Zapatismo and Autonomous Development

Zapatista members in an autonomous Zapatista community – Source: Dorset Chiapas Solidarity

Once a guerrilla army, and today a long standing social movement in Chiapas, Mexico, the Zapatistas may be the last place one may look for examples of development. A predominantly indigenous movement, the Zapatistas choose community autonomy over state support. This means Zapatistas refuse any funds from the Mexican state, an odd concept for some when trying to envision groups of people seeking to improve their material conditions. So what is it about this curious case that makes the Zapatistas relevant to development? The concept of autonomy, and thus self determination, are unique to Zapatista communities and provide an example of development which diverges, and in some was exists externally, from contemporary practices informed by neoliberal ideology.

But first a little background. The Zapatistas flew onto the world scene when seizing the city San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas on January 1, 1994 – the same day NAFTA passed. Twelve days of fighting ensued between the Mexican military and the Zapatistas, until the guerrillas chose to enter into dialogue with the government. Arms haven’t been taken up since. January first was chosen as a symbolic day to say “ya basta” (enough!) to the economic policies passed by “bad governments” on behalf of corporations and the ruling elite. For years, 500 to be exact, the indigenous people who make up the Zapatista movement have been struggling against colonial governments and policies which degrade indigenous life. Zapatismo, and the struggle against globalization, is just a new form of this long struggle. (El Kilombo Intergalático 2007).

The concept of Zapatista autonomy is founded upon two basic principles: resistance and self determination. First, resistance to global capitalism is central to Zapatista organizing, as is the creation of a world which exists externally from neoliberal globalization. As stated in the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle, resistance is necessary to stop a system which “destroys what exists in [countries conquered by neoliberalism], it destroys their culture, their language, thier economic system, their political system, and it also destroys the ways in which those who live in that country relate to each other. So everything that makes a country a country is left destroyed” (EZLN 2005). Secondly, the concept of self determination emphasizes democracy and the right to determines one’s future. The latter is a right often stripped from indigenous groups in a colonized world. Both concepts of self determination and autonomy reject any aid or participation from the Mexican state. This is the view that, “the politics of the politicians is a sphere that functions through the simulation of public opinion… to administer the interests of transnational capital,” and thus, the state itself cannot divorce itself from the interests of business (El Kilombo Intergalático 2007, 7). Therefore, the Zapatistas can in no way align themselves with the “bad government”. It must also be noted that historically, the Mexican state has used aid projects in the Chiapas to buy off segments of poor and indigenous populations for political motivates, while leaving other sections destitute and without access to services (Harvey 2005).

But what does autonomy mean in a material sense, beyond the ideology? And how is it related to development?

Autonomous villages exist throughout the state of Chiapas, all of which have their own form of governance, laws, and right to the land. Each autonomous community organizes itself through a form of direct direct democracy, where all of the Zapatista villagers participate and serve on the governing council, Junta de Buen Gobierno (Good Governance Council). Decision making power then extends to a council of all autonomous villages which also has rotating representation. Decision are often made through discussion which flow from autonomous communities to the regional council and back down until consensus is reached. It is through the democratic structures that communities can set development goals which exclude business interests and are instead on behalf of the whole community.

The projects enacted by autonomous communities include the creation of hospitals, health promoter training programs, cooperative agricultural and goods production, potable water systems, autonomous elementary and middle schools, community-run transportation, and non-extractive banking practices (Forbis 2014). Autonomy allows community members to choose how each of these programs is implemented and decision making power is exercised over the composition of each program. For example, hospitals practice both Western medicine, as well as “traditional healing and herbal medicine.” The curriculum in Zapatista schools is designed by the community to promote collective living, women’s rights, and indigenous history.  And the judicial policies enacted by Zapatista communities emphasize restorative justice and the health of the community, in lieu of punitive “justice”.  All of these programs are meant to proportionately benefit each autonomous community, a goal which can only be achieved through direct democratic control by all community members (Forbis 2014).

Although the Zapatista case is unique, autonomous community practices point towards alternatives to development implemented by foreign, undemocratic NGOs, or top down economic policies forced upon state by the International Finance Institutions. It seems difficult to imagine Zapatista style autonomy popping up around the world, but that is not to say it does not currently exist, or cannot exist in the future. International solidarity plays a central part in Zapatista success. The countless numbers of organizations internationally donating funds and time to support the Zapatistas helps enable the continuation of the autonomous project. If solidarity is extended to other communities globally which fight for autonomy and democracy, we may be able to see other projects similar to the Zapatistas. Additionally, development agencies can also learn from the Zapatista’s democratic practices. Reforming NGO and development agency structure to emphasize direct democracy and community autonomy enables greater project success via wider community participation, while also emphasizing the right of developing countries and communities to choose their own development path. Democratic, self-determined development enables a world of many worlds to exist, not just the world of global neoliberal capitalism.


El Kilombo Intergalático. 2007. “Zapatismo: A Brief Manual on How to Change the World.” In Beyond Resistance: Everything. Durham: PaperBoat, 1-16.

Forbis, Melissa interviewed by Johanna Brenner. 2014. “The Zapatistas at 20: Building Autonomous Community.” Against the Current, March 23.

Harvey, Neil. 2005. The Chiapas Rebellion: The Struggle for Land and Democracy. Durham: Duke University Press.

Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN). 2005. “Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle.” In Beyond Resistance: Everything. 2007. Durham: PaperBoat, 62-86.

“Grow What We Eat, Eat What We Grow”


Across the Caribbean, food imports have become an expensive problem, prompting Jamaica, one of the world’s most fertile regions, to reclaim its agricultural past. Imports roughly doubled in price over the past decade. To combat the rising cost, rather than turning to big agribusinesses, officials recruited everyone they could to support their bold new strategy: make farming patriotic and abundant, behind homes, hospitals, schools, even prisons. In Jamaica, Haiti, the Bahamas and elsewhere, local farm-to-table production isn’t simply a sales pitch, it is a government motto.

