Resistance Report 3: Abandoned by the river

The sight of numerous police officers impounding a giant inflatable Nessie – which the Jubilee Debt Campaign had intended to float up the Clyde – was perhaps the perfect illustration of the surreal intensity that has characterised policing on the fringes of COP26.

The fact that several agents of the state had to take an oversized child’s toy into custody because it was deemed a threat to the security of COP26 delegates captured much of the strangeness surrounding the conference.

Perhaps mindful of Extinction Rebellion’s tactic of inviting mass arrest, policing of COP26 thus far has been overwhelmingly preventative, to the point of depriving protestors of even the most innocuous potential rallying points or victories.

Widespread stop and search is being practiced instead, partly as a deterrent, alongside constant monitoring of any potential locus of unrest. While tonight, a few hundred protestors were kettled in George Square.

On Monday, a small army guarded the long avenue of Argyll Street for eight hours so that Joe Biden could have his dinner amid the splendour of Kelvingrove Gallery. During this operation women were told to walk through the unlit nearby park instead, revealing a great deal about underlying attitudes to public safety.

Nessie was taken to the clink at Govan Graving Docks: a still feral part of Govan that lies partially abandoned and in a state of limbo. There is a noble project here to rewild what has been renamed the ‘Govan Wetlands,’ with salt-tolerant plants promising a carbon sink with space for locals to grow food into the bargain.

But beneath this picture of a revived space where the nearby community can grow, play and hang out, there is the underlying reality of land that is still privately owned. While the site’s developers have modified plans for flats that were rejected in 2018, the land remains far too expensive for a community buyout to be feasible.

Govan Wetlands speaks to the wider assumptions that delegates at COP26 must constantly tangle with but that they all too often want to throw into the long samphire. This mindset holds that climate solutions can be layered onto unjust systems (carbon offset projects do a lot of work in this regard) while preserving those extractive systems intact and largely unaltered.

In a city like Glasgow, with its many abandoned buildings and vacant spaces, such global contradictions are played out in microcosm.

That said, one group I spoke to earlier today had decided to take the lack of accommodation for visitors into their own hands and have occupied a former homeless and asylum seeker facility in Tradeston. This action partly responded to stories of indigenous people who have come to Glasgow to attend COP26 and ended up sleeping outdoors.

We could imagine, in another Glasgow, our great civic palaces like Kelvingrove housing freezing people who have travelled from across the planet in a bid to save their homes. We could imagine that the urban carbon sinks and vegetable patches might be held in common ownership once again, rather than ultimately serving the generation of profit.

These issues, with their own distinct flavour and context, take us to another riverside settlement, grappling with the kind of issues that blighted Glasgow during its first expansion.

This text, the third installment of our messages from the Global South to Glasgow, was written based on the personal testimony of a resident, Luciana, who lives in a peripheral region located in Caicó, Rio Grande do Norte – Brazil.

Luciana describes the precariousness of local infrastructure and evidence of how environmental issues disproportionally affect the most vulnerable: demonstrating why climate justice must also include social justice. She describes this as a feeling of abandonment.

The lack of one of the most necessary systems for human health, basic sanitation, directly affects the population of João Paulo II district, known as one of the poorest in Caicó city. Luciana explains that open sewers encompass a big part of the area in which she lives, harming not only the people of the community but also the local environment. A neighbour, Luciana explains, was contaminated with a bacterium after the exposure and contact with the polluted water of this region and, unfortunately, didn’t survive.

Cases like this show the political neglect of thousands of people, deprived of the most basic environmental security. The inhabitants of peripheral areas and ‘favelas’, historically designated to economic difficulties, feel ignored not only by the politicians, but also by part of society; they live in poorly situated areas, usually near rivers and garbage dumps and, consequently, are more vulnerable to environmental impacts: accumulation of garbage in the streets, polluted soil, air, and water channels, unbearable heat waves, and diseases caused by vectors that proliferate in the sewers. It is a lie saying that politicians do not see realities like this, because they clearly do, but are not interested in solving them. “We don’t have any representative who can speak for us”, says Luciana.

The situation described by Luciana is, unfortunately, extremely common in Brazil. Social inequality excludes millions of people from participation in decision-making processes, furthering the marginalization of these social groups. Therefore this wider situation can only be improved through political changes.

