Economics, Food Shortages, GMOs, Society — by George Monbiot June 18, 2013
Who do Bono and the ONE campaign really represent: the very poor or the very rich?
It was bad enough in 2005. Then, at the G8 summit in Scotland, Bono and Bob Geldof heaped praise on Tony Blair and George Bush, who were still mired in the butchery they had initiated in Iraq(1,2,3). At one point Geldof appeared, literally and figuratively, to be sitting in Tony Blair’s lap. African activists accused them of drowning out a campaign for global justice with a campaign for charity.
But this is worse. As the UK chairs the G8 summit again, a campaign that Bono founded, with which Geldof works closely(4), appears to be whitewashing the G8’s policies in Africa.
Last week I drew attention to the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, launched in the US when it chaired the G8 meeting last year(5). The alliance is pushing African countries into agreements which allow foreign companies to grab their land, patent their seeds and monopolise their food markets. Ignoring the voices of their own people, six African governments have struck deals with companies such as Monsanto, Cargill, Dupont, Syngenta, Nestlé and Unilever, in return for promises of aid by the UK and other G8 nations.Comments (3)
Biodiversity, Consumerism, Deforestation, Food Shortages, Health & Disease, Society, Soil Erosion & Contamination, Water Contaminaton & Loss — by Earth Policy Institute June 14, 2013
Janet Larsen and J. Matthew Roney, Earth Policy Institute
The world quietly reached a milestone in the evolution of the human diet in 2011. For the first time in modern history, world farmed fish production topped beef production. The gap widened in 2012, with output from fish farming—also called aquaculture—reaching a record 66 million tons, compared with production of beef at 63 million tons. And 2013 may well be the first year that people eat more fish raised on farms than caught in the wild. More than just a crossing of lines, these trends illustrate the latest stage in a historic shift in food production—a shift that at its core is a story of natural limits.
As the global demand for animal protein grew more than fivefold over the second half of the twentieth century, humans began to press against the productivity constraints of the world’s rangelands and oceans. Annual beef production climbed from 19 million tons in 1950 to more than 50 million tons in the late 1980s. Over the same period, the wild fish catch ballooned from 17 million tons to close to 90 million tons. But since the late 1980s, the growth in beef production has slowed, and the reported wild fish catch has remained essentially flat. (See Excel data.)Comments (2)
Prince Charles Attacks Monoculture Food Production Systems – A Speech at the Langenburg Forum on Regional Food Security, Germany
Economics, Health & Disease, Society, Soil Erosion & Contamination, Water Contaminaton & Loss — by Prince Charles June 12, 2013
May 27, 2013: Ladies and Gentlemen, if I may say so, this is a very important conference. I am sure what you have heard so far about the problems we face and the obstacles to tackling them has given you a clear context in which to be able to consider what comes next this afternoon.
The aim here is to think through how we might create a much more local model of food production and distribution. But also, how that might fit with producing healthy food using far more sustainable methods and how we might do all of this without damaging business. Indeed, how this could improve business.Comments (6)
Biofuels, Deforestation, Economics, Food Shortages, GMOs, Society — by George Monbiot June 11, 2013
Under the pretext of preventing hunger, the rich nations are engineering a new scramble for Africa.
One of the stated purposes of the Conference of Berlin in 1884 was to save the people of Africa from the slave trade. To discharge this grave responsibility, the European powers discovered, to their undoubted distress, that they would have to extend their control and ownership of large parts of Africa.
In doing so, they accidentally encountered the vast riches of that continent, which had not in any way figured in their calculations, and found themselves in astonished possession of land, gold, diamonds and ivory. They also discovered that they were able to enlist the labour of a large number of Africans, who, for humanitarian reasons, were best treated as slaves.Comments (1)
Biodiversity, Society — by George Monbiot June 7, 2013
Why do farmers’ groups indulge in such ridiculous scaremongering about the restoration of the natural world?
The dam is beginning to crack, faster than I would have believed possible. Britain, one of the world’s most zoophobic nations, is at last considering the return of some of its extinct and charismatic mammal species.
While wolves, lynx, bears, bison, moose, boar and beavers have been spreading across the Continent for decades, into countries as developed and populous as ours, and while they have been widely welcomed in those places, here we have responded to this prospect with unjustified horror.
