A new film about Climate Change was released by Raw Cinematics a few days ago called Thirty Million, co-directed by Daniel Price, Polar Arctic Researcher and Founder of the PoletoParis bike ride and run which Kathryn, our Executive Officer, took part in last Autumn, in order to raise awareness of Climate Change and its devastating consequences, prior to the Paris talks in December 2015.
Thirty Million what, you may well wonder? This is the figure of Bangladeshis estimated to be displaced or die (over time from hunger, disease, drowning, or inability to adapt to new environment) if global temperatures continue to rise and carbon dioxide emissions remain unchecked, causing a sea level rise of about 1 meter by the end of the century. This would cause a land loss of 17% in Bangladesh, a very low-lying country with lots of rivers and canals, with sea waters to the South (Bay of Bengal) and the Himalayan Glaciers to the North. It would also create mass displacement of up to 30,000,000 people. It is important that we involved in Fair Trade look closely at such factors as integral to the reasons why we need to continue to support such a developing country, in order that we gain a better understanding of the many factors which work to keep a country in poverty, nay drive it even further down the poverty ladder.
Looking more closely at the facts, there are 160 million people in Bangladesh, and its main industries are fishing, agriculture, textile industries, ship building and shipwrecking. It is a land or rivers, canals and lakes with many people’s lives being intricately linked with, and dependent upon, water. Since the Industrial revolution, Climate Change has transformed the face of the planet, massively, with 40 billion tonnes of Carbon Dioxide being released into the atmosphere each year. This has been coupled with mass deforestation (ie a reduction in carbon-dioxide absorbing trees) and intensive animal agriculture (an increase in production of CO 2). This huge increase in the expulsion of Carbon Dioxide into the atmosphere means that additional heat is trapped, and water takes up 90% of this increased energy. In doing so, heated waters expand and take up more room ie increased sea levels and melting (ant-)arctic ice sheets, plus glacial melts. One of the results is an inundation in low-lying countries…like Bangladesh. How fast the C0 2 emissions rise depends upon developed nations and whether they choose to take action to curb emissions.
Bangladesh is already witnessing a new erosion of its coastal zone, which is affecting its agriculture. Too much water causes flooding (as in monsoon times), too little causes drought, too much saline water kills the crops, and too much water at a period of crop growth kills the crops as well and can be disastrous for its economy and peoples. The sea not only rises but encroaches into their coastal areas, and saline water is undrinkable. As temperatures rise, the glacial melt from the Himalayas in the North will provide at first an inundation (many in the North get their fresh water supply from here) but in the long-term water will be scarce, as water sources dry up completely. There are attempts to adapt rice to grow in salinated waters, but adaptation can only go so far. A 1-2 degree rise in global temperatures could signal life or death in the precariously-balance ecosystems of Bangladesh, especially in the vulnerable coastal regions, as communities are forced to uproot and readapt. As heritage is literally swept away, the cities become even harder pressed to cope. In this respect, climate is a massive factor is the economic displacement of Bangladeshis.
This displacement is already happening, with mass migration to the cities, where there is not enough infrastructure to cope. Overcrowded slums grow up, with poor sanitation, little food and no space and can be areas prone to catastrophe and risk. Inevitably, people will cross borders to get away. The UNDP (United Nations’ Development Programme) is working in Bangladesh to help adaptation by training in mangrove planting, providing access to land and food for some, but this will be useless if the sea levels rise.
The film argues that humans are making the lives and livelihoods of other humans endangered, by not acting responsibly and quickly enough to stem the potentially disastrous effects of continued climate change. It is a moral issue of the 21st Century; for people are being deprived of basic human rights such as food, clean water, shelter and a home. The West has time to look at tomorrow, but those affected are too busy dealing with the consequences today and every day to step back. The coastal peoples in Bangladesh don’t want to move; they live very simple sustainable lives but are being forced to move due to inequality; an inequality which demands international action, especially given the fact that the Bangladeshis have contributed so little to the climate change which is eroding their fundamental human rights. So, what do you think?