Archive for October, 2011

Heathrow expansion as an enclosure of commons in guise

October 31, 2011

Not every normative outline of development realistically reflects on the growth and the sustainability of the common person on the street. The British government’s intent to expand Heathrow could be seen as an enclosure of the commons/common ground, which deprives the commoners of their right of privacy and their ability to frequent the commons. The government, at this stage, looks at developments from the perspective of trade which is calculated by the GDP per capita without considering the interest and the wellbeing of the commoners. The government wants to maintain London’s leadership and reputation in the international business arena (international financial centre) with the notion that the present airport capacity is inadequate to meet the travel demands for a city like London with its reputation of being a global market powerhouse.
The government has marshalled enough evidence to substantiate why the expansion is important; for example, it is said that the city will lose income if the capacity of the airport remains unchanged because many businesses will decide to move elsewhere to avoid travel congestion. This will have a negative bearing on the UK economy. It will also create extra jobs to reduce London’s unemployment. Therefore, the government sees the prospects for expansion as economically outweighing its demerits.
The drafters of the expansion did not consider the commoners’ concerns and wellbeing which include air pollution and the excessive noise which will result from aircraft taking off and landing regularly during daytime about which the residents have serious concerns, especially regarding their comfort. On this note the government has defended its move on the grounds that technology will be used to solve the commoners’ problem (air pollution and the disproportionate noise). However, this pollution and noise problem have been with the residents of southwest London for some time now who ask that, if there are ways of using technology to deal with it, then why has the government not done so; is this a way to persuade the residents to stop the rebellion and in consequence nothing will be done about it? Or, perhaps, the government has just developed technological solutions for the problem.
A whole community has to give way for the expansion which it is estimated will result in the decanting of seven hundred residents from their comfortable residential zone. Not only will this have an effect on the residents of the locality, the excessive air traffic will culminate in increased CO2 emission.
The Heathrow expansion move resonates of the enclosure of the commons in the Sixteenth Century where the common property (arable land) was enclosed by the landowners (owners of the means of production) as a result of the high demand for wool which persuaded the aristocrats to opt for the rearing of sheep rather than growing crops
Civil society organisations demonstrated at Heathrow in August 2007 to show their disapproval of the expansion because they saw it as a threat to their health and disregarded empirical evidence showing that the current state of the airport would not encourage business relocation. Some European countries had already expanded their airports yet companies did not move from London to those place. Alternatively, it could be argued that China and India do not have big airports like America and Britain yet most of the British and American company call centres have been outsourced to those countries. If the government is looking at the expansion from the perspective of maintaining business in the city then it must see as illusory that the main concern of outsourcing businesses is focused on the excessive tax on businesses and some difficult corporate laws which impede the convenience of business owners making profits not the expansions of Heathrow.
To this extent, it could be argued that the expansion is underpinned by the capitalist motive where the ruling class will do anything to impose their will on the working class who have little influence. Therefore, the options available for the commoners are to continue with their commoning (resist) or device a strategy to discourage the government (bourgeoisie) by distractive measures (rebellion) or else, if the commoners relocate to a more conducive environment, a time will come when the ruling class will attempt to encroach on their new found environment. To this particular government, the notion that people come first in social and economic terms seems to be a redundant truism. Development is measured in terms of the growth of GDP per capita income, not on the quality of life and the wellbeing of the citizens. There is no justification regarding the government interest in the development of its people. Even with economic growth as development, it is obvious that few people will accrue the corresponding surplus value. If such enclosure of the commons is allowed to go ahead in this century, then our children and grandchildren will live to encounter this unabated encroachment and enclosure of the commons. Whilst the Sixteenth Century rebellion of the commoners resulted in the death of some 3000 peasants, this time there have been no deaths but there were several casualties and injuries. The commoners must unify and stand up against the capitalist oppression.


