Blog 4: The Freshwater Crisis and Disease

No one can deny that the freshwater crisis in Third World countries is a severe problem but one part of the crisis squeezes my heart a smidgen more than the rest; child deaths.

According to The Water Project 1 out of every 5 deaths of people under the age of five worldwide are due to water related diseases. WaterAid.org states that 315,000 children under five die every year from diarrhoeal diseases alone, not including dehydration or being malnourished. Diarrhea is the leading cause of death of children under five in Sub-Saharan Africa and the second leading cause of death of children under five worldwide. Annually, 60 million children are born into homes without access to sanitation and every minute an infant dies from lack of safe water and a clean environment.

Access to clean water and sanitary places to live could prevent these deaths from happening completely. The Water Project discusses how the best way to access clean water in Africa would be to use groundwater but drilling for the water puts up the predicament of how much that would cost, not to mention finding a spot that would provide enough water for the large population in need of it.

In July of 2010 the United Nations General Assembly recognized that everyone in the world should have equal amounts of water for domestic and personal use, and more importantly that this water should be clean and safe to use. The physical accessibility of said water should only take at most a half an hour to retrieve. My question is why the statistic haven’t changed if this had been recognized? The amount of child deaths from waterborne diseases alone is still drastically large as is the amount of water being wasted on Agricultural and Industrial uses in first world countries. So what can we do?

sources:

http://www.wateroneworldsolutions.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&layout=blog&id=38&Itemid=59

https://thewaterproject.org/water-in-crisis-rural-urban-africa

https://thewaterproject.org/water_stats

http://www.un.org/en/globalissues/water/

http://www.wateraid.org/what-we-do/the-crisis/statistics

You Think You Own What Ever Land You Land On

This post deviates from the focus of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) due to my desire to further discuss land grabbing.

Land grabbing simply is International land holding where government, corporations, or speculators, own the rights to lands in other countries. Yes, the control of land in another country! This phenomenon goes back to colonial days which SIDS are all too familiar with. Presently, land grabbing doesn’t appear to be a problem within SIDS (probably do to finite land availability), most of it is occurring in Africa and Latin America.

‘Land grabbing’ re-emerged in the context of a spike in global food prices in 2007-2008. Local communities and farmers have been evicted from land they long regarded as their own. In the documentary, Good Fortune, addressing land grabbing in Kenya, Locals discuss their struggles with fighting to protect their lively hoods, community, and even health. They speak on how they are made to feel poor when in fact they do not see it that way. However, further disruption from development is making them poor. In the film it showed the new rice farm is effecting their water causing it to flood good agricultural land and effecting the ecosystem. As land is grabbed and reserved for development, this often has implications for the water nearby. They spray pesticides and other chemicals which contaminate water sources that locals have to drink, making them sick. Locals aren’t sitting back and passively accepting this. Recently, residents of Kirimon in Samburu Central Sub-County have protested over what they say is illegal grabbing of 10,000 acres of public land meant to benefit their community. This is common among targeted communities. They are making their demands, but they fall on deaf ears.

Despite these serious implications, various arguments are made that try to reinforce land grabbing as ‘acceptable’ that are very short sighted in my opinion. A popular stance that reinforces land grabbing is that there is an availability of excess land where investment can be turned into income and jobs for developing countries. Worldwide the areas being targeted for this kind of large-scale investment are being portrayed as ‘empty’, ‘marginal’, ‘idle’ or ‘degraded’ land, largely unpopulated, unused, unproductive, and unlikely to compete with local food production. The World Bank has been key to sustaining this view. Leading people to believe that agriculture needs investment, particularly foreign investment.

Another stance is that large-scale land deals are necessary to deal with food and oil scarcity. Even though this contributes to the environmental exploitation in regard to climate change. Advocates stressed the need to develop alternative non-fossil fuel-derived, renewable energy sources to achieve higher levels of energy security, while at the same time, combat climate change through ‘greener’ fuels. However, both of these arguments oversimplify complex realities. Conveniently, the problem is reduced to mere supply.

Food scarcity is a big motivator, however, they fail to acknowledge that there is already more than enough food in the system to feed the world’s population. In reality, food security is challenged by costs, harvests loss, waste, and the diversion of land use for production of non-food industrial products. We debate oil scarcity but do not acknowledge serious inefficiencies in the management of our finite fossil fuel supply, such as, a huge and increasing global commercial transport sector that moves industrial food and non-food products long distances across the world. They also ignore the fact that industrial agriculture and industrial livestock production are major emitters of key greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane).

In all honesty I don’t get it. I don’t get how we can pretend that this phenomenon is acceptable and ok. Especially in the form it takes on with disrupting lives. Land purchases which ignore the interests of local communities and the local landscapes are both morally wrong and commercially short-sighted. We need action both nationally and globally to stop them. It looks like racism, I can see the colonial roots embedded in this and it’s wrong. Is it just me or does anyone see? It’s environmental injustice. How can you go to a country whose society isn’t built on privatization/that type of ownership and exalt your control and power there?

*As I was researching and writing this I kept thinking about Pocahontas and the famous song, Colors of The Wind.

