A quick scroll through my Instagram was enough to remind me what I was doing. I was in my first term of university. Hozier was giving a talk there. I went, I swooned, and I have photographic evidence:
I’m going to loop back around to December 2015 in a bit. But right now, let’s change gear quite abruptly. Let’s talk about Africa, global warming, and an amazing woman called Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim.
A few weeks ago Ibrahim was interviewed on Channel 4 News (1) about the Davos Climate summit. She is a campaigner for the rights of indigenous Mbororo people in Chad and in the interview she emphasised that the negative effects of climate change disproportionately affect indigenous people, and furthermore subsequent mitigation responsibilities, like planting trees to act as carbon sinks, are more often than not carried out by indigenous people too. Here she is responding to the Davos agreement of planting one trillion trees:
“The thing is it’s not the technology that plants the tree; it’s not Donald Trump himself or people in the administration who go out and plant the trees. It’s the communities. Because they know how to restore the ecosystem. It’s not an issue of one tree… [it’s an issue of] biodiversity restoration and ecosystem restoration… [this has] to be a collective action, this has to be people-centric, and those people who are living in the forest area… [are] indigenous people.”
The IIPCC (2), for whom she is a spokesperson, campaigns about the importance of allowing indigenous people the rights to own and manage the lands on which they live. The ideological shift from individualism (climate change is individual people’s faults) to supporting indigenous rights is important to mitigating human-caused environmental catastrophes. Lake Chad, which is the main water source for Ibrahim’s community, has shrunk from 25,000 km2 to less than 2,500km2, 10% of it’s original size (!), due to its waters drying up from global warming (3). Mbororo people and millions of others rely on this lake for drinking water for them and their cattle and their rights are being taken away. Their self-determination is being taken away. Their natural environment is fading and so is their livelihood, culture, spiritual connection to their land (4).
Scarcity of resources leads to conflict and terrorism. Experts say there is direct causation between lack of resources and young people becoming indoctrinated into terrorist ideologies; the growing presence of Boko Haram in the Lake Chad region is extremely dangerous.
And here is where I loop back around to the beginning of this post and December 2015. On the 5th December 5 years ago, three Boko Haram suicide bombers attacked an island on Lake Chad killing 30 people and injuring 80 more (5). Almost double the deaths of the Charlie Hebdo shooting in 2015. More than double the deaths of the Berlin Christmas market attack in 2016. More deaths than the Manchester arena bombing in 2017. And the UK press hardly even reported it. I think about 30 people I know – my family, my extended family, my friends, a few acquaintances. While that terror attack blasted its way through the lives of those innocent people, I was safe and warm, listening to Hozier play his guitar. I was a world away from those Chadians and their suffering.
Climate change reaches its poisonous tentacles into people’s lives. It takes away your food and your home. It takes away your spirituality. It makes you easy to radicalise. It makes you strap bombs to your chest. Ibrahim is right; climate change’s effects fall disproportionately upon poor, marginalised, indigenous communities. Solutions must centre and empower these groups of people.
(2) International Indigenous People’s Forum on Climate Change.
(3) Faiza Ghozali (3 Dec 2015). “Lake Chad, a living example of the devastation climate change is wreaking on Africa.” African Development Bank Group. https://www.afdb.org/en/news-and-events/lake-chad-a-living-example-of-the-devastation-climate-change-is-wreaking-on-africa-15129(accessed 1 Feb 2020).
(4) D. Kapua’ala Sproat, “An Indigenous People’s Right to Environmental Self-Determination: Native Hawaiians and the Struggle Against Climate Change Devastation,” Stanford Environmental Law Journal, p. 163 https://scholarspace.manoa.hawaii.edu/bitstream/10125/46075/1/35StanEnvtlLJ157.pdf(accessed 1 Feb 2020).
United Nations (26 April 2016). “Indigenous Mbororo woman to speak at Paris Agreement signing ceremony on 22 April”. https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/blog/2016/04/indigenous-mbororo-woman-to-speak-at-paris-agreement-signing-ceremony-on-22-april/(accessed 1 Feb 2020).