The containment of coloured people in Britain between the 1950s and 70s still hinders their success

October 31, 2011

The coloured community still suffer the discrimination their forefathers endured in Britain which hindered their progress economically, socially and in health terms. The labelling of ‘black’ as a cultural threat to the British culture is a tactic that has been used by the ruling class for decades. The black riots were considered as evidence of their failure to adjust into the British culture (democracy). This accusation did not begin with the blacks nor is it going to rest with them. These tactics has been practised since the 1920s with regard to anti-Irish and anti-Semitic disparities. This theme is not confined to the threat of differences of culture and democracy; it encompasses morality and health which were believed to be the major influence behind the fifties’ moral panic. Two under-age white girls were reported by a local Birmingham paper in 1956 to have been found in the house of some coloured men. As a result these girls were ordered to be put in care as they were believed to be in ‘moral danger’. At this stage the question was whether coloured people could take care of children; were the coloured so evil that they always did evil things and could not live in peace with any other race except their children?
Even if there had been an incident where coloured people did maltreat white children, could this be justification that all coloured people were molesters and abusers? After all, had white men not abused coloured people? A smallpox scare in 1961 within the Pakistani community was also considered their failure to meet the British health and safety requirements and, therefore, they were dirty which created scaremongering amongst the whites regarding close contact with the Pakistanis. This demonstrates the myopic memory we have because the whites wanted to take the American land from the American Indians having infected them with both small and chicken poxes. In spite of the hell the Pakistanis encountered, little was done to resolve their overcrowding housing problem which contributed to the ease of spread amongst the Pakistanis. The threat shifted from moral panic to material panic in the sixties, suggesting that coloured people posed a threat in terms of housing and jobs which was recorded in the ‘New East End’ (Dench et al). This was evidently exposed in the seventies as most of the law and order laws were focused on infiltrating the privacy of the coloureds (Blacks). Hall (et al) claims that youth and unemployment laws have been constructed upon the image of Black youth in the urban ghettos (increasing crime rate which brings political instability) including the economic crisis and black unemployment which are assumed to have culminated in crime and be deemed as the enemy within.
It is true that within every moral panic there is a percentage of truth in it. It cannot be ruled out that immigrants did not conform with the British lifestyle in areas such as culture and health socialisation in the early days of their arrival. However, it could be argued that the British ruling class’s stereotypical stance towards the coloureds had been extreme and has continued until the present day where the coloureds, apart from the Indians who felt they have to compromise and comply with the suppression, have been given the fewest immediate opportunities. The common people who felt their human rights had been tarnished and suppressed (Blacks, Pakistanis, and Bangladeshis), and as such cannot halt the oppression, have still been relegated to the lowest class strata.
This country is common property for those who reside in it and as such all should have the right to equally enjoy it as much as anyone else who comes from Britain. As a result of the enclosure of certain commons, it is perhaps time to ask how many coloured people have been given the opportunity to be government ministers, and also how many coloured people have been stopped and searched in the UK within the previous twelve months in proportion to the number of coloured and white people in the country. Something is wrong somewhere and this blog can wholeheartedly claim that the coloureds in this country have been denied their common right into successful living as a result of the enclosure of certain commons which could aid their achievement.

A Saving Grace for sustainability of Amazon commons

October 28, 2011

When I watched the headline Evo Morales Scraps Amazon Road Project on the BBC evening news, I said to myself this is a saving  grace for sustainability of Amazon commons resource pool which provide natural habitats for vast wildlife, diverse species, people and their livelihood. About 1000 indigenous Tipnis protesters successfully marched for 63 days from the Amazon low land in eastern Bolivia on to La Paz the seat of power campaigning against the invasion of their commons resources. The £211m Brazilian investment Highway Project planned to pass through the National Park and indigenous territory with diverse ecological reserve in the Bolivian Amazon is bound to displace if not extinct some of the plant and animal species. This venture vehemently opposed by the indigenous people for the simple fact that the National Park commons resources are vital and without it, sustainability of life is not guaranteed.

In my view, the hugely bio-diversified commons resource settings of Bolivia’s Isoboro secure National Park worth being defended to remain preserved. The road project will undoubtedly be gainful but the central theme is that such infrastructural project will destroy the intrinsic values and reduce the habitats size and blended with fragmentation, there will be dare consequences on the sustainability of life. The simplistic and naturalistic view is that the social and cost will far outweigh the benefits most of which in fact will go to Brazil seen as an invader enclosing on the commons resource leaving Bolivia heavily indebted.

The confrontations with fellow indigenous Tymara and the police endured by the campaigners whilst on their 63 days march to La Paz did not stop them instead built momentum for them. Defending commons resource as seen is mostly a very challenging task but what matters most is unified solidarity, focus and will power. The protesters were not without opposition and the indigenous Tymara people, other Bolivians and Brazil were among them. This is a reminder to us that not everyone is always interested in the commons resource pool while those defending it are doing that in interest of all.

