Monday, August 31, 2015

Gotta keep an eye on the powerful and the profiteers

On this anniversary of Katrina, Nick Buxton and Ben Hayes urge us to look not only at past horrors in New Orleans and on the Gulf Coast, but also at what militaries, governments, and big corporations have learned from that tragedy.

Could it happen again today? ...

... the structural inequality and institutional racism that underpinned the Bush administration’s response is still there, a fact that President Obama noted on his visit to New Orleans this week. Moreover, the already bloated military and security complex that reflected these power relations has expanded enormously since Katrina – and is now using the spectre of climate change to grab yet more public resources.

Two years after Katrina, in 2007, the Pentagon released its first major report on climate change, warning in no uncertain terms of an “age of consequences” in which, amongst other things, “altruism and generosity would likely be blunted.” This was followed up a year later by an EU security report that talked of climate change as a “threat multiplier” that “threatens to overburden states and regions which are already fragile and conflict prone.” It warned that this would lead to “political and security risks that directly affect European interests”. ...

... in one sense, the accuracy of the predictions doesn’t really matter. On the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina  we only have to look at how the humanitarian crisis on Europe’s doorstep and in its borderlands is unfolding. In Calais, we see a humanitarian emergency being treated as a security issue as the British government has pledged 22 million Pounds on fences, police and dogs to keep out refugees fleeing war and torture. Both Hungary and Bulgaria announced this week that they were deploying troops, so-called “border hunters”, to prevent refugees entering the country from the former Yugoslavia.

Further afield in Brazil, there were reports this summer of authorities mobilising troops to defend water infrastructure amid an ongoing drought in the megacity of São Paulo. ...

... And we can already see how the national security planners are factoring protests against inequality and social injustice into the new crisis management paradigms: by trying to predict complex emergencies and social unrest. Today, the UK’s National Risk Register, for example, lists “public disorder” and “disruptive industrial action” as among the most severe and likely security threats facing the country.

... Dystopian preparations by the state are reflected in the corporate arena. Where we see a future climate crisis, many companies see only opportunity: oil firms looking forward to melting ice caps delivering new accessible fossil fuels; security firms touting the latest technologies to secure borders from ‘climate refugees’; or investment fund managers speculating on weather-related food prices – to name but a few.

... Hurricane Katrina was a watershed moment and a warning to us all ... We the people have to combine our actions to end worsening climate change with a transformation of the institutions that seek to respond to its impacts. 

What they describe here (and presumably will elaborate on in their forthcoming book The Secure and the Dispossessed) is the line up of institutions and individuals who are counting on enhancing their profits and power through the disruptions of climate change.

1 comment:

Brandon said...

This is part of the Long Emergency that James Howard Kunstler describes in his book of the same title:

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