SOC/ENVIRO: A green view

Date: Sat Apr 21 2001 - 16:05:23 MDT

Here's an article from a green forum that expresses well in one essay much of
the world-view of greens and anti-tech folks. All of the thinking here is
premised on straight-line projections of current technologies and a deep
antipathy to private enterprise.

   <<<>>> <<<>>> <<<>>>

ATTAC Weekly newsletter - Wednesday 04/04/01

What will our children inherit?

By Liz Elliott

For most tribal and village people, for most of human history, the
cosmos felt to be a place of belonging and security, with significant
connections to nature and community . Land was communally owned and
cared for. In modern suburban, mobile culture we become cut off from
the land and our neighbours, and thus suffer anxiety. To sedate this
emptiness, the richest 20% of humans consume 80% of the world's
resources, vast amounts of stuff, polluting air and water and
destroying soil fertility. Consumerism and the religion of economic
growth distract us from the purpose of human life; softening the
underlying transfer of interest/debt money, power and resources to the
top 1%, blinding us to the great impoverishment of environment,
community and Third World enslavement. "Consume more!" urge the
corporations, which spend more on advertising than the world spends on

However it cannot go on. If we all lived like Americans we would need
three planets. And we are heading for 11 billion population in 100
years The maths of environmental destruction to pay debt shows this
excessive consumption cannot go on; it is a compounding interest
situation where 3% growth a year means 7 times the production in 60
years. The CSIRO estimates we Australians must decrease their
resource use by 90% in 100 years! . How will we do this? Since 50%
plus of prices=effort=environmental use are to pay interest, i.e. make
the richest 5% richer, much resource use could be reduced by bank
restructuring. Taxes and waste could be markedly reduced. Economic
growth must be reduced by 2% a year, particularly with fossil
fuel/greenhouse emissions, and replaced with growth in ecology,
community, art/music, family, health and sprituality. Not necessarily
a decline in true standard of living! In fact, a great opportunity!!

The current "Economic Growth in GDP" goal is based on false accounting
(destroying our natural capital and calling this growth!),
commercialising the huge unpaid love economy, on exporting our soil,
water and work and beggaring-our-neighbours and on failing to pay the
true cost of our consumption rampage. Our children will have to pay.
And the cleanup will be much more expensive than the costs "saved" in
the short run. We are wasting a precious opportunity to invest in
sustainable technology, so that our children can live off the interest
(for instance using petrol for solar cells manufacture). Actually, our
true standard of living taking into account environmental loss, crime
and others stresses, has been dropping since 1975.

The Free market/ economic irrationalist ideology is based on a
perversion of Adams Smiths ideas; Smith never envisioned producers not
paying their true costs of production, nor of capital being
internationally hypermobile. Since profits in the unreal financial
economy, derivatives, shares, merger driven profits etc have been 20%
plus, investments in the real world of food, transport and housing
must perform to the same unsustainable profit return if they are to
attract scarce capital. Such high profits are only possible by not
paying tax, stressing workers and gouging the Earth.

Elders everywhere tell the same story; their land does not look as
lush or healthy as it used to. Gone are the great cod fisheries of
eastern Atlantic, the Amazon goes in 25 years, and oil will start
running out in 20 years. Humans already use 50% of world fresh water
and arable soils. Minerals and petrol we extract will in future be
from more marginal, harder to access sources. A quarter of a million
acres of forest are lost a day. Trees are nature's water pumps, rain
makers and nurseries. At the current rate of soil loss through
desertification, salination and erosion, there will be no arable soils
within 100 years. Agribusiness mines soils till they are just root
holders to pour chemicals into. 12 kilos of soil are lost for every
kilo of food produced. Globalized corporations scour the world for the
cheapest raw materials, lowest environmental standards and worst
working conditions for workers, small business and farmers.

The feedlot dairy industry is a classic agribusiness disaster, cruel
to cows, polluting to rivers, wasteful! And capital intensive so
farmers are progressively turned into bank serfs. In the US, chicken
and hog farmers are dictated to every step by giant vertically
integrated feed, fertilizer and storage companies like Cargill. Until
there is a price squeeze or climate problem, when the farmers take the
risk and their holdings are resumed by the banks, also owned by
Cargill, ArcherDanielMidland and Aventis. Everywhere farmers' margins
are reduced, whilst supermarkets and transport/fuel corporations make
higher percentages. Chemical intensive/ petrol using farming and
transporting sends farmers broke! International and continent wide
transport of basics is unnecessary and polluting, yet supermarket
style food chains are seen as cheaper. "Cheap" at the expense of
farmers, environment and climate. Our climate is becoming more
unstable due to Big Oil protecting its investment in anachronistic
technology. Our seas and waterways are used as a toxic dump; 13
million tons of chemicals go into our environment every day. Chemicals
are not recyclable, biomagnify and are totally unknown in their long
term effect. 1000 new chemicals a year enter the US market, only 25
tested, never in the long term, on sensitive people or in combination.

