Archive for November, 2013

Climate Change an issue to the commons

November 29, 2013

According to the United Nations Environmental programme (UNEP), Africa will need up to $35 Billion a year to develop the infrastructure to adopt to climate change.  The Sub-Sahara Africa will need $17 Billion of this amount until the 2050.

There are concerns all over the world about humans activities that are tampering with natural resources especially trees that are causing temperatures  to rise and land cleared for farming and irrigation are causing flooding. Not forgetting the impact of industralisation to our environment and therefore air.

China’s pollution problem as mentioned by other bloggers is a concern.  It is reported to have 16 of the worlds 20 most polluted cities.

I’m of the opinion that the policy of ‘cut 1 tree plant 2 trees’ could be away forward to sustain and preserve our natural environment.

 

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commons resources prone to tragedy of the commons needing enclosures:

November 28, 2013

TTL 1 imagesimagesCAECSVF8 

Here is what happened during the long dry seasons in the far north of Zimbabwe, the people of the Chipuriro Tribal Trust land (TTL) kept themselves alive by feeding their goats and cows on the pods of the Mopani trees growing on its river banks. These clumps of trees were controlled by a committee of elders, who decide who should be allowed to use them and for how long. Anyone coming into the area who wants to feed his goats or cattle on the pods has to negotiate with the elders. Depending on the size of the pod crop, they would allow him in or tell him to move on. If anyone overexploits the pods or tries to browse his animals without negotiating with the elders first he will be driven off with sticks: if he does it repeatedly he may be killed. These Mopani forests and woods are a common: a resource owned by many families. Like all the commons of the Chipuriro people, they were controlled with fierce determination.

The last 3-4 decades, the Chipuriro Tribal Trust land people were battered by a combination of drought and raiders from nearby Dande tribes who came armed with automatic weapons. Many people came close to starvation, and the Zimbabwean government, the United Nations Development Programme and the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization decided that something had to be done to help them.

The authorities knew nothing of how the Chipuriro TTL regulated access to their commons. What they saw, in the Mopani forests, and the grass and scrublands of the lowvelds , was a succession of unrelated people moving in, taking as much as they wanted, then moving out again. If they tried to explain how it worked, their concepts were lost in translation. It looked like a free-for-all, and the experts blamed the lack of regulation for the disappearance of the vegetation. This was, in fact, caused not by people but by drought.

Undoubtedly, the only way to stop the people from overusing their resources was to settle them down, get rid of most of their animals and encourage them to farm. Series of irrigation schemes where introduced which started growing grain. They spent US$150,000 per hectare in setting it up. Paradoxically,many people flocked in, not, on the whole, to farm, but to trade, to find paid labour or to seek protection from their enemies. With the first drought the irrigation scheme collapsed. The immigrants reverted to the only certain means of keeping themselves alive in the lowveld: herding animals.

Overwhelmed by their numbers, the elders could do nothing to keep them away from their grazing land. If they threatened to kill anyone for taking pods without permission, they were reported to the police. The pods and the surrounding grazing were swiftly exhausted and people started to starve. The commons had become a free-for-all. The authorities had achieved exactly what they set out to prevent.

The above justifies Garrett Hardin, in The Tragedy of the Commons theory. He argued that common property will always be destroyed, because the gain that individuals make by over-exploiting it will outweigh the loss they suffer as a result of its over-exploitation.  For authorities such as the World Bank and Western governments it provided a rational basis for the widespread privatization of land, roads, waters, air etc.

Reflections on water from the Moon

November 28, 2013

Reflections on water from the Moon

Tragedy of the Wildlife.

November 28, 2013

The tragedy of the wildlife is that we see it as a commons. We see it as a resource that we can exploit and kill at will. However, it is a finite resource and if we go on killing animals faster than they can reproduce, Mr Harding’s prophecy will unfortunately be real and the wildlife will disappear. Today wildlife is not killed for food, and very seldom for protection. Why then do we kill all these animals and sell their products? Yesterday I went to the launch of the Criminal Nature Report at the House of Commons. Representatives of the Government, Interpol and of an NGO called IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare) were there, and it was an eye opener.

