The West Is Using COP27 to Shift Blame to Poorer Nations—Private Greed Prevails Over Humanity’s Survival By: Prabir PurkayasthaRead Now
In the hands of capital, “clean” natural gas is worse than “dirty” coal. But rich nations have devised an elaborate system to conceal facts and shift blame to poorer nations.
COP27 has begun in Sharm el-Sheikh. Although the Ukraine war and the U.S. midterm elections have shifted our immediate focus away from the battle against global warming, it still remains a central concern of our epoch. Reports indicate that not only are we failing to meet our climate change goals, but we are also falling short of the targets by a large margin. Worse, the potent methane greenhouse gas emissions have grown far more rapidly, posing as much of a climate change threat as carbon dioxide. Even though methane lasts for a shorter time in the atmosphere, viewed over a period of 100 years, it is a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.
The net result is that we are almost certain to fail in our target to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. And if we do not act soon, even a target of 2 degrees Celsius is hard to achieve. At this rate, we are looking at a temperature rise of 2.5-3 degrees Celsius and the devastation of our civilization. Worse, the impact will be much higher in the equatorial and tropical regions, where most of the world’s poor live.
In this column, I will address two issues. One is the shift from coal to natural gas as a transitional fuel, and the other is the challenge of storing electricity, without which we cannot shift successfully to renewable energy.
The advanced countries—the U.S. and members of the European Union—bet big on natural gas, which is primarily methane, as the transition fuel from coal. In Glasgow during COP26, advanced countries even made coal the key issue, shifting the focus from their greenhouse emissions to that of China and India as big coal users. The assumption in using natural gas as a transitional fuel is that its greenhouse impact is only half that of coal. Methane emissions also last for a shorter time—about 12 years—in the atmosphere before converting to carbon dioxide and water. The flip side is that it is a far more potent greenhouse gas. Its effects are 30 times greater over a 100-year period than an equivalent amount of carbon dioxide. So even a much smaller amount of methane has a much more significant global warming impact than carbon dioxide.
The bad news on the methane front is that methane leakage from the natural gas infrastructure is much higher, possibly as much as six times more—according to a March 2022 Stanford University study—than the advanced countries have been telling us. The high methane leakage from natural gas extraction not only cancels out any benefits of switching to natural gas as an intermediary fuel but even worsens global warming.
There are two sets of data on methane now available. One measures the actual leakage of methane from the natural gas infrastructure with satellites and planes using infrared cameras. The technology of measuring methane leaks from natural gas infrastructure is easy and cheap. After all, we are able to detect methane in exoplanets far away from the solar system. Surely, saving this planet from heat death is a much higher priority! The other data is the measurement of atmospheric methane conducted by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
The Environment Protection Agency (EPA) in the U.S. estimates that 1.4 percent of all natural gas produced in the U.S. leaks into the atmosphere. But the March 2022 Stanford University study using cameras and small planes that fly over natural gas infrastructure found that the figure is likely to be 9.4 percent—more than six times higher than the EPA’s estimate. Even if methane leaks are only 2.5 percent of natural gas production, they will offset all the benefits of switching from coal to natural gas. “Clean” natural gas may be three to four times worse than even dirty coal. At least in the hands of capital!
The EPA does not conduct any physical measurements. All it uses to estimate methane emissions is a formula that involves a number of subjective factors, along with the number of wells, length of pipelines, etc. Let us not forget that there are many people in the U.S. who either do not believe in or choose to ignore the fact of global warming. They would like to take a crowbar to even a weakened EPA, dismantling all measures to reduce global warming.
The impact of methane leaks can be seen in another set of figures. The World Meteorological Organization reported the biggest jump in “methane concentrations in 2021 since systematic measurements began nearly 40 years ago.” While WMO remains discreetly silent on why this jump has occurred, the relation between switching to natural gas and the consequent rise of methane emissions is hard to miss.
The tragedy of methane leaks is that they are easy to spot with today’s technology and not very expensive to fix. But companies have no incentive to take even these baby steps as it impacts their current bottom line. The larger good—even bigger profits, but over a longer time frame—does not interest them. They aren’t likely to change unless they are forced to by regulatory or direct state action.
The cynicism of the rich countries—the U.S. and members of the EU—on global warming can be seen in their conduct during the Ukraine war. The European Union has restarted some of its coal plants, increasing coal’s share in the energy mix. Further, the EU has cynically argued that developing oil and gas infrastructure in Africa is all right as long as it is solely for supply to Europe, not for use in Africa. African nations, according to the EU, must instead use only clean, renewable energy! And, of course, such energy infrastructure must be in the hands of European companies!
The key to a transition to renewable energy—the only long-term solution to global warming—is to find a way of storing energy. Renewables, unlike fossil fuels, cannot be used at will, as the wind, sun, and even water provide a continuous flow of energy. While water can be stored in large reservoirs, wind and sun cannot be, unless they are converted to chemical energy in batteries. Or unless they are converted to hydrogen and then stored in either tank or natural storage in geological formations, underground or in salt caverns.
There has been a lot of hype about batteries and electric cars. Missing here is that batteries with current technology have a much lower energy density than oil or coal. The energy from oil or natural gas is 20-40 times that of the most efficient battery today. For an electric vehicle, that is not such a major issue. It simply determines how often the vehicle’s batteries need to be charged and how long charging will take. It means developing a charging infrastructure with a quick turnaround time. The much bigger problem is how to store energy at the grid level.
Grid-level storage means supplying the grid with electricity from stored energy. Grid-level batteries are being suggested to meet this task. What the proponents of grid-level batteries neglect to inform us is that they may supply power for short-term fluctuations—night and day, windy and non-windy days—but they cannot meet the demand from long-term or seasonal fluctuations. This brings us to the question of the energy density of storage: How much energy does a kilogram of lithium battery hold as compared to a kilogram of oil, natural gas, or coal? The answer with current technology is 20-40 times less. The cost of building such mammoth storage to meet seasonal fluctuations will simply exhaust all our lithium (or any other battery material) supplies.