Or perhaps I shouldn’t say “we”. The population as a whole tends to be more sympathetic to reintroductions than the tiny number of people who own most of the land*. Britain has one of the highest concentrations of landownership in the world, and the big landowners are often the most conservative members of the population. Unfortunately they are the ones who have power in the countryside.Comments (1)
Biodiversity, Society — by George Monbiot June 4, 2013
Somehow almost all of us have missed the real story behind the disappearance of our wildlife.
Even before you start reading the devastating State of Nature report, you get an inkling of where the problem lies. It’s illustrated in the opening pages with two dramatic photographs of upland Britain. They are supposed to represent the natural glories we’re losing. In neither of them (with the exception of some distant specks of scrub and leylandii in the second) is there a tree to be seen. The many square miles they cover contain nothing but grass and dead bracken. They could scarcely provide a better illustration of our uncanny ability to miss the big picture:
The majority of wildlife requires cover: places in which it can shelter from predators or ambush prey, places in which it can take refuge from extremes of heat and cold, or find the constant humidity that fragile roots and sensitive invertebrates require. Yet, in the very regions in which you might expect to find such cover (trees, scrub, other dense foliage) there is almost none. I’m talking about the infertile parts of Britain, in which farming is so unproductive that it survives only as a result of public money. Here, in the places commonly described as Britain’s “wildernesses”, almost nothing remains. And the “almost” has become radically smaller over the past 20 years.Comments (1)
Alternatives to Political Systems, Economics, Ethical Investment, People Systems, Society — by Donnie Maclurcan June 3, 2013
by Donnie Maclurcan and Jen Hinton
Imagine waking up in a world where you feel good about going to work, no matter the nature of your job. You feel positive and motivated, knowing that your work provides you with a livelihood that also contributes to the wellbeing of others in a way that respects the ecological limits of the planet.
Welcome to a not-for-profit world, where businesses can still make profits, but any profits are always reinvested for social or organizational benefit, rather than being accumulated privately by individuals. This world emerged because, around 2013, a large number of people came to the realization that any economic system that centralizes wealth and power is, ultimately, socially and ecologically unsustainable. People were fed up with excessive executive salaries, a financial sector divorced from the real world, corporations with more say than people, endless spin from politicians and entrepreneurs about the latest technological ‘solution’, and the trappings of mindless consumption.
As the mainstream attention on the Occupy movement faded, protesters even started to question whether being fed up was worthwhile.Comments (4)
Biodiversity, Biofuels, Deforestation, Desertification, Economics, Food Shortages, GMOs, Global Warming/Climate Change, Population, Society, Soil Erosion & Contamination, Water Contaminaton & Loss, peak oil — by Joel Dunn May 31, 2013
Genetically modified crops are hailed by their proponents as the basis for a “new green revolution”, and as the key solution to feeding the world in the face of population growth and the exhaustion of new sources of agricultural land. There is a massive volume of research and research literature around genetically modified crops, but how much of it is really of value in assessing this often heard hypothesis about “GM is needed to feed the world?”Comments (1)
People Systems, Society — by Alice Gray May 24, 2013
State tractors ploughing in the barley crops of the Al Hawashleh tribe (our
hosts) outside Qasr A Sir in March of this year
Having recently finished teaching my third PDC course in the Bedouin village of Qasr A Sir in the Negev desert of Israel, I feel inspired to raise this controversial issue with the permaculture community. I would like to state from the outset that I do not have any clear answers, and intend this article as a discursive piece to inspire debate and reflection rather than a conclusive set of arguments.
The question is as old as ‘civilization’ itself, dating back to the dawn of agriculture in the Middle East around 10 000 years ago, and the great cultural transition that began then. It is the same question that permaculture seeks to answer, perhaps the single most important question facing humanity: how should we use the land? In short it is a question of culture and the clash of cultures, of narratives, possession, dispossession and dominance, of resource rights, of nomadic culture vs. sedentary culture; of hunter-gatherer lifestyles vs. pastoralist lifestyles vs. agrarian lifestyles. Perhaps the question is a little bit more complex than that in fact, and could be better framed as: how should we relate to cultures that have a different concept of land ownership and resource usage from our own? Living and working in the midst of a Bedouin village that is undergoing a forced transition from pastoralism to settled living within a modern industrialized state, this question cannot help but crop up.Comments (11)
Are repeated sightings of non-existent big cats evidence of a yearning for a wilder life?
