The climate protest movement and… the rest of the world

As the climate rebellion was about to be relaunched with vigour in London on Monday, 7 October 2019, by Extinction Rebellion… …Here is an interesting point of view.

By Melissa Chemam

Extinction Rebellion in London’s Oxford Circus in April 2019. Photo by myself

“The climate protest movement must not alienate Britain’s working classes” - By Linda Nandy, Labour MP for Wigan

“Rooting calls for action in the reality of people’s lives is vital if the likes of Extinction Rebellion are not to fuel further division,” MP Linda Nandy claims.


It’s very true that the poorest cannot abandon their wages and worries to spend their days protesting to stop multi-billionaire companies from polluting the planet.

But then think of what it is for a person living with a few dollars a month in a “developing country”, as the economists now name what they used to qualify as “the third world”, when there was still “two worlds” until 1991, the USA and the Soviet Union. Now this denomination is irrelevant, and some of these countries have become economic powerhouses, like China, India, Mexico, Brazil. But poverty is still incredibly stiff for most of their population.

So, no, nothing can change, and certainly not our system of production and its pollution, if we don’t prevent the 7th in the G7 from exploiting the rest of the world for oil/other energies, gold/other metals.

It’s been going on since the first years of capitalism.

Yet, it’s hardly spoken about these days in the newspapers covering the protests!

The level of inequalities between the richest countries — industrialised, polluting economies — and the rest of the world, the vast majority, is so vast, so deep, that it’s almost irrelevant to talk about the gap between the rich and the poor in the UK or in the US in comparison.

I tried to discuss this in Marble Arch on 21 April, when Greta Thunberg joined the XR protesters in London, with the other members of the rebellion, during our attempt at a group discussion and proto-citizens’ assembly. People generally agreed that the poorest countries pay the price more than anybody else.

Yet… the “rebellion” is still led by people in the Western, richest countries, and the teenage superstar is still a adolescent from Sweden… Despite the fact that many activists come from the First Nations in North America, Kenya or for instance Brazil.

It is a bit puzzling.

As readers of this blog may know, I’ve lived in places in East and Central Africa, travelled to 14 African countries as a reporter, north and south of the Sahara, as well as places like Czech Republic, Bosnia, Haiti, India, Turkey, Armenia/Georgia, Mexico and Iraq.

We need to be willing to see global issues from another point of view that is not born in London or New-York-f***g-City.

I’ve been writing drafts for an essay about these issues this summer, on the point of view of journalism, but publishers and agents already told me they cannot publish this text because it wouldn’t sell and is incoherent. Too many ideas…
It might not be perfect for now, but frankly, I’ve seen many other writers try and get rejected as well, especially African intellectuals, economists, researchers.

For how long? People, rebels, friends, for how much longer?

Because if you really want to keep on trying to change the world, at some point you might have to realise that you will have to include the ACTUAL WORLD.

And so just do the maths: world population at this stage of history is around 7.7 billion people.

How many in the UK? 67,5 million people.

In the US of A? 330 million.

The rest of the EU? 450 million.

That leaves us with… Exactly: almost 7 billion people!!

One good place to start the discussion would be among the African and Asian diaspora in the Western world… We’re here and “unlistened-to” and most of the time part of the “unlistened-to” working class anyway.

But we could also be part of a bridging strategy between you here middle/upper class people in the UK, worried about climate change and global warming, and the people who are actually affected by it. In Malaysia, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Brazil, in the Sahara desert, in Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Kenya, Uganda, etc.

Otherwise, you’re going to see more of these articles:

And most of all, like this letter:

“The fight for climate justice is the fight of our lives, and we need to do it right.” By grassroots collective Wretched of The Earth.

“For those of us who are indigenous, working class, black, brown, queer, trans or disabled, the experience of structural violence became part of our birthright. Greta Thunberg calls world leaders to act by reminding them that ‘Our house is on fire’. For many of us, the house has been on fire for a long time: whenever the tide of ecological violence rises, our communities, especially in the Global South are always first hit. We are the first to face poor air quality, hunger, public health crises, drought, floods and displacement.”

“XR says that ‘The science is clear: It is understood we are facing an unprecedented global emergency. We are in a life or death situation of our own making. We must act now.’ You may not realize that when you focus on the science you often look past the fire and us — you look past our histories of struggle, dignity, victory and resilience. And you look past the vast intergenerational knowledge of unity with nature that our peoples have. Indigenous communities remind us that we are not separate from nature, and that protecting the environment is also protecting ourselves. In order to survive, communities in the Global South continue to lead the visioning and building of new worlds free of the violence of capitalism. We must both centre those experiences and recognise those knowledges here. “

This are absolutely vital arguments.

There cannot be any system change implemented by 1% protesting among the 1% who are the richest i the world!!

Or it’s a misunderstanding of what “system change” means.

Because what is wrong with this polluting, destructive system is mainly that it has left the vast majorities of living people out of the global discussions about how our global resources should be used.

So if you keep on making these decisions in between you inside the upper/middle class in the capitals of the stock-exchange world, you are still part of the system.

Many thanks for listening to this written rambling.

And have a good first day of this new phase of rebellion.

NB. I fully support the Extinction Rebellion, have protested myself, and have offered to work as a volunteer. But these are key issues.

Here are the rest of the world’s demands:

Wretched of the Earth, together with many other groups, hold the following demands as crucial for a climate justice rebellion:

  • Implement a transition, with justice at its core, to reduce UK carbon emissions to zero by 2030 as part of its fair share to keep warming below 1.5°C; this includes halting all fracking projects, free transport solutions and decent housing, regulating and democratising corporations, and restoring ecosystems.
  • Pass a Global Green New Deal to ensure finance and technology for the Global South through international cooperation. Climate justice must include reparations and redistribution; a greener economy in Britain will achieve very little if the government continues to hinder vulnerable countries from doing the same through crippling debt, unfair trade deals, and the export of its own deathly extractive industries. This Green New Deal would also include an end to the arms trade. Wars have been created to serve the interests of corporations — the largest arms deals have delivered oil; whilst the world’s largest militaries are the biggest users of petrol.
  • Hold transnational corporations accountable by creating a system that regulates them and stops them from practicing global destruction. This would include getting rid of many existing trade and investment agreements that enshrine the will of these transnational corporations.
  • Take the planet off the stock market by restructuring the financial sector to make it transparent, democratised, and sustainable while discentivising investment in extractive industries and subsidising renewable energy programmes, ecological justice and regeneration programmes.
  • End the hostile environment of walls and fences, detention centers and prisons that are used against racialised, migrant, and refugee communities. Instead, the UK should acknowledge it’s historic and current responsibilities for driving the displacement of peoples and communities and honour its obligation to them.
  • Guarantee flourishing communities both in the global north and the global south in which everyone has the right to free education, an adequate income whether in or out of work, universal healthcare including support for mental wellbeing, affordable transportation, affordable healthy food, dignified employment and housing, meaningful political participation, a transformative justice system, gender and sexuality freedoms, and, for disabled and older people, to live independently in the community.

Freelance journalist/writer, I’ve reported in 30 countries for the BBC, CBC, DW, magazines, on African-European relations, social change, arts, music & politics