GMOs as an International Development Tool

*Trigger warning: This article briefly mentions suicide as relevant to this topic*

Bt Cotton. What does that make you think of?

In the event you’re not familiar with it, Bt Cotton is a type of genetically modified crop (Bharathan 2000, Sengupta 2016, Manjunath 2011, Bhagwat 2016). Bt Cotton is your typical cotton plant with one exception; it can produce its own pesticide (Bharathan 2000, Federation of American Scientists 2011). The pesticide that Bt crop varieties produce is a type of organic, bacteria based pesticide that was sprayed on crops for decades before the crop was genetically modified to produce its own pesticide (Federation of American Scientists 2011).

GMO crops have always welcomed controversy (Bharathan 2000, Sengupta 2006, Manjunath 2011, Bhagwat 2016, Parrett 2015, Federation of American Scientists 2011). But GMO crops aren’t all evil; having Bt Cotton produce its own pesticide greatly reduces the amount of pesticide that washes into water ways (Federation of American Scientists 2011, Manjunath 2011). There are two distinct GMO camps: those who see potential in GMOs and those who see fear in the very word (Parrett 2015, Bharathan 2000, Sengupta 2006, Manjunath 2011, Bhagwat 2016, Federation of American Scientists 2011).

Many blame Bt crops for a recent spike in suicide in rural areas of india (Sengupta 2006). However, the issues that lead to the deaths of these farmers stretch far beyond GMO crops (Sengupta 2006). India is a rapidly industrializing country and its agricultural industry has been shifting as a result (Sengupta 2006). Additionally, in the three seasons before the suicide spike, there were two droughts and a large flood which interrupted three seasons of crops (Sengupta 2006). Perhaps that was the true reason for this spike in suicides (Sengupta 2006).

Some even say that Bt crops save farmers money because they don’t have to separately purchase pesticide to spray on their crops (Federation of American Scientists 2011, Manjunath 2011). A report conducted by AgBioWorld concluded that using Bt cotton actually increases farmer profits (Manjunath 2011). Additionally, according to The Times of India as recently as March of 2016, prices for GM seed have been continually dropping year after year which has made farming financially easier for farmers in India (Bhagwat 2016).

After consumer outrage over safety concerns, AgBioWorld (a group of researchers from Tuskegee University in Alabama) set out to research potential safety consequences related to a plant that produces its own pesticide (Manjunath 2011). This report concluded that there is no scientific basis to claims of threats to consumer health and wellbeing from Bt cotton (Manjunath 2011). The author also concluded that Bt cotton has more benefits to offer than most are willing to acknowledge; like less pesticide run-off and increasing farmer profits (Manjunath 2011, Federation of American Scientists 2011). This fact alines with recent news that Bt cotton seed prices have been dropping season after season in India, making life easier for farmers (Bhagwat 2016).

So why are people so critical of GM crops? Bt cotton is cheaper and easier for farmers to use than typical seed (Manjunath 2011, Bhagwat 2016). Bt cotton has passed every safety test and shows no threat to consumer health or safety (Manjunath 2011). Bt pesticide does not bioaccumulate in the environment (Manjunath 2011). Bt is an organic, bacteria based pesticide to begin with (Federation of American Scientists 2016). GM crops also offer some environmental salvation since they help us use fewer resources and grow more crops on less land (Foundation of American Scientists 2011, Manjunath 2016).

pic-bt-cotton-punjab-farmer

Link to image

So again, why are people still upset?

GMO crops are a little scary and they are the stuff of bad science fiction movies. In reality, one report even goes as far calling risks associated with Bt crops “imaginary” (Manjunath 2011). If anything, some GMO activism has harmed some economies and families (Parrett 2015). Activists in Mexico have banned the growth of GM corn in their country (Parrett 2015). Now corn must be imported into the country at a higher cost to communities (Parrett 2015).

Our planet is at risk of more and more climate events that will disrupt agriculture as we know it (Parrett 2015). These climate events subsequently will effect food availability, especially in the global South (Parrett 2015). To make that problem even more daunting, population continues to grow (Parrett 2015). GMO crops offer a way to resolve this problem because we can grow more food with less (Parrett 2015).

Many are quick to be critical because GM crops are so easy for the media and others to demonize (Parrett 2015). With a growing population and an ever more turbulent environment that could result in more severe food security and hunger issues, we may not have a choice but to embrace GM crops (Parrett 2015).

Work Cited

Bhagwat, Ramu. “Big Relief for Farmers as Bt Cotton Seed Prices Cut.”IndiaTimes. The Times of India City, 12 Mar. 2016. Web. 30 Mar. 2016. <http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/nagpur/Big-relief-for-farmers-as-Bt-cotton-seed-prices-cut/articleshow/51365457.cms>.

Sengupta, Somini. “On India’s Farms, a Plague of Suicide.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 18 Sept. 2006. Web. 30 Mar. 2016. <http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/19/world/asia/19india.html?_r=1&>.

Manjunath, T. M. “Safety of Bt-Cotton: Facts Allay Fear.” AgBioWorld. AgBioWorld, 2011. Web. 30 Mar. 2016. <http://www.agbioworld.org/biotech-info/articles/biotech-art/safety-bt-cotton.html>.

Bharathan, Geeta. “Bt-cotton in India: Anatomy of a controversy.” CURRENT SCIENCE-BANGALORE- 79.8 (2000): 1067-1075.

Federation of American Scientists. “Bt-Corn: The Biggest GE Crop.” Bt-Corn. Federation of American Scientists, 2011. Web. 31 Mar. 2016. <http://fas.org/biosecurity/education/dualuse-agriculture/2.-agricultural-biotechnology/bt-corn.html>.

Parrett, Tom. “GMO Scientist Could Save The World From Hunger, If We Let Them.” Newsweek. Newsweek, 21 May 2015. Web. 31 Mar. 2016. <http://www.newsweek.com/2015/05/29/gmo-scientists-could-save-world-hunger-if-we-let-them-334119.html>.

Solidarity not Charity: A Look at Transnational Student/Labor Activism

Students at the University of Washington protest unsafe working conditions in Bangladeshi garment factories as a part of the United Students Against Sweatshops’ “End Death Traps” campaign (http://bit.ly/1Thb2xy).

In my introductory blog post, I noted I would focus on “development from the bottom up,” coming from citizens, not undemocratic NGOs, state-run aid agencies, or Bretton Woods institutions. The self-determination of communities in underdeveloped countries can take power to dictate their own futures. But it would be naive to pretend this type of organizing is always possible when the working and agrarian classes in these countries are subject to unequal global power relations that clearly benefit Western corporations. So what does it take to help challenge these unequal global systems? One possibility is transnational student/labor solidarity.

Transnational student solidarity has taken a number of forms in the United States. From the New Left’s solidarity with anti-colonial revolutions in the 1960s and 1970s; organizing against both South African Apartheid and the current Israeli occupation of Palestine; and, transnational student/labor solidarity in the 1990s and 2000s. Student/labor organizing of this period arose simultaneously with the anti-globalization movement as a way to support workers in newly exploited economies by either mitigating the effects of globalization or struggling directly against the corporations which drive the global system. In this post, I will focus on two differing approaches to student/labor solidarity in the 2000s by United Students for Fair Trade (USFT) and United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS).

