Natures of Indenture
In line with our current editorial theme, ‘Myths, Migrations, and Monsoons’, this month, we shift our focus from myths to migrants. In the wake of the death of Queen Elizabeth II, there has been lots of talk about the colonial legacy of the British Empire, and we explore how forms of indenture still continue on in the form of migrant labour.
Not forgetting that we are still in the monsoon and storm season, the growing intensity and frequency of storms in the region due to rising sea levels and higher water temperatures reminds us that the effects of the climate crisis are already here. We hope everybody keeps safe and has a regenerative October!
For a better world,
SG Climate Rally
The British Empire ended slavery, but replaced it with indentured labour, better known as ‘coolies’. These were migrants in the 19th-20th century who travelled across the globe to work on plantations run by those very same colonial masters. In “Natures of Indenture”, we explore the history of this system of indentured labour, the mechanisms behind it, and consider its parallels with our very own system of migrant labour here in Singapore.
The owner of outdoor apparel maker Patagonia, Yvon Chouinard, transferred his family’s ownership of the company (valued at US$3 billion) to a specially designed trust and a nonprofit organization, with their ambit to use the company’s profits to combat climate change. Chouinard claimed that he hoped his move would “influence a new form of capitalism that doesn’t end up with a few rich people and a bunch of poor people.” However, as Rachel Donald from The New Republic notes, Patagonia has not always walked the talk when it comes to sustainability, and without further details about how the trust and nonprofit organization intend to channel the profits, one should be wary about big and bold claims from billionaires.
The 77th Session of the UN General Assembly opened on 13 September, with various countries’ representatives taking turns to deliver speeches. Climate change dominated the proceedings, with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres saying that some of the fossil fuel industry’s profits should be channeled to victims of climate change. Many world leaders also touched on the issue of climate change, including Colombian President Gustavo Petro’s criticism of capitalism as a driver of the climate crisis and Philippines’ President Ferdinand Marcos Jr’s push for climate financing from developed nations.
DBS Bank set decarbonisation targets for seven sectors–power, oil and gas, automotive, aviation, shipping, steel and real estate–that it finances, as part of its net-zero pledge. The bank is also looking to reduce the absolute emissions of the oil and gas sector attributable to DBS by 28% by 2030 and 92% by 2050. However, as some analysts note, DBS is still financing oil and gas producers in Australia which have pledged to expand their production, as well as coal power globally, and need to speed up their exit from these industries. Other banks in Singapore should also follow suit.
To help people understand more about the public consultation by NCCS on Singapore’s net-zero climate ambition, we did a guide featuring suggested pointers that people could use in their own suggestion. We were also quoted in an article by Eco-Business on climate advocates’ reactions to the public consultation and its efficacy.
As part of the Forward Singapore exercise, MSE is seeking views from the public on issues relating to environmental sustainability such as food security, net-zero emissions, and rising sea levels. You can contribute your views here.
A Marxist book focusing on degrowth is making waves in Japan. Aptly titled ‘Capital in the Anthropocene’, the book by Kohei Saito, an associate professor at Tokyo University, was published in September 2020 and has sold more than half a million copies thus far. In his Marxian analysis, Saito posits that “capitalism’s demand for unlimited profits is destroying the planet and only “degrowth” can repair the damage by slowing down social production and sharing wealth.” An English translation is scheduled to be published next year.
Andreas Malm’s polemical ‘How to Blow Up a Pipeline’ has been adapted into a film, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September to good reviews. The film centers around a group of friends who plan to–no surprises–blow up a pipeline in West Texas. Somewhat presciently, the Nord Stream pipelines were reportedly sabotaged in late September (though we suspect this was more for geopolitical reasons rather than ecological reasons).