“You think I’m an ignorant savage

And you’ve been so many places

I guess it must be so

But still I cannot see

If the savage one is me

How can there be so much that you don’t know

You don’t know

 

You think you own whatever land you land on

The Earth is just a dead thing you can claim

But I know every rock and tree and creature

Has a life, has a spirit, has a name…”

 

 

Bowman, Mark. “Land Rights, Not Land Grabs, Can Help Africa Feed Itself.” CNN. Cable News Network, 18 June 2013. Web. <http://www.cnn.com/2013/06/18/opinion/land-grabs-africa-mark-bowman/index.html>.

Franco, Jennifer C. “Are African Land Grabs Really Water Grabs?” CNN. Cable News Network, 22 Mar. 2013. Web. <http://www.cnn.com/2013/03/22/opinion/water-grabs-africa/index.html>.

Good Fortune. Prod. Landon Van Soest. Dir. Landon Van Soest. Filmakers Library, 2010. DVD.

Keti, Johnston. “SAMBURU: Residents Protest Land Grabbing.” Daily Nation. N.p., 28 Mar. 2016. Web. <http://www.nation.co.ke/counties/Samburu-residents-protest-land-grabbing/-/1107872/3136504/-/8pmnagz/-/index.html>.

Woertz, Eckart. “The Global Land Grab Phenomenon.” Oil for Food The Global Food Crisis and the Middle East (2013): 143-60. Reliefweb.com. Oct. 2012. Web. <http://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/landgrabbingprimer.pdf>.

Blog 4: Indigenous People

Indigenous people are impacted by climate change to the point where in recent years many uprisings and rallies have occurred in attempts for change. These people are often overlooked due to their small population numbers and the land that is desired for which they live on and have rights to. One could insinuate that indigenous people are impacted heavily based on their dependence on the land around them, they live off the land and rely on its production for a livelihood. The fact that indigenous people’s rights for their land has become an issue in the last few decades shows that the land is changing and climate change is impacting our planet and its people who rely on it.

The book Climate Change and Indigenous People by Abate and Kronk discuss how and why climate change disproportionately burdens indigenous people. They first open up by sharing that a history of colonization and oppression is a major reason for lack of respect and increased vulnerability that indigenous peoples have, and that, “many indigenous communities also share unique legal and spiritual connections to their environment” (Abate and Kronk), which together results in depreciation for their environment impacting their traditional sustainable lives and rights. Environmental changes including: severe drought, higher temperatures, deforestation, vegetation loss, ice melt, and species loss; have all impacted indigenous people’s lives because they rely on the land for their livelihood. It is becoming more difficult for indigenous people to continue their traditional farming practice, carry a steady food supply, rely on the same diet, and many more losses in daily activities which are conglomerating to the point where indigenous people are being pushed to their limits unrightfully so.

Last December the UNFCCC came up with The Paris Agreement, which had a heavy focus on indigenous people’s rights when considering environmental projects and climate change. This all stemmed from indigenous people’s involvement in activities to fight for change, so the awareness was brought to the attention of the higher ups making the calls on this agreement. It was stated that, “Parties should, when taking action to address climate change, respect, promote and consider their respective obligations on human rights, the right to health, (and) the rights of indigenous peoples” (United Nations). In the agreement it was also discussed that non-party stakeholders need to take into consideration indigenous people’s knowledge, technologies, practices and efforts when considering responding to climate change. This agreement is the right step into helping the indigenous people deserve and regain the rights that are theirs. Raising the awareness on a large scale like this will make it easier for indigenous people to remain indigenous and one with their land.

Awareness of these issues has been raised and action is settling in to hopefully begin taking place soon. In Indonesia specifically there is a pressure for the government to boost protection for indigenous people’s rights after 40 cases of violation had been identified and brought to their attention. The Dayak Benuaq indigenous people of Indonesia have been struggling since the 1970s to claim rights for their forests as they face the pressure of logging and mining operations which has inevitably, “Violated the Dayak Benuaq people’s rights to a healthy and safe environment, property ownership, cultural activities, education, traditional knowledge and a life free of fear” (Jakarta). These development issues have raised skepticism over the Presidents promise to protect indigenous peoples rights and has resulted in the urge to set up a task force to deal with indigenous issues.

In Latin America there has been illegal mining for gold which has resulted in abuse of human rights and destruction of the environment impacting its indigenous people. Many illegal miners are exploiting members of indigenous tribes and using them as slave style workers. This illegal gold rush in Latin America has led to major deforestation and produces 30 tons of waste mercury every year that is being released into the waterways poisoning fish and causing damage to humans. “Global Initiative, a network of prominent law enforcement, governance and development professionals” says corporations, “must adhere to the UN guiding principles on business and human rights and do a better job of mapping out supply chains and ensuring that gold is sourced responsibly and ethically” (The Guardian). These issues of indigenous people being impacted by environment degradation are happening all over our planet and awareness and government involvement is finally beginning to surface. These are the first steps necessary towards helping the indigenous people of regions around the world become recognized and being respected for what is theirs and their rights.

 

Works Cited

Abate, Randall, and Elizabeth Ann. Kronk. “Commonality among Unique Indigenous Communities: An Introduction to Climate Change and Its Impacts on Indigenous Peoples.” Climate Change and Indigenous Peoples: The Search for Legal Remedies. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar, 2013. N. pag. Print.

