Les Misérables who barricaded the streets for bread not cake were ultimately wiped out. Give them a smartphone and Twitter and we wait to see what happens in Hong Kong, but in Africa, where colonialism masterfully subdued millions for a century, “revolution” has never yet occurred.
It seemed like Africans could take anything. Until now.
There’s something more capable of sparking widespread reactionary violence in Africa than rigged elections or collapsing economies or colonialism or even slavery.
It’s called climate change.
Right now much of East Africa – a good hunk of it classic desert – is being flooded. Three months ago not a sprig of thorny clover could grow in areas along the South Sudan/Ethiopian border. Today rivers that never existed sweep away deserts.
It’s hard to get a Californian’s attention for climate change in Africa, right now. I know that. But even those whose houses burned down to the ground a couple weeks ago should probably slap themselves in the face today and realize how much better off they are than the half million people in the southern Sahel, today.
I’ve written often about all the academic reasons: click here for a good compilation from Ensia, a not-for-profit climate change consortium of reporters. But it should be self-evident.
The more than 300 homeowners who lost everything in the Kincaid Fire in Sonoma County know today that life isn’t one continuing misery. The half million displaced East Africans pushed out of their huts by new rivers, who lost their only cow and now suffer from malaria and dengue know this, too.
That’s exactly the point. It’s not about the Sonoma homeowners. It’s about the Sahel herders.
A few years ago, Les Misérables didn’t have smart phones. Smart phones are not only cheap in Africa, they’re essential today and you’ll be surprised why.
The main reason is that they’ve replaced hard currency.
You use your smart phone to pay for a loaf of bread, or a taxi ride or a piece of rope. It’s a lot easier keeping a smartphone in a small satchel or fraying pocket than a pile of coins or notes.
It’s a small upgrade – and cheap – to get the internet.
The internet tells you that the Kincaid fire is 70%, 40%, and finally because of giant airplanes and billions of dollars of taxes – contained.
The raging rivers of the Sahel are not contained.
The internet tells you that insurance covered 80% of the homeowners’ losses in California.
Who in the Sahel is getting back their cow?
UN agencies – under the growing threat of boycott by the U.S. – are having trouble raising the $61 million dollars needed immediately to save about a quarter million lives.
That’s right around 30 of the homes burned in Sonoma, of which 80% is immediately recoverable as cash.
Take a quiet moment, sit in the shade of an acacia and learn that California is the 6th largest economy on earth. Learn that a single Sonoma homeowner couple on average control controls wealth equivalent to one hundred thousand Sahel herders.
Suddenly you have either abject depression or unstoppable violence.
Which do you think is more likely?