Still, farming is often seen as a reminder of plantations and slavery in these regions, it’s a deep challenge. Yet at regional meetings for years, it has be emphasized by Caribbean officials that “food security,” primarily its availability and access, is at top priority. A number of countries are responding by branding foreign food like meats and high-calorie snacks a threat, and locally grown food responsible and smart. Jamaica started earlier than most. About a decade ago, the government unveiled a national food security campaign whose slogan is “Grow What We Eat, Eat What We Grow.” Grocery stores now market local produce with large stickers and noticeable displays.

As a result they even have an “Eat Jamaican Day” This past year in November of 2015 they were happy to note that their food import bill which declined by some 4.5% in 2014, is continuing along that trend in 2015. Even in the wake of droughts and bush fires, the agricultural sector grew by some 3.3%, thus contributing to the overall 1.5% growth in the economy. The agricultural sector continues to be a critical source of employment and income generation and foreign exchange earnings, as well as rural and national development. Eat Jamaican fittingly and concisely captures the Ministry of Agricultures’ desire to continuously enhance and expand agricultural production to ensure food security and food safety for all Jamaicans, as well as utilizing the sector to grow the Jamaican economy and so increase the welfare and prosperity of Jamaican people.

The spread of local knowledge plays a huge part in this. Local knowledge compiles complex bodies of know-how. It is practices and skills that are developed and sustained by peoples/communities with shared histories and experiences. This knowledge provides a framework for decision-making in a number of social, economic and environmental activities and livelihoods among rural peoples. In Jamaica, as elsewhere, such knowledge has been shaped and modified by continuous farm level experimentation over many generations. Local knowledge, and its associated skills, has been developed outside the formal educational system and is embedded in culture and steeped in tradition. The Jamaica 4-H has been active in the spread of local knowledge and youth are a vital aspect of in it. Young people are contributing significantly to the transformation of agriculture in Jamaica and have begun to make a significant impact on the way business is conducted in the sector.

In 2015 Jamaica faced one of the most devastating droughts in their recent history. Despite that, the agricultural sector, though slow, continued to record growth. Andre Anderson, Jamaica 4-H Clubs National Centre Coordinator, attributes this to the fact that, “we have a younger and more brilliant set of farmers, people who are proud to tell you that they are farmers, because no longer is agriculture something to scoff at or turn up their nose at,”

Many of Jamaica’s current young farmers participated in their 4-H club, and due to the training members undergo, they enter the field knowledgeable on how to manage their operations, in particular soil conservation and parasite management. The impact of the Jamaica 4-H has already had impressive reach into the agriculture sector because, contrary to our belief, the average age of  Jamaican farmers is 37 years, which is 23 years lower than the previous 60 year average.

Anderson further challenged the nation’s young people “to continue to re-energize the Jamaican spirit of resilience, hard work and passion, genuine love for each other and unflinching faith for a better and brighter tomorrow.”

Jamaica serves as an outstanding example of the things a country can accomplish through unity and shared interest. Still, some questions arise such as: How practical/ wise is it for Jamaican’s to reduce their food imports? Is there some type of livelihood protection for Jamaican Farmers? Can Jamaica’s strategy be implement/or work elsewhere?





Work Cited:

Davidson, Andrine. “Youth Impact on Agriculture Highlighted.” Jamaican Information Service, 13 Mar. 2016. Web. <>.


Beckford, Clinton, and David Barker. “The Role and Value of Local Knowledge in Jamaican Agriculture: Adaptation and Change in Small-scale Farming.” The Geographical Journal 173.2 (2007): 118-28. June 2007. Web. <>.


Cave, Damien. “As Cost of Importing Food Soars, Jamaica Turns to the Earth.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 03 Aug. 2013. Web. <>.

“Government of Jamaica: Growth Agenda Policy Paper.” (n.d.): n. pag. Http:// Jamaica Chamber, Mar. 2015. Web. <>.

Kellier, Derrick. “The Eat Jamaican Day Expo.” Ministry of Agriculture, 25 Nov. 2015. Web. <>.

Stranger Danger?

I find myself speaking about a new topic every week and it is due to the “new” information I view day to day about situations we as women face on a day to day basis. I do not want the viewer to feel that women are the only ones who go through these situations. Men do as well, but women are the main target and as a woman myself, subjects surrounding women are important to me. In this scenario, I am speaking on the subject of sexual abuse. We as human beings feel that strangers are the people we should keep our kids away from, hence the term stranger danger. But are strangers the people we should be careful of? In my blog post I will touch on the subject of sexual abuse, trust, and developing as a nation through this issue.

When we look out in to the world, children at an early age are taught to stay away from strangers because they could potentially harm them. In a sense, this is true, but are they the ones we should worry about?

According to an article called Child Sexual Abuse, statistics prove:


  • 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18 years old.
  • Over 58,000 children were sexually abused last year.
  • 8.3 % of reported child abuse cases were sexual abuse.
  • 34% of people who sexually abuse a child are family members.
  • 12.3% of girls were age 10 or younger at the time of their first
  • rape/victimization, and 30% of girls were between the ages of 11 and 17.
  • 96% of people who sexually abuse children are male, and 76.8% of people who sexually abuse children are adults.
  • The average age at which girls first become victims of prostitution is 12 to 14 years old


These statistics show that children how early children were forced to grow up and be silenced about their sexuality, fearing those around them because they were scarred from an interaction or many interactions involving sexual abuse. These statistics explain why many children cut themselves as a way to get out of their heads for a moment. After having their first encounter with a man be one of abuse and to have that abuse occur at such a young age, many women fear being around men in fear that all they want from her is sex. A woman begins to feel that her body is all men want, leading her into participating in acts of prostitution, etc.

Video of mother who married a man who sexually abused her 15 year old daughter.

A BBC News report called One in 10 girls sexually abused, says UN report states:

Violence against children

  • 120m girls – one in 10 – are raped or sexually attacked by age of 20
  • Boys also report experiences of sexual violence, but to a lesser extent than girls
  • The most common form of sexual violence for both genders is cyber-victimisation
  • 95,000 children and teenagers were murdered in 2012
  • Slightly over one in three students aged 13-15 experience regular bullying in school
  • Six out of 10 children aged between two and 14 are physically punished by carers

Children are main victims of sexual abuse and are easy victims within their families. Instead of playing outside and slowly developing mentally and physically, these children are forced to know what things like sex are before they are even ready to learn to do long multiplication and division. This is a crime.

