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it’s dangerous to ignore global warming’s poor victims

March 29, 2019
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Africa doesn’t have a natural disaster culture. Southern Africa specifically doesn’t suffer more than drastic floods, perhaps the rogue tornado and cyclones that don’t do much give a desperate edge to the weather. Our infrastructure isn’t built to account for the types of hurricanes that ravage the East Coast and Gulf of North America. Cyclone Idai changed that and I am afraid the world will ignore more than just another African tragedy because of global anti-Blackness.

Cyclone Idai has been classified as one of the worst tropical cyclones to affect Africa and the entirety of the Southern Hemisphere. Idai tracked its destructive path through Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi, reaching its maximum intensity on the 11th of March, a week after it had formed on the coast of Mozambique as Tropical Depression. Idai claimed just over 760 lives with hundreds still missing and over 160,000 people displaced. It ravaged three countries and geographically altered Mozambique’s coastline by wiping a city-sized area off the map. Beira is a coastal city that was so badly hit by the cyclone that it put an area twice the size of New York City under water.

A World Food Programme spokesperson said at a conference in Geneva, “It looks like the situation in Chimanimani – the hardest hit district in Zimbabwe – is very bad. Some 90% of the district has been significantly damaged,” according to The Guardian. The damage has resulted in 270,000 who will need food, water and other aid provisions for at least the next three months, in Zimbabwe alone. The United Nations confirmed that the death toll in Mozambique is the highest at 293, but the emergence of bodies floating onto beaches would mean that number is likely to rise. The UN also confirmed that Zimbabwe had lost 259 and Malawi had lost 56. Mozambiquan President Filipe had stated, “everything indicates that we can have a record of more than 1,000 dead,” owing to the decimated infrastructure hindering communications as well as the chilling occurrence of bodies on beaches.

Mortuaries were filling up with bodies that could not be identified and even if they could be, damaged lines of communication prevented families being reached and thus alerted. Accessibility to certain affected areas took days, even up to a week before survivors were reached. The most heartbreaking aspect of this crisis has to be the fact that the missing and the dead have left 1.5 million children in need of assistance, according to UNICEF.

BEIRA, MOZAMBIQUE – MARCH 22: A young girl stares into the distance as people from the town of Buzi unload at Beira Port after being rescued on March 22, 2019 in Beira, Mozambique. Thousands of people are still stranded after after Cyclone Idai hit the country last week. (Photo by Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images)

Global calls to action will always be too late because poor people are often affected first and the world has made it abundantly clear that it could care less about them. Africa is at the bottom of the global food-chain, thanks to white supremacy and centuries of colonization, destabilization and sabotage — self and otherwise. When tragedy strikes on the African continent, it isn’t given the same coverage as a country with lighter populations. The problem is that now, more than ever, is the time to pay attention. These casualties, those numbers are being added to a tally of lives that global warming has already claimed and the majority of those lives lived in poverty. People are finally doing studies that conclude that white people cause the most air pollution and people of color are the ones that suffer from it.

This is the importance of this shift to call out white capitalist supremacy for what it as AND work to dismantle it. If it won’t kill us systematically through state-mandated violence, lack of healthcare or the various other battles fought by the bottom 90%, then it will kill us all by leveraging the planet’s future for current profits. The people of Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi are not the main culprits of globalization and no amount of personal accountability to climate change would change that. You can put all the people responsible in a high school auditorium but the common man gets the blame because all those people are powerful enough to buy and sell governments into ensuring that they are free to destroy the planet as long as their profit margins grow.

None of them will be the first to be affected by their policies and actions — it is the poor, with an unfair public reputation often propagated or supported by governments. The rise in global white nationalism is a wake-up call to the levels of damage it has waged across the world and the systems it sustained that will ultimately destroy it. To dismantle white capitalism is an issue of human rights and human survival. We need to remember that when those in charge offer us half-promises when real change is only thing that will bring us back from the brink.