[OPINION] The green-red light: Changing the last 50 years of eco-imperialism
It’s been a dark 40+ days since the Philippine government imposed a quarantine in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. No government in the world was prepared for it, but we have seen a few that rose to the challenges stemming from the disease, and the most effective responses are the ones that save not economies but lives.
We should take note of these responses. They offer a preview of the new system that must come: a system less attached to economic growth and more connected to the people.
The last 50 years of eco-imperialism
Since the advent of globalization, unbridled economic growth has been the goal of every country. But nature limits growth.
We have been burning coal since machines were invented, leading to the razing of up to 220 million hectares – an area 7 times that of the Philippines – of our planet’s forests over the last 50 years.
When resources of an industrialized country are depleted, the state opts to colonize, terrorize, and militarize another country to take control of their resources. This is the essence of eco-imperialism, and why its spirit is greed.
Barely two weeks ago, OceanaGold Corp., an Australian mining company that was kicked out by the community in Didipio, Nueva Vizcaya, tried to sneak back in and resume operations. Authorized by the state's environmental regulatory agency, they seized the community quarantine as an opportunity to return. The community did not give up their fight, and this led to the assault and arrest of some community members who broke their home quarantine to stand against the police's forcible entry into the quarry.
This is an example of the first contradiction of the current global economic system: peoples of the global south notwithstanding their abundant natural resources merely subsist on them, while peoples who spend half a year in winter see their economies boom. Those with more resources need not be automatically richer, but simply put, our global economic system is marked by accumulation, not cooperation. (READ: #EarthDay2020: PH facing its 'worst ecological crisis' – IBON Foundation)
All the wealth in the world
This global economic system absorbs all the wealth in the world and passes it on to those who have the "capital" even though our true capital are the original sources of wealth: our ecology and our workers.
Countries that have extracted the world’s resources for their own industrial growth dangle the card of “globalizing economies” to gain further access to other (developing) countries’ natural resources.
Big corporations in the front line of the consumerist culture of fast fashion such as H&M degrade not only the natural resources of developing countries like Bangladesh but also dehumanize its labor sector. In 2018, Global Labor Justice called out companies in the H&M supply chain for abuse of female workers.
Globalization eschews global solidarity. Whereas a “global economy” could have meant global cooperation and wealth redistribution; globalization became a fancy synonym for neo-colonialism. It only serves the interests of imperial powers, and cares nothing about economic cooperation, social solidarity, or ecological protection.
Today, while we have replaced colonization with democracies, the insatiability of capital remains. Political democracies alone cannot temper greed.
The system is neither working nor fixed; we can change it
Political democracy on its own is not working for the working class or for the Earth. This pandemic that served as break from the excesses of neoliberalism is a window of opportunity to draw and build an alternative – an economic democracy.
As we celebrate the 50th Earth Day, there is one stark lesson for everyone on the planet: We have to change the system. (READ: [OPINION] Earth Day at 50: Lessons for the post-coronavirus world)
A system that works for the ecology, a green system should be built on by our workers who comprise the red system. This Green-Red system is the light at the end of the dark COVID-19 pandemic.
It is all about meeting the needs of our communities without overlooking the needs of our ecology, and vice-versa.
Imagine a system where OceanaGold need not exist, because the community manages its own natural resources and distributes its excesses without bleeding the earth. This sounds idealistic but this is happening in the community-managed ejidos in Quintana Roo, Mexico.
It must be a system where companies like H&M need not exist, because local communities can manage their own clothing factories without unfair labor practices or gender assault. Examples can be found in Argentina’s cooperatives and worker-managed factories that have resisted the inequalities spawned by neoliberalism.
The challenge this Earth Day is to act on climate change by breaking the bond between economic growth, and ecological destruction, and precarious work – especially in big economies. A green-red system must be built, inspired by cases that worked all over the world.
The light waits for us at the end of the tunnel. – Rappler.com
Chao Cabatingan is a young socialist leader of Akbayan Youth and a founding member of the EcoSocialist Working Group. He is currently working in an NGO. All views in this article are solely his.