“Your people can’t take it anymore, Lord. In exchange for oil and gas they sell our country.” These lines, translated from Portuguese, are from the song “Vendem o Pais,” “They Sell the Country,” by the late, great Mozambican hip hop artist Azagaia. Born Edson da Luz, he died on March 9th at the age of 38. He was a movement artist, empowering millions with songs challenging the elite and inspiring grassroots action. A frequent theme in his lyrics is the exploitation of Mozambique by extractive industries like oil and gas. Thousands poured into the streets on the news of his death, to honor his life and to protest the power structures he so consistently and eloquently criticized. The Mozambican government responded with a brutal crackdown, unleashing tear gas, rubber bullets, and beating and arresting protesters.
Azagaia’s death coincided with two events that reinforce central themes of his music. First, Cyclone Freddy, a world-record-breaking extreme storm, slammed Southern Africa not once but twice, wreaking devastation, killing over 500 people in Malawi, Mozambique, and Madagascar and displacing over one million people. And second, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, released its Sixth Synthesis Report, summarizing almost a decade of global scientific research on climate change and issuing its direst warnings yet on the urgency of immediate, concerted global climate action.
Cyclone Freddy was the longest-lived and highest-energy tropical cyclone in recorded history. The storm was named on February 6th, as it developed off the northwest coast of Australia. Freddy headed west over the Pacific Ocean, building force from the historically high ocean surface temperatures, slamming into the island nation of Madagascar on February 21st. After then spending five days inundating Mozambique, Freddy retreated to the waters offshore, again building strength. As police were suppressing the Azagaia protests, Freddy arrived again, pummeling Mozambique and southern Malawi for four days before dissipating. The World Food Program and other aid agencies are scrambling to reach people cut off by the torrential rain, flooding and mudslides.
Cyclone Freddy serves as a stark illustration of the warnings included in the new IPCC report. “The rate of temperature rise in the last half-century is the highest in 2,000 years,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said as the report was released. “Concentrations of carbon dioxide are at their highest in at least 2 million years. The climate time bomb is ticking.” The science is unequivocal: humans are causing a climate catastrophe, and our window to avoid irreversible damage is closing rapidly.
Excerpted: ‘From the African Coast to Towers of Wall Street, the Climate Bombs Are Ticking’.