Formed with the help of FairTradeUSA , an organization which helps certify fair trade farms and companies, in 2003, USFT was built as a student organization to help strengthen the growing fair trade movement in the United States. The goal of the fair trade movement was, and still is, to have corporations from the United States source a percentage of their production from small scale cooperative farms in the global South. These farms create more just living and working conditions than large scale agriculture. At the time, UFTC and FairTradeUSA worked together to help pressure brands to agree to source their products from fair trade producers, and in turn, when/if corporations agreed to the terms, a corporation’s product would receive the “Fair Trade Certified” (FTC) label (Wilson and Curnow 2013).

The other half of the USFT/FairTradeUSA organizing focuses on promoting the Fair Trade brand to consumers and Universities in the United States. The idea was that consumers would not only purchase Fair Trade products, but become politicized by choosing the more “just” option.  This is where it gets messy. In order to politicize these consumers and create a larger market share for fair trade farmers, USFT needed to convince consumers to buy products which were FTC. Thus, a large part of student organizing focused on building the Fair Trade brand names.  FairTradeUSA, a private, unaccountable NGO, appropriated student solidarity with farm workers to build the FTC, and helped corporations profit from their “fairwashed” products. In 2005, FairTradeUSA, asked students to encourage consumers to buy products from companies like McDonalds, Walmart, and Coke, which sold FTC products. Students claimed these companies had been involved in human rights violations abroad, and had (and still have) inhumane working conditions in the United States. Students did not feel marketing for Walmart helped the fair trade cause (Wilson and Curnow 2013).

The X-Files the x files frustrated annoyed x files

USFT faced the contradictions of working with the undemocratic NGO, FairTradeUSA,  which profited off the Fair Trade label, ignoring whether it benefited farmers in the global South. Neither students, nor farmers, had a say in which corporations earned the label or the terms of FTC conditions. In 2011, students were so fed up they declared a boycott of all FTC products, claiming FTC products were illegitimate and not representative of an authentic fair trade movement. A central demand of the boycott was to make the majority of FairTradeUSA’s board of directors ‘farmers, producers and workers, community and student activists, academics, and 100 percent Fair Trade businesses’ (USFT 2011; Wilson and Curnow 2013). FairTradeUSA has yet to hand control to these groups, thus leaving the “fair trade” brand in private hands. Today, USFT works with Equal Exchange to source fair trade bananas, and is organizing against the Trans Pacific Partnership.

The USFT case provides a lesson to student activists engaging in transnational labor solidarity. The importance of democracy in any organization is clearly central to developing effective, representative campaigns. Secondly, the organizing shows that commodification cannot occur with development from below, because commodities require that someone profits. And most importantly, USFT’s organizing shows the necessity of centralizing workers/farmers in any solidarity campaign to maintain workers/farmers interest.

A second example, which is both democratic and centralizes worker organizing, is the work done by

United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS), an democratic organization which centralizes workers, provides a second example of transnational solidarity.

Formed in 1997, USAS grew out of the anti-globalization movement with the objective of supporting workers  subject to sweatshop working conditions in underdeveloped countries. Many of the companies who subcontract their production to sweatshops also profit from lucrative contracts with universities in the United States. The strategy behind USAS’ “International Solidarity Campaigns” is to use students’ unique position to pressure brands through universities by cutting contracts when workers report sweatshop conditions, “such as poverty wages, forced overtime, sexual harassment, union busting, and health and safety violations,” in global factories (USAS 2015). This organizing then links with workers struggling on the ground for better conditions through workers centers, unions, or NGOs. In this way, “transnational alliances enable [multiple] groups to exert leverage over the various links in the commodity chain” (Cravey 2004); students threaten the the legitimacy of brand names (Ibid.), while workers pressure brands in factories. In this sense, students provide leverage and make space for worker to define their labor conditions.

Workers Rights Consortium (WRC) acts as the intermediary body between USAS organizers and workers in the factory. As an independent observer of factory conditions, the WRC helps school administrators “sign codes of conduct for the producers of apparel bearing university logos” (Silvey 2013). Through years of struggle, USAS locals have pressured 183 universities (including Clark) to sign on to the WRC. By signing this agreement universities financially support WRC factory observations to prevent inhumane working conditions, and enable international solidarity around factory working conditions. The WRC is made up of a 15 person democratic governing body; USAS students, national and international labor organizers and NGOs, and affiliates of university administration. Additionally, a much larger advisory board, including national and international labor organizers and academics, help WRC organizers develop more inclusive strategy with factory workers.

So unlike FairTradeUSA’s undemocratic structure and self-interest in profiting off the FTC, which  students and farmers could not hold accountable, the WRC is built upon a foundation of student/worker democracy and has a self-interest in worker justice.

Multiple spaces of struggle can occur along the supply chain and empower students and workers at the global and local scale. For students fight exploitative conditions within university contracts i.e., subcontracting to global brands. The consciousness developed through sweatshop solidarity  also enables students to connect these conditions to low-wage workers on campus. For workers, the struggle is against the exploitative and inhumane conditions of the subcontracted factory i.e.the immediate conditions of their day to day lives. On a larger scale,  solidarity among students, workers, and labor NGOs enables transnational struggle against the proliferation of low-wage production. Global exploitative conditions necessitate global networks of struggle. The development of transnational resistance has the power to challenge neoliberal hegemony that is not possible when workers or students organize in isolated spaces.

The student/WRC/worker organizing model has resulted in sizable material gains for subcontracted workers in underdeveloped countries. First, as stated above, USAS has forced 183 universities, and the brands that make these universities’ logos, to agree to WRC investigations. Furthermore, Student solidarity helped Guatemalan workers win the first ever union contract in a maquila in the late 1990s (Cravey 2004); in 2010, USAS and the Honduran CGT [General Workers Central, a union] won a settlement with Nike, who agreed to pay $1.5 million in severance and a year of health insurance, plus hiring priority for 1,800 Honduran workers when Nike left the factory (Jack 2010); and in 2012, USAS and Indonesian workers pressured Adidas to pay $1.8 million in severance to 1,300 fired workers in Jakarta, Indonesia (Kong and Ortiz 2013). Most recently, USAS has been involved in organizing with Bangladeshi garment workers who face astonishingly dangerous garment factory conditions. In recent years, workers have experienced devastating, and preventable factory fires and collapses. One of the worst and most well known being the Rana Plaza collapse which killed more than 1,100 workers and injured more than 2,000 workers (Parveen 2014). From 2013-2015, USAS pressured brands to sign  the Accord for Fire and Safety, a binding agreement which allowed the WRC, local unions, and workers centers to take part in investigating unsafe factories and recognizing workers’ rights to refuse entry to unsafe factories (Rahman 2013). The fact that workers have a voice in the accord’s decision making process is an unprecedented win for Bangladeshi workers (Ibid). Additionally, USAS has played a pivotal role in forcing brands sourcing from Rana Plaza to pay compensation for workers and their families. The VF Corporation, which owns 30 brands such as, The Children’s Place  and Jansport,  refused to give to the fund (Arria 2015). Through student protest and occupations, USAS was able to force the Children’s Place alone to give $2 million (Shestack 2015).