I will not address the prohibitive energy cost—electric or fossil fuel—of private versus public or mass transportation, and why we should switch to the latter. I will instead focus on addressing the larger question of how to store renewable energy so that we can run our electricity infrastructure when wind or sun is not there.
Is it possible that a new technology will solve this problem? (Remember the dream of nuclear energy that will be not only clean but also so cheap that it will not need to be metered?) But do we bet our civilization’s future on such a possibility?
If not, we have to look at existing solutions. They exist, but using them means seeking alternatives to batteries for addressing our grid-level problems of intermittent renewable energy. It means repurposing our existing hydro-projects to work as grid-level storage and developing hydrogen storage for use in fuel cells. No extra dams or reservoirs, as the opponents of hydroelectricity projects fear. And of course, it means more public transportation instead of private transportation.
All of these existing solutions mean making changes on a societal level that corporate interests oppose—after all, doing so would require public investments for social benefits and not for private profits. Capital privileges short-term private profits over long-term social benefits. Remember how oil companies had the earliest research to show the impact of global warming due to carbon dioxide emissions? They not only hid these results for decades but also launched a campaign denying that global warming is linked to greenhouse gases. And they funded climate change deniers.
The contradiction at the heart of global warming is private greed over social needs. And who funds such a transition, the poor or the rich? This is also what COP27 is all about, not simply about how to stop global warming.
Prabir Purkayastha is the founding editor of Newsclick.in, a digital media platform. He is an activist for science and the free software movement.
An interview with Nigerian environmentalist Nnimmo Bassey.
Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for clarity and length from the author’s conversation with Nnimmo Bassey on October 7, 2022. For access to the full interview’s audio and transcript, you can stream this episode on Breaking Green’s website or wherever you get your podcasts. Breaking Green is produced by Global Justice Ecology Project.
In this interview, Nnimmo Bassey, a Nigerian architect and award-winning environmentalist, author, and poet, talks about the history of exploitation of the African continent, the failure of the international community to recognize the climate debt owed to the Global South, and the United Nations Climate Change Conference that will take place in Egypt in November 2022.
Bassey has written (such as in his book To Cook a Continent) and spoken about the economic exploitation of nature and the oppression of people based on his firsthand experience. Although he does not often write or speak about his personal experiences, his early years were punctuated by civil war motivated in part by “a fight about oil, or who controls the oil.”
Bassey has taken square aim at the military-petroleum complex in fighting gas flaring in the Niger Delta. This dangerous undertaking cost fellow activist and poet Ken Saro-Wiwa his life in 1995.
Seeing deep connections that lead to what he calls “simple solutions” to complex problems like climate change, Bassey emphasizes the right of nature to exist in its own right and the importance of living in balance with nature, and rejects the proposal of false climate solutions that would advance exploitation and the financialization of nature that threatens our existence on a “planet that can well do without us.”
Bassey chaired Friends of the Earth International from 2008 through 2012 and was executive director of Environmental Rights Action for two decades. He was a co-recipient of the 2010 Right Livelihood Award, the recipient of the 2012 Rafto Prize, a human rights award, and in 2009, was named one of Time magazine’s Heroes of the Environment. Bassey is the director of Health of Mother Earth Foundation, an ecological think tank, and a board member of Global Justice Ecology Project.
Steve Taylor: Climate change is a complex problem, but maybe there’s a simple solution. What might that look like?
Nnimmo Bassey: Simple solutions are avoided in today’s world because they don’t support capital. And capital is ruling the world. Life is simpler than people think. So, the complex problems we have today—they’re all man-made, human-made by our love of complexities. But the idea of capital accumulation has led to massive losses and massive destruction and has led the world to the brink. The simple solution that we need, if we’re talking about warming, is this: Leave the carbon in the ground, leave the oil in the soil, [and] leave the coal in the hole. Simple as that. When people leave the fossils in the ground, they are seen as anti-progress and anti-development, whereas these are the real climate champions: People like the Ogoni people in the Niger Delta, the territory where Ken Saro-Wiwa was murdered by the Nigerian state in 1995. Now the Ogoni people have kept the oil in their territory in the ground since 1993. That is millions upon millions of tons of carbon locked up in the ground. That is climate action. That is real carbon sequestration.
ST: Could you talk about the climate debt that is owed to the Global South in general, and African nations in particular?
NB: There’s no doubt that there is climate debt, and indeed an ecological debt owed to the Global South, and Africa in particular. It has become clear that the sort of exploitation and consumption that has gone on over the years has become a big problem, not just for the regions that were exploited, but for the entire world. The argument we’re hearing is that if the financial value is not placed on nature, nobody’s going to respect or protect nature. Now, why was no financial cost placed on the territories that were damaged? Why were they exploited and sacrificed without any consideration or thought about what the value is to those who live in the territory, and those who use those resources? So, if we’re to go the full way with this argument of putting price tags on nature so that nature can be respected, then you have to also look at the historical harm and damage that’s been done, place a price tag on it, recognize that this is a debt that is owed, and have it paid.
ST: You’ve discussed in our interview how some policies meant to address climate change are “false solutions,” particularly those intended to address the climate debt owed to the Global South and to Africa in particular. Could you talk a bit about the misnomer of the Global North’s proposals of so-called “nature-based solutions” to the climate crisis that claim to emulate the practices and wisdom of Indigenous communities in ecological stewardship, but which actually seem like an extension of colonial exploitation—rationalizations to allow the richer nations that are responsible for the pollution to continue polluting.
NB: The narrative has been so cleverly constructed that when you hear, for example, reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD), everybody says, “Yes, we want to do that.” And now we’re heading to “nature-based solutions.” Who doesn’t want nature-based solutions? Nature provided the solution to the challenges [that Indigenous people have] had for centuries, for millennia. And now, some clever people appropriate the terminology. So that by the time Indigenous communities say they want nature-based solutions, the clever people will say, “well, that’s what we’re talking about.” Whereas they’re not talking about that at all. Everything’s about generating value chains and revenue, completely forgetting about who we are as part of nature. So, the entire scheme has been one insult after another. The very idea of putting a price on the services of Mother Earth, and appropriating financial capital from those resources, from this process, is another horrible way by which people are being exploited.