 President Evo Morales himself an indigenous person and well-known commons resources defender insisted last June to push the road project through “whether they like it or not we will build that road”. However, two government ministers were in support of the campaigners. The foreign minister David Choquehuanca once commented “Our Mother Nature feeds us, gives us drinks and we respect her, we value her, we have to look after her” and in her letter of resignation over the issue, the defence minister after the police response said ”This is Not the way. We agreed to do things differently”.

All these strengthen the people’s power to fight for sustainability of the commons resource pool and the road project was first suspended by president Morales after the campaigners encounter with police followed by a sharp slip in his popularity rating and ordered a referendum on road construction.

The pressure on the president paid off. First, he said “the construction of Tipnis road is suspended” and then when the protesters arrived in La Paz, joined/welcomed by tens of thousands of supporters“, he said “Tipnis issue is resolved, Tipnis would be spared”. “This is governing by obeying the people” Thus the Bolivia’s commons resource is saved and it would be declared “untouchable zone”. “The road will not pass through here.”  I think standing up in favour of the commons resource is always faced with internal opposition as some do not really care to stand in her defence and others do not even support its sustainability. I am an admirer of the non violence nature of the campaign against the road project. We must all think about this and make our contributions.


October 28, 2011

The satisfaction of human needs and aspirations is the major objective of development but this still remains a challenge in Africa. With 750million people living in Sub Saharan Africa today, one-half still live on less than $1 a day purchasing price parity (PPP) and majority lacks access to clean water, sanitation, adequate nutrition, quality healthcare and other life sustaining goods as the Clinton Foundation acknowledges.  Since 1983 when the World Commission on Environment and Development was convened by the United Nations to ensure world sustainable development, sustainable development has remained subtle for many African countries.

Poverty remains Africa’s major challenge as a result of their population size which puts pressure on the resources and therefore affecting the resource distribution hence slowing down the rise in living standards of the people. The continent has also not been able to benefit from globalization opportunities due to the low level of technological advancement and education standards which does not match the standard of the developed world hence they are always outcompeted in the market.

However, Africa’s effort to achieve sustainable development have been impeded by the conflicts and civil wars for instance; Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, Somalia, Rwanda, and even the recent protests in many countries in Africa like Libya, Egypt and among others. This has always led to massive destruction of property worth trillions of shillings and loss of million lives. Furthermore, Insufficient investment, limited market access opportunities and supply side constraints, unsustainable debt burdens, historically declining levels of official development assistance and the impact of HIV/AIDS are some of the factors that have played a role according to United Nations Department of Economic and social affairs.

In 1986, a representative from Africa made this comment during World Commission on Environment and Development public hearing “If the desert is growing, forest disappearing, malnutrition increasing, and people in urban areas living in very bad conditions, it is not because we are lacking resources but the kind of policy implemented by our rulers, by the elite group. Denying people rights and peoples’ interests is pushing us to a situation where it is only the poverty that has a very prosperous future in Africa and it is our hope that the World Commission on Environment and Development will not overlook at these problems of human rights in Africa and will put emphasis on it. Because it is only free people, people who have rights, who are mature and responsible citizens, who then participate in the development and in the protection of the environment”  WCED Public Hearing, Nairobi, 23 September1986. However, after 25 years down the road, given the chance to present in a similar public hearing like that, representatives from Africa might still repeat this similar comment because a negligible success has been realized since then.

Therefore, to attain sustainable development in African countries, there is need to value harmony among human beings and between humanity and nature, this has to be streamlined and spearheaded by the authorities in power to ensure the integration of economic and ecological factors in the law and into decision-systems within countries in order to match at the international level. There is need also to embrace democracy as Sens’1986 puts it, “there is no famine in a true democracy”. Democracy would actually be a solution to all problems in Africa and this would facilitate sustainable development.

Honister Zip-Wire Controversy

October 28, 2011

Honister Zip-Wire Controversy Did anyone watch ‘Tales from the National Parks’ last night on BBC 4? It was a great example of the commons debate. The programme demonstrated well a variety of different views over what is felt to be a common resource.

The basic viewpoints are that Mark Weir wanted to build a zip-wire as part of an adventure capital development of the Lake District. Mark owned a slate mine in the area and distinguished himself and his family as ‘local’ people which entitled them to specific rights. He had already developed an adventure rock climb in the area called the ‘Via Ferrata’ without seeking prior planning permission as he felt the process to seek authorisation was to laborious and filled with red tape.

