Central to Táíwò’s case for reparations is the idea of inertia. This is a useful message for economists, particularly of the mainstream bent, to hear. Without significant changes in the social provisioning processes, wealth and advantage, along with poverty and disadvantage, will continue to accumulate. No marginal change in a tax code or behavioral nudge will induce the radical change that is necessary for those accumulations to reverse course. Instead, we must be guided by a “worldmaking” philosophy, one that seeks to build a just world on a global scale.
Building on Adom Getachew’s account of anticolonial “worldmaking,” Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò defends reparations as a worldmaking project aimed at creating a world free from domination. Yet given this ambition, his targets for climate justice seem, if anything, too modest: why stop with eliminating tax havens or endowing the Global Climate Fund? Why not aim at the reorganization of the global economy itself, as many anti-colonial leaders once did? And if we accept these broader ambitions, what political formations might plausibly advance the project of anticolonial climate reparations?
Reconsidering Reparations offers several sound policy proposals about how to pursue reparations and climate justice. Yet its main contribution to the realm of climate politics has little to do with policy. Rather, it’s about a way of situating oneself in historical time. Unlike ordinary philosophical parables that freeze time and abstract away from specific places (think of the “trolley problem” or the “veil of ignorance”), Táíwò is arguing that the big picture is always historical, and always spatially complex. This shift in orientation will change how we see environmental or climate issues, but it will also change how we see much else.
For better or worse, our world stands on the precipice of major changes. Our current energy system is driving a rapidly unfolding climate crisis, and the need for total transformation “at every level of society” is now the prevailing scientific opinion. Given this context, Reconsidering Reparations argues for two things. First, reparations for trans-Atlantic slavery and colonialism should be seen as a future-oriented project engaged in building a just social order. Second, if we accept that view, then reparations and the struggle for racial justice should be directly linked to the struggle for climate justice.