ST: How does REDD adversely impact local communities on the African continent?
NB: REDD is a great idea, which should be supported by everyone merely looking at that label. But the devil is in the detail. It is made by securing or appropriating or grabbing some forest territory, and then declaring that to be a REDD forest. And now once that is done, what becomes paramount is that it is no longer a forest of trees. It is now a forest of carbon, a carbon sink. So, if you look at the trees, you don’t see them as ecosystems. You don’t see them as living communities. You see them as carbon stock. And that immediately sets a different kind of relationship between those who are living in the forest, those who need the forest, and those who are now the owners of the forest. And so, it’s because of that logic that [some] communities in Africa have lost access to their forests, or lost access to the use of their forests, the way they’d been using [them] for centuries.
ST: As an activist, you have done some dangerous work opposing gas flaring. Could you tell us about gas flaring and how it impacts the Niger Delta?
NB: Gas flaring, simply put, is setting gas on fire in the oil fields. Because when crude oil is extracted in some locations, it could come out of the ground with natural gas and with water, and other chemicals. The gas that comes out of the well with the oil can be easily reinjected into the well. And that is almost like carbon capture and storage. It goes into the well and also helps to push out more oil from the well. So you have more carbon released into the atmosphere. Secondly, the gas can be collected and utilized for industrial purposes or for cooking, or processed for liquefied natural gas. Or the gas could just be set on fire. And that’s what we have, at many points—probably over 120 locations in the Niger Delta. So you have these giant furnaces. They pump a terrible cocktail of dangerous elements into the atmosphere, sometimes in the middle of where communities [reside], and sometimes horizontally, not [with] vertical stacks. So you have birth defects, [and] all kinds of diseases imaginable, caused by gas flaring. It also reduces agricultural productivity, up to one kilometer from the location of the furnace.
ST: The UN climate conference COP27 is coming up in Egypt. Is there any hope for some real change here?
NB: The only hope I see with the COP is the hope of what people can do outside the COP. The mobilizations that the COPs generate in meetings across the world—people talking about climate change, people taking real action, and Indigenous groups organizing and choosing different methods of agriculture that help cool the planet. People just doing what they can—that to me is what holds hope. The COP itself is a rigged process that works in a very colonial manner, offloading climate responsibility on the victims of climate change.
Steve Taylor is the press secretary for Global Justice Ecology Project and the host of the podcast Breaking Green. Beginning his environmental work in the 1990s opposing clearcutting in Shawnee National Forest, Taylor was awarded the Leo and Kay Drey Award for Leadership from the Missouri Coalition for the Environment for his work as co-founder of the Times Beach Action Group.
This article was produced by Earth | Food | Life, a project of the Independent Media Institute.
As Pakistan drowns, as Puerto Rico is cast into darkness, and as Jacksonians remain thirsty, it’s past time for a climate tax on fossil fuel companies.
What do Pakistan, Puerto Rico, and Jackson, Mississippi, have in common? They’ve all recently experienced climate-related catastrophic rains and flooding, resulting in the loss of homes, electricity, and running water. But, even more importantly, they are all low-income regions inhabited by people of color—the prime victims of climate injustice. They face inaction from negligent governments and struggle to survive as fossil fuel companies reap massive profits—a status quo that United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has called a “moral and economic madness.”
Pakistan, which relies on yearly monsoons to enrich its agricultural industry, has had unprecedented floods since June, impacting 30 million people and killing more than 1,500—a third of them children.
Zulfiqar Kunbhar, a Karachi-based journalist with expertise in climate coverage, explains that “things are very critical” in the rain-affected areas of his nation. Kunbhar has been visiting impacted regions and has seen firsthand the massive “agricultural loss and livelihood loss” among Pakistan’s farming communities.
Sindh, a low-lying province of Pakistan, is not only one of the most populous in the nation (Sindh is home to about 47 million people), but it also produces about a third of the agricultural produce, according to Kunbhar. Twenty years ago, Sindh was stricken with extreme drought. In the summer of 2022, it was drowning in chest-deep water.
The UN is warning that the water could take months to recede and that this poses serious health risks, as deadly diseases like cerebral malaria are emerging. Kunbhar summarizes that provinces like Sindh are facing both “the curse of nature” and government “mismanagement.”
Climate change plus government inaction on mitigation and resilience equals deadly consequences for the poor. This same equation plagues Puerto Rico, long relegated to the status of a United States territory. In September 2022, on the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Maria, which devastated Puerto Rico in 2017 and killed nearly 3,000 people, another storm named Fiona knocked out powerfor the entire region.
Julio López Varona, chief of campaigns at Center for Popular Democracy Action, spoke to me from Puerto Rico, saying, “the storm was extremely slow, going at like 8 or 9 miles an hour,” and as a result, “it pounded the island for more than three days” with relentless rain. “Communities were completely flooded; people have been displaced,” he says. Eventually, the electrical grid completely failed.
Days after the storm passed, millions of people remained without power—some even lost running water—leading the White House to declare a major disaster in Puerto Rico.
Even on the U.S. mainland, it is poor communities of color who have been hit the hardest by the impacts of climate change. Mississippi’s capital of Jackson, with an 82 percent Black population and growing numbers of Latin American immigrants, struggles with adequate resources and has had problems with its water infrastructure for years.
Lorena Quiroz, founder of the Immigrant Alliance for Justice and Equity, a Jackson-based group doing multiracial grassroots organizing, told me how the city’s residents have been struggling without clean running water since major rains and resulting floods overwhelmed a water treatment plant this summer.
“It’s a matter of decades of disinvestment in this mostly Black, and now Brown, community,” says Quiroz. In a state run by white conservatives, Jackson is overseen by a Black progressive mayor, Chokwe Antar Lumumba, who is now suing the state government over inaction on the city’s water infrastructure.
