Look. Earth Day is nice.
But how do your celebrations seriously engage with the white supremacy that created our climate crisis in the first place?
The country called Africa contributes a mere 4% of the world’s total carbon emissions. And yet, Africans are already paying the steepest price of climate change. In Angola over the last year, more than 3,000 climate refugees crossed the border on foot, most walking over 100 miles into Namibia searching for food. Mothers lost babies to hunger and crocodiles crossing the border. Why? Because of Angola’s drought—the worst in 40+ years. On the other side of the continent, a little under a million Somalians underwent a similar ordeal; 900,000 Somalis were displaced by severe drought between 2016-17.
Meanwhile in South Africa, the Zulu people’s homeland of Kwa-Zulu Natal just days ago weathered the fiercest rains on record. A whole month’s downpour came down in two days. Over 448+ people lost their lives.
One father who lived in a home made of corrugated iron described how the severe rain submerged his child in mud. The child did not make it. The father faces the camera and is unable to finish his sentence.
There’s an excellent article in The New York Times looking at this climate crisis story through the lens of race. South African journalists break down why white supremacy––in this case apartheid’s ongoing legacy of dehumanized housing for black folk—exacerbates the impact of climate change.
Elsewhere, I heard the CEO of Eskom state that South Africa’s primary power utility, Eskom, emits a whopping 25% of Africa’s carbon emissions! If you didn’t know any better, you’d think that everyday South Africans are collectively responsible for a quarter of the entire continent’s carbon pollution. Huh! Fat fcn chance. Eskom was built to fuel a white supremacist state that delivered public services like electricity to whites—a paltry 9% of South Africa’s population back then. I still remember the thick night time smog of coal fuel and paraffin in black townships when I was a kid. Millions of households first experienced electricity only when Mandela became president in 1994.
But since this is South Africa, you know there’s a plot twist coming; right?
Twenty eight years into democracy—blackouts, or loadshedding as Eskom calls them—are so common that many in Kwa-Zulu Natal were swept away in those hip-high rains in the pitch dark. No electricity. Worse, weeks and sometimes months-long power outages tend to favor mostly black and mostly poor neighborhoods. While historically white suburbs (and industry) receive the shortest periods of time out.
That means even on a continent of over 1.2 billion humans, about a quarter of carbon emissions comes from less than 1%. And most of that 1% remains white folks.
I’m not saying more Africans need to “get civilized” and emit more carbon dioxide.
More “development”/land raping and “modernizing”/white washing is not what we need.
I’m just asking how on earth we who celebrate Earth Day from the privileged perch of The West can ask 99% of Africans to co-pay—some with their children’s very lives—for global warming caused by western white supremacy?
Happy Earth Day/Month/Whatever,
Africa: this backward country only emits 4% of global emissions