Jones, Sam. “Illegal Gold Mining Drives Human Rights Abuses in Latin America, Claims Study.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 07 Apr. 2016. Web. 08 Apr. 2016.

“Pressure Grows on Indonesia to Tackle Indigenous Rights Abuses.” Jakarta. N.p., 28 Mar. 2016. Web. 08 Apr. 2016.

United Nations. Framework Convention on Climate Change. Adoption of the Paris Agreement. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.

 

 

Dominion Farms in Kenya

Dominion Logo
Dominion Logo

Hello friends, this week I am going to talk about something a little bit different; Kenya. In class we are currently viewing the movie Good Fortune, so the time is right to go further into the issues Kenyans faced. Calvin Burgess, owner or Dominion Farms, went into Kenya’s Yala Swamp Basin in 2004 with the promise to bring US style progress to Africa (Grain 2014). This is a good example of foreigners entering a country in hopes of creating progress but fail and diminish culture.

In 2003, Calvin Burgess secures a 25-year lease with the Kenyan government obtaining approximately 17,000 acres of swampland (PBS). He advertised himself as a ‘man of God’, he promised modern rice plantations, increase in employments within locals, and the construction of hospitals and schools. PBS states:

Dominion has renovated one health center, but residents say they must pass through Dominion’s farm to reach the facility and are sometimes denied access. No schools have been renovated, although Dominion has donated building materials for school projects. The land that was to be set aside for farming has not been used for that purpose.

It is safe to assume that the health center created can be access by those who can afford it. One of the promises made by Burgess was the renovation of local’s homes, and as we saw in the movie locals disagreed. They knew that if they temporarily left there was no coming back. PBS reports that up to 300 families have moved temporarily but only 50 of them came back to new homes.

Grain is a small international non-profit organization that works to support small farmers and social movements in their struggles for community controlled food systems.  They state that locals were not happy with the production of Dominion, a local farmer; Erastus Odindo says, “When Burgess came, we did not object to him taking the lands that had already been allocated to the Government years before for the development of an experimental farm. . . But Dominion Farms has put a fence around much more land than that. The company has taken over all of our community lands without our consent and blocked our access to water”

Domestic Cattle, Jersey cow, grazing beside family near huts, Western Kenya
Domestic Cattle, Jersey cow, grazing beside family near huts, Western Kenya

It’s as if, Burgess was stripping locals of their necessities and eventually with no necessities they will move away. The production Dominion originally was doing was rice; PBS states that they’ve moved on from that. The extra land they have taken up they have been using for cattle grazing, which was the main method of farming for locals. They’ve also gone to vegetables, bananas and fish. That is not what the locals agreed to, they feel like Dominion took their land and now is taking their market (PBS).

Apart from the agricultural difficulties locals have had with the arrival of Dominion, they have also obtained health difficulties. PBS states that an analysis of water supply found dieldrin, which is a chemical linked to breast cancer and Parkinson’s disease. Dieldrin has been banned in the US as of 1987 as stated by the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry. In result from this, many locals have gathered and created petitions fighting for human rights abuse. The authors of Business Daily: Africa discusses the report sent to Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta by the collaboration of Big business and powerful individuals in government. The report states different instances where big business (Dominion included) “acted, often with the backing of government, to rob people of their inheritance, violate their labour and health rights besides polluting the environment with serious ramifications on local livelihoods.”

Throughout the next couple of blogs, I will go further in depth on this topic, the biggest question I have right and will leave you to ponder on is; with the controversy surrounding Dominion Farms and Calvin Burgess who is checking up on them?

 

Works Cited

“Commission Puts Big Business on the Spot for Rights Abuse.” Truth Team Puts Big Business on the Spot for Rights Abuses. N.p., 22 May 2013. Web. 08 Apr. 2016.

“Good Fortune.” PBS. PBS, 2010. Web. 08 Apr. 2016.

“Grain.” Combined. N.p., 23 Oct. 2014. Web. 08 Apr. 2016.

“Public Health Statement for Aldrin/Dieldrin.” ATSDR. Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry, Sept. 2002. Web. 08 Apr. 2016.

 

Paint it Green

My last post focused on a new method of agriculture, which, among other things, takes into account the effect agriculture has on the environment. This post is mainly about how the economy can take into account impacts on the environment. This concept is referred to as the “green economy.” The United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) defines the green economy as “one that results in improved human well‐being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities. It is low carbon, resource efficient, and socially inclusive” (2012).

One loosely associated group or movement attempting to further green economics is The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB). TEEB has developed one way for conceptualizing how ecosystem processes/structures can translate into economic value. For example, trees are a biological structure, which have the function of anchoring the soil. Less soil erosion leads to better soil for growing crops for food, which is an ecosystem service. Food has obvious benefits to humans, which can be economically quantified. However, one major problem with measuring and studying the green economy is that there is not one unified system, and translating ecosystem services into exact economic value can be difficult. TEEB uses a system of aggregating value to find the total monetary value of an ecosystem, which requires evaluating the value of an ecosystem to people over space and time. Macroeconomic indicators are starting to take into account environmental impacts, and offering monetary benefits for environmentally sustainable practices ( de Groot et al., 2010).