Quiroz says it’s “painful to see how government is not doing what they should, how the state government is neglecting its most vulnerable populations.”
Over and over, the same pattern has emerged on a planet experiencing catastrophic climate change. Setting aside the fact that we are still spewing greenhouse gasesinto the atmosphere as the world burns and floods, the impacts of a warming climate are disproportionately borne by poor communities of color as evidenced in Pakistan, Puerto Rico, Jackson, and elsewhere.
The UN head, Guterres is doing what he can in using his position to lay blame precisely on the culprits, saying in his opening remarks to the UN General Assembly in New York recently, “It is high time to put fossil fuel producers, investors, and enablers on notice. Polluters must pay.” Guterres specifically touted the importance of taxing fossil fuel companies to cover the damage they are causing in places like Pakistan. According to the Associated Press, “Oil companies in July reported unprecedented profits of billions of dollars per month. ExxonMobil posted three months profits of $17.85 billion, Chevron of $11.62 billion, and Shell of $11.5 billion.”
Contrast this windfall with the countless numbers of people who lost their homes in Pakistan and are now living in shanties on roads where they have found some higher ground from the floods. “If you lose a crop, that’s seasonal damage, but if you lose a house, you have to pay for years to come,” says Kunbhar.
Kunbhar’s view of what is happening in Pakistan applies equally to Puerto Rico and Jackson: Society is “divided between the haves and have-nots,” he says. “The poorest of the poor who are already facing an economic crisis from generation to generation, they are the most vulnerable and the [worst] victims of this crisis.”
In Puerto Rico, Varona sees displaced communities losing their lands to wealthier communities. He says that the local government in Puerto Rico is “allowing millionaires and billionaires to come and pay no taxes and to actually take over many of the places that are safer for communities to be on.” This is an “almost intentional displacement of communities… that have historically lived here,” he says.
And in Jackson, Quiroz says she is aghast at the “mean-spiritedness” of Mississippi’s wealthier enclaves and state government. “It is so difficult to comprehend the way that our people are being treated.”
Although disparate and seemingly disconnected from one another, with many complicating factors, there are stark lines connecting climate victims to fossil fuel profits.
Pakistan’s poor communities are paying the price for ExxonMobil’s billions.
Puerto Rico remains in the dark so that Chevron may enjoy massive profits.
Jackson, Mississippi, has no clean drinking water so that Shell can enrich its shareholders.
When put in such terms, Guterres’s idea for taxing the perpetrators of climate devastation is a no-brainer. It’s “high time,” he said, “to put fossil fuel producers, investors and enablers on notice,” so that we can end our “suicidal war against nature.”
Sonali Kolhatkar is an award-winning multimedia journalist. She is the founder, host, and executive producer of “Rising Up With Sonali,” a weekly television and radio show that airs on Free Speech TV and Pacifica stations. Her forthcoming book is Rising Up: The Power of Narrative in Pursuing Racial Justice (City Lights Books, 2023). She is a writing fellow for the Economy for All project at the Independent Media Institute and the racial justice and civil liberties editor at Yes! Magazine. She serves as the co-director of the nonprofit solidarity organization the Afghan Women’s Mission and is a co-author of Bleeding Afghanistan. She also sits on the board of directors of Justice Action Center, an immigrant rights organization.
This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.
Why the Discovery of Natural Gas in Mozambique Has Produced Tragedies, Not Economic Promise. By: Vijay PrashadRead Now
On February 18, 2010, Anadarko Moçambique—a subsidiary of Anadarko Petroleum (bought by Occidental Petroleum in 2019)—discovered a massive natural gas field in the Rovuma Basin off the coast of northern Mozambique. Over the next few years, some of the world’s largest energy corporations flocked to the Cabo Delgado province, where the basin is located. These included corporations like France’s TotalEnergies SE (which bought Anadarko’s project), the United States’ ExxonMobil, and Italy’s ENI, which collaborated with the China National Petroleum Corporation for “oil and gas exploration and production.”
These massive liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects by these corporations hold a potential value of $120 billion—according to Standard Bank Mozambique—with TotalEnergies SE and ExxonMobil in control of the most lucrative concessions. This valuation came at the same time when Mozambique held a rank of 145 out of 155 countries in the Gender-related Development Index, according to the Human Development Report 2009, and ranked 172 out of 182 countries, according to the Human Development Index. The immense find of the natural gas field and these LNG projects were poised to benefit an impoverished Mozambique economically and socially.
In 2014, Mozambican Finance Minister Manuel Chang said that the revenue earned from this massive natural gas find would allow Mozambique’s government to “invest in energy, tourism and infrastructure. The Nacala, Beira and Maputo corridors, which will foster stronger regional communication links, are being developed to provide unique opportunities. Agriculture is at the base of our development, and fisheries is also very important, as we have a 2,700-kilometer-long coastline.”
Chang said that he was aware of the dangers posed by a massive revenue influx resulting from the discovery such as this (a problem called the Dutch disease). “[W]e are going to use the income from mineral resources to diversify and reduce inequality,” he said. “We are investing heavily in education and health, because we understand that without a skilled and healthy population, there can be no growth.”
On the face of it, Mozambique seemed fated for a bright future. The natural gas find would help generate money for its government, whose officials seemed smart enough to avoid the pitfalls of the resource curse. But everything went wrong soon afterward. Two tragedies befell Mozambique. An insurgency swept through northern Mozambique, the very region of the natural gas bonanza, and a corruption scandal paralyzed the government, with Chang being arrested in South Africa in 2018.
In 2017, armed militants took charge of large sections of Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province. They operated under the banner of al-Shabaab (the youth). These young men, who formed part of al-Shabaab, hailed from Cabo Delgado, Nampula and Niassa; each of these provinces saw poverty rates rise in the aftermath of the natural gas find (the poverty rate doubled in Niassa between 2008 and 2014). Meanwhile, the state has operated against the poor population from these provinces with extreme force: for example, in 2014 Mozambique’s Rapid Intervention Unit (Força de Intervenção Rápida) used violence against desperate people trying to make a living in the ruby fields of Cabo Delgado’s second-largest city, Montepuez.
