Financier-developers with ties to some of the century's most notorious war criminals are building Eko Atlantic, an offshore city near Lagos, to house the burgeoning, confiscatory millionaires of Nigeria, while in the oft-bulldozed slums of Lagos genuine, climate-resilient floating buildings are taking to sea.
Eko Atlantic is where you can begin to see a possible future – a vision of privatized green enclaves for the ultra rich ringed by slums lacking water or electricity, in which a surplus population scramble for depleting resources and shelter to fend off the coming floods and storms. Protected by guards, guns, and an insurmountable gully – real estate prices – the rich will shield themselves from the rising tides of poverty and a sea that is literally rising. A world in which the rich and powerful exploit the global ecological crisis to widen and entrench already extreme inequalities and seal themselves off from its impacts – this is climate apartheid.
Prepare for the elite, like never before, to use climate change to transform neighbourhoods, cities, even entire nations into heavily fortified islands. Already, around the world, from Afghanistan to Arizona, China to Cairo, and in mushrooming mega-cities much like Lagos, those able are moving to areas where they can live better and often more greenly – with better transport and renewable technologies, green buildings and ecological services. In Sao Paulo, Brazil, the super-rich – ferried above the congested city by a fleet of hundreds of helicopters – have disembedded themselves from urban life, attempting to escape from a common fate.
In places like Eko Atlantic the escape, a moral and social secession of the rich from those in their country, will be complete. This essentially utopian drive – to consume rapaciously and endlessly and to reject any semblance of collective impulse and concern – is simply incompatible with human survival. But at the moment when we must confront an economy and ideology pushing the planet's life-support systems to breaking point, this is what the neoliberal imagination offers us: a grotesque monument to the ultra-rich flight from responsibility.
New, privatized African city heralds climate apartheid [Martin Lukacs/The Guardian]