The illegal wildlife trade is worth a shocking 19 billion dollars each year and it is rising. It is the fourth largest global illegal activity after narcotics, counterfeiting and human trafficking. It is bigger than oil, art, gold, diamonds, and small arms!!

There is a link between illegal wildlife trade and violent criminal and militant activities. Terrorist groups use the the trafficking of ivory, rhino horns and pelts of big cats to fund their operations. No wonder when a kilo of ivory is worth $2’200.- and the kilo of black rhino horn is worth $66’139.-. Direct links have been exposed with terrorist groups in East and Central Africa.  Worldwide, over 40% of criminal rings involved in illegal wildlife trafficking were also involved in criminal activities (Cali drug cartel, Medellin drug cartel, etc). The same routes used to smuggle wildlife across countries and continents are used to smuggle weapons, drugs and humans. And wildlife criminals are well versed in fraud, corruption, money laundering and murder. The heads of those activities are well hidden and organized.  It is only recently that a link has been made between the illegal wildlife trade and the threat to global stability and security. These people are highly organized and well protected. In Cameroon last year, in one raid in one day 700 elephants were killed and relieved of their ivory!!! This requires such manpower, arms and logistics that it is hard to believe that it can happen without top-level protection. And Cameroon is an African democratic country hailed by many as politically and socially stable. I could insert shocking images of elephants whose heads have been cut using chainsaws so that it makes removing the tusks easier, of almost extinct black rhinos suffering the same fate, and many more, but we have all seen some already.

I am passionate about protecting the wildlife. We used to share the same environment for thousand of years and were always able to solve any conflictual situation with wisdom. Since the invention of fire arms, a pull on the trigger has replaced analysis and peaceful solutions. We decimate and eliminate wildlife at will and for fun. We destroy their habitat in the name of progress, building roads, factories and towns, and now we say that animals are posing serious threats to humans as they are living too close to villages and towns, so we hunt and kill them. But who is posing the biggest threat to whom? The human or the animal? We enclose animals in National Parks where they are supposedly safe, but in the end make the poachers task easier by gathering the animals in an area where they can operate unseen.

I believe that ensuring the sustainability of its wildlife will ensure Africa a growing long-term source of income through tourism and that this is much better than any short-term profit which only benefits criminals and not the continent. We have to get this message across to communities so that poachers want to become wardens, therefore working towards sustaining their heritage and resources.

So what can we do?

First demand must be stopped and this has to go through education and communication. China is the biggest importer of such products as it is used in traditional medicine, sold as trinkets and as aphrodisiacs. They are seen as a sign of enormous wealth and power/potency (I wonder if there is also a link between the growing number of Chinese investment in Africa and the growing illegal wildlife market there). However surprisingly, the US is the second market followed by the EU.

Wildlife crime should be elevated to the level of other serious international organized crimes. Global wildlife enforcement strategies and networks should be developed. Legal policies and frameworks should be strengthen, and online wildlife crime has to be tackled. Unfortunately today wildlife trafficking is treated as a low-priority by many law-enforcement agencies and the fines imposed on caught traffickers are ridiculously small providing no real disincentive. Hopefully this report will change this and signs are that the world is taking notice. David Cameron is organising a global conference on the trading of ivory and rhino horn in London next February where 40 countries will attend, including China. And Kenya has announced that they will microchip the horn of every single rhino alive, in order to prevent crime and track the poachers.

Will Africa ever be liberated?

November 27, 2013

We have heard about women liberation, animal liberation excreta , excreta.  But what is liberation?.

In Sociology Liberation means ‘the seeking of equal status or just treatment for or on behalf of any group believed to be discriminated’ do we think Africa as we approach the Millennium Development Goal target of 2015, is even at the point where it can celebrate liberation?

As a student of Social Science, I must say the ‘Sustainability and Commons’ Module has opened my eyes to what exactly the word ‘Liberation’ means.  Africa has not got it.  All the success they have referred to in terms of Africa  developing and on a journey of equal status with the rest of the world is basically none existence.