A photo of the Rana Plaza disaster – Google Images.

USAS student/labor solidarity has been effective in pressuring brands to create more just working conditions and be held accountable for firing workers or mass murders. Despite large and amazing gains, the model has yet to create new opportunities for workers who don’t rely on employment from transnational corporations for Western consumption. James Heintz helps provide a broader analyses to address poverty and inhumane conditions in underdeveloped countries. Heintz notes, workers in developing countries don’t just need better working conditions, but “more and better jobs” which offer a number of high paying employment opportunities, not just  jobs from a single industry (2004). Heintz suggest that the anti-sweatshop movement can’t solely focus on immediate working conditions at the point of production. Instead, worker movements must address macroeconomic policies, such as social security protections, which extended to all people, not just those employed by a specific brand or in a specific industry (Ibid). This critique can also be applied to USFT’s work, which only focuses on creating market share for cooperative farmers. I think Heintz’s critique helps point towards a future for the anti-sweatshop movement. Yes, international labor solidarity must help workers struggle for broader social security services, if that is what workers want. But the only way to achieve these policies is through movement organizing. Transnational solidarity helps make space for worker organizing in underdeveloped countries. Organizing begins on the factory floor, but with solidarity, can grow and gain strength to impact macroeconomic policies. The Bangladeshi state’s response to factory collapses thus far has shown worker’s ability to make drastic changes in an industry.

International solidarity is necessary in combating the proliferation of inhumane working conditions globally, and building development based on justice. USFT and USAS have shown two strategies for helping further the struggles of workers and farmers in underdeveloped countries. USFT’s organizing focused on creating a larger market share for FTC  brands. But as we saw, this campaign was wrapped up in the commodification of student activism and worker conditions by building the FTC brand name. The case highlights the importance of focusing on worker struggle, instead of attempting to address issues of uneven development via further consumption. The USAS case highlights the importance of student/worker coordination in supporting worker struggles on the ground via international solidarity. This model strengthens individual student and worker struggles locally against exploitative conditions and privatization, while fighting neoliberalism globally through networks of students, workers and democratic NGOs. Thus, coordination, solidarity, and accountability provide a model for engaging in transnational organizing. Lastly, USAS’s model helps make space for workers to further their organizing and define their countries own development path with the strength of growing organizations. The continued struggle of workers and growing solidarity abroad could enable further worker involvement in deciding the fate of their future.

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In the interest of transparency, I myself am a member of USAS and help run a USAS local on Clark’s campus called “Activists United”. Get in touch if your interested in local and global labor solidarity! Check out local USAS efforts near you.

References

Arria, Michael. 2015. “Students Ask Why JanSport Parent Company Won’t Sign Bangladesh Worker Safety Agreement.” In These Time, May 15.

Cravey, Altha. 2004. “Students and the Anti-Sweatshop Movement.” Antipode 36(2).

Heintz, James. 2004. “Beyond Sweatshops: Employment, Labor Market Security and Global Inequality.” Antipode 36(2).

Jack. 2010. “Victory! Nike ‘Just Pays Is’; Students and Garment Workers Beat Sportswear Giant!” USAS.org, July 26. http://justpayit.usas.org/2010/07/26/nike-just-pays-it/.

Kong, Lingran and Mark Ortiz. 2013. “Victory in Nicaraguan Adidas Factory As Adiddas Garment Workers Stage Global Protest.” USAS.org, November 8. http://usas.org/tag/adidas/.

Parveen, Shahnaz. 2014. “Rana Plaza Factory Collapse Survivors Struggle One Year On.” BBC, April 23. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-27107860.

Rahman, Fazlur Md. 2013. “Trade Unions Vital for the Safety Accords to Succeed: Scott Nova of Workers Rights Consortium Says.” The Daily Star, August, 23. http://www.thedailystar.net/news/trade-unions-vital-for-the-safety-accord-to-succeed.

Shestack, Miriam. 2015. “On 2-Year Anniversary of Rana Plaza Factory Collapse, Activists Announce Major Victory for Victims.” In These Times, April 24.

Silvey, Rachel. 2013. “Geographies of Anti-Sweatshop Activism.” Antipode 36(2).

USAS. N.a. “Garment Worker Solidarity.” Last modified 2015. http://usas.org/campaigns/garment-worker-solidarity/.

Wilson, Bradley and Joe Curnow. 2013. “Solidaritytm: Student Activism, Affective Labor, and the Fair Trade Campaign in the United States.” Antipode 45(3).

Workers Rights Consortium. N.a. “Governance.” Last Modified N.a. http://www.workersrights.org/about/govern.asp.

Co-operatives: A Key to Just Global Development

Cooperatives have recently become the hot topic of economic development and sustainability in the United States. Many of us have visited food co-ops, or may even be members of “cooperatives,” like REI. This is especially relevant for those of us in Worcester who have seen the growth of new cooperatives and subsequent benefits for workers, members and the broader community. But why are cooperatives also relevant to international development, and what is it about cooperatives that help individuals and communities? Surely corporate, “REI style” cooperatives aren’t the answer to help decrease poverty in the Global South, right? I truly hope not.  I’ll be focusing on international co-op development and the multiple approaches to co-ops in “development” projects.

First, let’s outline the seven basic cooperative principles (VAWC.com):

  1. Voluntary and open co-op membership
  2. Democratic control (one member, one vote)
  3. Member economic participation
  4. Autonomy and interdependence
  5. Education, training and information for members, managers and employees
  6. Co-operation among co-operatives
  7. Concern for community

So to put these principles simply, a cooperative is a democratically run enterprise which shares its profits and other benefits with that membership. Many cooperatives have a democratically elected board, member owners who may purchase goods from a cooperative, and workers who provide the labor power and also have democratic control. I would argue that the democratic voice workers have in the cooperative is what differentiates a corporate style cooperative like REI, from what I would call a “true” cooperative which benefits both workers and members. These cooperatives can take many forms, including manufacturing, agricultural production, and credit unions.

There has been a notable increase in the focus of co-op development globally in the past ten years. As a response to the global economic crises in 2007-2008, the UN General Assembly declared 2012 the international year of co-operatives (Mills and Davies 2012). The hopes are that expanding co-operative development can help bring about less global inequality and increase democratic practices in society (Mill and Davies 2012). Then in 2012, the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA), a 289 member cooperative alliance which spans across 95 countries, declared 2010-2020 the “Co-operative Decade”. The goal for the decade is for policy makers to acknowledge co-operatives as the “leader in economic, social and environmental sustainability,” and focus on co-op development as a primary component of economic development.  Secondly, the ICA wishes to deepen existing international co-op networks and establish types of solidarity economies which aid independent co-ops and help create new co-ops through these networks (Mill and Davies 2012).

