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CLIMATE NEWS

Basketball, COVID-19, Australia Bushfires and Future of Our Civilization

TEXT: Emre UZUNDAĞ

Now is the time to open a new Word document and write on Climate Change! I was planning to do a profile on how Patty Mills of NBA team San Antonio Spurs uses his platform in creating an awareness for the ongoing bushfires in his home country, Australia (I’d like to note that I’m also a Phoenix Suns beat reporter and I had previously discussed the position of NBA superstar LeBron James on last year’s catastrophic wildfires in California here). I must admit that I expanded the scope of this article partly due to COVID-19, now declared a pandemic. For it to become a “global” issue, it had to arrive to the shores of the West and invade it. This can shed a light on how deeply colonial mindset is rooted in the West when it comes to disaster and climate change.

Tectonic social changes arising after the epidemics that shaped the history of the mankind has unfortunately been surpassing the achievements of modern medicine. Scientists have been modeling the correlation between the climate change and the epidemics. Ebola was the first real challenge to test these models but since then, all the action and prevention plans remained on paper. COVID-19 shows, so far, that countries, be it a “developed”, an “underdeveloped” or a “developing” one, are not prepared to face the risks arising out of the correlation between the climate change and the epidemics. You might have read several pieces on the positive impacts of COVID-19. I do not believe that a disaster can bring everlasting solutions to a catastrophe. However, you can access to the data here that will help climate activists force political elites and capitalists take on responsibilities and get into action against climate change. But I’d like to mention some of the negative impacts of COVID-19 some of which might be permanent.

Greta Thunberg called to continue the climate strikes online which will definitely decrease the impact of the strikes and their visibility (It’s also timely to discuss why this call came only after the virus began to spread in the western countries). The Earth Day celebrations and strikes are cancelled. Cop26 might be postponed. Someone from Mosaic Expedition Team is tested positive for COVID-19 and the expedition is challenged. To overcome the recession, capitalists might implement the same expansionist politics just like they did after the 2008 financial crisis. At least, the history shows that this is a probability and this will hurt the climate fight deeply.

COVID-19 and its impacts will be with us for an unforeseeable future. I’d like to use this chance to talk about the ongoing bushfires in Australia. NBA champion Patty Mills does not think it is his biggest achievement in life. “I use my voice and platform to create an awareness and ongoing message just how bad the bushfires are and how bad the long-term effects are going to be.” NBA was yet to postpone the season indefinitely and no one had let him go back to Australia to support his countrymen and be there for his family in January. Mills who is an Aboriginal Australian flew to his home town during All-Star break in February and tweeted all the relief actions he has taken there. He provided food for those in need, donated to the reconstruction of schools and local businesses, introduced WIRES, a charity that provides shelter, food and medicine for animals that the bushfires hit the hardest, to the world, urged people to shop local and told stories from villages he visited. “As the Aussie NBA players we came together to be able to put money towards instant relief but we need to be more involved and lead in developing instant relief actions, land management, reorganization of wildlife and reconstruction and rebuilding of the houses,” says Mills.

Aussie NBA players are not the first in the league to take on the responsibility and show leadership when it comes to relief efforts in the face of natural disasters directly related to the climate change in terms of scale and severity. Tim Duncan, who, a few years ago, was a teammate of and now one of the coaches of Patty Mills launched an enormous donation campaign for residents of U.S. Virgin Islands during the Hurricane Irma. DeAndre Ayton and Buddy Hield of The Bahamas where the catastrophe of the Hurricane Dorian was felt deeply raised money. They did not show any motivation to transform their platforms to create a political consciousness in the fight against the climate change, tough. “Being not affected directly, we have to turn our platform and invoice into a cause. We have to remember that the bushfires and sandstorms are still happening and while continuing relief efforts Australian government should consider taking preventive actions like Cultural Burning to minimize the risk.”  Cultural Burning, a practice Aboriginal people carried out for centuries to protect the human health, vegetation and wildlife, is a practice that has recently been boosted by climate activists as a response and prevention to bushfires in Australia. As explained at firestick.org Cultural burning can include burning or prevention of burning of Country for the health of particular plants and animals such as native grasses, emu, black grevillea, potoroo, bushfoods, threatened species or biodiversity in general. It may involve patch burning to create different fire intervals across the landscape or it could be used for fuel and hazard reduction. Fire may be used to gain better access to Country, to clean up important pathways, maintain cultural responsibilities and as part of culture heritage management.”

Nowadays, we have Democratic debates and we talk about systemic change in the US. We talk about how COVID-19 possibly triggered the biggest capitalist crisis ever. We talk about if the neoliberalism, which was unleashed by Thatcher-Regan Era and protected by the states, no matter what their ideologies have been, came to an end or if market fundamentalism would take deeper roots in societies now that Trumpism and  all the global right wing populist politicians failed to do what is required of them. This is a great opportunity to bring back Friedrich Hayek’s “The Use of Knowledge in Society” to the table. Hayek whom many consider the great grandfather of neoliberalism argued that an economic system designed by the price system would do what is “desired” in the society and it would be liberating for individuals. To him, the price was the knowledge. The rest was either a tool of oppression or completely useless. In today’s Australia, the price system is the source of the knowledge for the mining companies and the government. When I asked Mills how to create a political consciousness in their fight, we re-discover the origin of the knowledge with Patty Mills. “It’s very important that the voice of the Aboriginal people and natives in these matters can be heard. No one knows the land better that the Aboriginal people in Australia. Their voice needs to heard on land management and how to look after the land. They have the evidence of how to look after the land for thousands and thousands years. Their voice should be taken to a level governmental representation so that we can prevent these disasters.”

Hayek’s priority was not to let the world go into the direction of the totalitarian rules. The freedom of the market was the biggest barrier to stop the path to totalitarianism. It had to be protected at all costs. The state had to be re-designed for that purpose. Australia has one of the most extreme example of this design where the mining companies replaced the state completely. The climate fight and the prevention of the bushfires massively benefits from the likes of Patty Mills who transformed their voice and platforms to a political cause. But this is not enough. Creating a political consciousness in the climate fight needs more than the platform of a millionaire basketball player. It needs a call for the justice, a critique of the relations of production, the transformation of the education system in a more critical direction, freedom of press, the defense of democratic rights and achievements and gender equality!

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