Why there is hope

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Poor people experience the consequences of unsustainable use of resources more than anyone else because they are more dependent on these ‘free services’ than anyone else. Consider the following…

  • when rivers, dams and boreholes dry up, the poor suffer because they cannot move;
  • as the Western Cape’s rivers get more and more polluted, the wine and fruit companies close down and move elsewhere which makes no difference to the middle class managers who move with the company – it is the workers who get retrenched;
  • as the seasons get drier and the grapes no longer produce as much wine, it is workers who get laid off;
  • when companies are refused permission to build factories because there is no more water or electricity to connect them up to, it is worker’s jobs that get lost;
  • when ESKOM refuses permission to local authorities to build houses because there is no more electricity, it is the poor that suffer;
  • 16% of Cape Town’s households generate 50% of the solid waste all of which is sent to toxic waste dumps located in poor areas and everyone pays for this thus subsidising the rich;
  • foreign companies get licenses to fish out the fish on our coasts and so there are no longer any fish for the fisherfolk who have small boats that cannot go far out – who suffers? – the poor do;
  • global warming is shrinking our biodiversity which reduces our pollination capacity which reduces agricultural productivity which causes job losses for the poor and higher food prices that only the poor experience;
  • warming of the coastal seas is pushing what fish are left further and further away from the coasts which means fishermen cannot reach them anymore which is loss of jobs and starvation;
  • sewage plants are overflowing which causes more pollution of rivers which kills the fish that millions of poor people depend on every day for tiny bits of nutrition;
  • food prices are rising rapidly because of oil peak because over 50% of agricultural inputs are derived from oil-based products;
  • as food prices rise, the middle class spends only slightly more on food, but the poor spend a lot more; – material shortages are setting in, such as cement, which pushes up building costs which means fewer poorer people can afford houses and the construction industry shrinks that losing jobs;
  • other material shortages include basics such as wood and water, both of which are the basis of life for millions of poor people in rural and urban areas;
  • air quality is deteriorating rapidly thus increasing respiratory desease levels in all our main centres which have to be treated with expensive drugs and hospitalisation – the middle class has medical aid, the poor just die from these things;
  • if you live with HIV/AIDS its not a good idea to live in place that attacks the immune system more aggressively than other places – try living where the poor live near waste dumps, overflowing sewage plants, toxic soils, polluted air from nearby factories (like in South Durban) or near main roads where children have the highest lead content in their lungs in the world;
  • why do we have genocide of the poor in Zim and Sudan – because resource wars will escalate as the rich run out of resources after plundering the globe.

This is not doom and gloom, it is everyday life of the poor in a world capitalist system that assumes that gaia and the poor exist purely for the benefit of the rich. And it is not just about global warming – global warming is northern obsession that obscures the real threats for the poor, namely resource depletion. Even without global warming, the planet is still falling to the pieces in ways that everyone agrees will exacerbate poverty and inequality. Sorry for the rave….these are times for struggle on a scale we have never seen before, and Hawken in his book Blessed Unrest documents this global movement that is transforming the world from below – he is right, it is happening, but not because clever people see it, but because poor people know it. That is why there is hope – because poor people know it and are changing things as they struggle to survive the consequences, not because somebody is going to get rich with a new set of technofixes.