The past decade has seen the most dynamic growth in Africa’s history where Africa’s  per capita GDP has increased  every year since 2000 but is economic growth the best indicator of how Africa is prospering?  Success has been linked to resource-boom, African governments  improving  macroeconomic stability or  reforming  their business and regulatory environments, making them an increasingly attractive destination for investment, particularly in telecoms, banking, retail and construction and creating new opportunities for  both African and foreign businesses. However, does the evidence of such increase in per capita GDP translate into equal distribution of wealth in Africa.  I guess the answer is No.

When we say we have opened our markets to global business who does this benefit?  Every Partner to Africa is after exploiting its wealth, be it minerals, land, labour and everything they have hanged on including their dignity.  Aid or grants given to Africa with the notion of development have strings attached to them.  ‘We give you this and you give us that’ Is this liberation?

Poverty is just on its rise with the richer getting richer and the poorer getting poorer.  The story of child labour due to such poverty is  a worry.  Children are now having to work to get food home rather than go to school.  If the children do not have access to education who then will lead the liberation?

We will continue to raise our hands begging unless we invest more into education especially children’s education cause these are the future generation and unless we empower them to stand on their two feet and teach them to be independent. This cycle will continue and we will remain unliberated.

 

Internal migration of girls in Ghana, a consequence of enclosures.

November 25, 2013

The issue of girl child migration from the North to South of Ghana has gain publicity lately. Kayayei is a term for girls who work in the streets and markets in the cities of Accra, Kumasi and other towns by carrying heavy loads of shopping on their heads from one place to another. These are predominantly migrants from the North to South in search of greener pastures. Girls age as young as 8 to 24 years, sometimes with permission of parents, live and work in the streets and markets in order to feed themselves and send money home for the rest of the family. These girls are vulnerable and expose to physical and and financial abuse, as well as sexual exploitation, including rape. They are at risk of contracting infectious diseases from living in slums without sanitation, sexually transmitted diseases and the deadly HIV/AIDS. Teenage pregnancies are on the increase in these area, and babies live and grow in the streets. The job does not provide regular income, leaving them without food or medical care assistance if they fall ill. Some get rejected by their families if they return home with babies or without income.

All these difficulties are a result of extreme poverty in Northern Ghana, the root of which is several years of enclosures. Ghana is endowed with natural resources such as gold, diamond, minerals, vast of rain forest, and recent the discovery of oil. These have been enclosed from the period of colonialism under British rule where income from these resources was not used for the improvement of live of the people. The north is particularly deprived because it lack most of these rich resources. Most people are peasant farmers without formal education. Most so called development infrastructure was concentrated in the south and continued after independence in 1957. Structural Adjustment Program imposed on Ghana by the World Bank in the 1980s also exacerbated the plight of the northern poor because the few health and educational facilities became inaccessible due to payment of user fees. Environmental degradation from deforestation, climate change has resulted in decreased rainfall from 8 months a year to 2months, often erratic and unreliable for farmers. For these reasons, people source of livelihood is no longer sustainable.

  The question is, how will Ghana develop and meet its MDGs when the youth who will be future leaders are uneducated. How will gender equality ever materialise when young girls are in the streets and getting infected with HIV. Some child right groups are calling on government to treat the problem as a child right problem by enforcing the basic education rules.

The dilemma is that how can parent be compelled to enrol and keep children in school if they can not feed them. A proactive program is required by government and NGOs to provide people with a source of livelihood so they can look after their child. Family Planning programs must also be intensified to curb the ever increasing population.

 

CONSEQUENCES OF OZONE DEPLETION

November 25, 2013

The most obvious cause for concern about ozone loss stems from its role as a filter of the Sun’s ultra-violet radiation.Concentrating on the YV region, it could be noticed that the ban labelled UV-C(2.0-2.9×10-7m) is virtually eliminated by the atmospjere.  This is just as well, because UV-C is lethal to micro-organisim(where its use is in germicidal lamps), and can destroy both nucleic acids and proteins: in the range from 2.4-2.9x10m, protection from UV-C is due entirely to absorption by ozone. 

