Greta Thunberg’s Speech at COP24

Fifteen-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg spoke at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Katowice, Poland:

But I’ve learned you are never too small to make a difference. And if a few children can get headlines all over the world just by not going to school, then imagine what we could all do together if we really wanted to. But to do that, we have to speak clearly, no matter how uncomfortable that may be. You only speak of green eternal economic growth because you are too scared of being unpopular. You only talk about moving forward with the same bad ideas that got us into this mess, even when the only sensible thing to do is pull the emergency brake. You are not mature enough to tell it like it is. Even that burden you leave to us children. But I don’t care about being popular. I care about climate justice and the living planet. Our civilization is being sacrificed for the opportunity of a very small number of people to continue making enormous amounts of money. so that rich people in countries like mine can live in luxury. It is the sufferings of the many which pay for the luxuries of the few. The year 2078, I will celebrate my 75th birthday. If I have children, maybe they will spend that day with me. Maybe they will ask me about you. Maybe they will ask why you didn’t do anything while there still was time to act. You say you love your children above all else, and yet you are stealing their future in front of their very eyes. Until you start focusing on what needs to be done rather than what is politically possible, there is no hope. We cannot solve a crisis without treating it as a crisis. We need to keep the fossil fuels in the ground, and we need to focus on equity. And if solutions within the system are so impossible to find, maybe we should change the system itself. We have not come here to beg world leaders to care. You have ignored us in the past and you will ignore us again. We have run out of excuses and we are running out of time. We have come here to let you know that change is coming, whether you like it or not. The real power belongs to the people.

This simultaneously saddens me (since generations to follow have inherited our mess) and gives me hope for us to wake up, see this inexorable catastrophe that we are heading toward, and change our behaviors and politics.

Believable Over Precise

This bit in The Paris Review’s interview with Hernan Diaz is really interesting:

Interviewer: How did you balance that freedom from referential anchorage with the need to accurately represent the setting?

Diaz: My effort at all moments was to be inconspicuously accurate. I would always take believable over precise. And I tried very hard to make the novel not feel researched, a word I distrust when applied to literature. It’s awful when a novel feels googled—I didn’t want to know the exact name of the exact spur someone would have worn in Nevada in 1869. My intention was to convey a sense of pastness without fetishizing that past. I didn’t want to use props as magical objects that by merely being mentioned would summon the past into the present.

Hernan Diaz wrote a western novel about a Swedish immigrant in nineteenth-century Nevada heading east who does not speak English called In the Distance. While he purposely did not research certain aspects of his novel and relied more on feeling, he does have thoughts and reasons on subverting the western genre and it’s fascinating.

Reply All: Negative Mount Pleasant

This recent episode of Reply All from Gimlet Media highlights so much of the power imbalance between multinational corporations, especially tech giants, and local communities that are desperate to find new opportunities for employment.

Reporter/producer Sruthi Pinnamaneni with the math:

Wisconsin will give Foxconn almost three billion dollars in incentives, and then, Mount Pleasant itself will chip in another 760 million dollars.

…Foxconn says that they’re gonna create jobs that pay an average of 50k a year, but the state is paying them $200,000 for each one of those jobs.

There is also an interview with Sruthi on the Verge about everything.

The deal was made behind closed doors with the village council and Foxconn representatives, and many locals are livid. In the face of rising inequality, why do we let capital run roughshod over us?

In my milieu growing up, politics was something private and for election day. But politics, with the cognizance that real consequences and benefits are at stake, is the solution. A politics that doesn’t devolve into profit or growth but rather a system that elevates us all.

Rock and Hard Place: Afro-Mauritanian Exiles in Ohio and Trump’s ICE

What do you do when you might be deported back to a country that wants you dead? That’s the problem many Afro-Mauritanian immigrants face now, due to increased attention by ICE and a complex relationship with the Mauritanian regime back home.

Ann McDougall wrote a piece for Africa is a Country to correct some assumptions. Mauritania is known to the world as one of the few countries that still practice slavery. Technically, the practice has been illegal since 1981. Abolitionists like Biram Dah Abeid are routinely imprisoned at home while receiving awards abroad. A few bidani Moor friends describe abolitionists as highlighting a situation that doesn’t actually exist.

But the immigrants in Ohio and Kentucky weren’t fleeing slavery. They escaped an ethnic cleansing perpetrated during a border war between Mauritania and Senegal a generation ago. The Mauritanian regime interrogated, imprisoned, killed, raped, and expelled Afro-Mauritanians en masse who lived near the river into Senegal to make way for bidani Moor land speculators during the late 80s. These were some dark times.

The fall-out from these initial évenements continued through the end of 1991; thousands more were detained and tortured. At least 500 mysteriously disappeared in the process. On National Independence Day, (November 28) in 1991, 28 African (Halpulaar) Mauritanian soldiers were publicly, symbolically hanged outside the northern town of Inal where they had been imprisoned. The “Martyrs of Inal” are still remembered—both in Mauritania and in Ohio.

McDougall gives a few reasons why forcing Afro-Mauritanians back home will put them in danger. Either the Trump administration doesn’t listen enough to experts and could not actually know the intricacies of their plight or they just don’t care. It is worrying either way.

She also references Franklin Foer in The Atlantic in a bigger article about a reinvigorated ICE under President Trump. ICE has been in the news a lot lately. But I found this anecdote particularly heartbreaking to such a small and insular expatriate community and one often overlooked in Immigrant America.

When [the Afro-Mauritanian refugees from Senegal] had arrived in New York, many of them had paid an English-speaking compatriot to fill out their application for asylum. But instead of recording their individual stories in specific detail, the man simply cut and pasted together generic narratives. (It is not uncommon for new arrivals to the United States, desperate and naive, to fall prey to such scams.) A year or two after the refugees arrived in the country, judges reviewed their cases and, noticing the suspicious repetitions, accused a number of them of fraud and ordered them deported.

But those deportation orders never amounted to more than paper pronouncements. Where would Immigration and Customs Enforcement even send them? The Mauritanian government had erased the refugees from its databases and refused to issue them travel documents. It had no interest in taking back the villagers it had so violently removed. So ICE let their cases slide.

Now, the the United States under Trump wants nothing more than to rid the country of anyone who came here desperately seeking shelter. A friend in Nouakchott told me her brother was detained for two days by ICE in Ohio.

The Mauritanian deportees will not be sent into slavery. But they will be made stateless—an internationally recognized crime.

Update: I found the book Mauritania: The Other Apartheid? from 1993 by Garba Diallo in PDF. There is more information about FLAM, racism, and land rights.

The Saudi Regime: A Reading List

The Saudi royal family has no moral authority to ever define or legislate Islam because Mecca and Medina fall in their contemporary borders. They are a wealthy and conservative petrostate. A quick glance at the headlines in recent years show how depraved and insulated they are.

The Saudi regime has always been emboldened by favorable resources and geopolitics. The United States and Europe turns a blind eye because they need Saudi oil and a weapons buyer. Fellow Muslim countries look to Saudi for foreign aid and religious guidance. Let us not equate Saudi with Islam and let us hold our countries accountable to these alliances with this royal family. The Saudi people deserve better.