Responding to the Financial Times: “America First” Isn’t the Problem—It’s Deception


Sidestepping commentary on the unoriginality of the criticism, a recent editorial released by The Financial Times claimed that the United States’ “America First” policy would “delay” efforts to combat climate change and its effects. While the article claimed that we had obliterated any sense of solidarity between the nations of the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), what it forgot to mention was why these resolutions dismantle when put into effect.

When the developing world indiscriminately signs its name to various climate accords and pledges to improve the health and wellbeing of their populations, the applause from the international community is deafening. These empty promises are all but equivalated with forgiveness. The reality is that behind these de facto international pardons lies something much more sinister and much less publicized.

Across the Global South, massive communities populate the outskirts of major cities in urban slums with varying levels of recognition by their governments. However, one thing is certain: their access to basic health services and clean water are poor to nonexistent thanks to their classification. So while certain news organizations are quick to point fingers at the United States for understanding economic diversity, what about the discrimination of impoverished populations in the slums of India or favelas of Brazil?

Perhaps what is truly delaying progress in the OECD is the fact that while these “Waste Trade and Systems” are passed, the government of India is actively denying its non-notified (unrecognized) communities with piped water, electricity, and—what do you know!—waste systems.

Now, I know what you’re going to say. “But that’s why we are drafting these initiatives in the first place!” Sorry to burst your impenetrable financial bubble (which I’m sure you know always happens eventually), but even after India’s years of slum improvement schemes, these unincorporated territories receive notably less funding from government assistance.

Rather than framing this issue as an issue of “elephants” and “tit-for-tats”, maybe we should focus more on how impossible it is to convince these governments to supply public services so long as it means legitimating settlements they have historically deemed illegal. This is especially true when water rights are contingent on property rights.

Turn your attention away from sensationalized accusations and truly evaluate the efficacy of your solutions. Where you’re putting the pipes of your chlorinated water, slum-dwellers are illegalling tapping into the system and risking cross-contamination. Where you’re establishing access to clean water as a universal right, impoverished communities are forced to pay twice as much from private vendors because they can’t rely on the government.

And where you’re wasting breath on throwing the United States under the bus for the umpteenth time, we continue to recognize the importance of accountability for all you’ve put your blind faith in.


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