Hamza Hamouchene and Mika Minio-Paluello, editors, The Coming Revolution in North Africa: The Struggle for Climate Justice. Platform (London), Rosa Luxemburg Foundation (North Africa), and Environmental Justice North Africa (EJNA), 2015.
Jadaliyya (J): What made you put together this book?
Hamza Hamouchene and Mika Minio-Paluello (HH & MM-P): The idea was both to highlight the violence of climate change in North Africa, and the need for an indigenous response. We wanted to point out that survival relies on structural change, and on facing the challenge of talking about climate justice in Arabic.
Climate change is already a reality in North Africa. People are dying and communities are being forced off their lands, with stronger and more frequent droughts and winter storms, as deserts grow and sea levels rise.
There is a growing literature in Arabic on the threat, but this knowledge production is dominated by neoliberal institutions like the World Bank, the German Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), and European Union agencies. They highlight the dangers of a warmer world and they argue for urgent action. But their analysis of climate change does not include questions of class, justice, power, or colonial history. They re-empower those who have wealth, and their vision of the future is marked by economies subjugated to private profit and further privatization of water, land—even the atmosphere.
There is no reference to the historic responsibility of the industrialized West for causing climate change, of the crimes of oil companies like British Petroleum and Shell, or the climate debt owed to the Global South. Most Arabic-language writing on climate change in the Middle East and North Africa includes no references to oppression—or to resistance.
We wanted to point to the failure and bankruptcy of the global climate talks. These have been hijacked by corporate power and private interests that promote profit-making false solutions like carbon trading, instead of forcing industrialized nations to reduce carbon emissions and leaving fossil fuels in the ground.
Through compiling and editing this book, our goal was to counteract the dominant neoliberal discourse on climate change in Arabic, and point to the need for a revolutionary alternative grounded in justice.
J: What particular topics, issues, and literatures does the book address?
HH & MM-P: We think this is the first book in Arabic to address climate justice (though we would be really happy if that is not the case!). It includes six essays on climate violence and false solutions in Egypt, Morocco, Algeria, and the wider region.
A further fifteen essays introduce inspiring and liberating perspectives advanced by radical and progressive intellectuals, activists, politicians, organizations, and grassroots groups from the Global South. We selected essays, interviews, and statements in which social movements describe what they are fighting against, how they are organizing, and what they are demanding. The chapters cover a broad geography—from Ecuador to India, South Africa to the Philippines.
The book addresses the burning issue of climate change in North Africa and the Global South through a justice lens rather than a security one. A future framed around “security” subjugates our struggles to a conceptual and imaginative framework that ultimately re-empowers the state’s repressive power. Through the different articles and essays, we argue that the climate crisis is the epitome of capitalist and imperialist exploitation of people and the planet. Climate change is a class war—a war by the rich against the working classes, the small farmers, and the poor who carry the burden on behalf of the privileged.
There are four sections in the book, with twenty-one chapters. The first section, “The Violence of Climate Change,” highlights the scale of the threat posed by climate change. The second section, “System Change Not Climate Change,” points to the economic and power structures driving climate change, and what a different system should look like. The third section, “Beware the False Solutions,” examines how the powerful have attempted to use the climate crisis to profit and entrench inequality by pushing false solutions. The final section, “Organizing for Survival and Climate Justice,” looks at how people are mobilizing for a different future.