The benefits of existing co-ops thus far have been notable. Research has shown that co-operatives have helped small scale farmers in negotiations for farming supplies through their collective strength, expanded access to financial services for low-income communities and expanded access to water and electricity to low-income people globally (UKaid 2010). But although co-ops have helped marginalized people globally, co-op expansion still occurs under the same capitalist development framework. ILO Recommendation 193, in support of cooperatives, noted to governments ‘that pursuing [a cooperative] agenda does not mean pleading for special treatment, subsidies or favors,” from governments (Mill and Davies 2013). Nor is there special protection recommended for cooperatives in relation to other privately owned capitalist firms. How are small scale farmers expected to compete with transnational corporations without special government protection? Why shouldn’t co-ops receive preferential treatment if benefit the collective good and not private profit?

Countries like Nicaragua have centralized cooperative growth as a way to democratize the economy. Today, more than 5,000 cooperative firms exist in the country, “involving more than 389,000 families” (Tortilla Con Sal 2015). But “duty-free trade zones” also exist in Nicaragua, employing 140,000 people (Tortilla Con Sal 2015). It seems unjust that cooperative workers should have to engage in a race to the bottom with transnational capital. My research on cooperatives has left me with question regarding whether or not the internationally co-op solidarity networks, like the ICA, are enough to protect small co-ops from competition with international capital? And if not, how can co-ops limit the growth of capitalist firms? I think that this must begin not with the policy agenda set forth by the ICA, but instead social struggle to force states to leverage their power against transnational capital. A dialogue regarding development policy cannot move beyond the limits of capitalist logic, without social struggles to force a state response.

 

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References

Alldred, Sarah. “Co-operative can play a key role in development.” The Guardian. 6 July 2013. http://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2013/jul/06/international-day-of-cooperatives.

“Co-op Identity and other resources,” last modified N.a., http://valleyworker.coop/new-co-op/.

Mills, Cliff and Will Davies. “Blueprint for a Co-operative Decade.” International Co-operative Alliance. October, 2012.

Tortilla Con Sal. “Nicaragua: Making Cooperatives Central to Democratization.” teleSUR. 10 September 2015. “http://www.telesurtv.net/english/bloggers/Nicaragua-Making-Cooperatives-Central-to-Democratization-20150910-0001.html”.

UKaid. “Briefing Notes: Working with Co-operatives for Poverty Reduction.” Department of International Development. 2010.

 

Why Post-Capitalism?

In my introductory blog post, I briefly mentioned that a large part of the international dialogue surrounding Neoliberal Development argues that free-market capitalism is flawed and a global economic system change is needed to continue the “broad social progress” that the Development Project attempts to facilitate around the globe.  Let’s take a closer look at this part of the conversation, the problems faced by the capitalist system, and why capitalism cannot be part of the solution.

Capitalism, as a whole, values profit and growth over all other things.  In Marx’s critique of capitalism, he explains that this profit comes from an exploitation of surplus value, or the exploitation of labor (Marx, 1867).  Mathematically, this is obvious.  For a profit to exist, some aspect of production needs to undervalued according to the market, and the easiest thing to undervalue is labor because it is not a physical resource.  My personal opinion is that social and environmental factors are just as much of the production process as labor, and the more they are exploited, the higher profits are.  This is why a system driven by profit cannot possibly address all the social, economic, and environmental problems facing capitalism.  If in someway a form of sustainable capitalism was able to address climate change (which is highly unlikely already), it would would just exploit a different aspect of the production process.  For example, the profit lost by reducing carbon emissions or adequately dealing with waste would very likely be made up by further exploitation of labor, or by raising costs and adding stress to the social class structure.  This is the opposite of what Development hopes to achieve, which should be means enough to support the idea of an economic system after capitalism, but if it does not, many believe the philosophy of profit in capitalism will result in increasing economic instability.

In his paper, Contradictions of Finance Capitalism, Richard Peet argues that three inherent contradictions within capitalism will eventually lead to its demise.  The first, finance, is a cause of the speculation of growth within capitalism, which leads to the inflation of prices to unsustainable heights and consequent economic downturns.  The second is a disarticulation of the economy, which we are already witnessing in the United States, where all manufacturing is outsourced, leaving the economic base of a country with low-wage work, and high-wage finance/real estate/investment jobs.  The final contradiction is the need to exploit the environment, which we have discussed.

So clearly to fix problems of social justice, economic inequality, and environmental degradation, an economic system based on something other than profit and growth must succeed neoliberal capitalism.  When looking at alternatives, often the idea of an economic relativism comes into the picture, where capitalism exists, but societies have the ability to function off of any other type of economy, thus dismantling the global hegemony of capitalism, which is much of the problem.  This is a theoretical solution of course, and an impractical one, as I will now show you that capitalism cannot exist in a post-capitalist (post-capitalist hegemony) world.

Throughout history, capitalism has not been able to exist with any other type of economy on the planet.  During colonialism, capitalism pulled most of the world into the capitalist system from a traditional system.  During the Cold War, politics and the Development Project were significantly influenced by capitalism’s war with communism.  To many, capitalism prevailing at the end of the Cold War was the inevitable end of history, and there would be no more conflict over which economy should encompass the globe, because capitalism had won (Fukuyama, 1992).  The fact that these conflicts even existed though, were the result of capitalism’s drive for profit and growth, and show that the system cannot exist with another.  This is often explained by capitalism’s need for an “outside” (Luxemburg, 1913), where, since increased capitalization of an area eventually leads to rising wages and greater social and environmental backlash to the means of production, capitalism must find a non-capitalized region where labor and resources can be exploited as much as possible, again showing that the need for profit will push capitalism across the globe and replace whatever is in its path.

So what does a system change entail?  Post-capitalism seems to imply that everything related to capitalism must change.  Authors like Naomi Klein create that same sense of urgency.  Post-capitalism, however, does not necessarily mean that the standard of living associated with capitalism needs to disappear, just that the system of production and values of profit and growth do.  The next three blog posts will focus on alternatives to Neoliberal capitalist Development and what needs to change to accommodate those systems.

References:

Francis Fukuyama. The End of History and the Last Man. Free Press. 1992.

Klein, Naomi. This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate. 2014. Print.

Luxemburg, Rosa. The Accumulation of Capital. London: Routledge and Paul, 1913.

Marx, Karl, Friedrich Engels, and Samuel Moore. Capital. Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, 1867.

Peet, Richard. “Contradictions of Finance Capitalism.” Monthly Review Mon. Rev. 63.7 (2011): 18. Web.

Capitalism or Socialism: Could We Do It Better?

Socialism. It’s one of some Clarkies’ favorite words.

Socialism is praised as the answer to all our social and environmental problems by many. If we just transitioned from a capitalist to a socialist all social and economic problems – poof, they’d all disappear! Or so they say…

Let’s start with some simple definitions. Socialism is a system that believes that the government is the most effective body in a society. Therefore, the government (vs private assets) should manage the country’s resources (Diffen 2016). Socialism also most often contains the belief that the government is responsible for addressing and remediating all kinds of inequality including economic inequality (Diffen 2016). Capitalism is a system that believes that things are most effectively done by the free market (Diffen 2016).