More important as far as ozone loss is concerned is the narrow band bwtween 2.9 x10-7 and 3.2×10-7, known as’ biologically active UV or UV-B .  Here the attenuation of the solar input is  evident  due to ozone, but theeffect is less complete: a fraction of UV-B penetrates all the way to the ground.  UV-B radiation is known to have a multitude of effects  on humans, animals, plants and materials and indeed on the chemistry of the of the atmosphere itself.  Most of these effects are damaging – but few are sufficiently well understood at present for the impact of enhanced UV-B to be quantified.  However, given its importance, it may still come a a surprise to learn that there were few reliable measurements f this radiation  band untill the  the late 1980’s.  Part of the reason is its low intensity: at the edge of the Earth’s atmosphere it represents about 2%of the sola  spectrum, but only a small fraction of this reaches the surface of the Earth.’

Water is a Human Right, right?

November 23, 2013

Water is fundamental to life. This is true for all humans, without exception. It is essential that we have access to clean drinking water for our survival. Add to this the necessity of water for washing, for hygiene and sanitation to ensure that we don’t get sick or die of disease, and the case for water as a human right is compelling. Surely as a substance that every living thing on our planet relies on to survive it is a prime example of something that should be made available through commoning. Allowing everyone access and with rules in place to govern the careful use and protect the supply from contamination or depletion.

But is water a human right in law? I was surprised to discover that water doesn’t feature anywhere in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – the 1948 UN document considered the basis of universal human rights. It seemed like such an obvious “right”, I had always assumed it would be there, perhaps right after the right to shelter. In fact, there is a long running debate at all levels, up to the that of the United Nations as to whether water is a human right, or a need. You can find more on the history of this here.

It wasn’t until very recently in 2010 that the UN passed a resolution confirm water’s status as a right and not a need.

So why the contoversy? Between needs and rights is a simple but important distinction. If something is a need, then it can be treated as a commodity. Access rights can be sold, profits can be made. Unsurprisingly, those parties who have argued against treating water as a human right have been those who sought to profit from the sale of water supplies; whether through the management of local water supplies or through syphoning off water for bottling.

The argument for water as a need ties to the desire to commodify water and profit from its sale. Transnational corporations such as Nestle have been heavily involved in lobbying against treating water as a human right. This argument always invokes the idea of “the tragedy of the commons”, without assigning water a market value, a price, then there is no way to control access – to ensure distribution to those without, to protect supplies. Without paying for it, each individual would run amuck, consuming as much as they liked and more than they needed, until we were left with nothing.

Here is a video of former Nestle CEO Peter Brabeck making exactly this argument. Skip ahead to 2.30 if you’re short of time to hear his rationale for why considering water a human right is an “extreme” view.

In this same video Brabeck argues that the only way to ensure that the poorest have access to water is to privatize and ensure that companies like Nestle provide services for the poor. Fine in principle, but unsurprisingly the evidence of what actually happens does not support his claims.

Take for example the village of the village of Bhati Dilwan, Pakistan, situated close to a Nestle water bottling plant. Nestle’s syphoning of deep water supplies has caused the existing water infrastructure in the local area to fail. Residents in Bhati Dilwan saw their wells dry up and vulnerable people start to fall ill as what little remained dropped in quality. Rather than ensure that water was provided to those in need, the company has created a greater need by destroying an existing water supply system and leaving people dependent on their expensive bottled alternatives.

This is only one of many examples of market interests working against human interests. So how can we be in a situation where the market value of an essential component for all life is treated as a commodity when it clearly doesn’t work? Where does the certainty that the market solution is the only solution come from, when evidence contradicts it?

I think in this case the real tragedy of the commons is that the very idea of the commons are often dismissed as a solution to water management and distribution for all.

 

 