Sexual Abuse                                                                  I was 6

There is no way for us as a society to develop if we are struggling with issues of sexual abuse towards others, especially towards children. As individuals, the struggle to express that they were or are being sexually abused is difficult to speak about and that in itself makes it difficult to develop as individuals. Base on the lack of development personally, there is a low chance of development as a society. Based on an article called Childhood Sexual Abuse: A Mental Health Issue It states that “Some people feel very scared about reporting abuse. They may feel embarrassed, guilty or ashamed. Some people blame themselves or believe that they deserved to be abused. Others report abuse, but they aren’t taken seriously or believed. Sexual abuse is a crime. It can have a large impact on health and well-being.” What keeps abusers going is the thought that their victim will be too afraid to speak about their abuse. That in itself is why sexual abusers still exists. They feed on younger people to fill a disgusting satisfaction of theirs. The amount of trust that comes with being related means nothing when your own blood is your sexual abuser. The victim of this abuse feels that they can no longer trust anyone, not even their family. Along with that, they feel like they have no where to go and so they dwell on their sexual encounter and begin to feel like less of a person, being lowered to feeling that the only way they can get away from the thoughts and feelings of their encounter is by cutting along with other forms of emotional and physical self abuse. Children are being robbed of their childhood and innocence on a daily basis and this in terms of development is a major down fall. The only way to help develop society as a whole is to speak out. It took me a while to speak out. I know what it is like to what to say something, but fear being looked at with disgusted eyes or just simply not being believed. I was afraid. I was molested for 6 years and it ate away at me for years. I was 7 years old when it all started. I blamed myself and hated myself for being a victim and having had gone through what I did. Luckily I did not physically abuse my body although I did emotional abuse myself. The fear took me 6 years before I spoke out. I was 13 when I ran to my father crying because it happened again and I told him. I was so afraid of many things. I was afraid I was pregnant because I had just got my period and I was afraid my daddy would frown at me. He didn’t. He was enraged though. I just continued to cry.

In local newsfeed, WDBJ 7 to be specific called a Victim of child sexual abuse tells her story Javonda, who was a victim of sexual abuse states “Rage is the one word that I explain to people. I was very angry at everything, everybody,” Javonda explained. “When you’re carrying around that much locked inside it makes you sick.” There is a video of what she went through along with her story and I highly recommend that the viewer of this post watch it. Family can crush the way children see the world. A male relative can mold the way a woman views men as she matures and grows older. She won’t have a chance to think for herself because she has already been forced into thinking a certain way; a horrible way. I don’t know how I did it, but I was able to find myself through this scary and difficult time and no that is not the reason why I am gay. I am gay because that is how I am. Many people asked me that growing up. “Are you gay because you were sexually abused as a child?” Yes, I was sexually abused, but that doesn’t make me gay. That is not the reason why I am this way. I’m happy this way and that is all that matters.


In major newsfeed in the New York Times called New York State Judge Rejects Kesha’s Claims in Dr. Luke Case, “Kesha, whose full name is Kesha Rose Sebert, initially filed a civil suit in Los Angeles, in October 2014, in which she said that Dr. Luke had emotionally and sexually abused her, and in at least one instance raped her, in the years after he signed her in 2005.” Kesha is not a child, but she is a woman who is being taken advantage of and feels trapped because she is stuck with the man who initially sexually and emotionally abused her. To have to experience something like that is scary and she is not alone because myself along with many other girls have been through this and it is scary and all you feel you can do in these moments is cry and cry until you begin to feel something. For some that feeling comes quickly, but for others like me it can take up to 13 years or more before you can begin to feel anything again, let alone begin to trust again.

What about a child attracts a grown man or woman? This is one thing that is stunting the growth of this nation and world around us. This is a crime that not many people are paying much attention to and for that many people are in the wrong. People may say, I would never let that happen to my child or my child would tell me anything that goes on with them, but shutting off from your child and not believing anything they say, just builds a whole between you and them and inside them. I only write about subjects I feel strongly about and this just so happens to be one of them. We need to come together because that is the only way we can begin to seek the change we so desperately cry for. That is when we will begin to develop as one. Once we band together, nothing can break us, but that is a change so far from sight that I can only pray and hope things will at least show a sense of hope that things will get better.

The Climate X World Model

Not to be confused with this fabric company.

For my final blog post, I would like to cover an alternative to Neoliberal Capitalist Development that is an intriguing concept within the effect of climate change on Development. As I have mentioned in previous posts, many people believe that climate change will eventually become such a pervasive issue that the global political and economic structures will change to accomodate it.  As I have also mentioned in previous posts, one unique theory (Wainwright and Mann, 2012) is that climate change will catalyze two specific struggles that will define the global framework that emerges to address climate change: a global sovereignty vs. no global sovereignty, and capitalist vs. non-capitalist.  As my final alternative to Neoliberal Development, I am going to look at the result of these two struggles that Wainwright and Mann believe to be the most effective at addressing climate change, and the most ethical in considering issues of justice, but also the least likely.  This would be the Climate X World Model, a theoretical global system that both transcends capitalism and is void of political hegemony.

Wainwright and Mann do not specify what the Climate X World Model looks like, just that it is post-global sovereignty, and post-capitalism, which leaves plenty open to interpretation.  I see it as a global push to remove everything related to the patriarchal, whitewashed western colonialism of the past few centuries, and giving true power over one’s livelihood back to those who have it taken from them in this world system.  To accomplish this, I see a world that moves past globalism, colonialism, and capitalism to local autonomy – what many people would define as a traditional lifestyle – as the Climate X.

I have dedicated a large amount of this blog to the concept of post-capitalism, enough that I do not think I need to explain again why it needs to be a part of the equation in an alternative to Development.  I will instead present why the Climate X includes dissolving a global sovereignty.