This requires public policies for adaptation, restructuring and investment in areas vulnerable to sanitation issues, landslides, floods and other environmental impacts: this should form the terms of the debate about social, environmental and climate justice.

This what we want from the rulers who will attend the Conference of the Parties in Glasgow: for them to hear the stories like Luciana’s, your relatives and neighbours, which reflect the pure essence of living inequality, injustice and social environmental erasure. The mitigation politics responding to the climate crisis must be intimately linked to the realities of each country and to the necessity of socio-environmental assistance to traditional and peripheral populations, adopting plans which value the food sovereignty, installations of modern systems of basic sanitation, access to clean water and the full right to health and, ultimately, to life. We expect to be heard, for you to hear the most oppressed ones and act according to your obligations.

Luciana’s testimony was written by Hyally Carvalho and translated by Rafael Oliveira.


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  1. SleepingDog says:

    I watched the BBC New Special Climate Debate:
    where perhaps the most useful contributions were made by the Greenland and Columbian politicians, and the young people invited to question the guests. Not great viewing, the format itself is something of a bind. I was struck how often the terms ‘developed’ and ‘developing’ were applied to nations. Surely the issue is maldevelopment, which can apply to rich and poor nations, just as malnourishment can (obesity can come from overconsumption in rich nations, for example). I accept Walter Rodney’s view (How Europe Underdeveloped Africa) but the essential point is that maldevelopment has been established as a template in the imperial and neocolonial states that can never be copied around the world.

    I don’t know how people in megacities like Brazil’s can resolve their problems, but it seems unlikely that they can do so by following templates in the maldeveloped world. The contrast between those youth that have adjusted to the climate realities, and the maladjusted of the political, corporate, media, military etc classes is another symptom of societal maldevelopment. The environmentalist insiders who have spent decades within power structures may have become conditioned to treating small, tentative gains as successes, to viewing the needful as ‘politically impossible’. We need planetary realistic ideologies and collective action on a global scale, not an exclusive political class, nor more ‘market solutions’. And we need to recognize that our current political classes are herding us down a cul-de-sac of omnideath, not just for humans, but for much of the living planet.

    1. Roland Chaplain says:

      Maldevelopment, malcommunisation, green washing ?? What words should we use to describe the milieu of delusion that blinds us from seeing and acting on what should be THE great reinvention process happening at this moment ? Collectively we know that humanity has allowed a certain type of power/wealth hungry human personality to develop an economic system with its supporting unjust legal frameworks that has got us to this critical point in human history. Science has analysed the consequences. The evidence is overwhelming. However, the direction of travel is still determined by the order that is the root cause of the problem.
      Watching the ITV interview of Kwasi Kwateng on ITV at 8am this morning epitomised for me where the problem lies. Defend the system at all costs. Deny your own real beliefs. BUT, the interviewers wouldn’t let him off the hook. There is hope !
      We must grasp this moment to throw every resource available to us into moving beyond faith in new low carbon technologies and individual lifestyle actions. Ypu are right. The system has denied the voices of thousands of indigenous peoples from being heard at COP26. Yet these are the very people who are nearest to having the answers to THE big question that is now top of the priority list. How is humanity over the next few years going to envisage and transition to a completely new and barely yet imagined economic and legal framework for human relations and interaction in a sustainable world ?

      1. Mons Meg says:

        How indeed.

    2. Mons Meg says:

      @SD We have a veritable sweetie shop full of ‘planetary realistic ideologies’ from among which the collectivity can choose its solution and enact it on a global scale. The competition is shrill.

      The question is: how do you bring your solution to the ideological marketplace in such a way that its voice will be heard above the shrillness of the competition and capture a dominant share of the market?

  2. Squigglypen says:

    I’m worrit aboot Nessie…in police custody!….kettled..beatings..abuse….force fed…( she only wanntid tae eat Neil Oliver who has taken oan the persona o’ Moses..go an take a deck at him)….An’ worse..a visit frae Cressida Dick!( Isn’t she well named….)
    Just another wumman who is dispensable or do I mean disposable…..Nessie that’ Dick( Great name)

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