Local exchange trading scheme(LETS), an excellent method of commoning

November 22, 2013

Money provide a medium of exchange and value for goods and services in mainstream economies. Since the period of pre-accumulation through to the industrial era, money has been used to simplify trade transactions in the economy. Money provide people with their needs, which is base on affordability. This system has been problematic for those who are unemployed for one reason or the other. For instance, the elderly, unskilled persons, or when there are no formal jobs for everyone or casualty of redundancy. These people have the ability to perform a task or another, but are not able to raise money which put them at a disadvantage as their needs can not met without money.
Communities have device ways of meeting their common needs without the use of conventional currency. Local exchange trading is a local currency used by communities to pay for goods or services within their locality. Such currency is not valued in the national system, but is a means for exchange of goods and service for the community. Trading is mainly for food stuff, service like hairdressing, care of the elderly, home improvements, childcare etc. credit points are accumulated for rendering service to another member of the community, and used to receive service when required. This practice has been ongoing for the past 20years in communities in the UK, Australia, NewZealand and Argentina, as a way of shifting dependence from capitalism. Similar system in the USA is termed Time Dollar, and is mainly for service delivery. Time in hand is used to provide service for others for credit points for when one is in need of help. Young people are mowing lawns and painting houses for elderly neighbours. Some members also use their credit points they have earned, to contribute to other elderly people who need them more. In some communities, time dollar is interwoven into conventional medical care system to provide service in deprived areas. For instance driving the sick to and from hospitals, help with feeding or meeting personal hygiene needs.
The advantages of these schemes are numerous to the communities. Cahn and Rowe (1992) state that these schemes provide things that people need that money can not buy. They refer to ‘the kitchen table’, where families and their close friends helped and cared for each other without the thought of renumeration. The system is based reciprocy, respect, and trust, just like the pre-industrial era. It provide community cohesion and bonding, where people know each other and care about each other’s welbeing. The community does not rely on the state to provide social service which is dwindling with the recent austerity measures. No reliance on police service to combat crime as everyone is their neighbour’s keeper. Communities are also insulated from global financial shocks because there can not be shortage of their local currency. In addition, it provide sustainable livelihood for the community as good and services are localised. No carbon foot prints from local transaction.
LETS and Time Dollar schemes provide the best alternative to capitalist system because everyone in society is valuable.

Langar with the Sikhs– an example of commons within religious systems

November 19, 2013

I got to thinking about religious institutions after our class a few weeks ago when Massimo mentioned that many religions aren’t generally considered a true commons due to an over-abundance of facades. While I’m not overly ‘religious’ myself, I do feel that ‘commoning’ is a deeply seeded sentiment within most religions (aside from a few image-oriented individuals). After all, many religions claim to have been initiated in order for us to ‘love one another’ regardless of origin, age, or gender.

One perfect example of religious commoning is within Sikhism, specifically in the Golden Temple which is the Sikh’s central place of worship. The Temple was built by Guru Arjan Sahib in the 1500’s (completed in 1601) in order to allow anybody to worship ‘irrespective of cast, creed or race (so they) can seek spiritual solace and religious fulfilment without any hindrance’. The Temple was built on ground level (to symbolize equality) and was created with 4 entrances to symbolize its accessibility to anybody from any walk of life. 

The creation and intention of the Temple is all well and good, but where does commoning come into play? It comes in the way a lot of commoning happens– through food, or ‘Langar’.

As mentioned earlier, anyone is allowed to enter the Temple- this can range from tourists, to pilgrims, to the homeless. Doctors, politicians, Brahmins, and beggars are all required to cover their heads, wash their feet and enter as equals, and all contribute to the temple in some way or another. The grounds are funded by donations and are maintained by Sewadars (volunteers) who come and go as they see fit- these volunteers are often the doctors, pilgrims, or other visitors who come to the Temple. There are several Niwas Asthans (hostels) close by where anyone can stay for free on a first-come-first-serve basis (it has some of the cleanest bathrooms I’ve seen in India!). Finally, there is a giant kitchen which can feed up to 100,000 people every day, this is where much ‘Langar-ing’ happens. Langar consists of many parts- food preparation, serving, eating, and cleaning; it also has a large emphasis on empowering women and children within the community. The meal is prepared three times a day by Sewadars (often supervised by women) and then served by Sewadars to people sitting in long lines on the floor. In the end all of the washing and cleaning is done by more Sewadars. It is a general assumption that if you come for food or lodging, you are expected to contribute through either washing/serving/cleaning/or cooking. Beyond the ‘give and take’ of Langar-ing, this process also teaches the community members the ‘etiquette of sitting and eating in a community situation, which has played a great part in upholding the virtue of sameness of all human beings; providing a welcome, secure and protected sanctuary.’

I’m sure there are many more examples of pure and honest commoning within a religious institution. If you know of any other inspiring examples, I would love to know!

For more information on the Golden Temple, please see : http://www.goldentempleamritsar.org/index.php