Bonomade Machude Omar, who is the leader of al-Shabaab, was born in Palma, raised in the government and Islamic schools of Mocímboa da Praia, and trained in Mozambique’s military forces before he gathered several youths to support him against the extreme poverty being witnessed in Mozambique’s northern provinces. Omar first led this insurgency against poverty in the natural gas-rich provinces of Mozambique under the flag of al-Shabaab and then later—opportunistically—under the flag of the Islamic State.
For that reason, the U.S. State Department has designated him as a terrorist, and the militaries of Rwanda and the Southern African Development Community, which includes troops from Botswana, Lesotho, South Africa, Angola and Tanzania, are now operating alongside the army of Mozambique in Cabo Delgado. They are doing the dirty work for ExxonMobil and TotalEnergies SE.
Meanwhile, a trial has begun in a courtroom in Mozambique’s capital, Maputo, where 19 men have been “accused of blackmail, forgery, embezzlement and money laundering.” They have been charged with a $2 billion “hidden debt” corruption scandal. In 2013-14, these men formed three companies to take advantage of the natural gas discovery. ProIndicus was set up in January 2013 to provide security to the multinational energy firms; Ematum, formed in August 2013, was set up under the pretext of being a tuna fishing company, which would carry out fishing off the northern coastline; MAM, set up in May 2014, was to provide shipyard services for the multinational energy firms. Each of these companies was co-owned by the Mozambique intelligence service known as Serviço de Informações e Segurança do Estado (SISE). None of these existed beyond the paperwork; the chief executive officer of all three firms was António Carlos do Rosário, a senior SISE official.
Most of the available evidence for the case comes from indictments in the U.S. District Court in New York since New York banks offered their services for the bribes that anchored the deals. The three paper companies—controlled by senior officials of Mozambique’s government—took $2 billion worth of loans from Credit Suisse and VTB Capital (called Investment Bank 1 and 2 in the indictments). The loans, 13 percent of Mozambique’s GDP, were zipped around by consultancies (Palomar) and holding companies (Privinvest) and involved people from a wide range of nationalities (Mozambique, United Arab Emirates, Lebanon, New Zealand, United Kingdom and Bulgaria) who were implicated in the “hidden debt” scandal.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) suspended loans to Mozambique in April 2016, just after news broke of the hidden debt scandal. Mozambique’s economy contracted as international donors joined the IMF to cut off infusions of capital, leading to the metical, Mozambique’s currency, tanking by a third of its value. In 2019, Mozambique struggled to renegotiate its debt, fighting to prevent the seizure of future revenues from the gas fields by the wealthy bondholders.
There are no armies rushing to deal with this scandal as Manuel Chang sits in South Africa fighting extradition to the United States, as António Carlos do Rosário, Gregorio Leao, and Cipriano Sisinio Mutota—all former SISE officials—sit in a courtroom in Maputo. With them in the dock is Ndambi Guebuza, the son of the former Mozambican President Armando Guebuza. It is unlikely that they will implicate the system.
For instance, former president Armando Guebuza is not facing any charges, and neither is his defense minister nor the current president, Filipe Nyusi. Nor is one of France’s richest men, Iskandar Safa, who is suing Mozambique for his money after his associate—Jean Boustani—was acquitted by a U.S. court over jurisdiction qualms. And nor are the banks, Credit Suisse or VTB Capital, being prosecuted in court.
One tragedy—an insurgency against poverty that has opportunistically taken on the mantle of the Islamic State—faces the full wrath of African armies. Meanwhile, another tragedy—the criminal theft of billions of dollars from a poor country—is being settled in courtrooms and backrooms. Omar is the villain of the day, while Chang, Carlos do Rosário and their associates will face harassment and short jail terms.
The real crooks, meanwhile, will take their seats at Dubai’s Cavalli Club and enjoy their $700 Wagyu grade 9+ steaks, smiling and plotting their next deals.
Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, editor, and journalist. He is the chief editor of LeftWord Books and the director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. He is a senior non-resident fellow at Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China. He has written more than 20 books, including "The Darker Nations" and "The Poorer Nations." His latest book is "Washington Bullets," with an introduction by Evo Morales Ayma.
This article was produced by Globetrotter.
Workers are organizing to fight for their health and wellbeing amid deteriorating environmental conditions caused by climate change. The United Nations issued a “code red for humanity” warning earlier this month with over 3,000 pages of scientific documentation saying that the climate crisis has reached a point where we can expect extreme weather including heat waves, flooding and droughts to happen with more frequency and intensity. The working class and poor are facing the brunt of this.
On August 20, Burger King workers organizing with Fight for 15 in San Jose, California walked out to protest the extreme temperatures inside the restaurant. Rosa Vargas, who helped organize the walk out, says the restaurant’s air conditioning and ventilation is so poor that it is frequently hotter inside the restaurant than outside. At the protest, Vargas spoke about these severe conditions causing her to feel “dizzy and like I am going to faint.” Vargas went on to speak about the serious and dangerous impacts of the temperatures, saying, “I get a headache that feels like my head is being pinched and stuck with needles, and my heart beats rapidly. When it gets hot, I eat ice to prevent myself from vomiting.”
Not only does Burger King management refuse to provide adequate air-conditioning during heatwaves, but they also refuse to provide legally required breaks. “No one gets a second rest break. It has always been like that at this Burger King,” Vargas said.
Rosa Vargas and her coworkers at Burger King are not the only workers organizing for their health as the climate catastrophe worsens. Nathalie Hrizi, a public school educator in San Francisco, is fighting to protect both her coworkers and students. She says their health is being threatened by toxic air and COVID-19. “Wind patterns will bring a large amount of smoke into our air and it becomes dangerous, particularly for children in sensitive groups,” Hirzi said. She went on to explain, “The district management has relied on open windows as the primary source of ventilation to mitigate the pandemic but now that it is fire season, their recommendation is to close the windows. So we’re essentially being asked to choose between our children being exposed to dangerous levels of smoke in the air or being exposed to higher levels of COVID.”
