Category Archives: Food Security

Geopolitics of the Amazon: A defence of Bolivia’s development strategy

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Spanish language edition,(PDF)

Click to download Spanish language edition (PDF)

From Climate and Capitalism. 

This important book-length essay, published in Spanish in September 2012, explains how Bolivia is attempting to address the need for both economic development and environmental protection.

In particular, it responds to criticisms from left critics who have attacked the Morales government for what they call ‘extractivism,’ and examines the real issues in the debate over plans to complete a highway in the TIPNIS region.

The text was translated by Richard Fidler, who also provides an introduction, a glossary, and explanatory notes.

A PDF pamphlet was publish under a Creative Commons license to encourage the widest possible distribution: it may be freely reproduced and distributed, but not changed, incorporated in any other work, or used for commercial purposes.

It is available for printing in either American (8½x11) or Metric (A4) page sizes.

Download PDF (1.7 Mb)—

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Everywhere I go, the Echoe of Corporations

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Global hunger and obesity are symptoms of the same problem and, what’s more, the route to eradicating world hunger is also the way to prevent global epidemics of diabetes and heart disease, and to address a host of environmental and social ills. Overweight and hungry people are linked through the chains of production that bring food from fields to our plate. Guided by the profit motive, the corporations that sell our food shape and constrain how we eat, and how we think about food. The limitations are clearest at the fast food outlet, where the spectrum of choice runs from McMuffin to McNugget. But there are hidden and systemic constraints even when we feel we are beyond the purview of Ronald MacDonald.

Even when we want to buy something healthy, something to keep the doctor away, we’re trapped in the very same problem that has created our ‘Fast Food Nations’. Try, for example, shopping for apples. At supermarkets in North America and Europe, the choice is restricted to half a dozen varieties: Fuji, Braeburn, Granny Smith, Golden Delicious and perhaps a couple of others. Why these? Because they are pretty: we like the polished and unblemished skin. Because their taste is one that is largely unobjectionable to the majority. But also because they can stand transportation over long distances. Their skin won’t tear or blemish if they are knocked about in the miles from orchard to aisle. They take well to the waxing technologies and compounds that make this transportation possible and keep the apples pretty on the shelves. They are easy to harvest. They respond well to industrial production. These are reasons why we won’t find Black Oxford, Kandil Sinap or the ancient and venerable Rambo on the shelves. Our choices are not entirely our own because, even in a supermarket, the menu is crafted not by our choices, nor by the seasons, nor where we find ourselves, nor by the full range of apples available, nor by the full spectrum of available nutrition and tastes, but by the power of food corporations.

The concerns of food production companies have ramifications far beyond what appears on supermarket shelves. Their concerns are the rot at the core of modern food system. Why there is a worldwide epidemic of farmer suicide, why we don’t know what is in our food system anymore, why black people in the United States are more likely to be overweight than white, and why there are cowboys in South Central Los Angeles?

In ever country, the contradictions of obesity, hunger, poverty and wealth are becoming more acute. India has, for example, destroyed millions of tons of grains, permitting food to rot in silos, while the quality of food eaten by India’s poorest is getting worse for the first time since Independence in 1947. In 1992, in the same towns and villages where malnutrition had begun to grip the poorest families, the Indian government admitted foreign soft drink manufacturers and food multinationals to its previously protected economy. Within a decade, India has become home to the world’s largest concentration of diabetics: people – often children- whose bodies have fractured under the pressure of eating too much of the wrong kinds of food.

India isn’t the only home to these contrasts. The contrasts are global and are present even in the world’s richest country like U.S.

Moreover, to not forget that the general problem of rapid resource depletion that occurs in the poor countries of the world is frequently a result of foreign exploitation and not because of a country’s growing population. The exploitation of the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s natural resources by shady means—“opaque deals to acquire prime mining assets”—organized through shell companies by British and Israeli capital is an example of what can happen.