The green economy is linked to many other ideas, such as sustainable development and low carbon development. These ideas, which fit in with the green economy, predate it, but are now being merged into it. At an international scale one example of these practices is the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) program, in which richer countries pay poorer countries for limiting deforestation. This requires the determination of the value of forests. The forests in Ethiopia are tentatively valued at approximately 2.5 to 4% of the nations total GDP (Sisay, 2015).

In addition to specific sectors, entire economies can be made “green.” This goal is being realized in some places through the UN Partnership for action of green economy (PAGE). The second country to benefit from this is Peru. The greening of the economy, especially in terms of biotrade is expected to “not only benefit the economy but also improve human well-being, enhance social equity and protect the environment” (UNEP). One other country that could benefit from this initiative is the aforementioned Ethiopia. In spite of the fact that Ethiopia has had tremendous economic growth, they have not been immune to adverse environmental conditions which are currently causing famine in that country (Arai, 2015). Maybe if Ethiopia included the environment in its development calculations it would have been better prepared for this eventuality, though REDD is a step in the right direction.

Green economy is an important step in achieving sustainable development. Both Economics and environmental science (as well as sociology, geography, etc) must realize and account for the impact of one on the other. International Development, of course, must take into account all of these factors to work towards a sustainable, equitable and prosperous future for all.

sources:

Arai, Ghelawdewos (2015). Famine and Development: contradiction in terms of the Ethiopian context. Ethiopian Observer. retrieved from:http://www.ethioobserver.net/Famine_development_Ethiopia.htm

Allen, Cameron & Clouth, Stewart (2012). A guidebook to the green economy. UNDESA: division for sustainable development. retrieved from: http://www.uncsd2012.org/content/documents/528Green%20Economy%20Guidebook_100912_FINAL.pdf

de Groot, Rudolf et al. (2010). The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity: The Ecological and Economic Foundations. Chapter 1:Integrating the ecological and economic dimensions in biodiversity and ecosystem service valuation. TEEB. retrieved from:http://www.teebweb.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/D0-Chapter-1-Integrating-the-ecological-and-economic-dimensions-in-biodiversity-and-ecosystem-service-valuation.pdf

Sisay, Andaulem (2015). Ethiopia to determine value of forest cover. Africa Review. retrieved from: http://www.africareview.com/News/Ethiopia-to-determine-value-of-forest-cover/-/979180/2686998/-/400qb9/-/index.html

UNEP (2016). Greening Peru’s Economy. United Nations Environment Programme: environment for development. retrieved from: http://www.unep.org/newscentre/Default.aspx?DocumentId=27071&ArticleId=36123

 

 

Fish Stocks in the South China Sea: Tragedy of the Commons

Water. A resource that is so critical, yet seemingly treated as if dispensable and limitless. Water is essential not only for its intrinsic biological, social, and cultural value, but more importantly what it holds. In this case, a supply of food to feed millions of individuals. However, as the global community and environmentalists have seen, the once bountiful oceans are becoming empty. Fish stocks are on the decline, with certain species pushed near, and beyond the point of recovery. Nowhere is this more evident than the South China Sea, a large subdivision of the Pacific Ocean. However, before the current situation in the area is discussed further, the political entanglements of the region must be discoursed.

Bordering nine countries and hosting an international shipping lane, the South China Sea has always been a source of conflict. The region itself is divided into exclusive economic zones, where only fisherfolk of each respective nation are allowed to catch. However, “with territorial waters being overfished, local fishermen are venturing farther out to sea and, in the process, coming into competition with other foreign fisherman,” (Coulter 378). As coastal regions become devoid of life, the strongest industries, like China, venture out beyond their zone, fishing in what they claim is their respective territory. Similar to how land grabbing is occurring much throughout the world over terrestrial food security, nations of the South China Sea are scrambling to claim zones and harvest fish, all in fear of a complete collapse.

Map showing the actual exclusive economic zone divisions compared to China’s claim

As if the current situation was not enough, the problem is only expected to worsen “as demand for fish rises and counties become more assertive in exercising their rights under their respective [zones],” (“Fish Wars”). A negative feedback loop is evident in the South China Sea regarding overfishing. As unsustainable trawling and illegal ways of fishing become more commonplace, fisheries become more depleted, leading nations to send out fishermen farther, resulting in more unsustainable fishing and further exhaustion of stocks. Consequently, the region is highly interdependent, with the unsustainable actions committed in one area having equally drastic effects on stocks in other areas, often due to the migration pattern of species in this sea (Coulter 379). However, while the scientific community has proved unanimously that fish stocks are dwindling, are the effects being felt locally or internationally?

Local communities have been slow in releasing the economic, social, and environmental catastrophes that have occurred because of fishery depletions, partially due to industry cover-up. A policy brief by the United Nations Environment Programme recently reported that “fishing effort would need to drop by 50% to restore many fisheries to sustainable levels,” (GIWA). While clearly not possible, many coastal communities are feeling the shock, with families in Malaysia and the Philippines forced to spend weeks apart due to strained economic conditions. Migration has also resulted, with certain coastal communities becoming abandoned as fish stocks dry up or ecosystem services like mangrove forests are desecrated. On an international scale, consumers are not feeling the burden, as subsidies and the market system keeps fish flowing into American stores, while malnourishing and depriving those who caught the exported seafood. What exactly can be done then to reverse this trend and prevent a complete global fishery shock that is felt across the globe, regardless of socio-economic class?

