Bangladesh and the Implications of Climate Change

Bangladesh is located on the northern coast of Bay of Bengal in a vulnerable delta region encompassed by the numerous branches of water that spill in from the Ganges, Brahmaputra, and Meghna Rivers. Because of its geography, Bangladesh is exposed to more tropical monsoons and cyclones than any other country in the world. This problem is further amplified by rising sea levels that cover the low-lying land mass. It is estimated that twenty-five million people will be displaced from their homes by 2050 if the effects of climate change are not addressed and natural energy alternatives are not implemented. Bangladesh and other shallow, riverine countries will continue to sink underwater due to a system of structural violence that thrives while relinquishing none of the benefits to those it victimizes and robs underdeveloped countries of the agency required to mandate necessary environmental changes.

The inequality Bangladesh faces is further established when elements of environmental injustice and class are evaluated. Environmental injustice posits that living arrangements are separated by social factors, like class and race, wherein those with less means or stigmatized social identities are more likely to be subjected to hazardous environmental factors and less likely to be able to escape or advocate against environmental contamination. The members of Bangladesh most susceptible to fresh water scarcity and water-related diseases are those who live within poverty-stricken regions, who cannot afford to relocate and who spend a majority of their lifetime actively trying to survive. Dry fish businesses, a primary source of income for individuals located in poorer regions of the country, have taken a direct hit as the high tide continues to encroach and rainfall becomes more frequent, thus propelling lower income families further into poverty. While Bangladesh suffers as a whole under the barrage of detrimental climate change effects, it further isolates those reviled due to social factors and maintains that they remain in the most vulnerable position of society.

In a world where wealth is directly tied to power, countries with a big wallet will ultimately have more sway in deciding global policies. When these countries speak, they will have the ability to talk directly into the microphone of the media, and what they have to say will be printed and accessed easily. When countries of a lower power dynamic speak, it is into cupped hands at the back of a meeting they are rarely allowed to attend, and what they have to say is easily disregarded. In an international gathering of the Major Economies Forum addressed to the United Nations General Assembly,  Tony A. deBrum, the foreign minister of the Marshall Islands, directly spoke to the effects of rising sea levels on the relatively small piece of land he calls home. In response to the despair and demise of the Marshall Islands, the Environmental Minister of India curtly replied, “So what?”. This level of apathy is dangerous when the topic of climate change affects not only capsizing countries but the overall inhabitability of the planet. Structural violence in this case is perpetuated by government denial of human involvement in climate change, even though factual evidence points otherwise. Furthermore, accommodations are not being made to provide for migrants fleeing to the countries releasing the greenhouse gases that have created the problem. Instead, those who have contributed the least carbon dioxide emissions are left the most vulnerable and with little to no resources to combat the issue.

If no long term solution is put into effect, it is only a matter of time until these countries, rich in cultural history and diversity, are lost to the sea. Structural violence harms not only those who are situated in a defenseless position, but also those it seemingly elevates into a position of power. It will ultimately be the world’s loss when the irreversible damages inflicted by climate change are cemented. Bangladesh, while dispensable in the eyes of some countries who do not directly face the very real dangers imposed by the rising sea level, is the first domino in a chain of events that will shape the world. The most tragic aspect of the situation lies in the fact that resistance without reform is futile. As long as countries in power align themselves in a stance of ecological ignorance and apathy, the waves will continue to rise and entire countries will be consumed.

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