On August 20, Hrizi’s union the United Educators of San Francisco (UESF) launched a campaign to demand quality air purifiers, quality masks, and universal weekly COVID testing. “What we’re fighting for is a reform and a mitigation of a very severe crisis that is caused by the way the capitalist system is organized and that the primary motivation for those who are in power is profit,” Hrizi says.
Exploiting prisoner labor
Unsurprisingly, these wildfires are also causing a major crisis for firefighters. Many are fed up with being asked to fight dangerous super fires in exchange for low pay and substandard healthcare, and many have left the profession because of it. In response to this labor shortage, the Biden administration announced this month that all federal firefighters will be paid at least $15 an hour. Previously, some were being paid as little as $13 an hour.
Outrageously, the government is using prison labor to deal with the firefighter shortage. Programs where prisoners work as firefighters for a few dollars a day exist in nearly every western U.S. state. States have become increasingly dependent on virtually free prisoner labor — essentially a form of slavery. In California, prisoners make up one-third of the state’s entire wildfire fighting personnel.
Farm workers exposed to deadly conditions
Farm workers, three out of four of whom are first generation immigrants and many of whom are undocumented, are also facing worsening exploitation because of climate change. Teresa Romero, president of the United Farm Workers (UFW) spoke in July about this exploitation: “Farmworkers are imperiled by a perfect storm of deadly plagues: Extreme summer temperatures fueled by climate change… field workers disproportionately afflicted by the coronavirus… and too many live in daily dread of deportation, afraid to complain about abuse and mistreatment due to their immigration status.” Because these immigrant workers often lack citizenship and legal protections, employers can and do frequently get away with violating labor laws.
This dynamic has led to deplorable conditions for farmworkers. According to the CDC, farm workers are 20 times more likely to die from heat related illness than other workers. The outlook for the future is even worse. A 2020 study by the University of Washington says that for farmworkers “the average number of days spent working in unsafe conditions will double by mid-century, and, without mitigation, triple by the end of it. Increases in rest time and the availability of climate-controlled recovery areas can eliminate this risk but could affect farm productivity, farm worker earnings, and/or labor costs much more than alternative measures. Safeguarding the health and well-being of U.S. crop workers will therefore require systemic change beyond the worker and workplace level.”
Lowering productivity and increasing the cost of labor goes against the most basic tendencies of capitalism. Meeting this challenge will require building a powerful working class movement demanding better conditions and ultimately the demise of a system that puts profit over people’s lives.
Larger-scale and more frequent wildfires, flooding, heat waves and natural disasters caused by climate change are putting the health and safety of the poor and working class in danger. As already inhumane working conditions become exacerbated by the climate crisis, the labor movement is faced with a major battle. However, as this crisis grows so will the movement to address it. From the Burger King workers in San Jose walking out to the teachers demanding quality air purifiers and masks in San Francisco, these detrimental conditions worsened by climate change will not stop workers from organizing for the respect and safety they deserve!
This article was produced by Liberation News.
Privatization and Winter Storms Kill Texans
*Midwestern Marx youth writer Sahil Siddiqi has compiled a list of links leading to mutual aid organizations in Texas. They can be found at the bottom of the article.*
An unprecedented winter storm has thrown the state of Texas into chaos. Texans have experienced freezing cold temperatures and multiple inches of snow. At face value, this may not seem like a big deal to a Midwesterner. To those of us accustomed to these conditions, winter weather simply means it’s time to break out the winter coat and boots. For most Texans however, grabbing the Winter apparel to protect from these conditions is not an option, as the storm they are currently experiencing is unlike anything Texas has seen in recent memory. 21 people have now died, and much of the homeless population is desperately looking for warmth.
Not only are people freezing, but the state’s infrastructure is completely unprepared to withstand a blizzard of this magnitude. Videos have spread around the internet of Texans filming their roofs caving in from buildup of snow. Reports from the Texas Tribune detail millions being left without power, and many now being forced to ration food. The storm, which scientists are telling us is climate change induced, is a warning of what’s to come if the US does not change course when it comes to production. Texas’ privately owned energy grid has failed millions, while continuing to rake in profits for their services. The crumbling homes are an example of how ill prepared US infrastructure is for the storms which will only increase as the climate worsens. The clear solution is to move to a system of planned production, and worker ownership of all major industries. Continuing to allow private companies to command production is suicidal for the working masses. Socialism and planned production must be implemented, or private interests will continue to destroy the planet, while apathetically watching us die in the climate storms of their own creation.
Local Texas news station KHOU 11 reports that the private utility company ERCOT met to discuss what should be done during this disaster. The conclusion was that electricity prices should be raised, due to an increase in the demand for power. There may have never been a clearer example of how little profit driven private entities care for anything besides profit itself. The very fact that companies are allowed to make a surplus profit off of something as essential as electricity, highlights the irrationality of a capitalist economy. However, in the face of an unprecedented storm, it becomes more clear than ever how the system incentivizes profit, and profit alone. Private companies like ERCOT look at a situation in which people are dying and being left without power, and see only an increase in consumer demand, which will allow for a hike in their prices. They care nothing for the human costs of their actions.
Privately owned utilities must be seized and made public. This is quite literally our only option. So long as private interests are in control of the major sectors of the US economy, they will continue to be apathetic towards the effect their production has on the climate, and they will continue to turn the climate change storms they create into profitable business opportunities. The solution is for the working masses to seize the major sectors of economic power, because workers are those who feel the negative effects of climate change. The capitalists are not struggling in Texas. On the contrary, they are thriving. Capitalists sit and watch the chaos of the storm on television from the comfort of million dollar electrified homes, plotting new avenues of exploitation, which can bring an increase in shareholder profits. Capitalism is, at its core, a system which incentivizes a group of greedy vultures to extract all they can from the masses of society. A fact which this storm in Texas has made apparent. It is as Rosa Luxemburg said many years ago, we must choose between socialism, or barbarism.
