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AS PART OF THE MITCHELL CENTER'S CAPITALISM/SOCIALISM/DEMOCRACY SERIES, join OLÚFẸ́MI O. TÁÍWÒ and BEBA CIBRALIC for an in-depth discussion of their work on climate reparations with M. EDITH SKLAROFF. A partnered investigation between ProPublica and the New York Times has revealed the writing on the wall. We are at the beginnings of a “Great Climate Migration” that will transform the world. There are two ways forward: climate colonialism and apartheid or climate reparations. Climate apartheid describes the fact that we can expect a new kind of social division to arise within countries and communities: between those who can pay to avoid the worst impacts of climate change and those who cannot. Climate colonialism simply considers this same phenomenon on an international scale.
Reparations is a way forward through the climate crisis that doesn’t double down on these dismal precedents. A reparatory approach to climate migration would involve an overhaul of climate policy in both nation-states and multinational institutions. It would be broadly redistributive of wealth and power, both within and across countries. That redistribution would be historically informed: we would reject both the ‘rescue’ framing of state elites’ naked pursuit of self interest in refugee policy and the “voluntary repatriation” centered model that allows them to act on it with international authorization. Ultimately, we endorse the argument, developed and defended by legal scholar E. Tendayi Achiume, that corrective, distributive justice demands recognition of the entitlement of “Third World persons” to “a form of First World citizenship”.
However extreme this renegotiation of state sovereignty and citizenship may strike some readers, it’s nowhere near as extreme as the logical conclusion of the status quo’s violent alternative: mass famine, region-scale armed conflict. Compared to the horrors of climate apartheid and colonialism, having more neighbors is a small price to pay.
OLÚFẸ́MI O. TÁÍWÒ is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Georgetown University. His theoretical work draws liberally from the Black radical tradition, contemporary philosophy of language, contemporary social science, German transcendental philosophy, materialist thought, histories of activism and activist thinkers. He has recently finished writing a book entitled Reconsidering Reparations that considers a novel philosophical argument for reparations and explores links with environmental justice.
BEBA CIBRALIC is a philosophy Ph.D. student at Georgetown University with interests in political epistemology, the ethics of emerging technology, and political philosophy. She holds an M.A. in China Studies from Peking University, where she studied as a Yenching Academy Fellow, a B.A. in philosophy and political science from Wellesley College and was a Visiting Student at the University of Oxford. Beba has conducted policy research at the Lowy Institute (Sydney) and at Justitia (Copenhagen).