chapter  5
16 Pages


Introduction Given the reality of global warming, this book is deeply concerned with the contemporary and future situation of Africa and Africans. This cannot be understood without delving into the continent’s history during the last ¿ve hundred years. By turning to the African continent, we can get a better understanding of the material realities of the global political economy of global warming. Only by placing Africa into its historical context can there be any hope of ¿nding solutions to the problems confronting the continent, and the world, today. Africa provides a transverse section through human history over the last ¿ve hundred years. It is a continent which encapsulates a whole series of contradictions and the convergence of the multiple, intractable and compounding crises of capitalism. Five centuries of colonialism and neo-colonialism; of the continuing history of accumulation by dispossession on a continent on the periphery of the capitalist system and the resulting poverty and inequality; the growing rift between humans and the environment; the disappearance of unknown numbers of species from the continent; wars, militarisation, capital Àight, and now what is shaping up to be for many, the terminal crises of global warming into the mix. The global capitalist political economy, the principal even if not the sole driver of the destruction of African peoples, cultures and economies, is now destroying many of the remaining structural frames for potential climate adaptation, such as smallpeasant farmers who for aeons have been a source of food security í growing a diversity of crops, or herding goats, sheep or cattle, across the African continent and feeding themselves. Africans have contributed least to global warming and yet are those who will suffer ¿rst and worst as a result. According to the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report, Africa is one of the most vulnerable continents to climate change, a situation compounded by the intersection of ‘multiple stresses’ and with low adaptive capacity (due to impoverishment, powerlessness and complex governance issues). The majority of Africans have a negligible carbon footprint, and yet the prestigious British medical journal, The Lancet, estimates that the loss of healthy life years as a result of global warming will be 500 times greater in African populations than in European populations (Costello et al. 2009).