What is Green Colonialism?
Green Colonialism, also known as Eco-colonialism, Environmental Colonialism or Climate Colonialism is the practice of one country making or taking decisions and actions in another, under the pretext of benefit to the environment and by using influence to make policies and developmental strategies or technology that benefits one country/ group of people by exploiting the resources of another.
This is usually done by Western or more developed countries exerting their power and influence on the less developed countries-mostly Asian and African countries, to use their resources under the guise of being environmentally friendly.
You might also want to read: What is Climate Justice and Why Is It Important?
Why is Understanding Green Colonialism Important?
Politically and economically, it is very important to understand what is meant by green colonialism as this is a new form of colonialism that may take prevalence in the years to come as we are currently being most effected by climate change. This has the potential to further destabilize weak nations due to exploitation and weaken their economy.
This can be understood by the following: when Country A- more developed, exerts dominance or imposes such environmental policies or actions on Country B- which is less developed, in order to promote technologies that will benefit Country A in the long run on the expense of the natural resources of Country B. This is problematic as Country B is not at the stage of Country A where it needs to take those environmental protection measures but as Country A imposes it on Country B, this arrangements benefits only Country A while the resources being used are those of Country B.
This is not only done on a country scale, but green colonialism may even occur between regions within a single country, ethnic groups, dominance of one cultural/religious practice over the other. Mostly we know green colonialism of the kind that is perpetuated by the Western powers on the indigenous people in their countries or in less developed countries.
Why is Green Colonialism a thing?
Green Colonialism is taking root as a new form of colonialism. Although traditional method of colonialism is no longer practiced however it has morphed into many other forms.
Due to the ongoing climate disasters and future energy crisis; governments of developed countries around the world are looking for alternatives in the form of renewable energy sources to generate electricity. But this is a problem for them as they already emit more carbon and pollution in the atmosphere that they are allowed to so they neither have the space to construct more plants or afford the mitigatory cost of necessary measures. This causes them to look to the lesser developed countries with plenty of space, cheaper cost as well as the amount of emissions permissible.
For this purpose, developed countries resort to using the land, resources as well as people of the less developed countries/indigenous people by citing it as benefit to the environment and by influencing them with the promise of financial aid so that they can build their country.
The reason they use the land of less developed nations is because these countries emit very low carbon emissions into the atmosphere and so their emission criteria can be utilized by those countries who otherwise would exceed their own. This often benefits the already developed countries more than the less developed ones since developing countries are currently facing the brunt of extreme weather events induced by climate change driven by emissions from the industrialization of the developed nations.
You might also want to read: Environment Discrimination and the Importance of Environmental Justice
Examples of Green Colonialism and Why it is a Concern:
Greta Thunberg, a climate activist from Sweden has recently used the term in her article saying that the climate crisis is closely linked to the oppression, colonization and patriarchal systems being practiced by developed countries that are fueling it and causing it in the first place. To know more about Climate Change, please read our article Climate change and its Causes and Effects.
On Monday, Greta Thunberg and members of the Sami Community– a group of indigenous people inhabiting parts of Norway, staged a protest against the colonization of the lands of Sami people on the grounds that the Norwegian government intends to build a farm consisting of many wind mills to generate electricity using renewable sources. Related: What is Wind Energy?
This is a concern because, although power generation using wind is good for the environment; it should not be done at the expense of the local population who use those lands for the grazing of their reindeers.
Moreover, the dismissal of their rights as indigenous people over their land and the inconsideration shown by the Norwegian government to the stance of the Sami people being against the Wind Farm is colonialism itself. Using environmental friendly practices/technology/policies to achieve goals of securing future energy sources and means of income for oneself by usurping the rights of the local people is exactly what colonialism entails but this time, behind the guise of ‘green’ practices.
Some other examples include the environmental colonization of Africa by the French who caused huge amounts of deforestation to make way for cotton plantations on African land which the French would benefit from by exploiting the resources grown using cheap African labor.
This deforestation lead to large scale desertification of Africa from the Congo river till the Sahel due to huge volume of water required by cotton (10,000 liters for 1kg cotton).
Colonizers also generally impose their own language and culture on those they are invading or exploiting and similarly, very soon after their arrival the French banned the indigenous African people from practicing their traditional sustainable farming practices and using the European way which ultimately lead to large scale environmental degradation in the region. Hence, this can also be classified as a form of environmental colonialism as the practices imposed by the French in the 19th century lead to the exploitation of the land and resources of the African people that ultimately resulted in famines, droughts and water scarcity that is still being felt today.
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An Environmental Science major interested in creating awareness about all things related to the environment and how we can protect it.