On December 11, 2012 the poet, playwright and activist Shailja Patel visted FUF-fåtöljen to talk about the topic ‘From Climate Crisis to Climate Justice’.
Shailja Patel claimed that the southern hemisphere is the frontline of global warming. Some places suffer from drought and others from flooding, which both lead to environmental refugees. The CIA already has plans how to militarize borders to “protect the rich”. To illustrate this, Shailja gave the example of Hurricane Sandy and the consequences for the people in New York, especially those in Manhattan. Severe polarization between the social classes arose because of the way federal relief was offered. For the poorer areas help was solely supplied by grassroots movements such as Occupy Sandy, whilst the state simply failed to provide for these. Shailja argued that a clear priority of interest exists, where only certain people matter to the state. Hope for the lower class does not lie in governments, but in grassroots movements and self-help organisations instead.
Shailja introduced the audience to three ‘provocative ideas’ connected to the discussion of climate justice. Firstly, the idea that the resource wars in the South are fuelled by the North through the demand for minerals used in phones, coffee, food, etc. We, living in the North, have a responsibility for what is going on in the global South. Secondly, Shailja emphasised that climate refugees are real and that we are all at risk of becoming climate refugees. So far, these people are mostly invisible, for example the internally displaced people after the tsunami in Japan. She argues that we have to make these people visible and include them in the discourse in order to tackle the problem. Thirdly, the fact was presented that the US military is the single biggest carbon emitter on the planet, due to its industrial warfare. Shailja said that we cannot ignore the elephant in the room anymore. Trying to deal with other carbon emitters without dealing with the Pentagon is like ‘rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic’. In order to tackle the threats of global warming and climate change efficiently, Shailja argued that we have to demilitarize to ‘invest in life instead of death’, put a carbon-tax on industries and open up the borders for refugees, to counteract the demographic crisis in the north.