For as long as time can remember and history can record, humanity has always been in the culture of raising walls; a phenomenon which has no sense nor intention to stop any time soon. The Great Wall of China, the Berlin Wall, The Wall of Jericho and recently the Trump wall to name a few; the intention has always been to keep worlds apart, an insurance of regulation and defense against existent and perceived dangers beyond the wall. True to their nature, these are safe to call the Wars of Fear, it is what they are, and without justified fear and a deep desire for human security they would not have shaped history, religion and society as we know them today. Loved or hated, necessary or otherwise; walls have been part of humanity and they will continue to be. Their evolution is the greatest fascination to unravel.
Previously existent in physical form, today some of the most important walls built by humanity are neither physical in nature nor carrying clear boundaries of where they begin and where they end. After all, some of the greatest threats to humanity are not physical in nature; only their impacts can be felt in the physical. As such they warrant equal reciprocity in walls built to defend against them; walls the strength of which can be equally difficult to measure due to indistinct and often indeterminate reach or magnitude.
A bit unclear? Let us look at climate change, the greatest threat to all mankind today. We cannot touch for example the temperature rises that are warming up the seas due to climate change because temperature is not physical. But a temperature rise, like any fury of nature always has ways to express itself through physical phenomena and manifestations whose wrath we can all feel around the world. The warming seas have brought upon us the wrath of numerous floods due to the increased cyclones from the Indian Ocean in the south pacific, hurricanes from the Atlantic in the northeast and typhoons from the northwest Pacific. Those belonging to the Christian faith are reminded through the Pentateuch of yet another great symbolic wall in the form of Noah’s ark to keep floods at bay and preserve humanity.
Reciprocal to the threat of climate change, almost all countries of the world have a relation with the greatest wall built to stand against the phenomenon, the United Nations Climate Change Conference. Through it, nation states come together annually, pledge resources and commitments; metaphorically building the wall. From the 2nd of December 2019, global leaders have been congregated in Madrid, Spain for the 2019 United Nations Climate Change Conference or COP25, for yet another reflection and refortification of this war whose foundations were built twenty-four years ago in Berlin during COP1.
On Saturday, the 7th of December, almost midway through COP25, the members of the Swedish Institute Network of Future Global Leaders SLU came together to share lived experiences and realities on climate change from the Global North to the Global South. Under the roundtable banner of “North to South Climate Change Voices Towards Sustainable Development”, the network audited the wall of fear that is COP25 vis-à-vis their own walls of fears and youthful perspectives; to check if substantial progress is being made globally to address climate change the global dilemma with the global urgency that it presently demands.
The audit looked on multiple and broad topics of interest including the United States of America’s decision to back out of the Paris agreement; positive strides by the “smaller” developing countries to meet their goals on the front lines of combating climate change, the big talk of carbon markets, their future and the place of rising global inequalities in the markets equation; – all of which present an uncertain future regarding our climate change walls for many justifiable reasons.
For one, COP25 carries the same overall identity of who attends to this congregation of building the wall as COP1, it is a place of world leaders, climate change experts and activists. While a dichotomy clearly exists at COP2, the generally elite anatomy carries greater consequences. Though unseen and unspoken of at length, the elite effect can be felt in the global south where these very same people are also the same cohort who come to the negotiation table to build, nationalize and localize the wall against climate change; yet this time often being divided more than twice. One participant warned and raised an alarm that those most affected by climate change, who are a majority through numbers and their offering still remain a minority in building this wall. Proof to this, climate change consciousness and literacy in the global south remains minimal and as result some of the commitments to address it, though well-intended are somewhat resisted due to their exotic identity.
The political will has been and continues to be a priority focus of the great conference. As the discussion unraveled, one would see how deleterious such a prioritization causes the social focus to be marginal, even though unintended. To unravel this dynamic would warrant a piece of its own but the relationships are obvious and deductible to the basic logical mind. One attendee of the audit Cameroon had an illustrious story to say about the cohort of leaders who many countries in the global south entrust with building the climate wall. He had no kind words for political leaders, experts and activists who go to the rural places of dwelling looking at climate change through the eyes of the single tree a rural family cuts down to cook and keep warm but never through the barrels of the V8 car that they drove in to that place to speak against cutting down that tree.
The discussion went on to unravel many shocking statistics which between the 2nd and 7th of December were missing from the conversations at COP25. One of these statistics was in regards to the approximate 40% of the global population who are pastoralists, whose hand in climate change, plights as a result of the phenomenon and marginality by omission from discourses of COP25 went on to re-fortify the social repulsion through political affinity of the most important wall of our time. It is more than justified a fear that the compartmentalization of our efforts make up for a weak wall against climate change. This became all the more clear when the audit looked at the efforts by the global north to combat climate change through business as usual in the north and reparations through anti-carbon projects such as forests in the global south. The weakness of this wall can be seen when one looks at the foregone basic human needs such as agriculture for food security in the global south where forests stand on land that would otherwise be used to produce food for the starving populations.
Despite the difficult to reach a consensus on a quantitative audit where climate change is involved, the SINFGL SLU network agreed that while political will is a necessity central to the wall against climate change, the environmental justice with which this wall should be built will continue to be sacrificed at the political altar, the altar at which society has historically experienced its greatest detriments to date. One would wonder, would it be possible globally to look at climate change through another lens more superior to the political?