 

I have visited a quite good number of countries when I was younger than now, and I am very thankful to my dad for his ability to make us, my family and I, travel to several countries during the summer. I personally enjoyed the travel that we used to do from country to country by bus. I used to write short notes while in the bus.  Here is one of them:

“Everywhere I went, foreign commercial interests were exploiting resources after signing contracts with the autocratic government. Prodigious logs, four and five feet in diameter, were coming out of the virgin forest, oil and natural gas were being exported from the coastal region, offshore fishing rights had been sold to foreign interests, and exploration for oil and minerals was under way in the interior. The exploitation of resources in North America during the five-hundred-year post-discovery era followed a typical sequence—fish, furs, game, timber, farming virgin soils—but because of the hugely expanded scale of today’s economy and the availability of myriad sophisticated technologies, exploitation of all the resources in poor developing countries now goes on at the same time. In a few years, the resources of this African country and others like it will be sucked dry. And what then? The people there are currently enjoying an illusion of prosperity, but it is only an illusion, for they are not preparing themselves for anything else. And neither are we.”

 

We are now living in the postmodern era. Nietzsche was the first philosopher to predict this era. Postmodernism has emerged due to the detrimental impacts of technological developments. We see the serious consequences of environmental ravages in agriculture (soil loss due to the intensification of production methods). Still talking about the field of environmental studies, postmodernism has emerges with people like Rachel Carson. We see the exploitation of resources (nuclear Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the first energy crisis), weapons (nuclear bombs and chemical weapons development) etc.. We also see the effect of technology on health, with the Unethical Nazi doctors, the introduction of drugs with serious side effects on the health and epidemics caused by increased production rates high the agri-food industry. The era of world wars marked the end of the belief in the dogma that science is the key to universal truth to cure all ills. Postmodernism represents a philosophical current issued from the reaction to modernism following this transformation of society.

Postmodernism didn’t work, and you know why? Because it is based on the cumulative effect of accumulation, of mass accumulation. Yes, capitalism! People were talking about the end of the world. To me, the end of the world is the end of postmodernism, but of course not of all its components. The social aspect of postmodernism should remain with the emergence of another era. The social aspect should only remain in all kinds of sciences, but it should also extend to the life of each one of us; hence, the emergence of ethical norms instead of economic ones. The arrival of this paradigm shift was inevitable and today, the direction of the epistemology of science is difficult to predict. Certainly, there will be a paradigm shift, but when and what will be, will remain a mystery till now.

Certainly, there is hope: Farmers suing Monsanto. Permaculture. But to be honest, yesterday, a friend of mine asked me a question. He said: “I didn’t know much about the world until lately .. it doesn’t leave my head .. in a way I wish I’d never looked … does it make you upset or are you at peace .. maybe cause you know lots for longer .. just wondering .. it’s a kind of question I suppose.” I replied by: “I can’t reply clearly on this question because it is kind of mixed feelings. Sometimes I feel very mad, and each time I ask questions about, us, humans, and our society, I remember some people having a binary vision. It is like living in an illusion. And on the other hand, knowing such facts, I feel like I am having cold nerves.” And still talking about hope, I have a friend, currently living in Lima, who is leaving the system. I can’t wait to hear his news and maybe to write about it, and I think that we can all do like him.

 

Industrial civilization requires that we trade life for power. We must resist for all life is worth.

 

The 20s’ Earth Summits- Legal meetings Where Corporations Unite to the Destroy Planet Earth

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The Rio+20 Earth Summit and the G20 Summit are starting to convene to start the negotiations on a global sustainability framework.  The common goal of these summits is to create an economy that serves the health and well-being of both people and the planet.

20 years after the 1992 UN Rio Earth Summit, the environmental movement has been green-washed by the world’s leading corporations. The environmental institutions and ministries have been increased in number while the environmental crisis has been deepened and widened Carbon emissions reach “troubling milestone” as 400 ppm recorded at Arctic monitoring stations . What a contradiction!

Globalization has more disadvantages than advantages. Since 1970, our world’s financial actors decided to create a single global capital market in which financial economy is highlighted. Financial economy is the one who is dominated by finance and financial actors. People have been daily exposed to financial markets in aspects which go home-ownership, to financing, to schooling. Instead of financial markets providing money for what people need, money is increasingly invested into financial markets just to operate and expand Great short film explaining what the UK and the EU really mean by the ‘Green Economy’ they are pushing in the Rio+20 talks.