An extract from Feral: searching for enchantment on the frontiers of rewilding, by George Monbiot, published in the Guardian, 22nd May 2013.
The setting was unimprovable. Across the fields, Maiden Castle, a turretted fortress of living rock, clawed at the sky. Beyond it was the village of Wolf’s Castle – Casblaidd – distinguished as one of only twenty places in which Owain Glyndwr was born (he died in quite a few as well), and said to be the spot where the last wolf in Wales was killed. Below us a tangled willow carr smothered the valley.
“This gap in the hedge here: that could be where it came through. Then it came down the bank, sauntered across the road and disappeared into the scrub.”
I peered into the woods on the other side of the lane. The trees were hooded with ivy. Their mossy trunks sprawled over the ground, or leant on each other, dark-cowled, like drunken friars. Beneath them was an impenetrable thicket of brambles and ferns.
“You wouldn’t see him in there, would you?”
“You have no doubt about what it was?”
Michael Disney looked around and shrugged.
“It’s not an issue for me. I saw what I saw and that’s that. People can either believe it or not. I’m not trying to convince anyone.”Comments (0)
Economics, Society, peak oil — by George Monbiot May 18, 2013
When scholars sell out, the consequences are grave.
In 1927 the French philosopher Julien Benda published a piercing attack on the intellectuals of his day. They should, he argued in La Trahison des Clercs (the treason of the scholars) act as a check on popular passions(1). Civilisation, he claimed, is possible only if intellectuals stand in opposition to the demands of political “realism” by upholding universal principles. “Thanks to the scholars,” Benda maintained, “humanity did evil for two thousand years, but honoured good.” Europe might have been lying in the gutter, but it was looking at the stars.
But those ideals, he argued, had been lost. Europe was now lying in the gutter, looking in the gutter. The “immense majority” of intellectuals, artists and clergy had joined “the chorus of hatreds”: nationalism, racism, the worship of power and war. In doing so, they justified and magnified political passions. Across Europe, scholars on both the left and the right had become “ready to support in their own countries the most flagrant injustices”, to abandon universal principles in favour of national exceptionalism and to proclaim “the supreme morality of violence”. He quoted the French anarcho-syndicalist Georges Sorel, who eulogised “the superb blond beast wandering in search of prey and carnage”.Comments (0)
Aid Projects, Community Projects, Economics, Society, Urban Projects, peak oil — by Andrew Willner May 9, 2013
We live in dangerous times, when economic collapse, climate chaos, and peak oil threaten the foundations of society, abundance, and all we hold dear. “Business as usual” will no longer suffice, because that way leads to certain pain, peril and impoverishment.
Unspeakable acts of violence like the slaughter at the Sandy Hook school or the Boston Marathon bombing; natural disasters like Katrina and Sandy; economic uncertainty; technical failure; “peak everything;” and climate change can offer opportunities for either despair and disengagement or innovative collaboration. In the aftermath of such disasters communities often experience a surge of purposefulness to deal with the crisis. As a result, there is a need for better understanding of the specific and general resilience of communities, ecosystems, organizations, and institutions to cope with change.Comments (0)
People Systems, Society, Village Development — by Stefan Boone May 7, 2013
The miracle of your mind isn’t that you can see the world as it is. It’s that you can see the world as it isn’t. — Kathryn Schulz
Consumerism, Courses/Workshops, Education, Ethical Investment, Society, Village Development — by Kenton Zerbin May 4, 2013
All photos © Craig Mackintosh
In my previous article I stressed how there is no sounder thing to invest in than a) Yourself and B) Community.
In this article I want to share some of the simple ways one can invest in oneself. For some this may translate and lead to finding meaning, a career and community — after all what we are ultimately talking about here is finding connection. For some this will serve as one more swift kick in the butt to get out the door and be the change you want to see in the world. No matter who you are, I hope you find this hopeful, inspiring and informative.
Options for investing in yourself:Comments (3)