The recent phenomenon to combat the growing fishery exhaustion involves the literal farming of fish. Aquaculture has skyrocketed, with the industry deemed as the solution to the problems of the South China Sea. However, while aquaculture has the potential to be extremely successful, the methods of doing so in Southeast Asia are often highly unsustainable. Pollution emitted from these farms are problematic, along with the fact that the feed for this farmed fish includes smaller species from the ocean, resulting in the same problem trying to be defeated.

Different methods of aquaculture, with some proving to be more sustainable methods than others 

In terms of economic and social damage, shrimp aquaculture in Malaysia has “destroyed hundreds of hectares of mangroves in the district but also caused marine pollution and threatened fisheries,” (Idris). The daily income dropped from RM 100, to only RM 15. This is not to say aquaculture is inherently evil, but like most development projects, it needs to be incorporated better with locals to promote sustainability not only in the regional environment, but the livelihoods of coastal dwellers. While sustainable farmed fish are obviously going to play a part in the future of the region, many critics state that aquaculture is not simply enough to combat the growing crisis.

For those who have read my previous blog posts, it is easy to see that I am a believer in consumer power as a catalyst of change. While associations to monitor illegal fishing in these regions are weak, consumers have the right and responsibility to properly source the origin of their seafood. Choosing seafood from certified catchers deemed sustainable is one step in lessening the demand for illegal fishing and support for rejuvenating fish stocks. While transnational corporations, subsidies, and cheap labor still dominate the market, that should not stop individuals from building a small, but growing market for a more sustainable future. Sadly, unless the Global North wakes up one day to find seafood gone from its markets, only then will it create a great enough realization of what has been happening all over the South China Sea.

References:

Coulter, Daniel Y. “South China Sea Fisheries: Countdown to Calamity.” Contemporary Southeast Asia 17.4 (1996): 371-88. JSTOR. Web. 4 Apr. 2016.

GIWA, comp. Challenges to International Waters: Regional Assessments in a Global Perspective. Nairobi, Kenya: United Nations Environment Programme, 2006. Global International Waters Assessment. United Nations Environment Programme, Feb. 2016. Web. 4 Apr. 2016.

Idris, Mohamed. “Fisherfolk Threatened by Shrimp Project.” Malaysiakini. Malaysiakini, 02 Mar. 2015. Web. 04 Apr. 2016.

“South China Sea: Fish Wars.” Inquirer.net. Inquirer.net, 3 Apr. 2016. Web. 04 Apr. 2016.

Consumers vs. the Consumed: Seeds of Life

479825085896e068098e56e09d878cd7

Genetically Modified Organism or GMO for short, the new concept that strikes panic in the minds of shoppers at the grocery store.  I mean we don’t even know what is in the bananas we eat!  The bananas could be contaminated with all sorts of contaminants. WRONG

While not much is known about the science behind GMOs or the possible long term effects they could have, this is not where major concerns should lie.  Yes, continuing to study the science behind GMOs is important, but there is relatively little evidence to support the belief that GMOs are scientifically harmful.  On the other hand, there is significant evidence to support the beliefs that GMOs often negatively effect small farmers around the globe.

The creation and implementation of GMOs has brought about a new system of agriculture.  Corporations can now produce GMO seeds and claim intellectual property rights over these seeds.  This new concept of biological ownership has led to numerous cases of biopiracy; the stealing of biological knowledge.  In 2001, PureWorld Botanicals “received a U.S. patent for exclusive commercial distribution of an extract of maca’s active libido-enhancing compounds that it branded as MacaPure” (Vecchio 1).  Even though the Quecha Indians have grown the maca root in Peru for hundreds of years, their intelligence and contribution hold no significance in the new agricultural legal system.  In addition to biopiracy, the new paten system takes advantage of scientific and technological advancements to manipulate GMO seeds, in order to meet the wants of the corporation.  Essentially, in an effort to make a larger profit many GMO seeds are made to be…

  • Single generation (meaning farmers cannot use prior years crops to produce new seeds)
  • Reliant on certain pesticides, and
  • Reliant on certain fertilizers

These seed manipulations combined with the corporate ownership of the seeds impoverishes farmers around the world.  Small farmers have to repeatedly purchase seeds and the fertilizers and pesticides that go along with them.  In India, the current administration is working to promote greater self reliance and has made claims stating that Monsanto has “misused its near-monopoly to to jack up rates” (Reuters 1).  Even though farmers are spending more money on cultivating their crops, they are not receiving returns on their investments.

The simple out would be not purchasing GMO seeds in the first place; however, this is much easier aid than done.  Small farmers have a much harder time competing in the market without them.

On top of that, even if farmers choose the non GMO route, there are many situations in which they have been sued for the use of GMO seeds that have been found in their fields, simply by natural processes.  Corporations such as Monsanto don’t like to play nice and have no problem violating peoples’ human rights in order to make a profit.  In the Untied States, even though politicians preach concern for small farmers, they owe their political careers to corporations that harm small famers, damage the environment, and disregard the natural biosphere (Wolf 44).  If politicians in the United States are unwilling to protect their own constituents, then they are certainly do not care about small farmers outside of the United States.

