Consider yourself warned, because I am about to ruin your day. I can promise this to you. It takes me less than ten minutes to do so, so please be patient and read along.
Here are the residents of Lamu, an island in Kenya.
The people are protesting because they don’t want a coal plant to be built on their island by the Chinese. Kenya produces more electricity than it consumes and so they see no need to pollute the atmosphere by burning more coal.
The people of Kenya are not rich, at least not in the sense that we comprehend wealth. If you’re American, your purchasing power is about 60,000 dollar on average. If you’re Kenyan, it’s 3,500. The average life expectancy in Kenya is 67 years, roughly the age at which we stop working and retire. Three quarters of Kenyans are literate, half of the Kenyan people have electricity. For every 1000 Kenyan citizens, there are 28 motorized vehicles in Kenya.
In contrast to what you might have heard, Kenyans don’t breed like rabbits. In 2018. Kenyan women had a fertility rate of 3.9 children per woman. This includes the fertility rate of women who are illiterate and don’t comprehend how contraception works, women who have no access to contraception, etcetera.
Who should bear the cost of climate change? Who should solve the problem? In Kenya, 50% of the population polled says that developing countries like Kenya should do just as much to bring climate change to a halt as the developed nations should be doing.
What Kenyans are doing to address climate change
What are the Kenyans doing in an effort to stop climate change, besides protesting against new coal plants? Because Kenya is close to the equator, climate change is contributing to worsening desertification in Kenya. Kenyans have responded by catapulting seeds into the desert, to encourage new plants to grow and hopefully bring a halt to deforestation. Here is Ruth Kitana, a villager of Kikule:
Ruth Kitana became concerned, when the world around her became very dry. Her harvests began to fail and she was forced along with the other villagers, to buy staple crops like maize from town. Ruth hopes that within five years her land will be green again and her crops will thrive once more.
In 2017, the president of Kenya decided that Kenya was going to voluntarily increase its contributions to the United Nations Environment Programme.
Between 2010 and 2013, hundreds of Kenyan rangers were shot, trying to protect endangered animals from poaching. The “conservation heroes monument” in Kenya lists more than sixty names.
The world would be a lot easier to live in, if people who suffer somehow seem to deserve it, or if they are somehow intrinsically fundamentally and qualitatively different from us.
Recently, Kenya became the first country in the world to ban the use of plastic bags altogether, because plastic bags pollute the Kenyan landscape.
Who causes climate change?
The earth’s climate rapidly began to change at the start of the industrial revolution around 200 years ago. Between 1850 and 2011, 52% of emissions came from Europe and the United States. Around 1% came from sub-Saharan Africa. Today around 4% of emissions come from sub-Saharan Africa.
On average, a Kenyan emits 0.31 ton of Co2 into the air in a year. If you fly from London to New York and back, or have a similar intercontinental flight in a year, you emit roughly seven and a half times as much as a Kenyan does in a year. There are Kenyan villages, that can live within the carbon budget an average Western family spends on a single vacation.
Some people suggest that big corporations are responsible for climate change, like here:
reminder that 100 corporations are responsible for 71% of global greenhouse gas emissions and presenting the crisis as a moral failing on the part of individuals without noting this fact is journalistic malpractice. https://t.co/hzQ6o9yS7v
— Adam H. Johnson (@adamjohnsonNYC) October 9, 2018
This is what weak people tell themselves. Weak people blame others for their own failures.
In a world where you can go on vacation and irreversibly damage the only Earth we have to lay on a tropical beach more than an entire Kenyan village does in a year, you’re responsible. The corporations that emit greenhouse gasses, emit those greenhouse gasses to satiate your needs. Corporations exist so that we can keep our houses warm, eat food, fly to foreign countries, impress our neighbors or young women by driving around in expensive cars. They derive their entire existence, from our desire to pay money to purchase the products they deliver to us, products that we don’t genuinely need.
The products you purchase, are part of a choice you make. Most greenhouse gasses caused by food come from red meat. Your health would benefit from eating less red meat, yet you consume it. Your house and workplace are heated with natural gas. If you heat your house less, your body burns more energy, you become less fat and live healthier. If you drive to work, chances are you could get there by train, by bicycle, or you could relocate to live closer to your work. In the train you would have time to read a book, on a bicycle you would train your legs. You already know these things are true, but you succumbed to weakness.
Who is going to be affected by climate change?
The world is not fair. If the world was fair, it wouldn’t achieve the objective it exists for: How do we behave when we think nobody is watching? The world is like a sheet of sandpaper that polishes the soul, until our souls begin to reflect light. If the sole purpose of existence was to ensure your own maximal happiness, the world would have looked differently. If existence serves no greater purpose and the world came into existence by sheer chance, these type of problems would not exist as part of the human condition.
Who will be the worst affected by climate change? Here is a graph of how different countries will be affected by climate change by 2050:
Do you see that big red spot in Africa? That’s Kenya. Here’s another graph from the same study, again showing that the impact will inevitably be enormous in Kenya:
This doesn’t take a genius to figure out. Kenya is near the equator and filled with desert. When the global temperatures start rising, people whose farmland is one or two heatwaves removed from turning into a desert, will be worse affected than people who have cool summers and snow-filled landscapes in winter. When the Earth changes, people who grow their own food will be worse affected than you and me, who can turn on air-conditioning during the summer, or who can fly to a tropical country when we don’t enjoy the winter.
So what does this mean in the concrete world? Scroll back up and take a look at these pictures again, then resume reading. You’re looking at people who are going to watch their families die. I don’t have a crystal ball, I don’t know how it will unfold. In Syria after a severe drought, a civil war broke out. A few years later, a jihadist movement seized political control in a power vacuum and began torturing people and seizing Yazidi girls as sex slaves. I don’t claim to know how these people are going to witness their families die. It might be that the heatwaves become so severe that it’s physically dangerous to be outside. It might be that the harvests fail and people die of hunger. It might be that ethnic groups are forced to migrate into other ethnic groups territory and political violence erupts. What I can guarantee you is that a country that transforms into a desert is not a country that can sustain its population.
Why does evil seem to exist? Why are people going to suffer horribly, without having done anything to deserve it? Why are other people going to suffer, from the choices that we made and the luxuries in our lives that we took for granted and felt we deserve? Because our souls are being polished.