All posts filed under: environment

Capitalist Agriculture: Putting Soil on a Diet of Snake Oil and Doughnuts

Colin Todhunter In their rush to readily promote neoliberal dogma and corporate-inspired PR, many government officials, scientists and journalists take as given that profit-driven transnational corporations have a legitimate claim to be custodians of natural assets. The premise is that under capitalism water, food, soil and agriculture should be handed over to powerful and wholly corrupt transnational corporations to milk for profit, under the pretence these entities are somehow serving the needs of humanity. These natural assets (‘the commons’) belong to everyone and any stewardship should be carried out in the common interest by local people assisted by public institutions and governments acting on their behalf, not by private transnational corporations driven by self-interest and the maximization of profit by any means possible. Concerns about what is in the public interest or what is best for the environment lies beyond the scope of hard-headed commercial interests and should ideally be the remit of elected governments and civil organisations. However, the best-case scenario for private corporations is to have supine, co-opted agencies or governments. And if …

The Stomach-Churning Violence of the Agrochemical Oligopoly

Colin Todhunter As humans, we have evolved with the natural environment over millennia. We have learned what to eat and what not to eat, what to grow and how to grow it and our diets have developed accordingly. We have hunted, gathered, planted and harvested. Our overall survival as a species has been based on gradual, emerging relationships with the seasons, insects, soil, animals, trees and seeds. And out of these relationships, we have seen the development of communities whose rituals and bonds have a deep connection with food production and the natural environment. However, over the last couple generations, agriculture and food production has changed more than it had done over previous millennia. These changes have involved massive social upheaval as communities and traditions have been uprooted and have entailed modifying what we eat, how we grow our food and what we apply to it. All of this has been driven by geopolitical concerns and powerful commercial interests with their proprietary chemicals and patented seeds. The process of neoliberal globalisation is accelerating the process …

Red And Green Should Never Be Seen

David Lindsay “I also look forward to meeting with Chairman Kim who realizes so well that North Korea possesses great economic potential!” So tweets Donald Trump. This is why we must promote the exploitation of the vast reserves of coal in this country. That, and the extension of civil nuclear power, are the means of delivering highly paid, highly skilled, high status, unionised jobs while securing independence from Arab oil, from Russian gas, and from coal that has been mined using child and slave labour. From North Korea, Trump intends his dynasty to supply a dependent world with the coal of the Kim dynasty deep into the twenty-second century. Yet we have our own, right here under our feet. Horror stories about how coal was burned or mined in the Britain of the twentieth century have no relevance to the Britain of the twenty-first. This is part of a wider battle. We must reject out of hand the notion that the problem with the world is that it has people in it. Instead, we must …

GM Cotton – Reckless Gamble

The Profit Driven Move that Placed Indian Cotton Farmers in Corporate Noose Colin Todhunter The dubious performance (failure) of genetically engineered Bt cotton, officially India’s only GM crop, should serve as a warning as the push within the country to adopt GM across a wide range of food crops continues. This article provides an outline of some key reports and papers that have appeared in the last few years on Bt cotton in India. In a paper that appeared in December 2018 in the journal Current Science, P.C. Kesavan and M.S. Swaminathan cited research findings to support the view that Bt insecticidal cotton has been a failure in India and has not provided livelihood security for mainly resource-poor, small and marginal farmers. This paper was not just important because of its content but also because M.S. Swaminathan is considered to be the father of the Green Revolution in India. The two authors provided evidence that indicates Bt crops are unsustainable and have not decreased the need for toxic chemical pesticides, the reason for these GM …

The GMO Issue Reaches Boiling Point in India

Interview with Aruna Rodrigues In a recent article published on the India-based News18 site (CNN), prominent US biologist Nina Federoff was reported as saying it is time for India to grant farmers access to genetically modified (GM) crops. In an interview with the site, she says there is no evidence that GM crops are dangerous when consumed either by people in food or by animals in feed. Federoff says that the commercial release of various GM crops in India has been halted by the Indian government due to opposition from environmental activists. She adds that we are rapidly moving out of the climate regime in which our primary crops were domesticated, arguing that that they do increasingly worse and will yield less as temperature extremes become common and pest and pathogen populations change. She says GM will become more or less essential in an era of climate change. In recent weeks, aside from Federoff’s intervention, GM has been a hot topic in India. In late November, a paper appeared in the journal Current Science which …

India’s Farmers Plan Mass March to the Nation’s Parliament as Agrarian Crisis Reaches “Civilization Proportions”