Let’s look at the last major decision made by our current global sovereign.  At the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) on Climate Change, a majority of the world agreed to action against the use of carbon emissions that would cap global temperature increase at 2 degrees celsius compared to the preindustrial era, and with a strong effort to keep that as low as 1.5 degrees celsius (Paris Agreement, 2015).  The problem with this agreement, and a global sovereign as a whole, is how when working on such a massive scale, decisions work slowly and only affect a sliver of the issue at a time.  Even ignoring the concept of intersectionality, climate change is result of much more than just carbon emissions.  Deforestation, agriculture, and the meat industry are just as large of contributors, but those are left out both because of how difficult they are to address, and how tied in they are with global economics and politics.  You can start to see with this that a global sovereign stifles change and protects its own interests.  If local autonomy was restored, communities with a care for their environment would more easily be able to make the changes appropriate in preserving it, and groups without a care for the environment would not be able to force the rest of the world into an unfair system that helps them sustain an unsustainable lifestyle.

Another issue with a global sovereign is that there is no way that it can hold all interests in mind at the same time.  This is where Development becomes very relevant.  Education is a large part of Development, but a globalized education system teaches from the perspective of the sovereign.  Our global education system is built on European rationality and objectivity.  History is the same across the world, regardless of where you are from.  This is especially difficult for marginalized groups within a given country.  According to a Kurdish news source called Rudaw, it is only now, following the 28th anniversary of the Anfal genocide, that the crime against the Kurdish people will be taught at the schools in the Kurdistan region (Rudaw, 2016).  This is great news for the education of the region, but shows how long it took to add the curriculum, and begs the question how much more has been forgotten throughout history.  In relation still to a global sovereign not being able to keep all interests in mind, the Development Project often pushes an economic development agenda on places that do not want them.  Even in Western countries, this formula of Development is not completely representative.  For example, in New York City the Movement for Justice in El Barrio has grown to 954 members since its founding in 2004, and has been driving an anti-gentrification movement in New York that continues to pick up steam. In a statement showing the value of autonomy in the movement, member Diana Vega stated “We believe that those who suffer injustice firsthand must design and lead their own struggles for justice” (Davies, 2016).

Many people argue that this description of a global system is not possible because societies do not move backwards.  To this I ask why finally dissolving the racial and gender issues tied up in western colonialism and adequately fixing climate change has to be seen as going backwards.  I think if we were able to value anything other than economic growth as a society, then finally solving the issues of injustice that plague our world system would in fact be seen as progress.  I would go as far to say it would the most ethical way to facilitate the broad social progress that is the goal of the Development Project.

Works Cited:

Conference of the Parties. Twenty-First Session. Adoption of the Paris Agreement. 11/30/2016, 12/11/2016.

Davies, Jessica. “Participatory Democracy Drives Anti-Gentrification Movement in New York’s El Barrio.” Truthout. 16 Apr. 2016. Web.

“Kurdish Children to Be Educated on Anfal Genocide.” Rudaw. 16 Apr. 2016. Web.

Wainwright, Joel, and Geoff Mann. “Climate Leviathan.” Antipode 45.1 (2012): 1-22. Web.


Education and Literacy Rates in Pakistan

Education is a right, not a privilege, yet in many places some cannot afford to get an education. In Pakistan today there is a 58% illiteracy rate and it has been consistent for the past two years. One of the main issues concerning Pakistan’s high illiteracy rates is its small budged for education coupled with education not being as high of a priority. While the government schools tend to be better quality, public schools in Pakistan tend to be lacking in basic resources such as electricity, water, and sanitation.   In addition there are even several unofficial ghost schools have formed. Many who dislike the conditions of public schools in Pakistan have nowhere to turn because private schools have steeper prices, which many people in Pakistan cannot afford. There is a significant disparity in areas with private schooling and in areas with public. Private schools are pretty much only in urban areas where a lot of the more wealthy people are located, whole public schools are located in rural areas where there are more impoverished people. Madrasas are also prominent. These are schools that provide a more Islamic, religious-based education and they are free, so they are more easily accessible for people who cannot afford to send their children to private school.

Above is an image of a ghost school in the province of Sindh, Pakistan.
Above is an image of a ghost school in the province of Sindh, Pakistan.

One issue that is a common trend in many countries is the high gender disparity in literacy with a significantly smaller literacy rate for females. In fact, in Pakistan the female literacy rate has even declined by 2% from 2012-13 while the male literacy rate has stayed the same. In some more rural, tribal areas in Pakistan women are strictly prohibited from getting an education on religious grounds. With social and cultural restrictions and a patriarchal society, women cannot receive the educations that they deserve. In addition, in poorer areas of Pakistan, often women cannot afford to buy sanitary pads if they have their periods, and therefore end up missing school because of it and sacrificing their educations.

Often people are scared to educate women, because along with education comes power. It gives people the power to question social structures and power dynamics. Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani woman dedicated to promoting education in Pakistan and ending the gender disparity in education once said, “Let us picks up our books and pencils. They are our most powerful weapons.” Education is a type of power that Pakistani people need in order to enact change.


Works Cited

Ahsan, S. (n.d.). Related Articles. Retrieved April 14, 2016, from

Haq, R. (2015, June 05). Education woes: Pakistan misses UN target with 58% literacy rate – The Express Tribune. Retrieved April 15, 2016, from

Illiteracy in Pakistan. (n.d.). Retrieved April 14, 2016, from

Mussadaq, M. (2011, July 20). Female illiteracy: 41% of Pakistani girls fail to complete primary school – The Express Tribune. Retrieved April 14, 2016, from

Saleem, M. (n.d.). The Development and State of the Art of Adult Learning. Retrieved April 14, 2016, from – Pacific/Pakistan.pdf


Blog 5: Solutions

The last blog… Climate change and the social inequality it brings about is a major issue in our world today. The solutions are out there and ideas are being conjured up, but it will for sure be a difficult process to accept and embrace. Many small scale projects are chipping away at the processes that are destroying our planet. This week I want to focus on one most of us are familiar with, the Leap Manifesto and possible solutions. The Leap Manifesto is a Canadian document that is calling to action radical restructuring of their economy as the use of fossil fuels comes to a close. Fossil fuels are a considerable greenhouse gas emitter and contribute to climate change in a noticeable amount. Extraction and processing of fossil fuels have disrupted the lives of many peoples while benefiting others in an unjust fashion. The release of the Leap Manifesto was during the time of a national election campaign and struck up a lot of discussion about its possibilities and future potentials.

