Famine, climate change and the BBC

I must protest about the BBC’s portrayal of the impending famine in Ethiopia on the 10 o’clock news on Monday night as being down to ‘God’ and ‘Mother Nature’. Not that I feel I need to defend God. But laying the blame on a rather abstract third party neatly avoids the issue of climate change. The failed rains in Ethiopia are part of a pattern of increasing frequency and severity of droughts in the regions, driven by increasing global temperatures and more severe and unpredictable weather.

You see, if God is to blame, we don’t have to worry about climate change yet. We can ignore the fact it is actually happening now, not in the future, and that its severest impacts are felt by the most vulnerable in the world.

Better still, we can ignore our own responsibility. We are absolved of blame. We don’t have to consider that our carbon output, caused by our rich, comfortable lifestyle, is leading to starvation and death in other places. We don’t need to regret the woeful progress that has been made by our leaders in agreeing ways to limit carbon emissions and help those already suffering the effects. We don’t have to change the way we live, or challenge climate change deniers, or press leaders for proper actions. Plans to change to a green energy supplier can be put off for now, and we will give up flying, but after we’ve been to visit family in California.

In fact, if we give a bit of money, then we’ve done more than could possibly be expected of us. After all, hasn’t Ethiopia been here before? Surely their government has learnt how to manage famine by now? Has nothing changed since ‘Live Aid’?

Well, let me tell you, nothing has really changed. Global markets are still skewed towards the richer nations of the world. More money still flows out of Africa in profits and lost taxes and debt repayments than has ever gone the other way in terms of aid. We’re still talking about global warming but doing nothing about it. We still allow multi-national corporations to avoid tax and hide profits because it suits us not to upset them. And when countries do sit down to talk, as they will in Paris at the end of this month, corporate interests will still influence proceedings and the global South will struggle to get their voice heard amidst the hundreds of professional lobbyists the rich will bring.

IMG_0691So let’s have no more talk about Mother Nature causing famine in Ethiopia and take
responsibility for the climate, for our sisters and brothers who are suffering, and our elected representatives who need to act. The News even had an item later on the programme about climate change but failed to join the dots. Don’t make the same mistake. Start by joining events to call for climate justice as the talks in Paris begin. Here’s the one in Sheffield, there’s one in London, one in Edinburgh, or find one near you!

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2 thoughts on “Famine, climate change and the BBC

  1. There was a big famine in Ethiopia a while ago – in the1980s I think – and it was front page news, with all the charities printing photos of starving Ethiopian babies. Just before then, the National Geographic Magazine had just published a feature article praising Ethiopia for its agricultural reforms, meaning that it had become a big exporter of agricultural produce – water melons if I remember rightly. What had happened is that the local people had been driven off the most fertile land so that it could be used for cash crops by big businesses.

    1. Quite. I think that illustrates perfectly how we are complicit. We love to celebrate our 0.7% of GDP going in aid (which I think it should) but that doesn’t let us off working to change the structures that keep people poor in the first place, in the main, structures that keep us very comfortable, thank you, so stop moaning…

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