|SAVE THE WORLD, SPARE THE PLANET - WSP(NZ)|
Rising sea levels has caused communities living on low-lying islands to become severely threatened. Evacuations began in 2009 to move people from the Carteret Islands, Papua New Guinea, to the island of Bougainville. Carteret Islanders are described as the first group of people living on an island who are facing forced and organised relocation due to climate change and rising sea levels. The island is believed to be uninhabitable by this year. Tuvalu is another Pacific island nation that is at risk of being uninhabitable within the next 30 years.
“Tuvalu and Kiribati have been saying for at least 10 to 15 years to the rest of the world that this is a reality for them. It’s not about a threat, it’s happening right now,” says Rachael Le Mesurier, executivedirector at Oxfam New Zealand. The organisation, which works with communities dealing with humanitarian disasters, says the intensity of weather patterns such as cyclone season is clearly increasing and the impact on the affected communities is evident. The increasingly intense weather patterns are making it difficult for agriculturally reliant communities to support themselves. “Tuvalu and Kiribati are seeing areas that have been agriculturally viable being damaged. Taro crops are no longer able to grow because the salt is coming up through the coral and making it impossible for them to grow crops they’ve grown for ages. The Pacific countries are not the ones that are responsible for climate change. They have such a small number of proportional emissions.”
Senior climate campaigner at Greenpeace Simon Boxer says that the Pacific Islands have a small number of emissions into the atmosphere yet are primarily dealing with the consequences of pollution. According to Boxer, the aim is to “recognise that the Pacific is on the front line of climate change and its been caused by polluters like New Zealand and Australia.” Greenpeace believes New Zealand has a responsibility to allow those affected by climate change to settle in New Zealand. “Our view is that New Zealand is part of the problem. We are the polluters. We’re creating this devastation of Pacific communities. Therefore we have the moral duty to accommodate those we’re displacing. New Zealand and Australia have to take a lot more proactive role on allowing climate refugees to come in and not trying to put as many legal hurdles in the way as possible. There have been attempts at the United Nations level to have countries like New Zealand be liable for creating this problem. They should have to pay compensation and be forced to help countries adapt and take refugees which is part of it.”
A lawyer who defended a Kiribati national seeking asylum in New Zealand based on climate change says more can be done for Pacific people whose islands are significantly threatened by rising sea levels.
The two-year long campaign to allow Teitiota and his wife to stay in New Zealand as “climate change refugees” was denied by the Supreme Court in July 2015. The ruling was based on a claim that the Kiribati government is taking steps to ensure the safety of its citizens. The 1951 Refugee Convention says that to claim refugee status, one must face persecution based on religion, ethnicity or being a member of the social group.
“What’s disappointing about the Supreme Court decision is that they cannot move from that point where there’s a general system of persecution to where climate change, droughts, water inundation and pollution is a general persecution,” says Kidd, who had appealed against an earlier High Court judgement. “New Zealand has a responsibility towards our Pacific brethren who are currently drowning.”
Amnesty International’s New Zealand spokesperson says climate change is the biggest concern in the region and could have huge implications on the human rights of effected communities. “Not only is climate change an environmental issue, it is a human rights issue,” says Amanda Brydon, advocacy manager at Amnesty International. “While Amnesty International doesn’t currently take a position on climate change, the organisation recognises that the impact of climate change has serious implications for people’s human rights. Climate change will increasingly become one of the biggest barriers to the rights to housing, water, food, health and adequate standard of living. Communities living in poverty can be especially vulnerable to climate change-related impacts, in particular those concentrated in unplanned and unserviced settlements within urban areas,” says Brydon.
The urgency of the warnings from the Pacific Islanders, we can only hope, will rouse people from lethargy to frenetic activism, rather than to reduce them to despair and fatalism. The World Socialist Party in New Zealand recognises the urgent need to tackle global warming and climate change but amending the categorisation of refugee status under the country’s immigration laws may in itself be be a worthy charitable gesture, it is, nevertheless, fiddling while the world burns. People have to understand the cause of global warming. Capitalism is the impersonal process of the accumulation of capital out of the surplus value produced by the wage-working class and involves competition to transform this surplus value into money by selling the products in which it is embodied. This battle is won by those enterprises that can sell their products at the lowest price due to their employment of more productive methods. This investment in new productive methods depends on making enough profits (converting enough surplus value into money). So, capitalism is the pursuit of profits to accumulate as more capital. Such “growth” is built into it and cannot be stopped. If ever it was, the whole system would seize up and there would by massive worldwide economic crises. What is required to stabilise the rise in temperature is a global political and social revolution to end capitalism and put “mankind” in full charge of its interaction with the rest of nature (production). Which can only be done on the basis of the Earth’s natural and industrial resources becoming the common heritage of all humanity. To this end, the WSP(NZ) is organised.
1) If we do have a chance of survival, it is contingent on the establishment of world socialism. If capitalism continues indefinitely, then sooner or later we are doomed.
2) The sooner we establish socialism the better. But better late than never.
3) The climatic and environmental threat to human survival will come to occupy central place among the concerns that inspire people to work for socialism, overshadowing all else.