Sunday, September 29, 2019

We saw it coming

Parts of northern and inland New South Wales, along with southern Queensland, have been in drought since 2016, severely depleting river and dam levels. Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) says the drought is being driven, in part, by warmer sea-surface temperatures impacting rainfall patterns. Air temperatures have also warmed over the past century, increasing the ferocity of droughts and fires. Dubbed “day zero” by locals in New South Wales, the government has provided estimates of an end-date to water supplies in the worst-case scenarios. Some of the region’s biggest towns, which include Dubbo, with 40,000 people, Armidale, 25,000, and Tamworth, 62,000, are forecast to run out of drinking water mid-to-late next year, according to the latest government projections. Sydney’s biggest dam, Warragamba, has dropped to 50%, after almost being at capacity less than three years ago. 

But links between climate change and extreme weather events have become a political football in Australia. The conservative government has argued stronger environmental action would cripple its economy, pitting itself against its Pacific island neighbours which are particularly susceptible to warmer temperatures and rising seas

Humanity is suffering ever more extreme weather events all over the world. Climate change is already causing enormous damage and hundreds of millions of poor people are enduring the consequences. The people most at risk in the future are those who are already suffering today due to existing vulnerabilities and inequities.

We are facing devastating consequences for global health and humanitarian needs. Poor and marginalised communities already suffer the worst consequences of climate change, extreme weather events and the spread of diseases, of drought, desertification, and mass displacement and are at greatest risk of future harm. For every disaster making the headlines, they create related disasters and attendant health crises including water-borne diseases like cholera as well as diseases spread by growing numbers of mosquitoes and ticks, such as malaria, dengue fever, and Lyme disease. Malaria already kills more than 400,000 people a year, mostly children under the age of five and overwhelmingly in sub-Saharan Africa. In 2012, 2014, and 2015, MSF teams observed significant spikes in malaria cases in several sub-Saharan countries compared to long-term averages. The weight of evidence suggests that the incidence and prevalence of malaria will increase in Africa and beyond due to climate change.Severe dengue affects most Latin American and Asian countries and is a leading cause of hospitalisation and death among children and adults in these regions, according to the WHO. Worldwide, the incidence of dengue has increased 30-fold over the last half century, with approximately 390 million infections in 2010, partly due to warming temperatures and the associated spread of the mosquito species that carry and spread the disease. Honduras, considered a climate change hotspot, is battling its worst outbreak of dengue fever in 50 years following a prolonged rainy season.

Overuse and drought have left people without sufficient water for drinking, cooking, or washing, let alone to water their crops to ensure future yields. Children here face a high risk of malnutrition, which in turn can stunt their development and weaken their immune systems. This makes them more susceptible to other deadly diseases like malaria. It’s estimated that 422 million people in 30 countries are undernourished because of climate-related problems producing food.
Climate change and environmental degradation could further contribute to record levels of migration and forced displacement. Although estimates vary widely, the most frequently cited projection is that some 200 million climate migrants will be uprooted by 2050 if current trends prevail. We know that most displaced people seek alternatives within their home country before making the wrenching decision to cross international borders. Many are moving to urban centres to seek employment and secure livelihoods, only to find themselves living in highly polluted neighbourhoods and working in hazardous conditions. In Bangladesh Dhaka’s Kamrangirchar slum, many of these residents were forced to move to the city after flooding contaminated their farmland with saltwater.

It is our understanding of the climate crisis that it is the economic structure of capitalism which is the cause. The solution is to make necessary changes by restructuring capitalism and its priorities. Everyday it becomes obvious that the political leaders of the world are unwilling to follow what current science indicates we must do to avoid damaging the environment and climate change. It’s clear that we can't consider the issue of climate change without considering changing the system Capitalist production and the consumerist consumption is bringing the planet to the point of no return. Capitalism is the worst enemy of humanity. Capitalism — and I’m speaking about irrational development — policies of unlimited industrialisation are what destroys the environment. And that irrational industrialisation is capitalism. It’s plundering natural resources. We have to resolve environmental problems that Earth faces today. And this means ending capitalism.

The profit motive is incompatible with safeguarding the world’s resources. So long as it is profitable, environmental destruction is perfectly ’logical’ under capitalism. Humanity’s problem is not scarcity of resources but the waste of resources. There is the removal of indigenous people and their sustainable ways of life; hijacking of fertile land for cash cropping and clearance of forest for cattle ranching; and the impoverishment by international debt so to extract resources for short term gain. Elsewhere industrialisation is out of control, producing a crisis in the accumulation of toxic waste and chemical pollution. Although the ecology movement has been invaluable in highlighting and researching many of the problems too often those climate activists are integrated into and work within confines of the capitalist system. The Socialist Party advances the view that socialist sustainable production and living in harmony with nature are a real alternative to the exploitative system.

The environment impinges on all aspects of life in many areas of the world where women are the main environmental managers. Women are therefore not only victims of the environmental crisis but are the major agents of rehabilitation. It is not surprising therefore that women have taken a prominent part in the environmentalist movement. The more empowered women become the more success will be had. Socialism will provide the opportunity for a society planned for the majority rather than for profit, a society where there will be of free national self-interest, and where men and women’s strengths in environmental issues will be able to flourish. By taking environmental issues seriously we can realistically plan to build a society in tune with land and nature.

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