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The floods that have devastated Pakistan in recent weeks are a direct result of the Global North’s reckless disregard for our climatic future and the lives of those most affected.
At the end of August, rainfall in Pakistan was 500% higher than normal and the country’s glaciers melted at an unprecedented speed.
This abnormal amount of rain is not absorbable by Pakistan’s land or infrastructure, resulting in the catastrophic floods we have witnessed.
These extremes are the physical manifestation of the Global North’s irresponsible proliferation of emissions, as our delicately balanced climate breaks down.
The continued extractive pollution and consequent rise in temperature is producing more extreme weather events, with the Global South bearing the brunt of it— so far.
Action at the United States Capitol in solidarity with Pakistani communities affected by the floods. Photo credit: Extinction Rebellion Washington DC
The devastating fallout from a third of one’s country being drowned is difficult for many of us to comprehend, with impacts both immediate and far-reaching.
Of direct consequence is the epic loss of agricultural production and food; the provision of clean drinking water; the need to support an unfathomable 33 million people; providing prenatal care for 650,000 pregnant women (73,000 of whom are due this month); the resettling of Afghani refugees who had escaped to Pakistan; stopping the spread of waterborne diseases like diarrhoea, dengue, cholera, and malaria; tending to physical injuries and trauma; counting and burying the dead.
The effects of these floods will reverberate in people’s lives for years to come as they and future generations struggle to recover income, homes, physical and mental health, emotional strength, communities, and revive the flooded land.
Pakistan’s experience is devastating; but, unnervingly, it is not unique. It is one of many extreme weather events happening across the world, from the drought-induced famine ravaging the Horn of Africa and creating acute malnourishment in over 7 million children, to wildfires devouring forests across the west coast of America. It is a reminder that climate breakdown is already here, and a harbinger of what is to come.
The wake of this disaster must point our moral compasses to solidarity, reparations, justice, and collective action.
Pakistan contributes less than 1% of world emissions, and yet is among the countries most vulnerable to climate breakdown— most of which are ‘less’ or ‘least developed’ countries.
The responsibility of this disaster, and others, lies squarely on the shoulders of countries in the Global North, who are flagrantly unwilling to stop their dependence on fossil fuels.
Those of us living in the Global North need to increase the pressure on our governments to provide immediate help to the countries already being impacted most severely and others most vulnerable to climate threats.
Alongside this we must continue demanding a rapid and just transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy. Any yawning and blithering from the Global North about these catastrophes happening ‘over there’ must be met with the reminder that ‘over there’ is always ‘over here’— we are one global community and our future is inextricably tied to one another.
The Global North must transform its mentality from one of ‘aid’ to one of a responsibility of reparations.
The people of Pakistan deserve and need collective action centred on solidarity and justice to end fossil fuels right now.