With the Canadian election campaign focusing on the Leap Manifesto there is a large amount of media coverage on the issue and people’s ideas about it. The Canadian New Democratic Party (NDP) are the main supporters and are seriously debating and looking into the Leap Manifestos potential. An article in The Guardian stated, “If we act according to deep principles of justice, combatting climate change can simultaneously address many other problems: creating hundreds of thousands of good, clean jobs; implementing the land and treaty rights of Indigenous peoples; reducing racial and gender inequalities; welcoming far more refugees and migrants; and localizing agriculture so that people eat healthy” (NEWS) with regards to the acceptance of the manifesto and the NDP’s views. The manifesto was written by the people being impacted by climate change and recognize the social unjust that has come from it: labor unionists, migrant rights activists, feminists, indigenous leaders, environmentalists and many more isolated groups. A local Vancouver news article stated the implications with the Leap Manifesto in that it openly rejects pipelines which is an issue for the province of Alberta whose economy heavily relies on the use of pipelines. The article then points out the NDP’s defense for this struggle with the idea that, “A progressive reduction in our carbon footprint does not mean elimination of pipelines and fossil fuel production. It means we must develop them with lower emissions, water use and greater benefits for our population” (LOCAL NEWS). The attention the Leap Manifesto is getting on media sources and through political debates is important for spreading the awareness of solutions towards climate change and social inequality.

Naomi Klein is a social activist who also supports the Leap Manifesto and was one of the initiating signatories for the document release. Klein has done a lot of work with regards to climate change and social inequality including here book This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate. In this book Klein discusses how we need to deal with a “savagely unjust economic system” which has been the sole mover of climate change. She suggests we need, “game-changing [policy battles] that don’t merely aim to change laws but change patterns of thought” and, “a space for a full-throated debate about values—about what we owe to one another based on our shared humanity, and what it is that we collectively value more than economic growth and corporate profits” (BOOK). It’s the idea of respect for lives and our planet, the ideology of stewardship and unselfishness that will bring about a solution. The paper Global Inequality and Climate Change by Roberts concludes with the idea that, “issues of equity will have to be dealt with at the same time as the environment” and that, “equity and ecology must be dealt with together” (REPORT). These ideas are the frameworks for altering the minds of the people in control towards halting climate change and social inequality. The presence of the issue and distribution of these ideas to a large scale audience whether through news sources, presidential elections, books, or manifestos is a major step towards a solution by which we begin to understand the planet we share together and the respect for all lives with an unselfish view, neglecting capitalism.


Works Cited

Klein, Naomi. This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.

“Leap Manifesto Dominates National NDP Convention | News Talk 980 CKNW | Vancouver’s News. Vancouver’s Talk.” Leap Manifesto Dominates National NDP Convention | News Talk 980 CKNW | Vancouver’s News. Vancouver’s Talk. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Apr. 2016.

Lukacs, Martin. “The Leap Manifesto Opens Horizon for Bold New Politics in Canada | Martin Lukacs.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 15 Apr. 2016. Web. 16 Apr. 2016.

Roberts, J. Timmons. “Global Inequality and Climate Change.” Society & Natural Resources 14.6 (2001): 501-09. Web.


Final Post – Climate Change

I mistakenly thought that my last post was my concluding one, so this post will be one looking forward towards one of the greatest challenges we will face as a global community: climate change.

Climate change is an issue that threatens human health, the stability of nations, the stability of ecosystems and much more (McMichael 2013). The majority of the scientific community and many major players on a global scale have acknowledged these risks (McMichael 2013, USAID 2016, Davenport 2016, The Local 2015).

USAID has gotten involved and already has instituted programs to help prepare for the problems that have yet to come (USAID 2016). Like other sources, USAID encourages climate mitigation (USAID 2016, McMichael 2013). USAID has also advocated for the preservation of biodiversity, reforestation and securing land tenure rights to help preserve peoples’ livelihoods (USAID 2016).

But is this enough? Some remain skeptical (The Local 2015). In December of 2015, nations from all over the world met in Paris to negotiate some kind of climate agreement to reduce the future potential increase in temperature (The Local 2015, Davenport 2016). Although the climate talks in Paris were widely celebrated, there was still a lot left to be resolved (The Local 2015, Davenport 2016). The U.S. wanted to agreement to be completely voluntary so that the agreement didn’t have to be passed through Congress (The Local 2015). China was concerned about raising the quality of life for its developing nation while still meeting its carbon emissions reductions goals (The Local 2015). The negotiator present form India emphasized that whatever changes were proposed, they should be affordable so that all countries can meet their emissions reductions goals (The Local 2015).

It’s clear that creating an agreement was incredibly challenging (The Local 2015). Many feared a repeated of the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Talks that did not have any clear, established and agreed upon path forward (The Local 2015). The way all of these conflicts were solved was by offering countries the opportunity to update their emissions goals every five years (The Local 2015). Many countries fear that reducing or discouraging the use of fossil fuels will harm their economies (The Local 2015, Davenport 2016).

Many assume that reducing carbon emissions will reduce economic growth (Davenport 2016, The Local 2015). This assumption is logical since the U.S. began utilizing fossil fuels at the same time that it started to become a global player (Davenport 2016). However, in the last several years, more than twenty countries have shown that their rate of carbon pollution and rate of economic growth no longer directly correlate (Davenport 2016).

In the United States between 2000 and 2014, carbon dioxide emissions decreased 16% (Davenport 2016). Economic growth increased 9% (Davenport 2016).

Only 21 countries have achieved the same as the U.S. and almost 175 countries haven’t (Davenport 2016). GDP and carbon emissions still positively correlate on a global scale (Davenport 2016).

So what do we do about that? The Paris Climate talks are hoping for no more than a 2C increase in temperature (The Local 2015). Despite this, USAID and other organizations are encouraging preparation and mitigation (USAID 2016, McMichael 2013).

