News & Politics

Will Haiti's Revolution Be the First Blamed on Climate Change?

(Image via Pixabay)

The country of Haiti is convulsed by growing unrest, with thousands taking to the streets to demand the ouster of U.S.-backed President Jovenel Moise. The issues are familiar to the impoverished nation: food and fuel shortages, a mismanaged economy, and rampant corruption.

But also driving the protests has been the government’s response to several severe storms and hurricanes that have ravaged the island nation. Destroyed housing and businesses have not been rebuilt and the frustration of the people in their government’s malfeasance and incompetence has boiled over.

As usual, class envy has played a role in the violence.

Al Jazeera:

In the wealthier neighbourhoods of Delmas and Petion Ville, angry crowds also looted several stores, banks and money transfer offices, ATMs and pharmacies. They also set a building on fire.

Crowds stripped the abandoned police station in Cite Soleil, Port-au-Prince’s poorest neighbourhood, of sheet metal roofing, furniture and police protection equipment.

A ruling party senator tried to disperse demonstrators when he fired a pistol into a crowd of protesters outside of parliament, wounding a reporter. The police used tear gas and live ammunition yesterday, trying to break up the protests. Moise cancelled his speech to the United Nations General Assembly and delivered an emotional address to the nation, firing several security aides for human rights violations and proposing a unity government.

That doesn’t look likely. The police are losing control of the streets and Moise’s days may be numbered.

But what sets this revolution apart from others is the apparent blame being cast — not on people, but on the climate.

The crisis started last year and was compounded by natural disasters that have repeatedly devastated the island nation. Hurricanes destroyed housing, food production, livelihoods and infrastructure and a severe drought dried up the island’s water resources.

While international media has focused on a familiar story of corruption and mismanagement, what lies beneath this debilitating crisis is much more serious – a deadly combination of neocolonialism, neoliberalism and climate injustice. Indeed, what is happening now in Haiti is extreme and should scare us all, as it foreshadows what could happen to the rest of the planet if we do not take immediate action.

The “immediate action” that should be taken is to find some honest, competent politicians to run the government. Other Caribbean nations have been hit by the same storms as Haiti and yet, there’s no revolution breaking out anywhere else. Even Cuba, which has more reason than most to stage an uprising, has been quiet.

Yes, there have been bad storms, but even a moderately competent government could have dealt with the crisis. For instance, the problem of fuel shortages is a result of Haiti’s reliance on Venezuelan oil and overly-generous fuel subsidies. When the Venezuelan oil industry went belly up, Haiti was stuck having to buy oil on the open market. Already massively in debt, shortages were inevitable.

Removing fuel subsidies should have alleviated the crisis, instead, the graft and outright theft of oil resulted in too little oil going to too few people.

And then there’s “climate injustice.” Asking Haiti to follow emission rules despite the fact that they contribute less than 0.02% in carbon emissions to the world total, is monumentally stupid. Haiti needs to revive its economy and it’s not going to do it by adhering to artificial emission limits placed on what little industry there is.

With most of the Haitian economy is “off the books,” new businesses don’t have a chance to get started. It’s not climate change that’s driving the revolution. Haiti needs leadership and an elite that won’t rob the people blind.