*Links to Help Texas Compiled by Sahil Siddiqi*
- North Texas Mutual Aid
- Austin Mutual Aid
- Ending community homelessness coalition (ECHO)
- get free lunches to homeless people
- Texas health and human services
- Texas COVID-19 Mutual relief
 Aguilar, Julián. “Texans Running out of Food as Weather Crisis Disrupts Supply Chain.” The Texas Tribune. The Texas Tribune, February 18, 2021. https://www.texastribune.org/2021/02/17/texas-food-supply-power-outage/.
 Staff, Author: KHOU 11. “ERCOT to Raise Texas Energy Prices, Blaming High Demand from Winter Storm.” khou.com, February 16, 2021. https://www.khou.com/article/weather/ercot-to-raise-texas-energy-prices-blaming-high-demand-from-winter-storm/285-76ea495b-b67b-4cb7-8f1a-47f0fb4b4234.
Edward is from Sauk City, Wisconsin and received his B.A. in Political Science from Loras College, where he was a former NCAA wrestling All-American, and an active wrestling coach. His main interest are in Geopolitics and the role of American imperialism with relation to socialist states, specifically China and Venezuela. He also worked for Bernie Sanders' campaign in 2020.
As David Walker conveys throughout his Appeal to the Coloured Citizens of the World, African American people have historically been treated in such a manner that arguably makes them the most oppressed group of people in recent history (Walker and Hinks 2000, 6-7). In regards to environmental conditions, African Americans have historically been discriminated against in the same way, both directly and indirectly (Williams 2018, 253-255). Environmental injustice towards minorities is a common feature of many American cities today and this is not only a recent phenomenon; as the Toxic Wastes and Race at Twenty (2008) report suggests, race and environment seem to be inextricably linked in most American cities, as areas that were mostly black “suffer from greater environmental risks than the larger society”. (Bullard et al 2008, 377)
Throughout my research, I attempted to find the cause of this discrimination that negatively influences the lives of many African Americans today. I specifically looked through documentation of segregation throughout American history to answer the question of the extent segregation, both in its de facto and de jure forms, plays a role in shaping the environmental injustices associated with environmental racism in the United States today. For context, de jure segregation refers to “the legalized segregation of Black and White people” while de facto segregation refers to the form of segregation rooted in “common understanding and personal choice” (Edupedia 2018). Thus, throughout my investigation, I aimed to determine how both of these forms of historical segregation have caused the environmental injustices that face African American people today. Through my analysis, I have concluded that both de facto and de jure segregation have had an immense influence on the difference in environmental conditions in locations where most African American people reside as opposed to communities where most white people live.
De jure segregation was a common feature in the South following Reconstruction. Its implications on the region and its people are vast (Oldfield 2004, 71-91). Its roots in Southern politics were established in the Reconstruction period, culminating with the Supreme Court decision that legally permitted segregation in the form of Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), which declared that “separate but equal” public spaces were legal under the Constitution (Supreme Court of the United States 1896). Plessy v Ferguson was essential in causing the conditions that have brought upon the environmental oppression in the South. By legally allowing for the racialization of geographical distribution, (by declaring “separate but equal” as constitutional) the federal government allowed for whites in the South to create geographies that were to their advantage (as in, whites used their power to move to nicer communities and to pass laws that kept minority groups in less desirable areas) (Hoelscher 2003, 671). By harnessing the power to create their own geographies and to influence the demographic makeup of a given area or neighborhood during the era of Jim Crow, the whites in the South were effectively able to choose to reside in communities that were cleaner and nicer, which could be seen as a direct cause of the environmental racism that plagues the nation today.
Through their report on the demographic variation in high and low-lying communities in the South, Ueland and Warf concentrate on the racialization of topography (the differences in altitude between communities that were mostly white and communities that were mostly black) in the region. They conclude that, in a majority of Southern cities, African Americans tended to reside in lower-lying communities, which were more prone to environmental hazards and health risks (Ueland and Warf 2006, 50-73). Through the decision that Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) established, segregation was a legal phenomenon for many years and, because of this, whites in the South were able to continue to oppress black people through the usage of geography.
I believe that, as a direct result of the segregation that the 1896 decision yielded, environmental racism was produced. Had it not been for the legality of the policy “separate but equal,” whites in the South would not have been as easily able to have the power to create geographies and communities that segregated themselves off from black people. Through Ueland and Warf’s report on the geographical causes of environmental racism in the South, it is plausible to argue that de jure segregation in the Jim Crow South does indeed still have implications in furthering environmental racism as the altitudinal difference between black communities and white communities, which was, at least in part, due to the legality of segregation established by Plessy v. Ferguson. Therefore, de jure segregation in the South stemming from policies established by Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) (as well as a multitude of other laws passed in the Jim Crow South) has a great influence on modern-day environmental racism as it allowed for the creation of geographies that favored white people and pushed minorities into communities that were more environmentally hazardous.
By the same token, segregation that was enabled through the creation of urban infrastructure, the suburbanization of the white community, and other forms of de facto segregation that have caused the environmental inequalities that shape many American cities today. To begin, in Los Angeles, African Americans reside in districts that have disproportionately more environmental hazards, which “is largely a function of severe spatial containment and the historic practice of locating hazardous land uses in black areas” (Paulido 2017, 31). Despite not being a part of the Jim Crow South, Los Angeles still exhibits similar racial injustices environmentally as the segregated Southern cities, thus supporting the notion that environmental racism is not solely a product of de jure segregation. Since Los Angeles’ environmental racism, according to Pulido, stems from segregation based on de facto strategies employed by whites to empower themselves through advantageous geographies (for example, Pulido cites white communities in LA making harsh zoning laws to keep minorities out), one can plausibly argue that de facto segregation could play a crucial role in the racist environmental landscapes of the modern-day United States (Pulido 2017, 31).