Unfortunately, this is the goal of capitalism- accumulating more and more capital while constantly increasing the gap between rich and poor. A good example on this would be the large dams – and particularly the complex multipurpose schemes once again being promoted by the World Bank – that provide energy to extractive industries controlled by multinational corporations while bypassing the rural poor. 94% of the people of Democratic Republic of Congo still have no access to electricity in spite of the billions of dollars that have been poured into the Inga hydro-electric project in the country over the past five decades Infrastructure for whom?

In the summits, debates are focusing attention on a foundational choice between two divergent paths to the human future, which are the money path and the life path Rio+20: A Defining Choice. Financial markets are now seeking new investment opportunities, and this is where nature comes in picture. We hear about ‘green economy’ from the Rio+20 Earth Summit and about ‘green growth’ from the G20 Summit. This is called greenwashing. This means that financial markets take control over nature. In other words, this means commodification or financialisation of natural resources.

In UN conference-speak, the privatisation of the atmosphere is known as carbon trading, the privatisation of the world’s forests is known as REDD and the privatisation of everything else known as “payment for ecosystem services” Rio+20 Earth Summit: time to change the narrative. Much of this has been done by companies and politicians under the banner of ‘sustainable development. Within the rubric of ‘green economy’, corporations are seeking new technological ‘false solutions’ to the climate and other environmental crises, including dirty forms of ‘clean energy’ (nuclear, so-called ‘clean coal’, fracking ‘natural gas’, hydropower, hydrogen, biofuels, biomass and biochar); dangerous Carbon Capture and Storage experiments; and other whacky geoengineering gimmicks such as Genetically Modified trees to sequester carbon, sulfates in the air to shut out the sun, iron filings in the sea to create algae blooms, and large-scale solar reflection such as industrial-scale plastic-wrap for deserts At Rio+20: Values versus prices. In this context, sustainable means to be able to keep making money into the future Big business goes to Rio. As Leo Tolstoy said:” I sit on a man’s back, choking him and making him carry me, and yet assure myself and others that I am very sorry for him and wish to ease his lot by all possible means except by getting off his back.”

It is absurd to let corporations profit in the name of  ‘saving the planet’ Suzuki: ‘Absurd’ to Let Corporations Profit in Name of ‘Saving Planet’ . It is absurd to continue growing exponentially in a finite planet. The laws of thermodynamics state that very clearly. These summits have failed for the same reason that the banks have failed.

However, there is hope. It is true that these summits might have failed, but this time the light of reason is descending gradually upon the world. There are many examples of the rejections of ‘green economy’ around the world. Oppositions to Rosa Luxemburg Foundation as she wants to demonstrate that green economy is a contested term, which can be filled with many different contents – according to different interests Beautiful green world? On the myth of the green capitalist economy. In the early morning hours of June 16, 2012, three hundred women and children arrived in the hamlet of Belo Monte on the Transamazon Highway, and marched onto a temporary earthen dam recently built to impede the flow of the Xingu River. Using pick axes and shovels, local people who are being displaced by the project removed a strip of earthen dam to restore the Xingu’s natural flow Three hundred people breach earthen dam, free Xingu River from Belo Monte project. A new report by International Rivers, challenges the top-down approach to infrastructure projects promoted by the World Bank and the powerful Group of 20 Infrastructure for Whom? A Critique of the Infrastructure Policies of the Group of 20 and the World Bank. The water warriors gathered at the plenary discussion on Water as Commons in Countering Green Economy, Privatization and Commodification during the opening of the Cupula dos Povos in Rio de Janeiro Water Warriors reject corporate control of water at Peoples’ Summit. La Via Campesina has been actively participating in the construction of this activity in order to denounce the false solutions of the same failed economic model that is now being dressed in green under the name “green economy” Peasants of the world mobilize against green capitalism in Rio. Moreover, after working through the night on Monday, international negotiators agreed on a framework for “sustainable development goals” that could help guide a wide-range of policies on issues like poverty eradication, clean energy deployment, sustainable cities, and fisheries management. But with very few specifics on how to actually implement these sustainability goals, the text has angered almost every single civil society group observing the negotiations The State Of Play In Rio: Draft Agreement Sparks ‘Alarm And Concern’. Plus, when the indigenous people speak like this  Kari-Oca 2 Declaration- Indigenous Peoples Global Conference on Rio+20 and Mother Earth.

