Random thoughts about global warming, colonialism, ‘Darkest Africa‘, & Others
Today I came across a wonderfully sobering piece by Nate Silver entitled: How To Destroy (Almost) Half the Planet for the Low, Low Price of Just 5% of Global GDP.
This is a tongue-in-cheek blog entry in which the author presents a grim future scenario for the (Third) World in relation to which countries use up 5% of Global GDP. Taking the very poorest countries, he is able to wipe out most of the worlds poor countries and still not reach 5% of Global GDP :
As he says:
A lot of countries contribute almost nothing to global GDP, even though they may have tens or hundreds of millions of people. You could literally wipe them from the globe and the impact on global GDP would be de minimis.
Thinking about this map brought to mind a passage from Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness regarding the West‘s preoccupation with places (maps) that, historically, have not been ‘filled in ‘ – not really discovered or conquered or saved or – at least – traversed:
…At that time (i.e., regarding maps when he was a child) there were many blank spaces on the earth, and when I saw one that looked particularly inviting on a map (but they all look that) I would put my finger on it and say, “When I grow up I will go there.” The North Pole was one of these places, I remember. Well, I haven’t been there yet, and shall not try now. The glamour’s off. Other places were scattered about the hemispheres. I have been in some of them, and . . . well, we won’t talk about that. But there was one yet—the biggest, the most blank, so to speak—that I had a hankering after (i.e., Africa)
Now, just by focusing on the poorest countries, we have the ability to re-imagine many of these blank spaces – at least in terms of their combined GDP indicators.
Due to their physical (and psychological) remoteness, these areas have – since earliest times – often been considered with awe, with fear, and oftentimes with revulsion. And by consequence, as areas that have been peopled with imagined monsters, heathens, and other beings who were in need of civilizing (or at least controlling). As the 19th Century African explorer and geographer Speke remarked about darkest Africa:
How the Negro has lived so many ages without advancing, seems marvelous, when all the countries surrounding Africa are so forward in comparison; and judging from the progressive state of the world, one is led to suppose that the African must soon either step out from his darkness, or be superseded by a being superior to himself…”
Speke, The Discovery of the Source of the Nile (Kindle mode)
. . . . . .
Some of the themes I would like to explore in this blog have to do with how the West has (and continues to) imagine Africa and its ‘development’ – and vice-versa; how the West imagines the future of Africa in the face of global warming, of food security, and so forth… Also, issues of colonizing and controlling, the idea of progress (as a uniquely Western concept), the -monsterization- of Africa since the time of Herodotus – a theme that preoccupied European concepts of Africa well after the medieval period – and continues today in different forms (starving children; ruthless warlords; etc).
- What are some tips for a globalization and comsumption test (wiki.answers.com)