Author Archive

The commons fight against big oil.

December 11, 2016

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Standing Rock.

A small but mighty blow was dealt last week to the big oil industry. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe had protested for months against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. A multi-billion pipeline of 1,200 miles that crosses four state was intended to slash the cost of crude transport. A section of the pipeline was planned to run right under Lake Oahe, a reservoir on the Missouri river. The Local standing rock Sioux tribe and thousands of Native Americans have protested the oil pipeline project as they believe the project threatens sacred native lands and has a great chance of contaminating local water supply from the Missouri river (the longest river in North America).

Going by the name “water protectors”, these activists are adamant that the pipeline poses a similar threat surrounding area. Also, the tribal leaders say the initial decision by the US army corps of engineers for the pipeline to run within half a mile of the local reservation was done without consultation of tribal governments and a thorough impact study. The pipeline project clearly violates federal law and native treaties. The news of the permit not been granted for the Dakota Access Pipeline is a major win not just for environmental activists but also native American rights.

It is interesting to notice how there was little to no coverage of the protest on mainstream media. It took the arrest of Shailene Woodley (celebrity) whom was protesting the North Dakota oil pipeline to bring in any mainstream media attention. Also, credit has to be given to online news network TYT and their political reporter Jordan Chariton for bringing attention to the water protector’s peaceful protest. One reason for the mainstream media blackout is down to the non stop reporting of the 2016 American presidential election which saw Donald Trump win against Hillary Clinton.

While the victory at standing rock demonstrates how a common and commoners can peacefully protest a big corporation and win. The fight may have been won but the war is not over. The oil pipeline company can appeal the decision taken by the US army corps of engineer and also the Obama administration in court. Also, the incoming Trump administration can try to overturn the decision as it is in favour of the pipeline. Some have attributed the recent victory to the Obama’s administration while a majority of people have criticised the government for its slow reaction to the dispute.

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Bodo community.

In 2008 and 2009, two oil spills devastated the fishing residents of the Bodo community in the Niger Delta. Oil giant Royal Dutch Shell agreed to a $84 million settlement with the residents. The two oil spills which were among the biggest oil spills in decades resulted in 15,600 Nigerian fishermen that depended on fishing for feeding their families and work lose their way of life. Due to the oil spill, the price of fish, a local staple food sky-rocketed as much as tenfold. With so many fishermen abandoning their way of life in search for other to provide for their families.

Each year, there are hundreds of oil spills in Nigeria caused by leaks and others by sabotage as local people steal oil to refine locally and sell to generate a livelihood. The settlement by the oil giant comes as a great victory for the local people after years of protesting oil exploration in the Niger Delta which has affected thousands of hectares of mangrove. Shell explained that both spills were as a result of operational failure of the pipeline.

The law firm that represented the Bodo community Leigh Day described the settlement as one of the largest payout to a community after a devastating environmental damage. This victory by the Bodo community came after a three year long legal battle setting a precedent. It is a disgrace that it took so long for the situation to be taken seriously. The clean-up of the oil spill does not reverse the damage done to the ecosystem.

Fight for survival.

 

These two examples are just drops in an ocean of a global movement of commoners fighting back the oil industry and other big multinational industries that pose a danger to their way of life. Across the world, a lot of ecological disasters are occurring as a result of the actions of industries, governments and people. For the commons to survive, it will not only need the commoners as activist but people around the world to join the movement.

EU Food waste/Energy waste.

December 5, 2016

food-waste

According to the United Nations food and agriculture organisation, food waste is a global issue that sees a third of global food production lost or wasted annually. This is as the global population is set to rise to over 95. Billion by 2050. This is inevitably going to put a massive pressure on the world’s food system.

Food that go uneaten or discarded is referred to as food waste or in some cases, food loss. There are various causes of food waste or loss and they occur at the various stages of food system (production, processing, retailing and consumption). Global figures on food waste shows that each year, 1.3 billion tonnes of food produced is wasted. This includes about “45% of all fruit and vegetables, 35% of fish and seafood, 30% of cereals, 20% of dairy products and 20% of meat”.

EU food waste.

The European Union throws away 89 million tonnes of food and the United Kingdom is one of the worst offenders. A House of Lords commissioned inquiry into the cost of food waste across the EU expects the figure to rise to around 126 million tonnes by 2020 if there is no significant action taken. This will have a tremendous impact on the environment, economy and society. From the inquiry, food waste across the EU-27 was broken down into 4 sectors. The household had the highest share of food waste at 42%. This is followed by food/drink manufacturing with 39%, food service/hospitality at 14% and retail/wholesale at 5%.

