54 Afterword

What has changed since these essays were published? Quite a bit. There have been more oil discoveries in Africa and the scope for environmental pollution is increasing apace. At the same time, the scope for action by citizens to defend their environments is also expanding. New networks of resistance to the destructive impacts of extractives are being born or are being consolidated in Nigeria, Ghana, Uganda, South Africa, Togo and globally. Communities are sharing knowledge through these networks and training on ways of uncovering the sugar-coated lies of the polluters.

Of importance is that there are real indications that a clean-up of Ogoniland will finally start, as called for by the UNEP report on the assessment of that environment. While Ogoni will be the starting point, the clean up will extend to other parts of the heavily degraded Niger Delta and,hopefully, to other parts of Nigeria. We hope that such clean-up actions that contribute to reviving local ecosystems and economies, might spread to every nook and cranny of Africa. It is high time that we stop arguing over which community should claim the title of being the most polluted place in Africa. Instead we should be looking at which is the most pristine and life supporting.

The popular resistance we are seeing includes an expanding corps of community ecological defenders, bold litigations in the face of great odds and increasing legislative actions. The task now is to connect the energies erupting from the disparate arena of struggles in order to construct an unstoppable movement towards to emancipation of our peoples. The environment connects all humans and all living things on the planet. Actions for justice carried out together cannot be stopped.

The chapters on climate change negotiations included the essay on Ambition, Selfishness and Climate Action referring to COP18 that was held in Doha in 2012. We quoted UNEP report that said ‘the aggregate voluntary emissions reductions by rich, industrialised and polluting nations would not ensure the level of reduction needed to avoid catastrophic global warming.’ It showed that a gap existed between the ‘level of ambition that is needed and what is expected as a result of the pledges.’ At the time of publication of this book we have had three more COPs. The COP in Lima locked in the era of voluntary emissions reductions, while COP21 in Paris in 2015 finally endorsed the voluntary regime together with the submission of Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) to emissions-reduction by nation states. The fears expressed by UNEP years earlier have been confirmed by projections based on the intended emissions reductions proposed by nations.

A pre-COP21 synthesis report prepared by the Secretariat of the UNFCCC on the aggregate effect of the INDCs, which was communicated by parties to the Convention on 1 October 2015, stated:

If Parties were to not enhance mitigation action until 2030 beyond the action envisaged in the INDCs, the possibility of keeping the temperature increase below 2 deg C still remains. However, the scenarios in the IPCC AR5 indicate that this could be achieved only at substantially higher annual emission reduction rates and cost compared with the least- cost scenarios that start today or in 2020. Therefore, much greater emission reductions effort than those associated with the INDCs will be required in the period after 2025 and 2030 to hold the temperature rise below 2 deg C above pre-industrial levels.[1]

The parties to the UNFCCC know that the INDCs will not solve the climate crisis. A deadly disease requires radical, not convenient, action. Climate negotiations continue to ignore the call for a transition from dependence on fossil fuels. This is a clear indication of their concern for the lives of future generations. It underscores the vice-grip of the fossil-fuel industry.

There is a need to transform our approach to system change not climate change. System Change is more than mere sloganeering.The environmental horrors that the planet and its life forms increasingly faces have systemic roots. Radical changes to the system, not polite negotiations, are urgently needed. In other words, system change cannot be negotiated. It will be enforced by people taking directaction. If people fail, Mother Earth will not. She will go on without us.

July 2016


  1. UNFCCC. 30 October 2015. Synthesis report on the aggregate effect of the intended nationally determined contributions. http://unfccc.int/resource/docs/2015/cop21/eng/07.pdf (accessed 7 June 2016)

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