Richard Leafe, who was the Chief Executive of the Lake District National Park, supported mark’s application for the zip wire as he believed in the rationale behind introducing adventure capital to the National Park.

Natural England fiercely contested the proposal as did the ‘Friends of the Lake District’ due to the environmental impact of the attraction and the plans for the attraction were withdrawn (BBC News Cubria) after being voted against by the National Park Board.

I found this hugely interesting as it raised a lot of poignant issues. Mark’s view was that everyone should have the right to enjoy the park and he was merely adding in an attraction that people would enjoy, and at the same time making a lot of money out of the venture himself. His current business initiatives in the area already funded a private helicopter. He painted himself out to be at one with the local environment and therefore have specific rights to the resources. He held a total disregard for the agencies that were in place to protect this environment.

What was even more amazing was that CEO of the National Park, Richard Leafe, presented as being completely taken in by the views of Mark and supported him in his campaign for the new venture. Natural England took legal proceedings against Richard for the implementation of the ‘Via Ferrata’ without seeking prior authorisation and Richard made attempts to try and persuade them against taking these proceedings.

If individuals were allowed to do what they like without consequence then it would open the flood gates for development of the National Park. There has to be some level of authority to regulate and uphold standards as without this conflicting views of what the land should be used for would be opposed. This mirrors the situation with the Dale Farm Gypsys in my perspective as if laws are not upheld there would be complete anarchy.

I did think however that in the Honister Zip-wire case, the Board members who made the final decision on the implementation of the Zip-line only reflected a small cross section of society. They were all white, elderly, middle class members that clearly did not reflect our population within the UK. Ultimately their needs to be some level of governance but this governance should reflect the various perspectives that are held by the commoners.

The role of women in the occupation commons

October 28, 2011

Great article from The Nation, explaining the crucial role of women in maintaining the horizontal character of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Big business, investors urge tough climate action.

October 27, 2011

I was hit with a reality check , when I realised there are a lot of things we take for granted.  We don’t tend to really worry about what the future generation are going to be referring too as common resources. Have a look at this article which I felt was left hanging for us to conclude. It mentioned the injection of £100 billion to poor nations to aid their infrastructure, this really does need clarity. I was of the opinion that the poorer nation where the victims, having to cope in a polluted common resource. Other nations have been subject to prolonged droughts, heatwaves floods to name a few. Evidence shows that the developed countries are the major contributors to greenhouse gases.

The notion of green jobs is a great idea, but this can be argued that momentarily its ideal for developed countries. This I  argue on the back of globalisation which has not been even in its distribution, therefore technology and innovation  is behind in other nation.

Mindy Lubber should have given a stronger argument, about with government will be fulfilling which task or agreed on tasks. Rather then using a sweeping statement. The responsibility of climate action lies on both private,  public business,society  and his not really about credibility of the government. We strongly have to get out of this mentality that the government owes us this and that.

(Un)Sustainability and the commons in the Lion King

October 27, 2011

Surely you are surprised to stumble upon the Lion King here. However, there is a good reason why I have chosen to blog about the Walt Disney movie. When I watched the 3D version of it one week ago, I came across two key scenes which included contents that we have discussed in our lectures. It made me think that the film is a good example for how the idea of the commons works.

In one scene right at the beginning (09:30), the kind and wise lion king, Mufasa, explains to his son, Simba, that all organisms live together and are connected to keep the balance of nature. He tells his boy that it is necessary to know about this equilibrium and to respect it, especially when one is in a position of power. To me, this description of the famous “circle of life” draws the ideal picture of the commons: a harmonious interaction of a community, existing resources and commoning.

The movie even shows what happens when a powerful leader does not acknowledge and appreciate the balance (13:14). When Mufasa’s brother, Scar, rules the land, it comes to the point when there is no food left for the lions and the hyenas. The new king did not have in mind that, nature can not regenerate itself unless we act sustainably. The reasons are stupidity and ignorance. In his royal opinion he can act as he wants. That he accepts the possible death of the pride of lions underlines his eagerness for power.

In many regards I see parallels to the latest global events. The current financial and economic crisis resulting from the greed of some bankers is just one well-known example.

Are you with me? Or do you think I am interpreting too much from this fairy tale? Please, let me know!