I am wondering… why the Rio+20 Earth Summit and the G20 Summit start at the same day? Why isn’t there a single summit? Such conferences bring more depression than hope.

Political systems which were supposed to represent everyone now return governments of millionaires, financed by and acting on behalf of billionaires. The past 20 years have been a billionaires’ banquet. At the behest of corporations and the ultra-rich, governments have removed the constraining decencies – the laws and regulations – which prevent one person from destroying another. George Monbiot said: “To expect governments funded and appointed by this class to protect the biosphere and defend the poor is like expecting a lion to live on gazpacho” The Mendacity of Hope.

Such summits should be leaded by indigenous people; not by corporations. Also to notice that capitalism is male-based system; it degrades women. See How capitalism degrades women. As a result, our world needs women leaders instead of males. Mother Earth is a ‘she’; that’s why our world needs women leaders.

What our world needs is a moral system. We must focus on local economy instead of green economy. We need a real economy- not a trojan horse for bankers. We must focus on food sovereignty. We must protect the commons. We must defend the public control of finances. The Earth will be fine. The real conflict is not between humans and nature. It is between humans. It is between current and future human generations.

We should mobilize. We should mobilize more aggressively. There is hope in everything, and it is certain. There is hope on each rope we hang.

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The Rise and Fall of Food Crops

One crop seed becomes extinct every single day.

Should we rely on banks for security?

Meanwhile, organizations and people I know (and I myself) are growing and thus further developing heirloom varieties of food plants, adapted and adapting to the places we grow them, keeping them alive as they keep us alive, enjoying the diversity, and expanding it again.

An intriguing issue – is this vault part of a pragmatic climate change/food security insurance policy? Is it playing into the hands of those who wish to centralize and control seed supplies? Is its very existence an indictment on humanity?

“Evidence indicates that humans first started eating grain seedsand subsequently planting crops around 10,000 BC. Since then, farmers’ selection turned wild plants into a rich variety of agricultural crops. Each of these varieties was not only different in terms of nutrition, flavor, and culinary qualities, but also carried genes that helped it survive pests and disease, floods or droughts, as well as temperature extremes. It is these resistance traits that we will need to adapt our food crops to a changing climate. However, this genetic diversity is being lost at an unprecedented rate.

Image Courtesy of Handshake

As commercially mass-produced seeds replace family and heirloom varieties that once were handed down from generation to generation, the genetic variety in fields is reduced. As corporations continue to patent the genetic code of new seeds as well as the seeds themselves, new varieties from that plant can no longer be bred—or its seeds replanted. As a result of these factors and others, an estimated half of all crops have been lost in the past century.

Image courtesy of Handshake

To solve this problem, seeds must be preserved for future generations in seed banks such as Norway’s Svalbard Global Seed Vault, the most secure and advanced protector of crop specimens.

At the end of the world

Svalbard (Norway) is geologically stable, well above sea level (130 meters/430 feet), and enjoys low humidity and no measurable radiation. In addition, the arctic permafrost offers natural freezing so that in the event of mechanical failure, seed samples remain frozen, even without electricity, for 25 years.

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault as seen at sunset. Source: Global Crop Diversity Trust on flickr.com

A global seed bank

The world needs new crop varieties which can be productive in a changing climate and feed growing populations. To develop these new varieties, plant breeders and farmers need access to the genetic diversity of all crops. But seeds are becoming extinct at an unprecedented rate, and national seed collections are often lost due to war and mismanagement.

Lit Tunnel of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. Source: Global Crop Diversity Trust on flickr.com

 Over 740,000 seeds

Since 2008, the vault has received more than 740,000 seed samples, making it the most extensive collection of crop diversity in the world. Seeds are stored and sealed in custom-made three-ply foil packages. The packages are sealed inside boxes and stored on shelves inside the vault at -18°C (-0.4°F).

Shelves inside the Svalbard Global Seed Vault stacked with boxes of seeds from around the world. Source: Global Crop Diversity Trust on flickr.com

This article originally appeared in Handshake: Food & PPPs, IFC’s quarterly journal on public-private partnerships. Handshake explores innovative and successful approaches by governments that are tapping the private sector to improve basic public services. Copyright © IFC, a member of the World Bank Group.”