USAID has helped nearly a million people worldwide better manage natural resources in a more sustainable way (USAID 2016). They have also encouraged multiple countries in Africa to strengthen the way they protect land tenure so people have have security in their ability to access natural resources (USAID 2016). More specifically climate change related, USAID has a group of 20 countries working on a project to increase economic growth without increasing emissions (USAID 2016).

It’s clear that no one has come up with the answer to global climate change (McMichael 2013, USAID 2016, Davenport 2016, The Local 2015). However, many organizations are working to do something (McMichael 2013, USAID 2016, Davenport 2016, The Local 2015). Climate change will be a very challenging problem that poses a threat to not just our environment, but the very food on our plates and the stability of our nations (McMichael 2013, USAID 2016, Davenport 2016, The Local 2015). Climate change is one of the future issues we will have to face in International Development and we will have to do so collaboratively, as a compassionate global community (McMichael 2013, USAID 2016, Davenport 2016, The Local 2015).


Work Cited

McMichael, Anthony J. “Globalization, climate change, and human health.” New England Journal of Medicine 368.14 (2013): 1335-1343.

USAID. “Environment and Global Climate Change.” USAID. U.S. Agency for International Development, 21 Mar. 2016. Web. 14 Apr. 2016. <>. 

Davenport, Coral. “Can Economies Rise as Emissions Fall? The Evidence Says Yes.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 06 Apr. 2016. Web. 14 Apr. 2016. <>.

The Local. “After Paris Climate Accord – Now What?” The Local. The Local, 13 Dec. 2015. Web. 14 Apr. 2016. <>

AED: Agriculture, Environment, Development

What are the relationships between agriculture, the environment and development? What should be the relationships between agriculture, the environment and development? Development thinking has, for a long time, focused almost solely on economics. GDP per capita has been the standard measure of how developed a country is. Agriculture has been heavily influenced by this thinking, with the expansion of industrial agriculture owned by transnational corporations. This can increase agricultural productivity in the short term, but can also have negative environmental consequences, and negative effects on local populations. Recently there has been a movement towards taking into account environmental and social consequences in development thinking that are not necessarily connected to economic indicators.

The importance of agriculture in developing countries was highlighted recently by famine throughout Africa. Rains have failed and temperatures have risen, leaving millions without food from Ethiopia to South Africa. This is partly due to Climate Change, and also to a particularly strong el-nino (2016). In particular this has put into sharp contrast Ethiopia’s recent surge in GDP growth, with its ability to prevent famine (see my last post).

The Bill and Melinda Gates foundation is one organization that is influential in development thinking and practice. The foundation widely supports agriculture in developing countries. They especially focus on small farmers, and women, trying to target the most marginalized sections of society. Their stated goal is to “help all people lead healthy, productive lives.” This is one definition of development, and agriculture factors prominently in its achievement. The Gates Foundation specifically aims to increase the productivity of small farmers in an effort to bring prosperity to poor rural areas, and enable them to send their children to school. Their goal is to also do this in an environmentally friendly manner (2011). These appear to be laudable goals, that not many people would disagree with. However, many charities, including the Gates Foundation, have been criticized for not truly delivering on the improvements they say they will make. After completing a project and funding dries up, often the effects of that project dry up as well. In addition, the Gates Foundation mentions explicitly their funding of projects involving the research on and use of transgenic crops, which many environmental groups do not approve of.

Another viewpoint is through an academic and engineering lens. Sreekala Bajwa is a professor at North Dakota State University who is an agricultural engineer. He advocates an approach called precision agriculture. This approach requires the studying of specific environmental conditions on any land being farmed, as well as increased communication between farmers in the same area. This system allows farmers to know exactly how much irrigation, fertilizer, pesticides, etc. to use. According to Bajwa this will maximize production while reducing the carbon footprint and other negative consequences of agriculture (2015). However, many poor small farmers, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, would have difficulty affording any of the technology or materials required to use this technique, and environmentalists often disagree with the use of any chemical fertilizers or pesticides.

In contrast to this view that agriculture is primarily a scientific and engineering issue, Annalies Zoomers, a professor of International Development, and George Schoneveld, a Scientist at the Center for International Forestry Research in Nairobi, view agriculture in its place in the middle of social, political and economic practices. They advocate Inclusive Green Growth (IGG). Under IGG governments would play a bigger role in ensuring private investment, especially from transnational corporations (TNCs) would benefit everyone, as well as stopping land grabbing. Governments would concentrate more on aiding small farmers, including building infrastructure that would benefit everyone. Food should be produced by and for the local community and only exported when there is a surplus. The authors argue that these changes are necessary to achieve IGG, which has failed in the recent past due to the diminishing of the state and the power of the private sector. One main challenge that the authors admit is that in order to make these changes, a strong government is necessary, and strong governments are lacking in many places, especially Africa (2015). There are also questions about how productive agriculture can be without significant technological improvements. IGG extends to much more than just agriculture, though. It includes all natural resources and environmental protections. One recent innovation in attempting to achieve IGG gets around the troubles experienced by African governments. A group of Zambian villagers is suing the TNC Vedanta for polluting their water through mining operations…in London. Vedanta is based in London, and although its transgression was perpetrated in Zambia it might be held to account in its hometown (Vidal 2016). There are precedents for this in Europe, but so far none in America.

Incorporating social and environmental factors, such as food security, in development is a contentious issue. Recently there have been many ideas put forward, some of which I have written about such as low-carbon growth, green economy, agroecology and IGG. It is clear that humanity as a whole needs to increase agricultural production, but we also need to decrease our negative effects on the environment and decrease inequality. Treating development as purely economical and relying on free markets has not worked for us so far. It should be acceptable for states, especially wealthy states, to not have continuous economic growth. Food security should be more important than economic growth. Economic growth is not desirable if it only benefits a small percentage of a population and destroys the environment. Consumption should not be the ideal of a society. In order to feed everyone on Earth we need to waste less food. We need to improve scientific knowledge and technology related to agriculture. We need to promote social well-being as much as economic development. We need to support governments who will do what is best for everyone, and not special interests. Most of all we need to think to the future so that we will be able to continue to survive in the long term.


