience following catastrophic events like the meteor impact that wiped out much of life millions of years ago. The unprecedented and ongoing level of devastation and extraction has been growing both in capacity and speed, which has led  to the increase of global scale natural occurrences.


The global coronavirus pandemic, that went from 2020 to 2023, could only exist and reach its full potential due to the temperature and humidity variations which provided  the perfect conditions for mutations and  cross-species contagion. 

By 2070, the impact of climate change is projected to lead to the emergence of thousands of new viruses among animal species. This heightened viral diversity is expected to elevate the risk of transmission of infectious diseases from animals to humans. This risk is particularly pronounced in Africa and Asia, regions that have historically been focal points for the transmission of deadly diseases between different species. Past decades have witnessed outbreaks of diseases such as the flu, HIV, Ebola underscoring the urgency of addressing this emerging threat.

The Green Turn Farce

In the late 2010s and early 2020s, there emerged fruitful discussions addressing a myriad of challenges. Additionally, the alarming disappearance of thousands of species and other pressing issues were brought to the forefront. The climate became an old, new topic when dealing with domestic and foreign policies alike, and it took the central stage for debate - even if for economic reasons. It has become too expensive to deny climate change. The international community has been trying to sew something new on that front, pushing its influence through transnational organisations, so every major player can change its energy matrix into greener options, such as the massive Chinese solar fields, or the controversial choice of nuclear power, an option Germany and South Korea have been looking into.

In the late 20th century and continuing into the 2000s, developed nations embraced a strategy famously described by Ha-Joon Chang as 'kicking away the ladder.' This term encapsulates the practice of hindering the progress of developing nations under the guise of beneficial policies. Currently, a parallel arises as developed nations utilize the pretext of 'going green' to impede the advancement of developing nations in their pursuit of development projects. While advocating for neoliberalism, free markets, efficient bureaucracy, and environmental sustainability, these nations perpetuate a cycle of exploitation. They exploit poorer countries, extracting their resources while polluting their environments, thus perpetuating a new era of colonialism marked by digital frameworks, financialization of the economy, and capital volatility. Multinational corporations like Coca-Cola and Nestlé wield immense power, privatizing essential services and exacerbating global disparities. Billionaires further compound these inequalities, funding armed militias, instigating coups, and perpetuating international corruption.

What does the future hold?

From the colonial era to the industrial revolution and the modern age of neoliberalism, humanity's unyielding quest for resources has reshaped landscapes and disrupted ecosystems. Deforestation, fossil fuel consumption, and environmental pollution have pushed our planet to the brink. The consequences are dire, and  The impact is felt most acutely by marginalized communities, including indigenous peoples, who bear the brunt of environmental degradation. While the devastation is widespread, countries like Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay, and Nicaragua serve as stark examples of the toll exacted by climate change and environmental exploitation.


How to fight climate change? 

Regarding technologies to combat climate change and foster sustainability, several innovative solutions offer hope for a better tomorrow. Ocean energy technology harnesses the motion and salinity of the ocean to generate electricity, providing a clean and renewable energy source. For instance, the Oscillating Water Column (OWC) technology utilizes the rise and fall of ocean waves to drive air through a turbine, generating electricity. 

Another example is the use of tidal energy turbines, which capture energy from the ebb and flow of tides to produce electricity. These technologies hold immense potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate climate change while promoting energy independence and sustainability. 

Additionally, advancements in renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, and geothermal power offer promising alternatives to fossil fuels. Implementing these technologies on a global scale could pave the way for a greener, more sustainable future for generations to come. But we need to face the destruction cycle and adopt something disruptively new, a more humane, nature-oriented form of living, understanding that our diverse communities are part of the same environment we rely so much on - and that we need to protect, and help re-balance. 

What the climate crisis shows is that the economic, political, and social systems we live in are not only obsolete, but are a collective menace to life as a whole. Understanding climate change whilst disregarding its context, ignoring the ones responsible for the matter, and not taking the necessary steps to avoid something far worse than we are already submerged into, is doing exactly what Chico Mendes warned us about. The thing is: if we choose to keep class struggle out of ecology, we are going to play gardening with plastic plants - and nothing else.




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