CLIMATE CHANGE AND GLOBAL VIOLENCE
By Elizabeth Peredo Beltrán November, 2015
Translated by Mary Peter Bruce (Loretto Community)
November 13th flooded the world again with sadness. Terrorist attempts in Paris took 130 lives– the majority young people-; only a few hours after Beirut lost 40 lives from a bomb activated in the very center of the city, and the day after the people of Nigeria were lamenting at least 30 deaths due to another criminal attack. These savage inhumane events happened just a few days before the UN climate negotiations were to begin at which thousands of social movements and activists planned to gather to debate the emergency of climate change and to protest and reject the corporate control on climate policies and the lack of real action to overcome the climate crisis. It is a paradox that issues of climate and peace are being debated again together amidst scenes of violence, hypocrisy, fear and a state of emergency. We are confronted by the privatization of climate and the privatization of peace.
The conditions of Syria and Middle East, in their complexity, are in part the product of the underhanded intervention of the West; -as was recognized by Hilary Clinton in her campaign. The West has have armed rebel groups to control political power, demonstrating again how powerful countries “have been managing” these situations. Even though it was made to appear as a struggle against terrorism, the consequences of those actions has been to dramatically destroy the social and democratic fabric of Arab countries and also in the West, as fear and uncertainty have become universal. One of the results of these policies is a dangerous growing anti-Semitism that promotes hateful racism and intolerance that could break up whole societies. The desperate condition of Syrian refugees going to Europe and other parts of the world is already an example of the displacement of human beings due to violence and climate change conflicts seen in the growing number of droughts in the region affecting agriculture and peoples’ livelihoods.
The security and militarization policies that emerged after the terrorist attacks in Paris gave a different face to the COP 21 scene of negotiations. It particularly affected the rights of civil society to participate with freedom of expression in this space. It also brought to the fore the theme of Militarization and Climate Change, climate financing and military budgets. In fact, there is already a tendency to face the climate crisis and resources management with militarization and border controls; it is becoming more and more a new paradigm of world governance.
During the Tiquipaya Summit in 2010 in Bolivia, some activists organized a session about the topic denouncing the enormous budgets that are destined to wars, instead of using them to invest in climate. We wanted to put this issue on the table and also discuss the enormous contamination of the environment that is caused by the arms industry with inter-oceanic transportation of armies and weapons (1), and of course, the contaminating gases emitted to the atmosphere during its production process. Nick Buxton of the TNI (who joined that initiative), Ben Hayes and Mirijam Van Reisen have launched this year a book at the COP 21: The Secure and the Dispossessed: How the Military and Corporations are Shaping a Climate-Changed World. Edited by the University of Chicago. Buxton began the presentation sharing his thoughts and ideas that motivated him to pull together this book. He recounted the story of Hurricane Sandy in New York in 2012, in which the whole city was flooded, closing hospitals and public transport, but one building stayed alight and functioning: Goldman Sachs. He noted this was the world in which we are headed: the private corporation secures and the public dispossessed unless we mobilize and confront it.
At the COP 21, the acceptance of security solutions seems to be growing. Already people could be found talking about climate “security” instead of climate justice. The issue is taking a big place in global debates. In fact, the Security Council of the United Nations has considered, some years ago, to include the climate change topic on its issues of security, and the CIA already includes it as a national security threat.
The topic takes on greater importance given the still insufficient $100 billion dollars promised by industrialized countries for a climate fund, while defense and military budgets have soared since 9/11. According to data from the World Bank, United States spends more than 3.5% of its GDP on defense in addition to 16% of its government budget set aside for military expenses, for an example. Russia spends 4% of its GDP plus 17% of governmental expenses. Israel has 5.2% plus 14,7% respectively (http://datos.bancomundial.org/indicador/MS.MIL.XPND.GD.ZS).
Governmental reserved expenses are not transparent and depend on each government or political force that is leading it. And that points to the issue of democracy, a key obstacle for building peace. We have a global mentality of trying to attain peace based on military security, authoritarianism and exclusion, and restrictions for freedom of expression. The patterns of responding to climate change are changing dramatically and its dangerously becoming more and more an issue of security instead of one of human and environmental rights.
We cannot accept that militarism and security becomes the model of global governance. Rather we need more resources for wellbeing, justice, caring, paying historical debts due from colonization and historical cumulative pollution, This is the only way to bring about peace and reconciliation and, of course, a just resolution for the climate crisis..
Peace is the only support tissue that will foster us in building a world safe from the impacts of climate change. The whole world must embrace the challenge of building a global culture of peace and create the institutions and social weave to face climate change and global violence, based on peaceful empathic, compassionate, inclusive relationships in solidarity with the most affected and vulnerable people. We must rebel with creative determination against injustice and the brutal terrorist threat, to find solutions to the problems that the powerful have created.
These wars are not ours, -people say-; destruction is not the world we want. Vengeance does not make us strong. Dominion and power only create miserable beings. Terrorism is the worst expression of inhumanity and spiritual decay. The Beirut, Nigeria and Paris attacks have provoked indignation and the need for the people to resist violence and the streets have become flooded with people that say: Your wars, our dead. Enough of this violence. We want Peace!
La Paz, Bolivia, November 15 (last edition review Paris, 13th Dec.), 2015.
 Nick Buxton of TNI participated with me in that initiative to organize an analysis space with Naomi Klein, Egidio Brunetto moderated by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now and other participants in 2010 during the Tiquipaya Summit of the Peoples.
* Elizabeth Peredo is a Bolivian Social Psychologist, writer and activist, is leading the Trenzando Ilusiones initiative in Bolivia, is member of Food and Water Watch Board of Directors, and of the UITC (Université International Terre Citoayene) Council. Hast joined the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation delegation as observer in the COP21 in Paris.