One may critique this argument by pointing out its inability to be generalized to most American cities. However, this trend of de facto mannerisms of the mid and late 1900s contributing to modern-day environmental racism can be seen through analyzing the impact of these mannerisms on the landscapes of other modern U.S. cities. For example, freeways in the Chicago area have adversely impacted African Americans there. As claimed by Rashad Shabazz, “the mammoth Dan Ryan Expressway, which, after its opening in 1967, cut off access to Bridgeport, the working/middle-class, white, and resource-rich community…” which resulted in a wide range of consequences for Chicago’s black population (Shabazz 2017, 64). The construction of the I-90/I-94 freeway complex through Southern Chicago directly resulted in environmental consequences that unjustly affect African Americans as it spatially contained Chicago’s black population to the so-called “Black Belt,” which was “roughly a seven-mile-long by one-mile-wide strip of land” (Shabazz 2017, 40). As Illinois’ Better Government Association cites, the South Side neighborhoods of Chicago (that were cut off from white neighborhoods by the construction of freeways like the Dan Ryan) are some of the most polluted and unhealthy environments in the city’s metro area (Chase and Judge 2019). Thus, the construction of freeways in Chicago, which spatially restricted black communities from access to neighboring white communities, could be seen as a cause of the unequal environmental geography in the city.
Furthermore, the Toxic Wastes and Race at Twenty report also states that, “Six metropolitan areas account for half of all people of color living in close proximity to all of the nation’s commercial hazardous waste facilities: Los Angeles, New York, Detroit, Chicago, Oakland, and Orange County, CA” (Bullard et al 2008, 405). As the report suggests, Northern (and Western) cities are hubs for racist environmental injustices. As segregation was not legally enforced in the North to the extent that it was in the Jim Crow South, it would be incorrect to suggest that only segregation upheld by law has historical roots in environmental racism as the biggest oppressors (in regards to hazardous waste facilities) are, in fact, Northern cities. Therefore, as seen through examples such as the freeway planning in Chicago and suburbanization in Los Angeles, de facto segregation is a prevalent theme in urban neighborhoods across the country; de facto segregation in Northern and Western urban hubs has directly sparked environmental injustices that can be observed today.
Similar to the de facto segregation established through suburbanization, infrastructural projects, and other urban projects that spatially contained minorities, segregation that was not institutionalized (de facto) in the business realm (both through nonprofit lobbyists and through specific privatized industries) also could be traced to as a potential cause of racism through environmental inequality. To commence, in the 1970s and 1980s, environmental non-profit organizations in Southern Arizona directly influenced the variance in environmental conditions based on racialized geographies, as they raised funds and made efforts to make white districts of Tucson and other cities cleaner and more sustainable, while leaving minority communities behind (Clarke and Gerlak 1998, 862). Through the usage of governmental and business power (despite being non-profits), white environmental organizations were able to fund projects that would be most advantageous to their communities, leaving Hispanic and African American communities in more environmentally hazardous zones. Thus, de facto segregation spurred through the agenda of non-profit organizations led by white people could be seen as a key cause in the disparity in environments between white and black communities in cities like Tucson.
To further this, rural environments are also scenes of environmental subjection today. In the South, pesticides that were toxic and linked to certain diseases played a key component in the efficiency of agriculture in the region, thus giving whites in power, like Jamie Whitten (a U.S. representative, white supremacist and advocate for the pesticides industry despite its racist attributions) the incentive to use the pesticides on a wide scale, even if this caused health consequences for laborers in the region, who were generally black (Williams 2018, 243-258). Williams analyzes historical accounts of doctors and medical professionals in the Mississippi Delta region and concludes that African Americans were clearly adversely influenced (in regards to health) by the introduction of pesticides to Southern agriculture, therefore, representing that business ventures also produced environmental racism (Williams 2018, 243-258).
As exemplified by Williams’ case study on the impact that the pesticide industry’s power in the South has had on African Americans in the region, business practices and agendas have also played a role in the development of environmental racism. Businesses and industries, like the pesticides industry, that were funded and are still funded by rich white people to the expense of the well-being of black people, could be seen as agents of environmental racism in many cases; given that the policies they advocate for, in desire for maximized profits and white power, are harmful to African Americans’ health and sense of well-being. Therefore, there are several contributions that non-profit organizations and businesses/industries run by whites in power have made that have directly caused environmental injustice, in the form of health risks and hazards that disproportionately affect the black community. These contributions took the forms of advancements for white communities as well as the creation of obstacles to the African American community’s success and overall well-being.
Thus, de jure and de facto segregation prevalent in the Jim Crow South and urban North in the early and mid 1900s, as well as the de jure and de facto segregation established through business practices and urban plight in the late 1900s have all played a crucial role in developing the environmental injustices that face the African American community today. As seen through the interconnections between controversial expressways in Chicago (Shabazz 2017, 64), to the disproportionate representation of black people at low-lying (unfavorable) topographies in Southern cities (Ueland and Warf 2006, 50-73), to the environmental hazards plaguing black people in urban neighborhoods in the West and North (Bullard et al 2008, 405) to the not-so “color blind” (Jaime Whitten hypocritically said he advocated for “color blind” politics when clearly his policies directly caused African American people to get sick) politics of the pesticide industry and its place in Southern agriculture (Williams 2018, 243-59). Environmental racism in its current form can be traced back to historical forms of segregation, whether legally mandated or not, that produced the geographies and conditions that are associated with modern-day environmental racism. Therefore, both twentieth century de jure and de facto segregation play a vital role in shaping modern-day racialized environmental injustice.
About the Author:
My name is Logan Cimino. I am a second year student at the University of California Santa Barbara studying economics and geography. I am an aspiring urban planner and I hope to introduce more left-wing policies to planning in order to make cities more sustainable and equitable. I am particularly interested in advocating for solutions to residential segregation and environmental racism.