Human physical health is threatened by agribusiness style farming; by
these chemicals, genetic engineering and proliferation of new
diseases. The shallow mineral and essential oil content of speed
grown, longhauled supermarket supplied food system predispose to heart
disease, cancer and depression, typical western diseases. These are
exaggerated by worker stress and loneliness of the marginalized
unemployed, old and young. Poorer nations' people suffer from simple
infections and stress, due to spending more on debt repayments than
Health, Education or Water.

In the Two Thirds World, efficient peasant farmers are threatened by
monoculture farming for export. Small scale farms are much more
efficient than industrialised farming in terms of energy in/energy out
and total yield per acre. Small farmers are undermined by dumping of
subsidised foods produced by unsustainable methods, and by excessive
regulations favouring agribusiness, genetically engineered seed
oligopolies and irrigation/big dams. Colonialism with greater
environmental degradation! Once stable selfsufficient communities
disintegrate. Rural to city migrations create sweatshops which
undermine all workers' conditions and cause illegal emigration and
wars. Water and resource disputes precede much "ethnic conflict"; GATS
and other WTO treaties specify water as a tradeable commodity, with no
local protectionism being possible. GATS calls the environment "a
service", to be privately administered.

Unsustainable policies are promoted by Big Business. Big farms get
most subsidies and infrastructure benefits. The major parties are
bought out and offer no alternative to ecological collapse. Yet, in
all this accelerating destruction there is hope!

50% of the world still lives in more traditional systems where
democracy and sustainable agriculture are easily possible. With
minimal investment in low interest banking, small tools and
permaculture type training, many of these communities could be self
sufficient again. If not propped up by First World aid, oppressive
corrupt regimes could be toppled by third world people and much
forest, water and mineral wealth be better managed. 10 million South
Indian farmers have pledged to defend their land against genetic
engineering. Huge demonstrations in Aisa, South America and India
against corporate slave labour conditions rarely get press.

Slowly, our churches are beginning to oppose immoral IMF bank
policies, and this last two years our intelligentsia are starting to
debate the failure of 30 years of Washington nonsensus policies.
Australian farmers are beginning to talk sustainability and group
together to protect their local water basins. Many young people, as
evidenced by S 11 and Seattle, have moved beyond "light green"
awareness, saving forests and beaches, and are becoming "dark green";
looking at banking, money markets and trade policies that drive
ecological gouging. The internet has spawned a huge educational
counter to shallow commercial media and education. In Europe, the
ATTAC group is spreading the word about green taxes; taxing resource
use, not labour, and the Tobin tax and Flat tax.

The true nature of pharmaceutical=chemical=fertiizer=petroleum
corporations is becoming obvious. Australians, long bought off by
privatisation of their assets, ecological rape and third world slave
labour cheapies, are waking up. The recent elections shows distrust of
the neoliberals' spindoctors and centralized power brokers. The Green
vote has not been analysed by the press because its implications are
far more unsettling than Hanson's dress sense

Vegetarianism and antigenetic engineering activism is spreading across
Europe. 20% yearly growth in organic farming and food demand in Europe
is fanned by concerns about disease and chemical toxicity. European
farmers are turning their farms and their bank balances around within
3-5 years of going organic!! Farmers' margins improve if less inputs
and less transport are needed. Getting off the debt treadmill requires
courage, but can be done in stages. BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY in crops and
complex permaculture style intercropping is strength in times of
climate change and monoculture crop disease.

LOCALISATION; the restoring of local food supplies and small business
is underway in many aware areas, restoring jobs, social connection,
fresher, more nutritious foods and pride in ethical business. In
particular, the longhauling of foods can be reduced, cutting down much
pollution and Big Oil stranglehold on politics.

Opposition to the impending G.A.T.S. treaty, privatising all services,
looks set to be the biggest struggle of the decade, albeit being
introduced by stealth. Slowly, people are seeing that globalization is
not inevitable, not sustainable and that big business must be
regulated. The rats cannot continue to run the ship. Globalisation is
opposed to nature, culture and our children's future.

Dr Liz Elliott,
Talk given to the Inverell Forum, NSW, Australia, in March, 2001

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