The contradictions of Green New Deals: green sacrifice and colonialism

Soundings - ISSN 1362-6620
Volume 2022 Number 80

The contradictions of Green New Deals: green sacrifice and colonialism
Christos Zografos pages 37-50
DOI: 10.3898/SOUN.80.03.2022


The focus in mainstream Northern versions of Green New Deals (GNDs) or Just Transitions is on ameliorating the implications of low-carbon transition upon communities within Northern economies - not upon the communities, most often in the global South, that will be adversely affected by the solutions that are being proposed, for example those based on mining for transition minerals, constructing damns for hydro-electricity or projects for the large-scale harnessing of solar power. Yet adverse impacts on the environment are expected to occur across the whole chain of provision of the resources required by GNDs: the transportation of materials, assemblage of green production infrastructure, siting of facilities to produce energy, and dealing with waste at the end-of-life of green infrastructure. The areas involved in this chain are becoming Green Sacrifice Zones. Assumptions about race and social difference provide the underpinning for a tendency to downplay or render invisible consequences for local communities. Furthermore, the extraction of resources often involves contemporary colonial practices, including land encroachment and highly exploitative labour relations. Resource-seeking multinational companies present themselves as offering the benefits of modernity to people living in green sacrifice zones - in the form of ‘employment opportunities’ and ‘economic development’. Some of the more peripheral or ‘disadvantaged’ areas within Europe are also at risk from transition resource extractivism. To go beyond this mindset, there is a need to start listening to what frontline and vulnerable communities themselves say when they speak about just transition and GNDs: this will involve challenging leadership assumptions about which people and what frameworks should guide a just decarbonisation.

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To cite this article
Christos Zografos (2022) The contradictions of Green New Deals: green sacrifice and colonialism, Soundings, 2022(80), 37-50.

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