Building the Sept. 17 NYC march: THE CLIMATE WALL

How Oil and Border Security Companies Profit from the Climate Crisis


The March to End Fossil Fuels is scheduled to take place in New York City on Sept. 17. During the next few weeks, as preparation for the march, Workers’ Voice will be publishing a series of articles on various aspects of the struggle against climate change.

A changing climate will continue to spur displacement and global migration. As sea levels rise, as extreme heat makes land uncultivable, and as water sources dry up, we will continue to see millions of people become climate refugees. Climate-induced displacement is not a thing of the future; it is happening right now. Over the past 20 years, for example, the number of people experiencing tidal flooding and storm surges connected with sea-level rise has increased from 160 to 260 million. And we are getting a preview of how different sectors of the capitalist class, working to further imperialist interests, will respond to the crisis: reaping profits off the capitalist “green transition,” while investing in border militarization to keep refugees and migrants out.

The situation is exacerbated by the current global economic crisis. Indebted semicolonial countries are turning to extreme extractivism and land privatization to pay off debts and avoid further economic collapse. Falling rates of profit and inflation, combined with mounting debt payments to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), have placed severe economic constraints on semicolonial countries. Furthermore, in the case of Latin America, imperialist investors have orchestrated deindustrialization across the region. As a result, “progressive” and right-wing governments alike have turned to extracting natural resources to avert defaults and reverse energy deficits.

Mining projects for lithium, cobalt, and copper, essential minerals for the “green transition,” have popped up across the semicolonial world. The “lithium triangle,” including Argentina, Bolivia, and Chile, contains about 67% of proven lithium reserves. This region has become ground zero for the fight between Indigenous communities and multinational mining corporations. Pipelines running across zones of high biodiversity such as savannahs, mangroves, and coastal waters will only increase the likelihood of migrants as small farmers are displaced due to pollution and spills.

Expanding imperialist agro-industrial corporations increase deforestation and reinforce monocultural production. This industry pollutes waterways, displacing farmers and Indigenous populations. The Central American caravans that captured the attention of the public in 2018, for example, were mainly engaged in agriculture, forestry, livestock farming, and fishing. Shortened rainy seasons and increased drought, impacting the “Corredor Seco” that runs from Mexico to Costa Rica, is combined with intensified hurricane seasons that push the population towards famine.

Ironically, as many in the climate movement point out, the people most affected by a changing climate are the lowest emitters of greenhouse gases (GHG). G20 countries represent around 75 percent of GHG emissions. The United Nations (UN) COP27 solution is to create a loss and damage fund where high-emitting countries pay low-emitting ones for impending climate devastation. Conservative numbers suggest that these payments must reach US$300 billion per year by 2030, while others estimate that global economic damages from the climate crisis will hit $99 trillion between 2025 and 2050. Yet, in 2020, the fund collected less than US$100 billion.

Rather than spend money on reparations, the largest GHG emitters are preparing themselves for the eminent onslaught of climate refugees by militarizing their borders. The seven countries responsible for 48% of the world’s historic GHG emissions collectively spent at least twice as much on border and immigration enforcement than on climate finance. In the U.S., spending on militarizing the southern border has nearly tripled since 2003 from $9.2 billion to $25 billion in 2021. In Europe, the budget for the European Union border agency has increased 2763% since its founding in 2006.

The border security industry profits from the climate refugee crisis. Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Airbus, Palantir, Deloitte, IBM, and Boeing are just some of the corporations securing hundreds of billions of dollars in contracts with imperialist governments. Their services include building detention centers, surveillance technology, biometrics, and armored transport. Climate refugees are financial opportunities for them. As if this weren’t Orwellian enough, many of these same border security companies are hired by the biggest oil and gas firms to provide security for their drilling sites. Exxon Mobil, for example, contracted top U.S. border security contractor Lockheed Martin to reinforce refining and chemical manufacturing facilities. It also has contracts with another top U.S. border contractor, L3 Harris, to surveil its drilling site on the Niger delta.

Many rightly decried Trump’s border wall. However, Democrats and Republicans pursue a very similar strategy when it comes to building a Climate Wall. While Trump’s friends might be in the physical construction of walls, the Biden administration instead pursues a “smart technology” approach to police the border. Trump’s “Title 42” emergency order, which deported immigrants on arrival, was replaced under Biden in early 2023 with an arguably more restrictive policy requiring migrants to first request refugee status in another country on the faulty and glitchy CBP One app.

What is to be done? High-emitting countries and oil and gas corporations owe billions in reparations, but we must push further. The money currently being used to militarize borders should be diverted to impacted countries to reinforce and expand their public health sectors, relocate at-risk populations who wish to move, and protect natural resources. All debts must be cancelled. Within imperialist countries., funding should go towards preparing housing and support for climate refugees who need to resettle now.

Here in the U.S., we must look to the struggles south of our border where Indigenous communities and mineworkers are coming together to demand that mining corporations be nationalized. In Chile, for example, during the constitutional convention in 2022, a sector of the movement called for the large mining companies in copper, lithium, gold, and other strategic minerals be nationalized and put under workers’ control.

Mining companies pollute, destroy natural resources, and exploit workers to enhance their profits. In the hands of mining workers, and with participation of the communities directly impacted, the decision to extract resources would take into account the risks of contamination, pollution, and destruction of surrounding ecologies. Furthermore, we must fight to open our borders and demand papers and support for all migrants. The fight to save the planet and ourselves can only be won through international solidarity and cooperation.

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