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Climate Apartheid and Environmental Refugees

Abstract

The ideologies and technologies of the global North have long necessitated the forced migration, colonization and ecological plunder of the global South for imperial and capital expansionism. In recent decades, the excesses and demands of a global economy dependent upon unrelenting growth and industrialization have created new victims—entire populations now being dislocated by human-induced climate change—an emerging class of environmental refugees. The impact of climate change exacerbates existing pressures and inequalities related to economics, conflict, urban mega-development and land-use changes—all of which particularly affect the global South—and this chapter utilizes Connell’s (Southern Theory: The Global Dynamics of Knowledge in Social Science. St Leonards: Allen & Unwin, 2007) Southern theory to examine critically what has been termed ‘climate apartheid’ and explore its impacts on the increasing number of environmental refugees.

Keywords

  • Climate apartheid
  • Climate change
  • Climate change refugee
  • Environmental refugee
  • Global inequality
  • Southern theory

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Increases in anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions have resulted in—and will continue to generate—a rise in the average temperature of the Earth. This ‘enhanced greenhouse effect,’ known as global warming, has and will continue to cause inter alia a change in sea levels and ocean currents which will impact different regions’ climates—the long-term conditions of the variables of atmospheric particle count, atmospheric pressure, humidity, precipitation, pressure, temperature and wind. These warming-induced alterations and fluctuations to regions’ climates are known as climate change. Because the magnitude of global warming has not been consistent across the Earth’s surface, it has resulted in greater variability with respect to precipitation trends, with some regions of the world having experienced significant increases in precipitation and others significant decreases. Consequently, some (indeed, many) regions of the world have felt increases in their average yearly temperatures. Others, however, have undergone slight decreases in their average yearly temperatures. Thus, we might say that global warming has resulted in (different kinds of) climate change (in different regions of the planet) that, in turn, has contributed to warming in many regions of the world, but some cooling in others. Or, to simplify matters even further, we might use the following schematic:

    global warming↓climate change↓warming in many regions(+some cooling in some regions)

    For the purposes of this chapter, we use the phrase ‘global warming and climate change,’ rather than one term or the other, in order to emphasize the related processes. For other discussions of terminology and usages, see, for example, Brisman (2013: 242 n.5, 2015: 188n.2); White (2014: 836 n.2).

  2. 2.

    Although nonhuman animals have been referred to as ‘climate refugees’—see, for example, Goode’s (2016) discussion of polar bears who are increasingly venturing on land because the sea ice on which they rely for hunting seals is receding—we focus our discussion in this chapter on the displacement of humans.

  3. 3.

    We have put ‘natural disasters’ in quotation marks because what constitutes a ‘natural’ disaster, as opposed to a disaster brought about by anthropogenic climate change, has become increasingly blurry. Indeed, as South (2010: 238) has pointed out, ‘as climate change makes new, devastating contributions to the incidence and scale of ‘disasters,’ these occur alongside continuing inequalities that mean the impacts of such disasters have unequal and differentially distributed results …’ For a related point about ‘accident,’ see Takemura (2012: 185).

  4. 4.

    As Fleming and Jankovic (2011: 3) make effort to distinguish, ‘[s]ome claim that global warming was recently ‘discovered’; others that it was constructed in its current anthropogenic form by methods and agreements over the longue dureé.’

  5. 5.

    See, for example, papers reprinted in sections 2 and 3 of South and Beirne (2006) and in all three parts of White (2009).

  6. 6.

    This critique of ‘absences’ includes neglect of nonhuman animal life (see, e.g., Beirne 1995, 1997, 1999, 2009, 2014; and Sollund 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2017a, b, in press) and rural life (see, e.g., DeKeseredy 2013; DeKeseredy and Donnermeyer 2013; Donnermeyer 2012).

  7. 7.

    At the same time, we may be witnessing what we might call a ‘nature-knowledge extinction cycle’ whereby the annihilation of s species leads to the loss of knowledge of how to interact with an aspect of nature and our environment. As Dalesczcyk and colleagues (2016: 35) point out, ‘[t]he know-how and the will to coexist with European bison and large mammals in general have been lost over the centuries. In order to integrate this species into today’s anthropogenic landscapes, conservation faces manifold challenges.’ Other examples abound.

  8. 8.

    ‘Recent,’ that is, in geological time. Elsewhere, Orlove et al. (2015: 61) note that ‘the idea of climate change … [is] … relatively old … dating to the late nineteenth century, when scientists traced the links among atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, radiation, and global temperatures (Weart 2003).’

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Brisman, A., South, N., Walters, R. (2018). Climate Apartheid and Environmental Refugees. In: Carrington, K., Hogg, R., Scott, J., Sozzo, M. (eds) The Palgrave Handbook of Criminology and the Global South. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-65021-0_16

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