Bajwa, S. (2015). Precision Agriculture and International Development. Engineering & Technology for a Sustainable World. Retrieved from:

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (2011). Agricultural Development: Strategy Overview. Global Development Program. Retrieved from:

IPPMedia (2016). ‘Little Boy’ devouring African Food. IPPMedia. Retrieved from:

Schoneveld, G, & Zoomers, A. (2015). Natural resource privatisation in Sub-Saharan Africa and the challenges for inclusive green growth. International Development Planning Review. Retrieved from:

Vidal, J. (2016). Mining Giant Vedanta Argues UK Court Should not Hear Zambia Pollution Case. The Guardian. Retrieved from:

Consumers vs. the Consumed: Oh So Benevolent Land Grabbing


Land grabbing, a hot new development trend is the rage in developing countries.  Spreading advanced and better agricultural methods to improve the well being and wealth of all those in need is without a doubt the most benevolent gesture ever made by wealthy governments and corporations.  Using their superior knowledge, the civilized person is sharing their privilege with peoples across the globe.

Yikes, writing that made me feel like a terrible person.  I mean who actually believes that crap?

Oh yeah that’s right, countless national governments and an expanding list of corporations.

Before I get into the juice of this blog post and dissect what I have said thus far, I want to clarify that land grabbing may have developed a slightly new connotation, but is in no way a new development concept.  Land grabbing spans back centuries and has occurred across the globe.  Most notably during the age of imperialism when Western powers seized control of land on almost every continent.  Even here in the United States, a country that prides itself as being the land of the free and the home of the brave, over 1.5 billion acres were taken from America’s indigenous peoples by treaty and executive order (Ehrenfreund). Now over 300 million people live in the Untied States with millions claiming right to private property that they can call their own.  Do we, as Americans, even have the right to call this land ours?

This is a question that can be asked of any national government or corporation, which seizes control of land once controlled by local peoples.  Do they have a right?  What are their justifications?  Do they realize the implications of their actions?

The modern concept of land grabbing refers to “the purchase or long- term lease of vast tracts of land from mostly poor, developing countries by wealthier, food-insecure nations as well as private entities to produce food for export” (Daniel 1).  The economic crash in 2008 caused a spike in global food prices and the emergence of the modern day concept of land grabbing.  Initially the concept was seen as a way for food-insecure nations to develop a reliable food source, but it quickly became apparent that the primary driving factors of land grabs were natural resource allocation and profit gains.  Land grabbers come not for marginalized land, but land rich in nutrients.  Beyond displacing local farmers land grabbers use methods I have mentioned in previous blogs, such as GMO seeds and monoculture, which further hurt the environment and small farmers.

As with any development concept there are positives and negatives.  Yes, there are legitimate arguments for land grabs and there are circumstances in which local peoples benefit from them; however, these positives are uncommon.  Residents in Neemana, a small farming village in northeastern India, have willingly sold most of their agricultural land to a private corporation with the promise of jobs, infrastructure, and community development (Lakshmi 1).  While this village may see the benefits they were offered many people in the same situation elsewhere will not.  False promises are the fuel that keeps the land grab concept going.  As long as people have hope of a better future compliance is easy.

If people refuse to comply with land grabbers demands their land can be taken by force both legally and illegally.  People are pushed off of their farms and in many circumstances left jobless with no reliable source of income.  A Transnational Institution policy report found that even those who are incorporated into the new workforce, generated by large farms, are often left to struggle on their own because their voices are squashed and their labor is exploited (TNI 1).

The important take away here is that regardless of whether or not local peoples comply with land grabbers, the belief remains that local people need to change their agricultural practices and develop society.  This belief asserts that there is one way to life, the Western way.  Who are Western’s to say that the culture of another people is undeveloped and therefore inferior to Western culture?

Rather than coming in, grabbing land, and telling locals that all is for the best, land grabbers should be incorporating the voices and wants of those in the community.  “The public, and particularly the people likely to be affected, must be given due opportunities of information and hearings, and allowed to examine all aspects of the project, including the ‘public purpose’, and also the possibilities of achieving the same objectives through non-displacing or less displacing alternatives” (Saxena 1).  Land grabbing can be beneficial towards the community, but so can other development measures that place more power in the hands of local farmers.

This is where consumers join the land grabbing story line.  While consumers cannot directly control the food that appears in grocery stores they can choose where to shop.  The reason grocery stores have such a wide variety of food is because the food comes from farms around the globe.  The odds that the food comes from small farmers are slim, more likely the food comes from large monoculture agribusiness that often participate in land grabbing.  Consumers in developed nations of the privilege of variety, but we need to wake up and realize that we play a role in land grabbing, our privilege allows us to consume small farmers around the globe.



Daniel, Shepard. “Land grabbing and potential implications for world food security.” Sustainable Agricultural Development. Springer Netherlands, 2011. 25-42.

Ehrenfreund, Max. “Watch the United States’ 238-year Land Grab from Native Americans, in 87 Seconds.” Know More. The Washington Post, 19 June 2014. Web. 8 Apr. 2016.

Lakshmi, Rama. “High-Tech Revolution Remaking Rural India.” Washington Post. The Washington Post Foreign Service, 01 Oct. 2007. Web. 8 Apr. 2016.

Saxena, NC. “Solution Lies between NAC and Govt’s ‘CAN'” Hindustantimes. Hindustan Times, 28 June 2011. Web. 8 Apr. 2016.

TNI. “The Global Land Grab.” Policy File. Transnational Institution, 11 Oct. 2012. Web. 8 Apr. 2016.

The Chicago Teachers Union and the Global Fight for Public Education

Rahm Emmauel. Yes, he is as evil as he looks. – Image from Front Page Mag

Last week, my friend Kyle and I chose to drive to Chicago for the one-day, “illegal” Chicago Teacher Union (CTU) strike on Friday, April 1. Although the absurdity of spending 15 hours in a car each way (yes, 30 hours!) with only one other driver and just over a day in the city was alluring (think of all the hilarious stories we would have!), the central reason Kyle and I chose to go to Chicago was for the magnitude of the strike.

