Payback Time

For once it’s the other way around: the North is piling up debt in the South. Only that this time it is not about money.

Ecological debt is much more real and ubiquitous than the financial one. With Climate Change threatening us all over the planet, the scars the ecological plundering has left behind are becoming more visible and history is continously repeating itself.

Indian scientist Vinod Raina writes “Today’s environmental destruction of the South is an extension of a legacy of ecological plunder dating back to colonization.” He quotes famous British colonizer Cecil Rhodes who said: “We must find new lands from which we can easily obtain raw materials and at the same time exploit cheap slave labour that is available from the natives of the colonies. The colonies would also provide a dumping ground for the surplus goods produced in our factories.” That’s how it all started. That is what Ecological Debt is about. You can download the full article by Vinod Raina here.

The Southern’s People Ecological Debt Creditorbs Alliance has a more differentiated view  on Ecological Debt. They divide it into eight different types: historical debt, extractive industries, CO2 and Climate Change, Agriculture, Biopiracy, mega projects, external debt and IFIs, etc.

A couple of examples: the extraction of natural resources like minerals, marine and forest resources, and therefore destroying the habitat of the people; use and degradation of lands; commercialization and patentization of acient knowledge of plants, seeds and medicine; chemical, nucelar and other waste deposited in the South; commercializing and capitalizing everything without taking the real costs for environment and society into account, etc etc etc. The alliance describes that looting today has become more subtle but not less extreme than during the conquest. Today the techniques used are privatization of water, communication or the earth, technological dependence and laws of intellectual property amongst many more.

The Alliance asks to:

  • put a halt to a development model that is destroying the life of the planet.
  • stop the unequal flow of energy, natural and financial resources from the South to the North.
  • make evident the illegitimate nature of the Foreign Debt.

The call does not only come from the South. The European Network for the Recognition of the Ecological Debt (ENRED) is fighting for recognition of the Ecological Debt “that European Countries have accumulated towards the impoverished countries. It also tries to reduce/eliminate the future Ecological Debt. In order to do so, it will support, help to develop, and promote, the European and World campaigns that will be done with our same aim.”

We have been learning over the last years, that debt is a deadly spiral slowly pulling down more and more people. Ecological Debt works in a very similar way, except it has more power of destruction. Watch Who owes who” to learn more and visit the Southern People’s Ecological Debt Creditos Alliance. You can also check out the more limited but related notion of Climate Debt.


3 thoughts on “Payback Time

  1. Excellent information. You may be interested in some of my favorite reading: “Soil Not Oil: Environmental Justice in an Age of Climate Crisis” by Dr Vandana Shiva; “Powerdown: Options and Actions for a Post-Carbon World” by Richard Heinberg; and “The Transition Handbook: From Oil Dependency to Local Resilience” by Rob Hopkins.

    The Transition Handbook shows how Western societies needs to be living within the next few decades in order to help avoid some very catastrophic civil unrest.

    • These readings sound really interesting, thanks! If I hadn’t so much to read for university I would check them out right away. I guess I’ll put them on the “to read” list. Especially the handbook is tempting 🙂

  2. Pingback: Cooking a Continent | Kosmos 9

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