Oil, Climate and Africa

2 minute read

So here’s a peculiar think: America (the USA, but Canada and Mexico, too) got rich off sucking the oil under their continent out of the ground (well, digging in Athabasca), turning it into fuel and releasing it into the atmosphere where it’s become the hugest single existential threat facing humankind to date (Biome-killing meteorites possibly excepted). Yes, it’s arguable. It’s complex, nuanced and not as simple as I’ve baldly put it here, but I believe most sensible people will get my drift. Later on, Europe (including Russia) and the Middle East got in on that act, and also bootstrapped themselves out of (varied levels of) poverty and into wealth. (I’ll argue strongly that Britain’s prosperous decades of the 90s and oughts are entirely a result of North Sea Oil, and fuck all a result of Margaret Thatcher/Conservative Party policies.) Then Asia got in on that act to some degree.

Now it’s Africa’s turn. Only we (all of humanity) can’t afford to load any more Carbon into the air unless we harbour a deathwish. So: Sorry Africa, you fuckers get to stay poor.

My think is this: where’s the justice, the social equity, in accepting that some parts of the world got exceedingly wealthy off burning the fossil fuels beneath their ground, but other parts of the world find that they are prohibited from doing likewise?

I’m not blaming anyone. I’m not saying that Africans should demand the right to also fuck up the atmosphere/ocean — we Africans know better. The Americans, Europeans and others did not know better for much of the time they were taking advantage of that fossil energy. But the fact remains that vast wealth flowed into certain parts of the world because they were able to take advantage of those incredible sources of energy – sources of wealth that are now – Hello climate change – essentially Off Limits to that part of the world that is most historically disadvantaged, most needs the uplift that such wealth offers.

How does that historic disparity get addressed? Because it seems to me it ought to be…