The 25,000 member CTU has been at the forefront of the fight for public education since 2012, when the union participated in a 10 day strike for public schools. The teachers’ struggles come in response to neoliberal education agenda reforms driven by Chicago’s Democratic Mayor, Rahm Emmanuel, and Governor Bruce Rauner, in collusion with private enterprises and the banks.  The policies pushed forward by the two, and which I recognize as “neoliberal,” include privatization, commodification, and competition in public education. In other words, neoliberal reforms in the city attempt to bring the mass enterprise of public (i.e., publicly owned and managed) education into the market system. I’ll outline the policies below.

Chicago Public Schools (CPS) is currently in the midst of a $1.5 billion deficit. Although the deficit sounds dire, teachers claim, and rightly so, that the deficit is a manufactured crises; a result of the misused of tax funds, low tax rates on business and high income earners, predatory bank lending, and the complete disregard for the crises by city and state to resolve the issue (CTU 2015). But why has CPS and Rahm ignored such a devastating crises? Parents, students and teachers surely have raised a ruckus about the lack of funds. The goal is to create a CPS  “Shock Doctrine”. When a crises situation is created, Rahm and his appointed school board are able to label CPS as “failing” schools, and promote an alternative, private, “more efficient” model for public schools. This has played out primarily through the closing of public schools and the proliferation of charter schools, privately managed (i.e., undemocratic) and publicly funded schools. Schools closing and private schools openings have disproportionately taken place in low-income neighborhoods of color, and effected elementary schools. These schools also have the highest percentage of teachers of color (primarily black teachers) and women. Thus, school actions are clearly gendered, racialized, and drawn upon class lines (Caref et al 2012). Charters schools are often non-union, have no community accountability, increase school segregation, and often have curriculum focused on standardize testing.

Most recently, Rahm proposed the layoff of 5,000 CTU teachers in order to  push through an increase in teacher contributions to pension funds in the current CTU-CPS contract negotiations. The increase would equate to a 7 percent teacher pay cut (Colson 2015). Cuts in the pension make individual teachers solely responsible for retirement and reducing the state’s obligation to public sector workers. The pension cuts fall within the context of the Illinois state budget “crises”. The state has yet to pass a budget for 2016, due to the Governors refusal to remove mass cuts to public services, pensions, and restrictions of union rights. 

So Chicago teachers chose to strike in the midst of contract negotiations with CPS, to pressure the Governor to pass a budget which did not include mass cuts to public services, and the subsequent privatization of these services. Additionally, CTU encouraged every worker in Chicago to withhold their labor and pressure the Governor as well. Firstly, it is illegal for a union to strike during contract negotiations until impasse has been declared in bargaining, as it is illegal to strike to pressure state government or engage in a solidarity strike. This level of labor militancy is unprecedented in the United States and shows a new level of class militancy in Chicago as citizens strike and stand in solidarity with CTU for public services, which the 1 percent who wishes to privatize and profit off of. Chicago’s working class offensive became strikingly (no pun intended) clear with the number of unions and community organizations who expressed solidarity with CTU, and the tens-of-thousands of people who marched together in the rain on April 1.

But why are 25,000 striking teachers in Chicago relevant to international development? Besides that fact that the action is astounding and unprecedented (as if I haven’t expressed that enough. I’m a fan!), the Chicago strike is in the belly of the beast, not just the United States, but the city of Chicago where Milton Freeman and a number of other economists helped make popular neoliberal ideology. When Chicago teachers struggle over pensions, school privatizations and racial and class injustice, they directly challenge neoliberal ideology globally. Much of the knowledge production that informs the development policy of the World Bank, IMF, and many Western NGOs originates in the global North. Thus, when CTU strikes, neoliberal ideology which restructures developing countries is directly challenged in the home country of development agencies, as well as bodies like the IMF and World Bank which the U.S. holds considerable control.

Secondly, due to the prevalence of neoliberal ideology in development practice, there are a number of similarities between education in Chicago and abroad. Chile provides one of the starkest examples. Neoliberalism’s “testing ground” in the 1980s, Chile has more private (charter-esque) schools than public schools, emphasizes school competition like a business model, a distressing levels of school segregation (Cabalin 2012). Neoliberal ideology is also seen in the World Bank’s “Education Strategy for 2020”. The Strategy’s policy brief emphasizes the participation of the private sector in education, and suggests more community run education programs. The implications of community education is that the Bank disregards the responsibility of states to provide public education, and opens room for more private sector involvement to a public right.

The CTU strike represents not only a struggle over the immediate needs of Chicago students and teachers, but a struggle over the hegemonic ideology used in development policy. When neoliberal education reforms face strong resistance in the United States, it becomes more difficult to apply this ideology abroad. Secondly, the struggle of Chicago teachers shows the deepening of neoliberal policy in the United States which has devastated developing countries globally. The increase in struggle clearly shows that people globally are upset with neoliberal development. If teachers in Chicago can adopt an international outlook which connects neoliberal policies abroad with those in the states, linkages between these seemingly separate movements can begin to challenge and dismantle the ideology which has privatized and commodified public education, opening new opportunities for rebuilding our public systems.


Cabalin, Cristian. 2012. “Neoliberal Education and Student Movements in Chile: inequalities and malaise.” Policy Futures in Education 10(2).

Caref, Carole, Sarah Hainds, Kurt Hilgendorf, Pavlyn Jankov and Kevin Russell. 2012. “The Black and White of Education in Chicago’s Public Schools.” CTU, Novermber 30.

Colson, Nicole. 2015. “Rahm threatens mass teacher layoffs.” Socialist Worker, September 30.

CTU. 2015. “Broke On Purpose: Board of Ed continues to peddle budget myths to justify its starving classrooms.” CTU, May 5.

Dimaggio, Anthony. “Illinois’ Manufactured Budget Crises.” Counter Punch, February 11.

Robertson, Susan. 2007. ” ‘Remaking the World’: Neoliberalism and the Transformation of Education and Teachers’ Labour.” Center for Globalisation, Education and Societies. 

World Bank. 2011. “Learning for All: Investing in People’s Knowledge and Skills to Promote Development – World Bank Group Education Strategy 2020.” World Bank Group.