Climate Change as a Threat to Developing Nations – Staff Stance

Aaron Booe and Alec Lippman

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Fires are catching in one of the most precious ecosystems on Earth. The Amazon Rainforest is currently under siege from a variety of unsustainable practices ranging from mining and deforestation to urbanization and farming. This destruction prompted a surge of international support in response to the fires. Many offers were monetary, but Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro rejected most offers of assistance, earning him scorn and resentment from supporters of climate change reform. While recent media outlets have motivated an increase in class consciousness for combating climate change, we often forget the nuance that maintains climate change as an issue that disproportionately affects the developing world. Having called the Amazon Rainforest home for centuries, the indigenous peoples are now being silenced by the Bolsonaro administration. Profits have been placed over the lives of people, as the administration engages in unsustainable practices for the purpose of generating economic growth. For instance, the banking titan JP Morgan Chase finances the operations that allow meat and soy producers, JBS-Beef and Cargill Soy, to initiate slash and burn techniques for the purpose of farming. The products from this are then shipped to consumer markets like Costco and Walmart. Yet, this is just one of the countless battles, led by multi-billion dollar conglomerates operating internationally without fear of governmental consequences that is being executed with a worrisome lack of remorse.

The crisis of the Amazon rainforest is not an isolated issue. It represents a much wider problem that has amplified the effects of climate change. Countless attacks are being waged on the developing world reaching from dangerous mining operations within African countries to carbon emissions internationally to oil refineries on the coast of the Southeast Asian Pacific. All of these tend to be on account of corporations undergoing environmentally unsustainable practices for the means of increased production to acquire further capital. Unfortunately, these assaults have only recently started to come to light in the eyes of the average citizen with the emergence of globalization and mass media. As the world transitions further into a more interconnected global community, the plights of the citizens of the developing world become more recognized, making it much harder for those in the developed world to ignore them.

Since the Industrial Revolution, the leaders of western Europe such as Germany, the United Kingdom, France and Spain have been desperate in their quest for economic dominance and moved to acquire territories capable of providing the raw resources to fuel their development as emerging global powers. The violent age of imperialism which followed led to the economic exploitation of numerous colonies in Latin America, Africa and Asia. As hostile colonial powers seized the natural resources from these regions, a relationship of dependency and exploitation to fuel economic development was established. While imperialism is often remarked as a problem of the past, the subsequent results paved the way for the greatest humanitarian crisis felt today: climate change.

Climate change originated with the economic exploitation of the developing world, and the reason it has grown to even more of a threat is because this exploitation never stopped. As world leaders moved from outdated notions of isolationism and protectionism, they instead championed greater international trade and economic liberalism. These leaders of the developed world preached the gospel of economic liberation of markets in the developing world. Recognizing the victory of the west as the champions of economic liberalism and free trade, the developing world only had one choice if they wished to develop. That choice was free trade, and it would prove tragic, as it would only further amplify the magnitude of climate change.

Through the consolidation of markets unrestricted by governments in no position to decline, the internal markets of the developing world were eviscerated by the invasion of foreign corporations with immense economic and technological superiority. With this came the eradication of competition that has allowed big businesses to take advantage of already economically disadvantaged people, further escalating the situation. Workers from the developing world became cogs in the machine that was free trade, forced to work in awful conditions as their governments are incapable of exercising authority on these corporations. This lack of authority occurred out of fear of halting the economic stimulation that these organizations bring out of the country. This would prove catastrophic as it would grant these multinational companies immunity from inquiry or accountability for their actions, allowing this problem to spread to the rest of the developing world.

Without any fear of governmental intervention, corporations engage in environmentally destructive practices. Corporations that do not have to fret over carbon emissions represent one of the largest contributors to growing levels of greenhouse gases, and it is because of this lack of accountability that the threat of climate change is allowed to grow unencumbered. The lack of political authority provides no incentive to not engage in environmentally destructive processes such as hydraulic fracking of natural gas. Additionally, these global enterprises are even provided carbon credits by the government because of the revenue they provide to the economies in various developing countries.

Corporations within the developing world have demonstrated an inability to quell their carnal economic appetite. Due to corporations threatening economic prosperity to economically stagnant countries, developing countries are unable to confront the issues that maintain climate change. Corporate entities motivated purely for profit can not be trusted to demonstrate restraint in their quest for economic domination. While the developed world displays a willingness to invest in environmental accords, it greatly undermines progress by its refusal to target the entities responsible for climate change, essentially rendering their efforts useless. If the developed world can not work towards the economic liberation of the developing world from hostile corporate powers that engage in unsustainable activities, then humanity can never hope to defeat the greatest existential threat our species has ever faced. If we seek to preserve our species, then we have to hold governments accountable for their refusal to go after the culprits who are getting paid to destroy the planet: corporations. Environmental agreements need to include coordinated attempts led by the developing world to push for regulation of businesses. Proponents of climate change activism need to understand that in order for any real change to be accomplished, it must coincide with action against neo imperialism and empower developing world governments with the authority to ensure sufficient accountability.