Now, let’s talk about organics. Organics are heralded as a savior to our environment and our health. Clarkies love organics.

Now, let’s talk about Walmart. Walmart is highly criticized as degrading to the environment and our health. Clarkies hate Walmart.

Walmart now sells organic milk. How could such an evil body sell organic products?

The market responds to what consumers demand (Diffen 2016). That’s the beauty of capitalism.

Debate about which economic systems are best for people and the environment is a common discussion when it comes to sustainable development (Giddings et al. 2001).

The economy’s role in our daily lives can’t be ignored (Giddings et al. 2001). Many, including Giddings et al., paint GDP growth as antithetical to human or societal growth (2001). However, what Giddings et al. fails to recognize is that GDP growth increases the quality of life for individuals in a society (2001). Human needs are met by the products and services (like healthcare, education, food, shelter) provided by a capitalist economy (Giddings et al. 2001). The U.S. may not do this fairly or equitably for every single individual – but as recent social justice movements have worked for, we’re moving in the right direction, slowly but surely.

Now, let’s talk more about socialism. Socialism, because it advocates for government control of resources, it is thought of often as the most environmentally friendly economic choice (FEE 1992, Diffen 2016). Some claim it prevents the private sector from harming the environment (FEE 1992). Let’s talk about some socialist economies and how they’ve chosen to manage their natural resources (FEE 1992).


 

Some relevant facts and figures about socialist countries sourced from Foundation for Economic Education (1992):

  • 40% of the population of East Germany suffers some health problems as the result of air pollution
  • 70 villages of East German people were forced to relocate between 1960 and 1980 so that the government could mine coal on their property
  • In the Czech Republic, concentrations of sulfur dioxide in the air are eight times higher than U.S. levels
  • Soil in some areas of the Chez Republic is toxic up to a foot deep in the Earth
  • The life expectancy for a polish man decreased significantly between 1972 and 1992
  • 1 of every 3 people in Poland live in areas of environmental disaster, according to the Polish Academy of Sciences

What were some of your thoughts as you read those facts?

The entity commonly blamed for environmental degradation in the U.S. is big corporations (FEE 1992, Warren 2006, Diffen 2016). However, as we’ve explored, big corporations (thanks to the mechanisms of the free market) know when to respond and change in response to consumer wants and needs (Warner 2006, Diffen 2016). Perhaps those responsible for environmental degradation in the United States aren’t corporations, but rather something else (FEE 1992).

Part of our current problem is that although the U.S. has private property laws, the agencies we’ve assigned enforcement power have limited resources (FEE 1992). The EPA has great difficult enforcing environmental laws (FEE 1992). The EPA needs more grit, more bite, more power to protect those in the U.S. than it has currently (FEE 1992). If the EPA has that enforcement power, our built and natural environment would greatly improve (FEE 1992).

Under a socialist system, no individual owns or is responsible for any certain resource (FEE 1992, Diffen 2016). This means there is very little accountability to any individual when things go wrong (FEE 1992). This opens the door to rampant environmental abuse, since no one is left holding responsibility for damage and no individual is the direct recipient of damage (FEE 1992).

China, although a growing world power, is a socialist economy (FEE 1992). China is also responsible for 58% of of global carbon emissions (China Daily 2016). China has also openly admitted that they will continue to increase their carbon emissions for another fifteen years (China Daily 2016).  Despite government control of resources, China’s has prioritized economic and population growth over environmental preservation (China Daily 2016).

As I’ve explored in this blog post, issues relating to the environment and economy and society are incredibly complex and they aren’t likely to be resolved any time soon (Giddings et al. 2001). But despite popular claims, socialism isn’t likely to be our environmental saving grace as history has shown more harm to the environment than success (FEE 1992).

We don’t need to praise Walmart as a whole (especially since they treat employees pretty poorly), but we as a global environmental community don’t have the time or convenience to discredit any organization willing to do something to preserve our environment. Perhaps treating our environment better is a step in a more ethical direction for the corporation. Capitalism has responded to consumers wanting more environmentally sustainable products in one of the globe’s biggest retailers (Warner 2006). The way forward is not in reinventing the system, but working within and improving the one we have.

 

 

 

 

Work Cited

China Daily. “Business / Green China China Yet to Reach Carbon Emissions Peak, Working to Ease Growth.” China Daily Business. China Daily, 7 Mar. 2016. Web. 25 Mar. 2016. <http://europe.chinadaily.com.cn/business/2016-03/07/content_23772544.htm>.

Diffen. “Capitalism vs. Socialism.” Difference and Comparison. Diffen, 2016. Web. 25 Mar. 2016. <http://www.diffen.com/difference/Capitalism_vs_Socialism>.

Foundation for Economic Education. “Why Socialism Causes Pollution.” FEE. Foundation for Economic Education, 01 Mar. 1992. Web. 25 Mar. 2016. <http://fee.org/articles/why-socialism-causes-pollution/>.

Giddings, Bob, Bill Hopwood, and Geoff O’brien. “Environment, economy and society: fitting them together into sustainable development.” Sustainable development 10.4 (2002): 187-196.

Warner, Melanie. “A Milk War Over More Than Price.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 15 Sept. 2006. Web. 25 Mar. 2016. <http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/16/business/16milk.html?pagewanted=1&_r=2>.

WorkPlaceFairness. “The Good, The Bad and Walmart.” The Good, the Bad, and –. WorkPlaceFairness, 2016. Web. 25 Mar. 2016. <http://www.workplacefairness.org/reports/good-bad-wal-mart/wal-mart.php>.

Indigenous Land Entitlement as Sustainable Development

Colca Canyon agricultural terraces

While I lived on an organic farm in Peru, every day I saw contrasting images of sustainability and development at play. The farmers I worked for farmed in traditional Quechua fashion, which is similar to permaculture farming. They attempted to re-use everything; bamboo that was overtaking other plants was cut down and then used as poles to tie weaker plants to, stones were used to beautifully line pathways and any extra food was given to the chickens. However, an hour away from this fertile, sustainably focused valley lay such bad traffic that we never left the farm except for at five a.m. Cars spewing fumes furiously vied over limited space darting and swooping with little regard for the pollution caused. Tragically, I believe that the bustle of cities is seen as better developed than the quiet farm where we lived, practicing centuries old traditions of earth stewardship.

Now that I have provided some basic information on sustainable development, the Peruvian economy and an example of a current, successful grass-roots development project in my previous post, I would like to take this post to examine land rights for indigenous peoples in Peru and how this relates to sustainability and development.

In 2011 the Peruvian government approved a bill that gave indigenous people the “right to prior consultation on legislation or infrastructure projects that would affect them or their territories” as detailed in The Guardian. However, the government’s goals with this bill are questionable because their main aim was to increase foreign investment by decreasing the likelihood of social conflict over extractive practices. Furthermore, despite the increased protection, the Peruvian government still has the final say if conflicts arise. Despite these glaring setbacks, this was a landmark bill that “mark[ed] an important moment for Latin America,” according to Carla García Zendejas (as quoted in The Guardian).