There are current arguments surrounding the labeling of products containing GMOs, both in the Untied States and elsewhere.  An Information Technology and Innovation Foundation report states that most of the GMO labeling battles have been unsuccessful, as anti GMO advocates lose ground and support; however most of the battles being waged focus on the scientific harm GMOs bring, rather than the social harm (Giddings 11-12).  It is easy to ignore the entire debate out of disinterest and place the blame elsewhere.  However, this mindset only furthers the exploitation and suffering of small farmers around the globe.  Protecting small farmers and preventing the violation of their human rights is only possible if the current focus of the debate changes.

Consumers need to be held accountable for their actions, my self included.  The next time you go to the grocery store to buy food, I challenge you to think critically about the food you are purchasing and the role you play in the global agricultural system that harms local peoples and farmers around the globe.  Even if you are not actively involved in the debate you need to be actively involved in the purchasing decisions you make.

 

Citations

Giddings, Val. “A Policymaker’s Guide to the GMO Controversie.” PolicyFile. Information and Technology and Innovation Foundation, 23 Feb. 2015. Web. 1     Apr. 2016.

Jain, Rupam, and Mayank Bhardwaj. “India ‘not Scared’ If Monsanto Leaves, as GM Cotton Row Escalates.” Hindustan Times. Reuter, New Delhi, 16 Mar. 2016. Web. 1 Apr. 2016.

Vecchio, Rick. “Peruvian Root in Bioprospecting Dispute.” The Washington Post Business. The Washington Post, 5 Jan. 2007. Web. 1 Apr. 2016.

Wolf, Robert. “Industrializing Agriculture”. The North American Review 285.1 (2000): 43–48.

PNG as a Counterdevelopment Model: Who Pays the Price?

In Prime Minister O’Neil’s second address to the National Press Club of Australia in Canberra, he draws attention to the damage that can be caused to the environment, and the people who live there, when big companies do not exercise proper care. The Ok Tedi located in Papua New Guinea is often referred to as one of the worst man-made environmental disasters in the world, well known for its disposal of mine tailings into the local river system, which led to an international lawsuit and ultimately to the abandoning of the project. Australia-based BHP Billiton, is the world’s biggest mining company and in 2001, they sold its profitable Ok Tedi mine after having destroyed more than 2,400 acres of rainforest. (Perlez). The mine produces 20% of PNG’s GDP, but it has also disrupted the traditional food system and the lives of more than 50,000 people by putting 90,000 tons of rock waste and tailings per day into the Fly River system (Alder).

Currently, PNG government has taken over the mine and Between November of 2005 and June of 2007, a team from The Keystone Center helped organize and implement a multiparty negotiation process targeted at increased compensation for people affected by river contamination from the mine.  After 18 months of effort, a settlement was finally agreed on. A Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) was established with representatives of the nine affected regions along the river, the mining company, the government,  that will ultimately give the people in the affected area about 1.1 billion kina (roughly US$350 million) in funds, projects, and services (Adler).

Still, to often pressure is put on the people living in proximity to the mine to choose between environmental degradation and monetary compensation. They were asked “Do you want the environment or money?” I few individuals answered by saying “environment.” After continued discussion someone finally called out in Melanesian Pidgin, “Tupela wantaim!” or “Both of them at once,” and the crowd loudly reacted with approval. Their desire is to protect the environment as well as have access to development opportunities and money. Since so much of the regional economy is dependent on the mines operation, closure isn’t an ideal option. The extra money provided by compensation helps support villages who have been severely affected by pollution. They cannot imagine letting the mine close down without gaining some lasting form of economic benefit in return for all the damage that it has done to their environment (Rubinstein).

A significant consequence of this paradox is that reliance on counterglobalization (anti-globalization) may reduce the outcome of indigenous movements to a simplification of an either/ or choice between the environment and development. Like many indigenous movements, the campaign against the Ok Tedi mine has more complex objectives than simply closing the mine. The movement sought compensation for the damages to the environment and to limit further pollution of the river. Participants hoped that the mine would continue to operate, providing economic benefits and opportunities, though not at the cost of the river and surrounding rain forest. Even though the campaign and lawsuit against the Ok Tedi mine tried to balance the two objectives, they were often misunderstood. When Indigenous movements diverge from an antidevelopment agenda, they run into the risk of being seen as “greedy” instead of “green”. To this day people argue about the balance between the economic benefits to be gained from keeping the mine open (to local people and central government) and the impacts on people and the environment (felt by local people on their own) (Rubinstein).

Nevertheless, the negotiations did achieve an important effect and demonstrated a new and promising model for other discussions of similar scale and importance.

The now state-owned Ok Tedi mines reopen will come as a relief to the Papua New Guinea (PNG) government, which is suffering from a revenue shortage. Due to low rainfall related to El Niño, the mine once again suspended operations in August 2015. The drought led to low water levels on the Fly River, which prevents the shipment of ores for export. A majority of the mine’s employees were put onto a basic-needs allowance. (The Economist).

