Photo by Saker El Nour

We are currently living in an era where capitalist civilization is the primary driving force behind significant changes in the systems of our planet. Capitalism has caused severe breaches in the Earth’s capabilities and disruptions in climate and ecology, posing a serious threat to life on our planet. Some scholars, such as Jason Moore, refer to this era as the “Capitalocene,” emphasizing that it is capitalism as a dominant system, rather than humanity as a whole, that is responsible for the current environmental crisis. Capitalism, according to this perspective, governs power relations, accumulation, and reproduction within the global ecosystem. It relies on continuous expansion, relentless accumulation, and limitless growth, often at the expense of human and non-human energies, resulting in exploitation, depletion, and hierarchy within the planet’s web of life.
While our concerns about the accelerating climate change and environmental degradation are well-founded, it’s crucial not to lose sight of the root causes of this ecological imbalance. Contrary to simplistic narratives that blame overpopulation for the crisis, accumulated knowledge shows that the primary responsibility lies with the structure of the capitalist system. For instance, the Climate Accountability Institute’s report highlights that just 100 global companies are responsible for over 70% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions[ ]. Similarly, studies like the one conducted by Jason Hickel [ Hickel, Jason. “Quantifying national responsibility for climate breakdown: an equality-based attribution approach for carbon dioxide emissions in excess of the planetary boundary.” The Lancet Planetary Health 4.9 (2020): e399-e404.] demonstrate that historically, the United States alone has been responsible for 40% of excess global carbon dioxide emissions, with the Global North collectively responsible for at least 92% of these emissions. Therefore, addressing historical responsibility entails compensating for the damages caused by disrupting the planet’s equilibrium. This is not an act of charity but a fundamental aspect of procedural justice, in line with longstanding practices among indigenous peoples and local communities.
While the crisis is accelerating, we are witnessing a surge in discussions, activities, and movements advocating for an alternative system of production and consumption that challenges the dominant paradigm responsible for alienating humanity from nature. This alienation has led to a rupture in the reciprocal relationship between humans and their environment, hindering the sustainability and renewal of both natural environments and human societies.
The concept of environmental justice centers on the equitable distribution of environmental burdens and benefits, and advocates for inclusive participation in environmental decision-making. It addresses the lack of fairness and equality in access to natural resources, as well as the uneven distribution of the benefits from these resources, such as land, water, pastures, and fisheries, among diverse population groups. Environmental justice also seeks to rectify disparities in environmental burdens borne by different social sectors due to issues and crises related to natural resources. It underscores the importance of involving socially, politically, geographically, and ethnically marginalized groups in environmental decision-making
while protecting them from the unequal risks and burdens associated with environmental crises. Environmental movements, rooted in these principles, have played a significant role in pushing for environmental justice and a just transition in both local and global public discourse, confronting various forms of discrimination and the absence of environmental justice.
In the Arab context, manifestations of environmental justice, or the lack thereof, are evident in various tangible forms, such as access to clean water, healthy food, pollutionfree air, and uncontaminated soil. One striking example of environmental injustice in the Arab world pertains to small farmers who face inequities, with water and land resources often favoring large local and international investors and export-oriented farms targeting European markets. Women, in particular, frequently labor under challenging conditions in this exploitative context.[ Saker El Nour, “The Dam, Rice, and State: Environmental Bigotry Towards Farmers of the Delta” (Arabic), Al-Manassa, 5 March 2018, link: ]
These practices starkly contradict the principles of environmental justice, which demand fair treatment and meaningful participation for all individuals regardless of their race, color, national origin, income, geographic location, or social class. It is essential to approach the concept of social justice while considering these intersections, not only on a global scale (Global NorthSouth dynamics) but also at the local level (geographical location, gender, social class) within the framework of local and international power dynamics. Environmental justice should not be seen as a substitute for social justice. If there are efforts that narrowly frame the issue of environmental justice and attempt to isolate environmental concerns from the broader social, cultural, economic, and global context, then one of the roles of the environmental movement is to establish frameworks that involve a comprehensive understanding of environmental justice, including issues related to distributive justice, cultural recognition, gender, and procedural justice.