A report later produced by Peru’s national indigenous group Aidesep berated Peru for “failing to protect the rights of indigenous people in its Amazon rainforest, [and] putting at risk the individuals and the carbon stored in their lands,” according to the Peruvian Times. Aidesep argues that the real cause of deforestation is “explicit colonization programs on the part of the government,” as quoted in the Peruvian Times. Community leaders have asked for land titling and protection but to no avail, which demonstrates how hollow the 2011 bill giving rights to prior consultation was. The report goes on the request legal and financial support from the government for indigenous groups to chart their own development trajectories and asks for structures to “ensure economic interests do not trump all other considerations” (as quoted in the Peruvian Times).

The Center of Development for the Amazon’s Indigenous People (CEDIA) is one example of land titling as sustainable development and has reportedly managed to protect extensive tracts of the Amazon rainforest due to their strong relationship with the Peruvian government according to the Blue Moon Fund Group which works to financially support mitigating climate change. One of CEDIA’s current projects listed on their website is Community Forest Management for Biodiversity Conservation through the Titling Territories and Institutional Strengthening Community in three watersheds of the Southern Peruvian Amazon. This project seeks to increase conservation areas and to build capacity for communal management of territories. As CEDIA explains in a report of this project, “many communities in the basin of the Apurimac, Urubamba and Alto Madre de Dios rivers still lack recognition of their ancestral territories and consequently were not entitled. In other cases their communal territories are not entitled to use their ancestral areas and require expansion. Many of these territories over which they have no title, have been invaded and are currently under coca cultivation and illegal logging.”

I believe that the movement to entitle native land could have a significant impact on sustainability efforts. As I explained in my last post, the Quechua culture is very much tied to the land. As I read in the article “Fragile Lands, Fragile Organizations: Indian Organizations and the Politics of Sustainable Development in Ecuador,” traditional practices are often sustainable “by virtue of their biological diversity and structural congruity with the natural environment.” Although this article is written about Ecuador, the countries border each other and both contain the fragile lands of lowland Amazonia and the Andes, and both are home to the Quechua people. The authors of this piece see traditional practice combined with modern technology as the most ecologically and economically viable strategy for environmental stewardship and note the importance of local organizations in mobilizing these strategies.

Because of the importance of traditional strategies for sustainable development, land entitlement and rights take on a new meaning in terms of development and sustainability. Land rights are of the utmost importance in restoration and in working to debunk the myth that development needs to come with bustling, polluted cities, mass consumption and distance from indigenous land stewardship practices. As we saw with the example of CEDIA’s work, community managed sustainability projects can reach a long way.

 

 

Works Cited:

Bebbington, Anthony J. et al.. “Fragile Lands, Fragile Organizations: Indian Organizations and the Politics of Sustainability in Ecuador”. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 18.2 (1993): 179–196. Web.

Cabitza, Mattia. “Peru Leads the Way for Latin America’s Indigenous Communities | Mattia Cabitza.” The Guardian. 12 Sept. 2011. Web. 23 Mar. 2016. <http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/poverty-matters/2011/sep/12/peru-land-rights-indigenous-communities>.

“Community Land Management–Current.” Cedia: Centro Para El Desarollo Del Indígena Amazónico. 2013. Web. 23 Mar. 2016. <http://www.cedia.org.pe/en/proyectos/gestion-comunal-del-territorio-present-2/>.

“Peru Criticized for ‘Disregarding’ Rights of Indigenous in Amazon.” Andean Air Mail and Peruvian Times. 5 Dec. 2014. Web. 23 Mar. 2016. <http://www.peruviantimes.com/05/peru-criticized-for-disregarding-rights-of-indigenous-in-amazon/23404/>.

“Working with Peru to Support Long-term Conservation in the Amazon – Blue Moon Fund.” Blue Moon Fund Working with Peru to Support Longterm Conservation in the Amazon Comments. Web. 23 Mar. 2016. <http://www.bluemoonfund.org/projects/working-with-peruvian-government-to-protect-15-million-acres-of-the-amazon/>.

 

 

 

 

Development from the Bottom up: Moving beyond Neoliberalism and Neocolonialism

“If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive.” – Audre Lorde

The Bangladesh Independent Garment Workers Union Federation (BIGUF) holds a march on International Women’s Day 2015.
The Bangladesh Independent Garment Workers Union Federation (BIGUF) holds a march on International Women’s Day 2015.

The histories of both the Development Project and the Globalization Project have been built upon Western notions of a “good society.” Notions which are driven by global capital and leave little room for issues of justice or human need. Today, this image of a “good society,” is systematized into the workings of neoliberal capitalism, which through coercive means, draw underdeveloped countries into unequal market relations with developed countries, opening borders to capital at the cost of working peoples’ lives. Such a system disproportionately benefits Western transnational corporations and a small number of owning-class elites in developing countries. Hence, development today operates in the form of neocolonialism. Even though this form of global capitalism has brought wretched conditions to working people globally, the same neoliberal ideology persists in development theory and practice today, such as with Microcredit programs and trade policies like the Trans Pacific Partnership.

This blog will focus on alternatives to neoliberal development by challenging the broader concept of “development” under capitalism. My case studies will explore development from the bottom up, to show that the only way we can achieve just societies is through the self-determination of working people. Development cannot continue as a way to deepen the systems of neoliberalism, nor can it return to the practices of the Development Project which left working people in developing countries exploited by their own states and corporations (Chibber 2015: 81-87). The primary focus of bottom up development will be in economic terms, specifically focusing on workers, for two reasons. First, as Chandra Mohanty notes, because “capital as it functions now depends on and exacerbates racist, patriarchal, and heterosexist relations of rule,” (Mohanty 2003: 231) and many of these hierarchal systems must be fought through economic means. Secondly, I believe that workers have a point of leverage in their ability to halt the accumulation of profits by transnational corporations and International financial Institutions via strikes and slowdowns, which enables workers to leverage drastic changes in the material conditions their lives (Chibber 2016). Development from the bottom up centralizes marginalized people in development countries in their own process of “developing.”

The first section of my blog will focus on global attempts to establish cooperative economies as a way to mitigate the conditions of capitalism. There are a number of debates on the possibilities and strategies of developing cooperative economies, as well as organizations attempting to aid workers in starting cooperatives. The “Pathways to a cooperative Market Economy,” a part of Verso books’ “Real Utopias Project” is engaging with cooperatives at an academic level, attempting to develop strategies for cooperative development. Pathways has so far hosted conferences in Barcelona and Buenos Aires, and are preparing for upcoming conferences in Johannesburg in 2016 and Italy in 2017. Other organizations such as “US Overseas Cooperative Development Council”  have helped cooperatives with management strategies and “The Working World” has attempted to finance new co-ops through non-extractive loans in Argentina, Nicaragua and the United States. Although the creation of cooperatives is necessary, the viability of coops as system changing remains questionable. As of yet, there are few examples of co-ops accounting for large sections of economic activity (Gindin 2016). Additionally, issues of co-op competition with capitalist firms can restrict co-op success and may result in negative conditions such as worker self-exploitation (Luxemburg 1909: 41-43).

