Gringos should pay their eco-debt
Recently, Brazil’s president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva or “Lula” commented on the First World and the current environmental crisis. Lula said that “gringos” should pay Amazonian countries to prevent deforestation.
“I don’t want any gringo asking us to let an Amazon resident die of hunger under a tree… We want to preserve, but they will have to pay the price for this preservation because we never destroyed our forest like they mowed theirs down a century ago.”
The comments were made at a meeting of Amazonian countries convened in anticipation of the December Copenhagen Summit on the environment.
Lula’s advisor, Marco Aurelio Garcia, added:
“In Europe everyone has opinions about the Amazon, and there are people who think the Amazon is a zoo where you have to pay to enter… They don’t know there are 30 million who work there.”
About 30 million people live in the Amazon, and about 25 million of those live in the Brazilian Amazon. 60 percent of the Amazon is in Brazil, an area that is bigger than Western Europe.
Brazil has reduced the rate of deforestation of the Amazon to its lowest point in decades. Even so, 7,000 square kilometers are deforested a year, an area the size of the US state of Delaware. Because of Brazil’s relative progress, some have paid and some countries are considering paying to stop deforestation. For example, one country, Norway, is making payments of one billion dollars to Brazil through 2015 to preserve the forest. Norway was the first to make payments to the Amazon Preservation Fund. Brazilian officials seek to raise 21 billion dollars to protect its forests, to persuade loggers and farmers to stop destroying trees, also to finance scientific and technological projects to solve environmental problems. Other First World countries, such as Japan, Sweden, Germany, South Korea and Switzerland are considering donating to the fund. It is no surprise that the US is not reported to be in the list.
Lula is not alone in expressing such sentiments about the First World’s eco-debt to humanity. Similar comments were made by African Union official Jean Ping last year when he demanded “reparations and damages” from the First World for its environmental destruction. Even though the Third World accounts for only a third of greenhouse gasses, it will suffer 80 percent of the damage resulting from climate change. According to Ping, the US state of Texas alone “with 30 million inhabitants creates as much greenhouse gases as the billion Africans taken together.”
First World peoples, especially people from the US, are much better off than Brazilians in the world economic system. About 35 percent, 67 million people, of the Brazilian population live on less than two dollars a day. Brazil’s rural areas are especially poor. 51 percent of the rural population live on less than two dollars a day. Brazil has, for example, 18 million poor rural people living on less than two dollars a day. This makes Brazil the country with the largest number of poor rural people in the Western hemisphere. By contrast, poverty of Brazil’s kind hardly exists at all for First World peoples. All First World peoples fall within the top 20 percent of global income. Every Amerikan falls within the top 13 percent of global income. An Amerikan at the US “poverty line,” for example, is at the richest 13 percent globally. Also, three-quarters of the private consumption in the world is accounted for by the world’s richest 20 percent, mostly in the First World. Nearly all adult working Amerikans fall within the richest 10 percent. The richest 10 percent accounted for over half, 59 percent of the world’s private consumption. And, as Brazil’s poor are barely surviving on two dollars a day or less, the average Joe Amerikan has an income of $32,000 per year. And the median yearly income of a household in the US was $46,326 in 2006. For families in the US it was $56,194.
The majority of the global social product is consumed by First World peoples. The current system serves those in the First World, not those in the Third. Almost all First World peoples have lavish lifestyles by global standards, yet Third World peoples make enough only to survive, if that. Yet the First World often expects the Third World to pay the price for pollution, deforestation, and other undesirable by-products of the system that mainly serves the First World, not the Third. In addition, the current crisis did not develop overnight. The current crisis is a result of deforestation that has gone on for hundreds of years around the world. And it is the imperialist countries who have historically cut forests down in every corner of their global empires. It is mainly the imperialists and their lackeys who have polluted the skies across the planet in order to maintain the decadent First World lifestyle. To put the burden mainly on the Third World is to excuse the imperialist countries for their bad policies going back hundreds of years.
Destroying the First World is not only necessary to liberate the Third World, but the destruction of the First World is necessary in order to save the future of humanity itself. After all, maintaining the First World way of life is simply not ecologically sustainable. Capitalism serves the populations of the First World, it does not serve the interests of the vast majority. Capitalism is an irrational system that cares not if the Earth is livable a hundred years from now. Profit is the driving force behind the system, not human need, not justice, not rationality. Socialism, by contrast, is organized to serve the people. Socialism seeks to balance current human need with the needs of future generations. Socialism does not sacrifice the future for the present. Socialism does not sacrifice the future so that one section of the population can live at the expense of the rest. The First World owes a huge eco-debt to humanity and the planet. It will take a global people’s war by the Third World masses to collect.