Between the big UK grocery market (accounting for around 87%) such as M&S, Morrisons, Tesco, Asda, Waitrose and Co-operative food, they were responsible for the disposal of around 200,000 tonnes of food in 2013 alone. These supermarkets contribution of 1.3% in the UK in 2013 add up to the overall 5% retail and wholesale sector waste in the EU. On the other hand, the biggest contributor to the EU food waste is the household. Some of the waste generated are as a result of unnecessary strict sell-by dates, promotions (buy one get one free), cosmetically perfect food and poor storage of food.

All the food waste equal to waste of energy that was used to produce them. These energy come in the form of water to grow crops, land nutrients and fuel for chemicals production and powering farming machines. According to the Institute of Mechanical Engineers, they report that “about 550 billion cubic meters of water is wasted globally in growing crops that never reach consumer.” The production of meat increases the use of water as it takes 20-50 times more water to produce 1 kilogram of meat than 1 kilogram of vegetables.

Legislation against food waste.

In Europe, some countries are taking steps to combat food waste.

Under a set of laws brought in by the French government to crack down on food waste, French supermarkets will be banned from throwing away or destroying unsold food. Instead, they will be donated to charities or used for animal feed. Supermarkets are barred from deliberately disposing and spoiling of unsold food. They are to sign contracts with charity to give unsold food or face fines and years in jail. This move by the government is a way of tackling one of the contributions of waste in the country but they also have to reduce the household food waste with a proper campaign.

The move by the French parliament to combat food waste has also led to pressure on the UK government to introduce legislation to restrict supermarkets from sending tonnes of unsold food to landfill sites.

Some of the key proponents of tackling food waste are charities and people of the commons that are putting pressure on governments to implement laws to combat food waste as they have a great impact on the world and the resources used to produce food worldwide.

Resources:

  1. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/may/22/uk-tops-chart-of-eu-food-waste
  2. http://www.edie.net/news/5/Supermarket-food-waste–Combined-figures-revealed-for-first-time/
  3. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/the-obscure-reason-why-supermarkets-are-allowed-to-send-food-waste-to-landfill-a6861196.html
  4. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/jan/10/half-world-food-waste
  5. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/may/22/france-to-force-big-supermarkets-to-give-away-unsold-food-to-charity
  6. http://www.parliament.uk/documents/lords-committees/eu-sub-com-d/food-waste-prevention/154.pdf
  7. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/ng-interactive/2015/aug/12/produced-but-never-eaten-a-visual-guide-to-food-waste
  8. https://www.food.gov.uk/news-updates/campaigns/food-waste

Predatory capitalism: A state and market love affair.

November 29, 2016

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Present day capitalism has been referred to by some as predatory or crony capitalism. Even devout believers of the capitalist system reject the current form capitalism has taken. The form in which success in business depends greatly on an unhealthy relationship between business (people) and state officials.

Proponent of pure capitalism or what some might call genuine capitalism are fundamentally opposed to predatory capitalism. The unholy matrimony of the state and businesses has resulted in a political economy which operates around finance capital and is based on a savage form of free market (or corrupted form of capitalism) processes. It has produced global economic oligarchies that have the undue influence to shape policy making on a global scale.

On the other hand, it is debatable who hold the power in this relationship. Does the buying of policy makers means the market holds the power or the states (policy makers) hold the power that can only be purchased by the market to gain favours. Over the years, the public at large has been fed the narrative that, the day to day problems they face in cases of jobs, rising prices corruption and government inability to perform are as a result of capitalism. The questions is, is that the case?

Modern so called advanced capitalist societies are plagued with issues such as wealth and income inequality, mass unemployment, under-employment, crumbling infrastructure, increase poverty rates and a shrinking social welfare. At the same time, we can observe the state (public office) actively enabling and supporting the efforts of few multinational corporation and financial elites move (attack) on public goods and services provision and the attempt to convert them to private goods and services provision.

According to Noam Chomsky, the irregular partnership needs to be sustained by a few businesses, state official and elite. The video below, Chomsky gives his perspective about predatory capitalism which is a very interesting observation and summary. He also states that, he does not think those that advocate for this form of capitalism even understand what they are advocating for and the impact on their lives.

So, after reading into predatory capitalism, a lot of questions spring to mind.

1) How does this affect the commons and are the current evaluation of the impact of predatory capitalism underestimated?

2) Does the commons have a fighting chance in countering predatory capitalism?

3) Is the commons (people) immune to the influence and power of predatory capitalism?

4) How can the commons win back the power of the state and turn it into a force that works for them?

5) As predatory capitalism spreads, how can developing countries in the global south protect themselves from its destructive claws?

6) Is predatory capitalism nature or nurture?

Noam Chomsky – Predatory Capitalism