Prime Minster O’Neil has pointed out that compensation arrangements put in place to protect communities are being mismanaged. However, he states that, “Today, Ok Tedi is changing.” And that new leadership has brought a turnaround. He states his position that big companies must have big responsibilities and that, “…BHP, and other mining companies housed in Papua New Guinea, must share the responsibility for the environmental damage done to our communities. Where they lack clean drinking water, where diseases that were not known in our communities are prevailing in many of our communities, we must make sure that we attend to this as well.”(PNG)

Though this case study is still within the making, Papua New Guinea could possibly stand as a model that other SIDS can use to learn from. Lessons on cooperation, inclusive and centered on the community and the environment, are an essential start. Despite the complications PNG may be facing, I believe they are taking tiny steps toward the right direction in advocating for the protection of their environment and more control in development of their state.

 

 

Work Cited:

Adler, Peter S., Janesse Brewer, and Caelan McGee. “The Ok Tedi Negotiations.” The Keystone Center http://208.72 156 (2007).

Perlez, Jane, and Kirk Johnson. “Behind Gold’s Glitter: Torn Lands and Pointed Questions.” Nytimes.com. The New York Times, 14 June 2010. Web. <http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/24/world/behind-golds-glitter-torn-lands-and-pointed-questions.html>.

Rubinstein, Robert A. “Anthropology and Advocacy.” Science 237.4817 (1987): 823. Researchgate.com. SAGE Publication, 2002. Web. <https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Robert_Rubinstein2/publication/6069966_Anthropology_and_advocacy/links/5584037d08ae89172b8794b7.pdf>.

“Environmental Risks Highlighted by PM O’Neill in Australia.” Papua New Guinea Today. PNG, 7 Mar. 2016. Web. < http://news.pngfacts.com/2016/03/environmental-risks-highlighted-by-pm.html>

“Ok Tedi to Restart Production in March.” Country.eiu.com. The Economist, 11 Feb. 2016. Web. <http://country.eiu.com/article.aspx?articleid=73932991&Country=Papua%20New%20Guinea&topic=Economy&subtopic=Forecast&subsubtopic=External+sector&u=1&pid=1924039176&oid=1924039176&uid=1>.

Blog Post 3: The Freshwater Crisis, Agriculture, and Climate Change, who’s responsible?

Developing Third World countries are the ones who will, ultimately, be negatively affected the most by climate change but it is the First World countries that are the ones who are causing it. It’s hard to admit to yourself that despite how much you care, living in a first world country, especially the United States, that you are part of the problem. Buying meat specifically, and other foods from grocery stores that are supplied by large food corporations alone is essentially feeding the climate change issue.

According to the Climate Institute, 25% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions (the most abundant of the GHGs) is due to agriculture. Main factors of agriculture contributing to global warming are deforestation, fertilizers that are fossil fuel based, and the burning of biomass. 30% of the world’s land is dedicated to agriculture, and first world countries like the US, Europe and Australia are the only ones who benefit. All of this pertains also to the freshwater crisis.

Thirty-seven different nations on this planet suffer from freshwater depletion, and a big part of this is due to climate change. Agriculture is not only a large factor in global warming but also a massive user of freshwater. 98% of the world’s water is saltwater while the remaining 2% is freshwater. 70% of that 2% is snow and ice, 30% is groundwater, and less then 0.5% is surface water;lakes, rivers, and streams. Because of the emissions produces from agriculture the sea ice and glaciers are melting, causing the freshwater to mix with the oceans, erasing said freshwater from existence. That’s not all: the higher the temperature the more water evaporates into the air causing either too heavy of a rainfall or severe drought.

All of this is happening because of the first world countries who have set the world on a path of destruction, all because we feel that we need more and more food. While we grow the food we need and raise thousands of cattle for slaughter even more people on the other side of the globe are suffering from hunger and lack of freshwater to drink, cook, and bathe with.

What needs to happen now is first world countries, need to fix it. They need to find ways to farm organically and in more efficient ways, they need to find ways to desalinate ocean water, create reservoirs to store it and pipe systems to transport it so that a mother in Ethiopia can give her child a glass of water instead of walking forty miles to get water that causes a plethora of waterborne diseases to infect said child. We have to do something about it because not only do we have the resources but we’re also at fault.

Resources:

http://www.dw.com/en/climate-change-fuels-water-scarcity-and-hunger/a-17325128

http://www.climate.org/topics/agriculture.html

http://www.nature.com/news/one-third-of-our-greenhouse-gas-emissions-come-from-agriculture-1.11708

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2012/nov/30/climate-change-water

The Cost of Pride

“In Papua New Guinea we have just witnessed the worst impacts of climate change.

“Rising sea levels and tidal surges that are taking place in many parts of our country, we have just had a seven-month long devastating drought and frost, as well as extreme storms.

“Already our people in our coastal villages are becoming refugees and are resettling on the mainland.” [I.E. The Carteret Island]

“We have had drought that has destroyed crops has leaving many of our communities without food.