Colin Todhunter With over 800 million people, rural India is arguably the most interesting and complex place on the planet. And yet it is also one of the most neglected in terms of both investment and media coverage. Veteran journalist and founder of the People’s Archive of Rural India P. Sainath argues that the majority of Indians do not count to the nation’s media, which renders up to 75 percent of the population ‘extinct’. According to the Centre for Media Studies in Delhi, the five-year average of agriculture reporting in an Indian national daily newspaper equals 0.61 percent of news coverage, while village-level stories account for 0.17 percent. For much of the media, whether print or TV, celebrity, IT, movements on the stock exchange and the daily concerns of elite and urban middle class dwellers are what count. Unlike the corporate media, the digital journalism platform the People’s Archive of Rural India has not only documented the complexity and beauty of rural India but also its hardships and the all too often heartbreaking personal stories …

Food, Justice, Violence and Capitalism

Colin Todhunter In 2015, India’s internal intelligence agency wrote a report that depicted various campaigners and groups as working against the national interest. The report singled out environmental activists and NGOs that had been protesting against state-corporate policies. Those largely undemocratic and unconstitutional policies were endangering rivers, forests and local ecologies, destroying and oppressing marginalised communities, entrenching the corporatisation of agriculture and usurping land rights. These issues are not unique to India. Resistance against similar practices and injustices is happening across the world. And for their efforts, campaigners are being abused, incarcerated and murdered. Whether people are campaigning for the land rights of tribal communities in India or for the rights of peasant farmers in Latin America or are campaigning against the fracking industry in the UK or against pipelines in the US, there is a common thread: non-violent protest to help bring about a more just and environmentally sustainable world. What is ultimately fuelling the push towards the relentless plunder of land, peoples and the environment is a strident globalised capitalism, euphemistically termed ‘globalisation’, …

End of an Era: Big Agriculture and the Fall of American Dairy

J Birchfield The ongoing American dairy farmer debacle deeply bothers me, and every time I see another reference to it I’m forcing myself to think it through. Extra cheap milk in which to dunk your Oreos it would seem is the new cultural norm, along with some of the highest suicide rates farm families have ever seen. Disturbing. Social media posts, written articles, viral videos are all so eager to put on display the ‘been doing it for half a century’ old and broken head of the family farm, his wrinkled face crying, hugging a few of his closest family members, heads hung low and shoulders slouched, all taking in their last few moments of existence as tough, gritty, incredibly consistent, and innovative American dairy farmers. Over time, you either tune it out or embrace the collective nostalgia that for some has turned to anger and depression, crying out through the ripped and torn cultural fabric almost as intensely as a mamma cow mourns a dead calf. Of course, all along generating the buzz that …

India Mortgaged? Forced-Fed Illness and the Neoliberal Food Regime

Colin Todhunter Like many countries, India’s food system was essentially clean just a generation or two ago but is now being comprehensively contaminated with sugar, bad fats, synthetic additives, GMOs and pesticides under the country’s neoliberal ‘great leap forward’. The result has been a surge in obesity, diabetes and cancer incidence, while there has been no let-up in the under-nutrition of those too poor to join in the over-consumption. Indian government data indicates that cancer showed a 5% increase in prevalence between 2012 and 2014 with the number of new cases doubling between 1990 and 2013. The incidence of cancer for some major organs in India is the highest in the world. The increase in prevalence of diabetes is also worrying. By 2030, the number of diabetes patients in India is likely to rise to 101 million (World Health Organization estimate). The figure doubled to 63 million in 2013 from 32 million in 2000. Over 8% of the adult male population in India has diabetes. The figure is 7% for women. Almost 76,000 men and 52,000 women in the 30-69 …

Haughty Imperialism: Genetically Modifying the Way to Food Security?

Colin Todhunter Those familiar with the debate around genetically modified organisms (GMOs) may be forgiven for thinking that science alone can solve the world’s food problems. The industry asserts that GMOs are vital if the world is to increase agricultural productivity and we are going to feed a growing global population. There is also the distinct impression that the GMO issue is all about ‘science’ and little else. People who question the need for and efficacy of GM have been labelled anti-science elitists who are responsible for crimes against humanity as they supposedly deny GM food to the hungry. Critics stand accused of waging a campaign of fear about the dangers of GM. In doing so, the argument goes that, due to ideology, they are somehow denying a technological innovation to farmers. Critics have valid concerns about GMOs and have put forward a credible evidence to support their views. But instead of engaging in open and honest debate, we see some scientists hardening their positions, lashing out at critics and forwarding personal opinions (unrelated to their specific discipline) based on their perceived authority as …

They say there’s no “magic money tree”…well there is! But…

Bryan Gocke In Britain, if it wasn’t for BREXIT we would be discussing (among other things) Labour’s proposed economic policies, including an expansion of public sector spending. There would be a storm of media led disparagement about plans to stimulate the economy through borrowing and increased taxation and concerns raised about not paying down the national debt. As Theresa May said whilst campaigning for the last general election “There is no magic money tree.” I find it particularly disheartening that many well informed, left leaning people buy this criticism, worrying whether the country can afford improved public services and whether this will make Labour unelectable. The stock response of the Left to this would normally go along the lines of: The Tories are in disarray and deeply split over BREXIT and thus just might be even more unelectable than a slightly radical Labour Party. Britain is a rich country; surely it can afford better public services than it currently has? Labour’s proposals are, in truth, underwhelming! They represent such a modest step in a process …