October 27, 2011

The move by the government of Uganda to table before parliament the Public Order Management Bill, 2011, can be seen as an enclosure of the commons. If passed into law, the bill will requires the organizers of an assembly, a procession or demonstration to follow strict guidelines and among which includes; notifying the office of the Inspector General of Police in writing at least seven days before the meeting and must be held strictly between 6am-6pm, No use of amplification system except when permitted by the police chief.

The bill has however been protested by the opposition politicians who are looking at it as a measure of enclosing their political liberties by the ruling party as it is aimed at suppressing their activities, gatherings and demonstrations. In early this year, however, the opposition politicians have been involved in a series of demonstrations tagged as “walk to work” over the increasing cost of living in the country especially rise in fuel and commodity prices and reckless government spending, something which is considered to have engineered the government’s move to table the Bill.

Many people who share the ideology of civil liberty in Uganda including civil society organizations and human rights defenders have voiced their concerns as to how this Bill will affect the civil liberties of the citizens. The Bill is also in direct conflict with the Article 21, of the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which provides for peaceful assembly without any restrictions. Article 11, of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights also provide for the freedom of assembly and it seems Ugandans may not freely enjoy the provisions in these two documents and yet Uganda is a signatory to both of them.

Public gathering is a very good form of communing through which people can express their grievances on the matters that affects their wellbeing in all arenas i.e socially, politically, economically and some of this concerns seems to be indisputable for example, the protest by Ugandans over the increasing cost living which directly affects the pockets of the poor and hence affecting their well-being. However the form in which public gathering or demonstration takes has to be considered for instance most of this demonstrations always begin as a peaceful one  but later on turn into violence and the end result is always destruction of property, injuries and loss of lives.

In my opinion,  this Bill even if it is passed by the parliament to become Public order Management (POM) Act, will still not help Uganda and may not stop public protests and demonstrations as it is intended. The problem of Uganda is that the economy has struggled to manage its resource allocation whereby only 1% are benefiting and living the 99% suffering simply because the government has given room for corruption and abuse of public office. Secondly, Ugandan population is comprised of young people with a lot of energy but these energetic youths are unemployed and are not engaged into any productive economic activities and since they have nothing to lose, they are always used by the opposition politicians to stage a protest.

Occupy Wall Street Commons and the Capitalist’s Enclosures

October 27, 2011

As the Occupy Wall street protests continue, so are the questions about the future of global financial institutions, trade, social inequality, and the environment. The world faces the prospect of a new era in which traditional models of economic and financial interactions will no longer stand the test of times, and therefore should be redefined.  We are the 99%, as a political slogan is the central theme of the current wave of protests. The movement is rapidly transforming itself into a global call for reforms on the global Capitalist and Financial systems. As it all unfold, one thing that stands out is the conflict of interest between the commons and the threat of enclosures.

The movement has spread to more than 30 cities in the US and there are now new forms of protests around the world, including London and Calcutta, all linked to the Occupy Wall Street protest.  With the downgrading of the US economy; the financial crisis and joblessness in Europe and the impact on the Climate, is this change eminent?

‘Commoning’ as a process continues to draw people together to pursue a common course. The diversity of emerging groups and their ability
to utilize a common space for a common good, explains the complex nature of the protests and the dynamics of commoning.  Regardless of the diversity, the protests has been sustained by common pool resources.  Added to social, environmental and humanitarian groups, the latest group to emerge is the OCCUPY MARINES, who were inspired by US Marine Sergeant (an Iraqi War veteran), who successfully prevented police
assault on Occupy Wall Street Protesters. He then called on all US Marines from all divisions to join the peaceful protest.

Notwithstanding the merits of the protests and it global acknowledgement, the movement faces the threat of enclosure. The protest continues to meet resistant from capitalist institutions and some sections of the press, who have adopting an anti-Occupy Wall Street stance. Since its
inception, there has been a conscious effort to contain the movement. Hundreds, if not thousands have already been arrested in connection to these protests. In New York, protesters, faces forceful eviction. In London St. Paul’s Cathedral, protesters are under pressure to abandon the protest, as the Cathedral is closed to visitors on health and safety reasons. There is already a call to delegitimize the movement, as an additional form of enclosure. In the absence of a clear cut leadership, will these enclosures silent the movement?  Will it leads to Plurality of ownership? Or
will the commons prevail?