The constraints of co-ops taken into account, the second section of my blog will focus on worker action in capitalist firms in the Third World/South (Mohanty 2003: 222-228). Worker mobilization in the developing world, and international labor solidarity, has the ability to change the immediate conditions of workers who exercise militancy, as well as on other workers within a country due to the rippling effects of worker resistance. A key to investigating this activity will be to look for worker struggles from the most marginalized groups, usually poor women in the Third World/South, so I can create a more inclusive image of bottom up development (Mohanty 2003: 231). This work will focus on the struggles of female Bangladeshi garment workers, the recent strike wave in China, and the struggles of the Zapatistas in Chiapas Mexico for autonomy and gender equality.

Development is not something that can be brought to a group of marginalized people. Instead, liberation and justice must be fought for by the marginalized peoples themselves, with solidarity from others, for marginalized people are the only groups who know what is necessary for their own lives. Development from the bottom up, as forms of social struggle, are the only we can live in a globalized society free of economic, gender, race, and other social inequalities. This blog will reframe development, stripping it of its neocolonial legacy, through the stories and struggles of the most marginalized people globally.

 

Bibliography

Andalusia Knoll and Itandehui Reyes, “From Fire to Autonomy: Zapatistas, 20 Years of Walking Slowly,” Truthout, January 25, 2014.

Chandra Mohanty, “ ‘Under Western Eyes’ Revisited: Feminist Solidarity through Anticapitalist Struggles,” in Feminism Without Borders: Decolonizing Theory, Practicing Solidarity (Durham: Duke University Press, 2003).

Jane Slaughter, “Review: Behind China’s Wildcat Strike Wave,” Labor Notes, October 15, 2014.

Milford Bateman, “The Power of a Dollar: Microcredit is nothing more than a socially validated way for financial elites to exploit the poor,” Jacobin 19 (Fall 2015): 9-19.

“Pathways to a cooperative Market Economy,” https://www.ssc.wisc.edu/~wright/Cooperative-pathways.htm.

“The Real Utopias Project,” http://www.versobooks.com/series_collections/2-the-real-utopias-project.

Rosa Luxemburg, “Cooperative, Unions, Democracy,” in Reform or Revolution. 1909. Reprint, (New York: Pathfinder, 1970), 41-43.

Sam Gindin, “Chasing utopia: Worker ownership and cooperative will not succeed by competing on capitalism’s terms,” Jacobin, March 10, 2016.

“US Overseas Cooperative Development Council,” http://www.ocdc.coop/.

Tula Connell, “Bangladesh Women Workers Increasingly Empowered,” http://www.solidaritycenter.org/bangladesh-women-workers-increasingly-empowered/.

Vivek Chibber, “Development From Below: Capitalists are interested in profit, not development. Only workers can empower the Global South,” Jacobin 19 (Fall 2015): 81-87.

Vivek Chibber, “Why the Working Class?,” Jacobin, March 13, 2016.

“The Working World,” http://www.theworkingworld.org/us/.

What’s Next: Alternatives to Neoliberal Capitalist Development

If you engage in the dialogue surrounding Development and Neoliberal Capitalism, you would be aware of a large number of very influential people who believe that capitalism either already has failed, or has inherent flaws that will inevitably lead to its failure.  If you align with this perspective, you would also believe that more sustainable forms of capitalism, like any type of “green economy,” could never completely address the problems of climate change, inequality, and injustice that are caused by Neoliberalism. An overarching structural change to an economic system that does not value profit and growth above all else would be needed to fix these problems.

The primary reason for this type of argument falling flat in the dialogue, however, is the lack of a solution.  The bear of system change is that it requires a new system to change to, which does not currently exist.  This blog aims to examine the alternatives to Neoliberal Capitalist Development, and give many valid critiques of capitalism the part of the equation needed to make a larger impact in the overall discussion on the global economy and Development: what comes after capitalism.

This blog will be structured in a way that looks at multiple aspects of what a world after capitalism looks like, and what changes that entails.  To fully understand this picture, the first blog will discuss why a version of capitalism cannot continue to exist with other economic systems on a planet where it is not a hegemonic system (why capitalism cannot exist in a post-capitalist world). The other three blogs will discuss three different alternatives to Neoliberal Development that come from different types of thought around the world.

I will look at many different types of sources to address the questions in this blog.  Among them will be scholarly works like Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History and the Last Man and Wainwright and Mann’s Climate Leviathan to understand why capitalism cannot coexist with other economic forms, popular Western Journalists like Paul Mason and Naomi Klein for their view on post-capitalism, non-western journalism, like the newspaper Bolivian Thoughts in an Emerging World, for another perspective on post-capitalism, and policy reports like the Paris Agreement of the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties to better understand the discussion of Capitalism and Development on a global scale.

Please feel free to comment with any suggestions, critiques, or comments!

Works/Authors Cited

Bolivian Thoughts in an Emerging World: Daily update: economic, business, political, environmental issues

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

Francis Fukuyama (1992). The End of History and the Last Man. Free Press.

Klein, Naomi. Author of This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate, 2014.

Mason, Paul. Author of PostCapitalism: A Guide to our Future, 2015.

Wainwright, Joel, and Geoff Mann (2012). “Climate Leviathan.” Antipode 45.1.

Alternatives and Criticism – An Introduction Post

Alternatives and Criticism.

These two words are ones that Clarkies around me are very familiar with. Clarkies firmly believe in different kinds of alternatives in different contexts and are very good at criticizing the things they don’t agree with.

However, I notice that Clarkies are quick to criticize without offering concrete alternatives that have been thoroughly researched.

This is what I want to address. Much of what I’ve heard in our course thus far is a lot of anger at the ‘evils of capitalism’ and so on and so forth with quick assumptions about why alternatives will be better without thorough examinations and exploration of alternatives.

This is where my blog posts will focus: Was the development project purposefully meant to benefit the developed at the expense of the less developed? Is a more socialist system a more effective system that will treat people and the environment more ethically?

Although these questions are big questions (and I only have four blog posts to answer them), I will do my very best to answer them, even if it’s on a small scale.

I will begin by using a source like Arrighi & Saul (2006). This source using a case study like design to demonstrate how socialism could possibly be used in developing areas of Africa (Arrighi & Saul 2006). I hope to compare and contrast how different economic systems have been used in different development projects across the world. This will be a small scale way to answer my big questions.

I also plan to use reports, surveys or briefs from the IMF (International Monetary Fund) to help me gain knowledge about international economics. A good starting place for me would be IMF’s survey The Global Economy in 2016. This resource will help me examine how different economies with different economic systems are handling the current worldwide economy (IMF 2016).

