It is 2022, and the world is on a trajectory for climate disasters unless powerful hands are tied to wreaking havoc on the ecosystem. This would entail a radical realteration of our economic- politico systems and restructuring of the global financial system in a way that the planet is put before the profit. Idealizing how we can achieve that point, in theory, is irrelevant at this point when it is evident from government attitudes across the world that the neoliberal globalized capitalist bubble will not be diminishing anytime. We will keep on pumping air until we explode and deal with the apocalypse that follows later.
It is also evident that the most vulnerable deal with the most horrific of consequences – this is not to say that first-world nations, most of the colonial powers or their now-beneficiaries, are immune from an accelerating disaster with brakes that are consequentially becoming more and more dysfunctional by the minute. No. My argument is that as a result of colonialism and being forced to comply with a hyper-capitalist system that had already been chosen for them over the decades since their independence, the global south cannot be expected to lead a systemic war against climate change. They are not capital-intensive, nor can their technological and digital advancements compare to that of the former colonial or current neo-colonial masters, nor are they economically well off.
Understanding the matter better
Of course, one might hear that the global order is shifting – formerly colonized nations are gaining greater stakes in the globalized financial system. China is directly competing with the US for the position of the global hegemon. Other third-world nations are progressing into emerging economies, India and Brazil being some of the biggest examples. I ask the question: is the path to progress not primarily determined by how much a nation produces and sells on an industrial scale? Are our economic indicators not profit-oriented at their very core? Then, how can we expect the global south, especially, to stop sacrificing the planet at the altar of destructive neoliberal capitalism when it is the only path to gaining power, necessary power, that we have always been bereft of?
Policymaking and gauging the extent to which we should adjust our policies to combat climate change – instituting carbon caps and taxes, strengthening environmental regulations, etc. – will take time, especially when institutions – both local and foreign – lack genuine will and capacity. What the governments must urgently focus on is adapting to the disaster that has already struck – or risk losing lives.
In Pakistan alone, twenty-seven lives have been claimed by thundershowers over the Eid holidays, festivities turned to ashes as bodies emerge and megacities like Karachi drown. Roofs have been reported to collapse, electrocutions have taken lives and power supply in multiple areas have been cut off.
Lest anyone think this turn of fatal disasters is new, a reminder would serve that in 2015, it was reported that brutal heatwaves had claimed the lives of a hundred and forty individuals within two mere days. Climate change is striking and has been striking for a while. This year, the monsoon came too soon, and June seemed cooler than May, where temperatures were projected to peak at 51 degrees Celsius in Lahore alone.
The consequential weight of these changes on both our agricultural and industrial setup is immense. What Pakistan needs urgently is large-scale adaptation; farmers, especially, must be trained and educated regarding how to adapt their crop cycles according to the weather changes. Widescale awareness campaigns need to be conducted on safety measures with regard to heat strokes and investments must be diverted into researching, formulating, and implementing adaptation strategies of resistance, resilience, and transformation. These measures are by no means exhaustive, and the means to these ends may as well be infinite — for that, we would need debate, and debate can come later.
What we need in this immediate moment is action
That begins with acknowledgment, and right after, putting the wheels into motion. Once we start acting, discourse will automatically be generated except it will not be focused on whether we should focus on adapting to change or fighting it from happening in the first place. Instead, it will be on questions such as how else can we adapt? What else can we do to protect our lives and our livelihood?
On the brink of the cliff, there is no use pretending that the edge is far away. All we can do is hold on – and adapt.