Posts Tagged ‘Sustainability’
One of the most frequent criticisms leveled against the sustainable agriculture movement is that its proponents want to send farmers back to 19th-century hard labor, with hand weeding and harvesting. Here’s an incredibly cool group of eco-minded “farmer-scientists” who aren’t in the least afraid of technology — and in fact believe in “creating industrial processes that are fully in harmony with ecologically responsible living.”
The Open Source Ecology team’s first, ambitious project is the Global Village Construction Set — a sort of life-size Erector set of the most essential machines for building a “small civilization with modern-day comforts,” including housing and the means for food, energy, and technology production.
The proposed set of essential machines. Eight prototypes have been built so far. Drawing: Courtesy of Open Source Ecology
By Vandana Shiva
When we think of wars in our times, our minds turn to Iraq and Afghanistan. But the bigger war is the war against the planet. A handful of corporations and of powerful countries seeks to control the earth’s resources and transform the planet into a supermarket in which everything is for sale. They want to sell our water, genes, cells, organs, knowledge, cultures and future.
a worldwide ‘land rush’ that’s increasing world hunger without addressing the underlying long term threats to world food security
“The foreign companies are arriving in large numbers, depriving people of land they have used for centuries. There is no consultation with the indigenous population. The deals are done secretly. The only thing the local people see is people coming with lots of tractors to invade their lands….People cannot believe what is happening. Thousands of people will be affected and people will go hungry.”
The Institute of Science in Society April 28, 2010
Grabbing the world’s ‘unused land’
In the past three years, foreign governments and investment companies have been buying or leasing vast tracts of farmland in Africa and elsewhere for producing biofuels or food for their own use .
This ‘land rush’ was triggered by the demand for biofuels, and accelerated  with the financial and food crisis of 2007/8 (see  Financing World Hunger, SiS 46).
Government policies promoting biofuels are based on the mistaken belief that fuels made from plants are ‘carbon neutral’, in that burning them would simply release the carbon dioxide fixed by photosynthesis and would not increase greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The European Union is aiming for10 percent of its transport on biofuels by 2020  (Europe Unveils 2020 Plan for Reducing C Emissions, SiS 37). George W. Bush, for his part, proposed to cure the US’ “addiction to oil” by increasing federal budget 22 percent for research into clean fuel technologies including biofuels to substitutes for oil to power the country’s cars  (Biofuels for Oil Addicts, SiS 30). The hope is to replace more than 70 percent of oil imports from “unstable parts of the world” – the Middle East – by 2025.
Meanwhile, the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation helpfully identified immense areas of ‘spare land’ in developing countries that could be used for planting ‘bio-energy’ crops to be turned into biofuels. The World Bank’s recent report on the 2008 commodities price hike includes a diagram entitled  “The stock of unused but potentially arable land is enormous”, depicting more than 700 million hectares of ‘unused’ land in sub-Saharan Africa, and more than 800 m ha in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Corporate farming for the rich
International agribusinesses, investment banks, hedge funds, commodity traders, sovereign wealth funds, UK pension funds, foundations and ‘individuals have been snapping up some of the world’s cheapest land, in Sudan, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, Malawi, Ethiopia, Congo, Zambia, Uganda, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, Mali, Sierra Leone, Ghana and elsewhere. Ethiopia alone has approved 815 foreign-financed agricultural projects since 2007. Any land investors can’t buy is leased for about $1 per year per hectare. In many cases, the contracts have led to evictions, civil unrest and complaints of “land grabbing”, John Vidal reports in UK’s Guardian .
Nyikaw Ochalla, an indigenous Anuak from the Gambella region of Ethiopia now living in Britain but in regular contact with farmers in his region, told Vidal : “All of the land in the Gambella region is utilised. Each community has and looks after its own territory and the rivers and farmlands within it. It is a myth propagated by the government and investors to say that there is waste land or land that is not utilised in Gambella.
By Raj Patel Organic Consumer’s Assn.
Oscar Wilde observed, “Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.” Patel’s book, The Value of Nothing, shows how our faith in prices as a way of valuing the world is misplaced. He reveals the hidden ecological and social costs of a hamburger (as much as $200), and asks how we came to have markets in the first place. Both the corporate capture of government and our current financial crisis, Patel argues, are a result of our democratically bankrupt political system.
Social organizations, in America and around the globe, are finding new ways to describe the world’s worth. If we don’t want the market to price every aspect of our lives, we need to learn how such organizations have discovered democratic ways in which people, and not simply governments, can play a crucial role in deciding how we might share our world and its resources in common.
Our current crisis is not simply the result of too much of the wrong kind of economics. While we need to rethink our economic model, Patel argues that the larger failure beneath the food, climate and economic crises is a political one. If economics is about choices, Patel writes, it isn’t often said who gets to make them. The Value of Nothing offers a fresh and accessible way to think about economics and the choices we will all need to make in order to create a sustainable economy and society.
To read the first chapter, click here: http://bit.ly/1ajaxZ. For more information on both Raj Patel and The Value of Nothing, visit http://www.rajpatel.org. Video directed by Scott Hamilton Kennedy (http://www.thegardenmovie.com).
Ombudsman report on 20 years of corrupt IFC, World Bank Group lending to the Indonesian oil palm industry casts doubt on Bank’s fitness to manage international forest carbon funds that may emerge at Copenhagen climate talks.
The World Bank Group’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) ignored its own environmental and social protection standards when it approved over a twenty year period nearly $200 million in loan guarantees for palm oil production in Indonesia. The IFC has temporarily frozen new investments in oil palm projects and is reviewing all current oil palm projects. The message must be conveyed to the World Bank that oil palm and any finance of industrial development that deforests or diminishes primary tropical rainforest must permanently end. And certainly oil palm — or any logging of primary forests, or replacement of primary forests with plantations — is not worthy of REDD forest carbon funding.