Time to Pay the Piper for Climate Change

Who Should Pay?

If a person robs another person of substantial funds and is caught, there’s hell to pay, and the money must be returned. At least that’s the intent. With our judicial system, however, one never knows. 

So if a nation robs other nations of their resources, (some might even call it rape) or has robbed other nations of their resources in the past, shouldn’t there also be hell to pay in some form?

The slogan: “The sun never sets on the British Empire” was a boast of how far reaching was British control of the Planet. “Britain rushed to control African land not just for palm oil but also for gold, ivory, diamonds, cotton, rubber, and coal.”1 Britain was also accused of draining “over $45 trillion from India, which to date has hampered the country’s ability to come out of poverty,” says a top economist.2 

However, the British were not the only ones to requisition whole nations. By 1900 a significant part of Africa had been colonized by mainly seven European powers—Britain, France, Germany, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, and Italy. After the conquest of African decentralized and centralized states, the European powers set about establishing colonial state systems.3

Many inhabitants of those nations were made slaves in their own lands, or deprived of their lands and the resources that may have made their lives more manageable and, in some cases, equivalent to those of the invaders. Natives of those stolen lands were sometimes even killed and/or mutilated if they didn’t obey their foreign masters. Humans have a long history of putting money and/or resources before human life.

For example, on February 5, 1885, Belgian’s King Leopold II established the so called ‘Congo Free State’ by brutally seizing the African landmass as his own personal possession. King Leopold’s stated goal was to bring civilization to the people of the Congo, an enormous region in Central Africa. Instead, King Leopold enslaved and even killing and/or mutilated the native people if they didn’t obey his commands. His goal was to rob the nation of its ivory and rubber. One resource claims that as many as 10 million people died in the Congo Free State. International pressure finally forced Leopold to turn the Congo Free State over to the country of Belgium in 1908, 23 years after Leopold seized control.4 That doesn’t necessarily mean the rape of resources  stopped. 

Germany’s colonization of East Africa was also particularly nefarious. Germany committed the first Genocide of the 20th Century against the Nama and Herrera Tribes of Namibia. “Of a population totaling 100,000, about 80 percent of all Herero are believed to have died. … About half of the 10,000 Nama people are also believed to have died.”5 The chief economic minerals of ‘German East Africa’ were mica, gold, garnet, coal, iron ore, uranium minerals, copal, soda, and salt.6 

Africa wasn’t the only continent whose resources benefitted other nations, rather than the native populations themselves. Colonization throughout the Americas and the Middle and Far East was also prevalent. It would also be difficult to believe that the extensive bombing of nations such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, and parts of Syria by the US and her European allies, and all the military paraphernalia that goes with wars hasn’t added to both global warming, and the inability of those damaged or destroyed nations to comply with measures to combat climate change. In addition to the destruction of those nations, millions of citizens were killed, and millions displaced. By 1996, seven years before the second bombing campaign and invasion of Iraq, it was reported that half a million children in Iraq had already died from US sanctions. Then Secretary of State, Madeline Albright declared on 60 Minutes, “the price is worth it.” “For decades, the heavy U.S. military footprint in the Middle East has been justified by the need to preserve access to the region’s oil reserves. The industrial extraction of those same reserves has been one of the major drivers of global carbon dioxide emissions.”7

And let’s not forget to mention how the US under President Warren G. Harding turned a blind eye to Turkey’s genocide of the Pontian and other Anatolian Greeks under Mustafa Kemal. In so doing, Harding gave tacit consent to their outright slaughter of Pontic Greeks in the Pontus region of Turkey, and to the long death marches to exile that took so many more Greek lives,8 and to the burning of Smyrna and the slaughter of Greeks and Armenians there, simply because the US desperately wanted to do business with Turkey. The result was the final obliteration of the Christian populations of Turkey, a land the Greeks, Assyrians, and Armenians had inhabited for over 3,000 years, more than 2,000 years before the first Turkish invaders arrived. While the US and other nations did business with the newly formed Turkey, the families of the Christians were never compensated for the lost lives or their lost lands. 

So now perhaps, it’s time for those nations who stole so much of the world’s resources from poorer nations—or stole from their own nationals—to assist poorer nations to do what is necessary to help control climate change. And while they’re at it, help those poorer nations build infrastructure, develop safe water sources and sanitation facilities, and build schools and medical facilities in rural areas. 

Then perhaps the piper will be paid, and climate control to save our planet will be a real possibility. 

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  1. Wikipedia.
  2. Business Today, How much money did Britain take away from India? About $45 trillion in 173 years, says top economist. Nov 19, 2018.
  3. Wikipedia
  4. Adam Hochschild, King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa. Houghton Mifflin (October 1, 1999) Also see Wikipedia.
  5. Norimitsu Onishi and Melissa Eddy, A Forgotten Genocide: What Germany Did in Namibia, and What It’s Saying Now. The New York Times. May 29, 2021.
  6. Adam Jones, Genocide, A Comprehensive Introduction. Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, London and New York, Third edition. Also see: Wikipedia.
  7. Murtaza Hussain, War on the World, Industrialized Militaries Are a Bigger Part of the Climate Emergency Than You Know. The Intercept. September 15 2019.
  8. Thea Halo, Not Even My Name. Picador USA. 2000.

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Thea Halo is the author of the critically acclaimed memoir, Not Even My Name, a former news correspondent for WBAI in NYC, and a former producer for public radio in upstate NY. Not Even My Name was instrumental in garnering the first state-level resolutions in the U.S. that recognized the genocide of the Pontian and other Asia Minor Greeks and Assyrians. She was a co-sponsor and driving force, along with Prof. Adam Jones, of the International Association of Genocide Scholars (IAGS) resolution that affirmed the Ottoman Genocides of Pontian and other Asia Minor Greeks and Assyrians as comparable to the genocide of the Armenians. She has also published a collection of poetry, and a number of Thea’s historical papers on the Genocides of Greeks and Assyrians have been published in books on the Ottoman Genocides. In 2009, Thea, along with her mother, Sano Halo, who passed away in 2014 at the age of 105, were awarded honorary Greek citizenship by the Greek government. In 2002, Thea was awarded the AHEPA Homer Award and, in 2012, the Association of Greek American Professional Women honored Thea and Sano for their “Profound contribution to Literature and to Hellenic Cultural Heritage and History.” Thea has also won numerous awards for her poetry and literary essays.

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