Transitioning toward a just future, or “just transition,” in the Arab region can be seen as a multidimensional approach that interconnects social, economic, political, and environmental dimensions. It spans from local communities to national states, and extends to the global level. Such an approach invites critical discussions about democracy, human rights, the rights of nature, gender equality, social class, and various forms of anti-neocolonialism in the context of transitioning toward a low-carbon alternative to our existing systems. At its core, a just transition entails envisioning a new relationship and an alternative vision, not only in our environmental interactions but also in our societies, economies, and modes of production and consumption. It necessitates collective efforts from civil organizations, governments, communities, and individuals to build a future that is not only sustainable but also regenerative and equitable.
Within the context of the agriculture sector in North Africa, a just transition involves promoting sustainable practices that address environmental challenges while supporting the livelihoods of small-scale farmers and peasants through the development of public policies. Research into the potential for a just transition in North African agriculture has highlighted the significance of local knowledge and agroecological practices in addressing environmental crises.[ Saker El Nour, “Towards a Just Transition to Agriculture in North Africa” (Arabic), Food Sovereignty Network and the Transnational Institute, 2021, link: ar/node/160 ] Comparative assessments of shifts in agricultural policies in Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, and Tunisia have confirmed the potential for agroecology and the development of local practices as tools for advancing a just and sustainable transition in the agricultural sector in North Africa.
Emphasizing the role of food sovereignty in achieving a just transition is essential. Food sovereignty extends beyond the concept of food security; it encompasses people’s rights to access healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through agroecological methods. It also entails their right to determine their own food and agricultural systems. In the MENA region, where food imports, water scarcity, and agricultural challenges related to climate change are severe issues, the concept and policies of food sovereignty become critical for ensuring a just and sustainable agricultural transition.
It is crucial to confront the challenges that hinder our ability to shape the agenda for a just transition locally and in the Arab world, particularly when analyzing the green initiatives of major entities like the European Union and the United States. While their aspirations for a greener future are noteworthy, it is essential to highlight the connection between these green deals in the Global North and the burden they place on the Global South. This burden often involves transforming the Global South into a hub for polluting industries and exporting their pollution, as well as using it as a source for importing clean energy. Furthermore, extractive practices that deplete the resources and energies of the Global South continue. This pattern essentially turns our countries into promoters of an “imperialist way of life.”[ Ulrich Brand and Markus Wissen, The Imperialist Way of Life: Exploitation of Man and Nature in Global Capitalism, Centre for Arab Unity Studies, Beirut, 2023.] It presents a false facade of environmental concern in the North while perpetuating the South’s dependency and maintaining environmentally and economically unequal exchanges between our countries and the Global North[ Diab, Osama. “Africa’s unequal balance.” Review of African Political Economy (2023): 1-9.]. Advocating for a genuinely just global transition is imperative, one that leaves no one behind, ensures an equitable distribution of resources and responsibilities, and acknowledges historical responsibilities while addressing local disparities and injustices.
Exceptionalism is a frequently employed approach in addressing Arab issues in many international discussions and literature. This approach needs to be comprehensively challenged, especially when addressing environmental concerns and the socialenvironmental movement. The environmental crisis we face extends beyond the boundaries of nation-states and geographical regions, and addressing it requires connecting local, regional, and global struggles through new organizational approaches.
These organizations should trace back to the origins of the concepts we are discussing, such as climate justice and just transition. These concepts have emerged from the struggles of marginalized and excluded groups to prevent them from being co-opted, removed from their context, and turned into tools for reproducing the capitalist system responsible for the crisis, albeit under a false green facade. Therefore, environmental struggles need to be organized in innovative ways that protect the integrity of these concepts and their commitment to justice.
As suggested by Nicolaj Schultz,[ Schultz, Nikolaj. “New climate, new class struggles.” Critical zones: The science and politics of landing on earth (2020): 308-311] a shift in power relations necessitates that the global environmental movement adopts a classbased approach to organizing its struggle and movement. However, this should not entail replicating the old model of class struggle, which, despite mitigating some of capitalism’s harshness, failed to undermine it. Instead, it should involve an ecological and social class logic that generates a radical and global position of struggle, placing the marginalized and vulnerable groups at the center of local, national, and global efforts.

POSTED BY sysadmin | Dec, 21, 2023 | Uncategorized

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