We are living in what is known as the anthropocene. Human activity is altering Earth’s natural cycles and spurring on climate change at unprecedented rates.
The islands of the Caribbean are home to over 40 million people, who are all directly vulnerable to climate change
The biggest culprits?
Dirty energy companies
Burning of oil, coal, and gas is the primary cause of the increased concentrations of toxic gases in the atmosphere. It is estimated that about 3 million people die each year because of toxic particles and 87 percent of all human-produced carbon dioxide emissions come from the burning of fossil fuels. Small Island Developing States are facing increasing temperatures, sea-level rise, and increased hurricane intensity; climate change effects that threaten lives, property, and livelihoods.
Compounding this, is the fact that environmental injustice is manifested when these companies and the businesses that enable them exert power and partake in fraud and bribery to expand their operations. Crucially, while the polluters sit in their mansions and chuckle over foie gras and caviar, the poor feel the brunt of climate impacts.
They say that the truth always comes to light. In one of the most recent cases, light is being shed on one massive cover-up by the world’s oldest, richest, and most powerful oil company, Exxon Mobil Corporation. Exxon is being investigated for falsifying its reports to investors and the public for the past four decades. InsideClimate News revealed that the fossil fuel moguls knew about the the devastating effects of its products on the environment, but failed to expose all they had learned, instead working to turn the story around by financing research organisations to promote climate change denial and fabricate lies.
Clean energy revolution
Clearly, the time for lingering and sitting on our hands is over. This May, the fight against fossil fuels has gone global and climate change avengers are taking on Thanos.
People across all continents are standing up and raising their voice against the world’s lethal fossil fuel projects, putting their lives on the line to send the urgent message of divestment into the airwaves and cyberspaces.
No more fossil fuels. We need to #KeepItInTheGround.
From May 4th – 15th, climate activists all around the world will be engaging in a global campaign against the fossil fuel industry. The #BreakFree 2016 campaign, headed by 350.org, has already made huge waves. We have seen in excess of 10, 000 anti-coal activists in The Philippines assemble in a climate march in Batangas City, 300 plus persons reclaiming the power and shutting down the largest coal mine in the United Kingdom, successful shutdown of the Riccarton Christchurch branch of ANZ bank (which has contributed $13.5 billion to fossil fuels) in New Zealand, 2,000 protesters shutting down the world’s largest coal port for a day in Australia, 3,000 people rallying in Indonesia, and many more anti-fossil fuel demonstrations in Brasil, Nigeria, the United States, and South Africa.
What about the Caribbean?
This well-coordinated wave of nonviolent civil disobedience is exactly what is need in the Caribbean. For too long, our economy has been held ransom by the oil and gas giants and it is time that we resist and #BreakFree from their stronghold.
Climate change is a social issue. Fossil fuel companies are proliferating systemic oppression, by taking away the rights of people in concentrated areas of the world. The effects of environmental destruction, pollution, and climate change is marginalising communities and putting them at greater disadvantage, increasing the struggle to survive. This social issue demands a social response.
History demonstrates the power that lies in protest and great social change has occurred largely as a result of social movements, which has inspired positive action, pressured leaders to adjust, and contributed to shifts in the balance of power. From the revolution in Grenada, which saw the end of 400 years of slavery and reformation of the education system, to the 1970s Black Power Movement in Trinidad and Tobago, where students, unemployed young people, workers, and some members of the nation’s military rose up and challenged the status quo of racial discrimination, the Caribbean has a colorful tapestry of successful civil disobedience. Maurice Bishop and Makandal Daaga held tight to their belief that through public engagement, civil society could rid society of its ills. Through civil disobedience, they led rebellions which changed the very fabric of their nation.
So too, we need to rise up in the Caribbean and demand that the energy transition be placed at the top of the development agenda. From Martin Luther King in the United States to Tubal Uriah Butler in Trinidad and Tobago, there is evidence to prove the link between policy change and civil disobedience.
Many countries are already developing policies to design and implement this transition, fostering de-localised renewable sources, such as solar, wind, hydropower, biomass, and geothermal energy. In Brasil, public transport is helping reduce air pollution and greenhouse gases, through the full implementation of the Bus Rapid Transit system, making lines more efficient and lending to a potential greenhouse gas emission reduction of up to 55 percent from the the transportation sector.
It was Martin Luther King Jr. who once said that “one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.” This is a call for the people of the Caribbean to advance their demands for reversal of plans, permits, and construction plans for fossil fuel plants, which facilitate the dominance of dirty energy companies, and for the governments to listen and act accordingly. It is time to build the resistance and dispute the legitimacy of this ball and chain industry that is riddled with corruption. It is time to disobey, in the name of climate action.
This article was originally published on Caribbean News Now