“But we have been able to manage those issues by ourselves…” (PNG) -Prime Minister O’Neil

Here is the situation:

Papua New Guniea has been experiencing a prolonged dry spell since May of 2015. On August 7, 2015 The National Weather Service (NWS) declared that Papua New Guniea will be experiencing a severe El Nino event, which was forecasted to continue for 8–10 months with reduced rainfall in all parts of the country. This is expected to be worse than the 1997/98 drought. It has been estimated that approximately 2 million people will be effected with severity varying from place to place. The NDC’s summary updates revealed that almost all of the Highlands Provinces are experiencing Category 3 and 4 while some on Category 5 droughts on the Government’s drought scale. These categories indicate that there’s no food in gardens, only famine foods (ferns, unripe bananas, bitter yams) are being eaten, and water is only available at distance. (ReliefWeb)

The normal rainfall usually expected in November is now not expected until first half of 2016. This is overlapping with the dry season which usually occurs between May and October. Even more concerns have been rising that the severe food insecurity could potentially result in the displacement of a large number of affected people, leading to peace disturbances, widespread inter-tribal conflicts over limited resources and an increase in incidents of gender-based violence. There’s also increasing reports of babies and elderly people becoming ill as a result of the severe drought. (ReliefWeb)

As a result, the Government has activated the National Emergency Centre and the National Disaster Response Committee has made funds as well as relief supplies available. Delivery of relief supplies will be coordinated by the National Disaster Centre (NDC) and the Defense Force. (EPoA)

“That is probably one reason why we have not had the international attention about the worst drought we have ever experienced in Papua New Guinea. “

“We have been able to manage it because of our ability to engage with our communities, and our Government’s commitment to making sure that we feed our people over that period of time.”

Admittedly, to say this is such a severe drought, I can agree that it has gotten very little international attention. Currently, PNG has been independently managing the drought response through its new disaster. One article stated that they were not accepting outside help with food delivery. On this, Prime Minister O’Neil stated, “The Australian Government has not offered the Papua New Guinea government any help, we have not requested [it], it’s entirely up to them,”

“We are not going to go hand-in-cap every time we’re in trouble. We need to manage issues ourselves.

“It is not about pride, it is about making sure that our people are relying on each other and relying on themselves.”

Unsurprisingly, this has received much criticism and critique. Concerns have been made that released funds to districts have not been targeted to the most affected communities. Some areas have reported not receiving timely relief, some such as the Kanma village, report having not received any aid and that they are starving feeling as if the government forgot about them. The Government acknowledged difficulties in distributing supplies from regional centres.

In October, the Australian Government pledged $9 million to drought aid in the Pacific, $5 million of which went to programs in PNG. The article Author wrote, “The money was for coordination, mapping and resilience programs, not for the delivery of relief supplies” (Tlozek)

There is a lot to be analyzed about this situation. Is it important to keep pride? When should you give pride up? Does pride mean something different to developing countries such as PNG?

I believe Prime Minister O’Neil’s point is valid, and I applaud him in ways for wanting to independently handle this situation. The analysis is complex. I encourage and would love for all counties to be able to handle situations independently like this. However, when resources are scarce and delivery is inadequate with many people starving, becoming sick, and dying it is easy to see the situation as the Prime Minster being to prideful. We speak of the blindness of pride, and the stubborn act of doing everything alone and not asking for assistance when it’s needed. However, we see the desire to dictate mediation from the article’s author, Eric Tlozek, who states what the money should be used for.

It’s unfortunate, though, I get it. Sometimes, all you have left is your pride, when that happens, you have to hold on to it. I want to stress, that pride, in short, produces perseverance.

With any luck the government could be able to handle this situation on it’s own. If not, hopefully, they can receive assistance that does not compromise their integrity. Regardless, how these situations are handled and its result, will breed extraordinary resilience of communities in PNG in coming times, especially as their heightened risk of disruption as a result of climate change.

Meteorologists are still cautious to not link the drought to climate change, but while wide-ranging temperature records for the Highlands don’t exist, some studies report they are one degree hotter than 30 years ago. Manager of Climate Monitoring at Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology, Karl Braganza, compellingly states that the glaciers around Puncak Jaya in West Papua (a mountain range that runs from the east to the west across the island of New Guinea) are disappearing rapidly, presenting a strong indication of warming in the PNG Highlands (Stuff). These symptoms can’t be ignored. In the end…

“We must make sure that these communities and their ways of life, is protected.

… More about Papua New Guinea in next post.

*Italicized words are of Prime Minister O’Neil

 

Bibliography

“Environmental Risks Highlighted by PM O’Neill in Australia.” Papua New Guinea Today. PNG, 7 Mar. 2016. Web. < http://news.pngfacts.com/2016/03/environmental-risks-highlighted-by-pm.html>

“Emergency Plan of Action (EPoA) Papua New Guinea: Drought.” ReliefWeb (n.d.): n. pag. Ifrc.org. ReliefWeb, 15 Sept. 2015. Web. <http://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/MDRPG005dref.pdf>.

“Papua New Guinea’s Food Bowl Is All but Empty as Drought Affects 2 Million People.” Stuff.co.nz. N.p., 22 Feb. 2016. Web. <http://www.stuff.co.nz/world/south-pacific/76854432/papua-new-guineas-food-bowl-is-all-but-empty-as-drought-affects-2-million-people>.

Tlozek, Eric. “PNG PM Rejects Reports of Widespread Deaths Due to Drought.” ABC News. N.p., 03 Mar. 2016. Web. <http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-03-03/png-peter-oneill-rejects-reports-widespread-deaths-severe-dought/7219006>.