I will also utilize Western newsfeeds like articles from the New York Times and other publications. For example, Eduardo Porter’s article “Imagining a World Without Growth” which will give me an interesting economic perspective as well as alternative suggestions. Porter talks about how the world may need to change economically in response to consumption related issues like climate change (2015). Porter’s ideas (2015) and other Western newsfeeds will give me an idea of how the developed world wants to see the future unfold economically.

Since this course is ‘Tales from the Far Side’, incorporating a non-Western news source will be important to do as well. I traveled to Ecuador last year, so my first thought was to use a newspaper from that country. I found the Ecuador Times. Specifically relating my to my focus, I found an article about how the Ecuadorian government has been subsidizing and hoping to increase the consumptions of dairy products  (Ecuador Times 2015). The article discusses how health concerns and the pressure for economic growth collide in the context of dairy products on the market in Ecuador (Ecuador Times 2016).

I hope to help answer my two focus questions listed above using resources like I’ve walked through in this post. If anyone has any thoughts about the direction of my posts or about other potential resources, feel free to comment below – your thoughts are appreciated!

 

Work Cited

Arrighi, Giovanni, and John S. Saul. “Socialism and economic development in tropical Africa.” The Journal of Modern African Studies 6.02 (1968): 141-169. (PDF Through JSTOR can be found here.)

Ecuador Times. “Obstacles Are Being Eliminated for the Diary Products in Ecuador.” EcuadorTimes.net. N.p., 12 Mar. 2016. Web. 12 Mar. 2016. <http://www.ecuadortimes.net/2016/03/12/obstacles-are-being-eliminated-for-the-diary-products-in-ecuador/>.

International Monetary Fund. “IMF Survey : The Global Economy in 2016.” IMF Survey : The Global Economy in 2016. IMF, 04 Jan. 2016. Web. 12 Mar. 2016.<http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/survey/so/2016/INT010416A.htm>.
Porter, Eduardo. “Imagining a World Without Growth.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 01 Dec. 2015. Web. 12 Mar. 2016. <http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/02/business/economy/imagining-a-world-without-growth.html?_r=0>.

Holistic and Sustainable Development in Peru

Before coming to college, I took a gap year and lived in Peru to work in an orphanage and on a farm for six months. I was able to experience an alternative lifestyle which opened wide my world. The farmers I worked for were deeply in tune with the land and nurtured her with the love of a child. All around me, I saw alternative ways of being that de-prioritized material consumption and alternately focused on a return to the earth.

In my current class on international development, we are learning a lot about economic development and traditional development policies and strategies. Looking back on my experiences with rural peoples and indigenous cultures in Peru, I can’t help but wonder if consumption and export driven development is the right kind of development. I hope to use these five posts to deepen my knowledge of alternatives to consumption-based, Eurocentric economic development and how traditional, economic development affects the Peruvian indigenous Aymara and Quechua peoples. I also hope to grapple with whether economic development is compatible with human development in the holistic.

In this first post, I will provide some background information on sustainable development, the Peruvian economy and on some current development projects taking place. Sustainable development was notoriously defined as the ability “to ensure that it [development] meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” by the Bruntland Commission in 1987. An article by Kates, Parris and Leiserowitz looks at this definition and seeks to further determine what exactly sustainable development is. They write that sustainable development is an expression of values, that it is measured by indicators, and is defined by practice but ultimately is malleable. While some believe that sustainable development represents a compromise between economic development the environment, many argue, and I agree, that it is an oxymoron and still prioritizes development over sustainability. For a real life example of what climate degradation is doing in Peru, we can turn to an article by the world news agency Inter Press Service, which tells us of rural Quechua farmers who are having an increasingly difficult time planting their traditional crop of potatoes due to climate change and decreased rains.  As one community leader interviewed for the article heartbreakingly states, “Pachamama [mother earth, in Quechua] is nervous about what we are doing to her. All of the crops are moving up the mountains, to higher and higher ground, and they will do so until it’s too high to grow,” he also adds “Nature used to let us know when was the best time for each step, in farming. But now, Pachamama is confused, and we are losing our reference points among the animals and the plants, which don’t have a flowering season anymore.”

According to an article from 2013 in The Economist, there has been increased economic productivity among the poor living in the highlands of Peru. These peasants cannot compete with cheap prices of imports however many have taken jobs outside of the agricultural sector to augment their income as farmers. Annual average income in these rural areas has risen by an average of 7.2 percent each year since 1994 which is believed to be in part due to better roads. A Policy Report of the World Bank, published in 2014 and entitled “Peru: Investments for Environmentally Sustainable Development” describes a current policy (funded by the World Bank) which aims to “enhance environment management through (i) increase[ing] the quality, availability, and reliability of environment data…(ii) improve[ing] mechanisms to identify and address environmental priorities…and (iii) improve[ing] mechanisms for opening up decision making.” All of these are to be attained through investment of capital. According to this same brief, extraction of resources is at the heart of the Peruvian economy and the annual cost of degradation falls between 3.5 and 5 percent of GDP.

One example of a holistic approach to development that is going very well is Corazón Viviente (Causac Sonqo in Quechua, Living Heart in English) which was established by a 76-year-old British woman in 2007 with the help of the local community in Ollantaytambo, Peru. As Heather Buchanan, a volunteer, wrote in the Peruvian magazine Que Pasa this effort was developed in true collaboration with the local Quechua people. Corazón Viviente focuses on providing nutritious food, family planning services, education, disability support and agricultural support to the inhabitants of the area surrounding Ollantaytambo.

Going from here, I hope to explore alternative development in environmental sustainability and in cultural and human sustainability with a special focus on rural and indigenous Peruvians and policies in Peru.

 

Works Cited:

Buchanan, Heather. “Living Heart Nutritious Food.” Que Pasa Peru. July 2011. Web. 2 Mar. 2016. <https://issuu.com/quepasaperu/docs/quepasaperu-july2011>.

Kates, Robert W., Thomas M. Parris, and Anthony A. Leiserowitz. “What Is Sustainable Development?” Environment: Science and Policy for Sustainable Development 47.3 (2005): 8-21. Web. <http://www.hks.harvard.edu/sustsci/ists/docs/whatisSD_env_kates_0504.pdf>.

Ortiz, Fabíola. “Climate Change Threatens Quechua and Their Crops in Peru’s Andes.” Online news posting. Inter Press Service News Agency. 29 Dec. 2014. Web. 2 Mar. 2016. <http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/climate-change-threatens-quechua-and-their-crops-in-perus-andes/>.

Peru: Investments for Environmentally Sustainable Development. Rep. Vol. PIDC4399. World Bank. Web. 2 Mar. 2016. <http://www-wds.worldbank.org/external/default/WDSContentServer/WDSP/LCR/2014/09/30/090224b08279672d/1_0/Rendered/PDF/Project0Inform0evelopment000P147342.pdf>

“The Andean Collection: Diminishing Distance, Falling Poverty.” The Economist: The Americas. The Economist. 13 Apr. 2013. Web. 2 Mar. 2016. <http://www.economist.com/news/americas/21576116-diminishing-distance-falling-poverty-andean-connection>.