On Climate Change and Borders
I’ve been mulling this one for some time, parlty through reflecting on a recent trip abroad, and so (finally) here it is. I hope it is a good enough explanation for why I’m so concerned that No Borders-type issues are on the agenda, at least for the protesters, during Copenhagen.For some, the issues of Climate Change and Freedom of Movement are somehow at odds with one another; perhaps most specifically because Climate Change can be seen as an excuse to prevent people from flying, which is seen as an important part of getting from A to B. Given that the most desperate journeys are rarely made by air, except in the case of the very rich, freedom of movemnt and freedom to use air travel are not closely linked.
But I guess for most, its more of a desire to stick with the in-vogue issue of Climate Change without confronting the uncomfortable questions that our borders raise: that Climate Change is affecting other much more deeply and profoundly, and that as such, our past actions, and those of our society at large, are destroying people’s lives, and yet we are only prepared to offer them charity. Even though we have destroyed their lands, or perhaps because of it, we would rather ignore their pleas for help and the simplest way of doing so is simply to leave them outside the front gates of our nice cosey home, particularly on a national scale.
Borders are helpful; they let us externalise those things we wish not to be reminded of. They ensure that the things we hoard for ourselves need only be shared with those closest to us. Anyone beyond them is easily forgotten, or part of a faceless mass, about which we can be selective. We can concern ourselves with helping people in far off lands, because their lives are separate and to be thought of as a distant tragedy, despite the proximity of the tragedy (or at least, the issuing part of it) to our lives.
And yet, this is exactly why opening the borders is important to getting a solution to Climate Change. If we keep them shut, our perspective is skewed away from those most in need. After all, what we see really can’t hurt us, can it?
But what about the camps around Calais? How much longer will we prevent these people from entering? After all, their money is already here, or it was until it disappeared in the economic crises. You see, borders can be useful for acting a strainer – the money gets through, but the hungry mouths it would have fed just don’t fit through the gaps. And now the effects of that straining, the planet’s inability to cope with our industrial pursuits, means those just outside of Britain trying to get in will be faced with enormous pain.
I’ve certainly noticed that the refugee narative given by most Climate Change campaigns is somewhat misguided. Whilst its true that 70% of Bangladesh’s population will be made homeless, it would be possible for them to move to the higher ground in nearby countries and find places to farm. The upheaval might be terrible, but it will be nothing next to the troubles of those living in the lands in Africa and Latin America that are being desertified at an alarming rate, for their neighbouring countries are just as vulnerable, and only through a move right up into Europe will many of them be able to survive. Perhaps this is rather simplistic, and yes, it certainly plays down the needs of the poor in Bangladesh.
And yet, through the use of borders, we are blinded to their need to move. If they arrived in Britain already, we’d feel a need to do something, but instead, we can externalise them, just like the pollutants and injuries from manufacturing, the deaths from coal mining, and the sound of hungry workers are completely ignorable when they occur thousands of miles away. Through borders, we separate ourselves from others, or, in terms of a common humanity, through borders, we separate ourselves from ourselves.
And so by removing the borders, both in our minds and on the ground, we make ourselves vulnerable to the urgency of the plight of those in the Global South, and it becomes imperative to act to prevent them needing to move en masse to Britain, for obviously our infastructure could not cope with this. Instead of finding ways to keep people at bay, we would have to find ways to reduce their need to travel, and to do that, we need to solve climate change. The two, I feel, really are that inseparable.