The 6th mass extinction is a product of capitalism — not population growth

by Barnaby Philips, 25 August, 2017, via RCG ‘Every particular mode of production has its own special laws of population, which are historically valid within that particular sphere. An abstract law of population exists only for plants and animals and even then only in the absence of any historical intervention by man’ – Karl Marx, Capital, Volume 1, Chapter 25, pp783-784 ‘You don’t need to be a scientist to know what’s causing the sixth mass extinction,’ began Professor Paul R. Ehrlich in a Guardian article on 11 July. Given the ‘developed’ imperialist world’s throwaway consumerism and the well-documented destruction of the environment by multinational corporations, it should indeed be fairly obvious. Ehrlich however names one main culprit: population growth. His solution? Some unspecified form of ‘humane’ population reduction. Apparently the reason you don’t need to be a scientist is because the pseudo-science of eugenics suffices. Ehrlich must be refuted with science.  It is capitalism’s need for infinite economic growth that is destroying life on earth. Ehrlich is best known for his 1968 book The Population Boom, which warned that …

‘Inclusive Capitalism’, Nancy Pelosi, and the Dying Planet

by Paul Street, July 21, 2017, via CounterPunch A recent Washington Post and ABC poll finds that just 37 percent of Americans think that the Democratic Party “stands for something.”  Fifty two percent say it’s about nothing more than opposing Trump. The 37 percent is right. The Democratic Party stands for something, alright.  It stands for the socio-pathological system of class rule and environmental ruin called capitalism – and for capitalism’s evil Siamese twin imperialism. So does the far more openly right-wing Republican Party, of course, but that’s fairly common knowledge.  It’s more complicated with the Democrats, who like to pose as being “on the left” while carrying water for Big Business. It’s nothing new. Long before the rise of dismal, dollar-drenched neoliberal era Dems and Robert Rubin associates like Bill Clinton and Barack Hamilton Project Obama, the Democrats stood in the lead of the profits regime. This goes all the way back to that savage Indian-killer Andrew Jackson and up through that quintessential corporate liberal Woodrow Wilson, New Deal hero Franklin Roosevelt (who boasted about having saved the …

VIDEO: Monsanto Employing Troll Army To Silence Online Dissent?

Ever encountered oddly persistent commenters insisting they’ve been eating Roundup for breakfast for the last fifteen years and feel just great? Ever wondered why it’s hard to find online sources for the studies that find major health issues with any of Monsanto’s products? This may be of interest to you… Article from Global Research here Full list of show notes here.

King Coal and the Nuclear Heartland, Hand in Hand in Cumbria

by Marianne Birkby at Radiation Free Lakeland The “nuclear heartland” is how Cumbria, home to Sellafield, the nuclear industry’s rear end is described. Cumbrians are told that new nuclear is ‘necessary to combat climate change’ even if that means tens of billions of tax payers money. Because the nuclear industry is “low carbon” (it isn’t). At the same time, Cumbrians are urged to welcome the reopening of the Whitehaven coalmine ‘ to produce steel for wind turbines.’ Radiation Free Lakeland, a local nuclear safety group are raising the alarm “Any deep mining in the vicinity of Sellafield should be forfeit, any plan which has the potential to increase seismic activity in the Sellafield area is reckless beyond belief. We hope others will voice their opposition” Is Cumbria Being Frogmarched into Nuclear AND Coal? The plan to reopen the Whitehaven coal mine under the Irish Sea has been rumbling along for a few years with no raised eyebrows. Why are alarm bells not ringing out loud and clear? This nasty plan will go before Cumbria County …

None of the world’s top industries would be profitable if environmental costs were fully integrated

by David Roberts, Grist, April 17, 2013 The notion of “externalities” has become familiar in environmental circles. It refers to costs imposed by businesses that are not paid for by those businesses. For instance, industrial processes can put pollutants in the air that increase public health costs, but the public, not the polluting businesses, picks up the tab. In this way, businesses privatize profits and publicize costs. While the notion is incredibly useful, especially in folding ecological concerns into economics, I’ve always had my reservations about it. Environmentalists these days love speaking in the language of economics — it makes them sound Serious — but I worry that wrapping this notion in a bloodless technical term tends to have a narcotizing effect. It brings to mind incrementalism: boost a few taxes here, tighten a regulation there, and the industrial juggernaut can keep right on chugging. However, if we take the idea seriously, not just as an accounting phenomenon but as a deep description of current human practices, its implications are positively revolutionary. To see what …