Archive for the ‘Commentary’ Category

The Coming War on China: Enclosure and abuse of the commons in the Pacific

December 7, 2016

This documentary film, which is just hitting the cinemas, reveals a looming clash of giants – the world’s biggest military power versus the world’s second largest economy. As often said, “where two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers”. The people and the environment of the Pacific Islands within range and surrounding China have been caught up in a dangerous situation which is not of their own making, with some indeed standing up for their right to protect their own commons – their land, soil, water, plants, fish, animals, as well as their health and livelihoods.

Historical Context

According to this documentary, when Japan was nuked, it had been deemed by the States to having an ambition to dominate the world – obviously an unacceptable scenario in as far as the United States was concerned. In the same manner, China is currently perceived to be on the same ambitious path as Japan then was. Its economic rise is deemed to be a threat to the International Order, hence the rhetoric by Trump that ‘the US is going to once again show its greatness to the world’. It must be remembered that China was once invaded and colonised, with the Chinese opium drug money funding the rise of one of the first industrial cities in Massachusetts, among others. After the revolution, successfully led by Mao, China extended a hand of friendship to President Truman and other American leaders but this was rebuffed. American-Chinese relations have never been cosy ever since the time of the Opium and Korean wars. Given this scenario, the rise of China as a global economic powerhouse therefore only serves to cement the perception that it is a threat to America’s global dominance and the current International Order.

Rise of China

According to one Chinese commentator in this documentary, ‘China has managed to match the US at its capitalist game’ and this is unforgivable, hence Trump campaigning on allegation that the US has lost its global authority and needs to reassert it. As a result of this gigantic economic leap, it is claimed that China has raised millions of its people from abject poverty into a new, thriving middle class in rising cities like Shanghai. As one Chinese entrepreneur and socialist activist asserts in this documentary, China is a one-party State that is however, good at changing policies but not political parties. He goes on to say that capitalism in China is state-controlled, citing one Chinese leader who said in 1977 that ‘socialism does not mean shared poverty’. Moreover, as he claims, in China, capital does not rise above political authority while in the US, capital has risen above political authority. Notwithstanding this economic, however, China has become one of the countries with the greatest inequality in the world, confirming the observation by some development theorists that as a country’s GDP rises so does the inequality. In these sprawling cities, migrant workers are said to be living in squalid conditions. Besides, as the industry grows, it is taking up farmers’ land with very insufficient compensation to the farmers. This has given rise to some revolutionary resistance to this land-grab – enclosure of the people’s commons.

Prevailing Abuse of the Pacific Islands Commons

It is revealed in this documentary film that the US has increasingly occupied and established military bases on Islands in the Pacific and the South Sea, all within reach of or surrounding China. It is claimed that China is now surrounded by 400 US military bases, all with their arsenal aimed at China. Among the occupied territory are the Pacific’s Marshall Islands and specifically, Okinawa (a Japanese island). Some of these islands and their inhabitants are said to have been used as guinea-pigs – testing missiles and researching on how humans absorb nuclear radiation. This has resulted in extensive radioactive contamination of the environment (soil, plants, water and food) and subsequent various kinds of cancers that are currently killing the population. It is claimed that some areas of the islands have been hit constantly with Hiroshima-sized bombs for around twelve years. The Pacific Islands’ commons are under serious threat as revealed.

Consequently, resistance groups to this occupation and abuse are emerging – most vocally, religious organisations since political opposition and activism are not tolerated in this region. It stands to be seen how effective the resistance activists can be. In light of this revelation, it is no wonder when Trump threatens to pull out of the Paris agreement on sustainable development because this US activity in the Pacific Islands is really the antithesis of sustainability.

 

http://www.itv.com/hub/the-coming-war-on-china/2a4249a0001

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dG7Bve0baPo

https://www.theguardian.com/film/2016/dec/01/the-coming-war-on-china-review-john-pilger-documentary-obama-us-nuclear

Looming Collapse of Kariba Dam: A Common under threat

December 6, 2016

This surely is a subject of interest in the area of Sustainability and the Commons as well as Development in general as will be revealed in the following discourse.

Kariba Dam is made of a double curvature concrete arch that lies on the Zambezi River Gorge. The dam is 128 metres tall and 579 metres long, forming Lake Kariba – one of the world’s largest man-made lakes, extending 280 kilometres and holding 185 cubic kilometres of water. Financed by the World Bank, this dam was designed by a French company and constructed by an Italian company in 1959 during the British colonial era in the then Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) and Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe). On the dam lies one of the world’s largest hydro-electric power stations, which was initially built to sustain, among other colonial interests, the copper mining exploits of the Copperbelt in Zambia.

Currently, Zambia and Zimbabwe derive the bulk of their energy from Kariba Power Station, with Zimbabwe getting another small percentage from four Thermal Power Stations – Hwange, Munyati, Harare and Bulawayo. Zimbabwe is getting about 42 % of its full energy needs from Kariba, and a present near-complete expansion of the power station will increase this capacity to 71 %.

However, it has been revealed that since the dam’s construction, the water fall-out from the spillway has been scouring the ground near the base of the dam, creating a large ‘plunge pool’ which is said to be now 90 metres deep and only 30 metres from the foundations of the dam. To save the dam, it is claimed by experts that this plunge pool needs to be reshaped to prevent further backward erosion towards the foundation. Although the World Bank is not convinced of the looming danger, the Institute of Risk Management South Africa (IRMSA) and AON South Africa have both issued a report which claims that if nothing is done, the dam will collapse in three years”.

Up-river, from Kariba, is one of the world’s great natural wonders – the Victoria Falls (locally called Mosi-Oa-Tunya, meaning The Smoke That Thunders). Further down the Zambezi River is another Power Station which lies on the Cabora Bassa Dam and supplies clean power to Mozambique and South Africa (40% of the region’s hydro-electric power). All along the Zambezi valley are various communities that interact with and rely on this environment, besides a rich array of wildlife. The Zambezi Valley is therefore a very significant kind of macro-common, with many other micro-commons within it. However, collapse of Kariba dam would trigger a tsunami that would tear down the valley, wreaking havoc on both human and animal life in this macro-common. The Cabora Bassa dam would also inevitably give way under the force of this tsunami.

The consequences on this macro-common and the countries in the region are ‘too ghastly to contemplate’ as the article puts it. Given this scenario, should the International Community and all interested parties wait until a catastrophic disaster strikes? My opinion is that it is wiser to take preventive action now rather than rush to chip in with aid when disaster has already struck. Meanwhile, all communities in the valley must be notified of this possibility and emergency plans must be put in place as a matter of urgency.

http://www.zimbabwesituation.com/news/zimsit-m-a-clear-and-present-danger-of-kariba-dam-collapse/

The Commons: Rural vs. Urban

December 2, 2016

rural urban

It might be difficult to pinpoint a commons in the current big and mega cities particularly capital and industrial ones. In urban areas, where capitalism is the dominant system, free access is the more-prevalent model. While on the contrary, in the countryside, the probability of spotting a commons becomes more likely. I would like to argue, from my own perspective, why commoning and the commons have more presence in rural areas than in urban ones. The opposite definitely applies for capitalism.

First, the act of commoning, or doing things in common, is relatively premised on collective recognition and consensus about certain values, beliefs and attitudes attributing to common practices. This formula of interrelated and correlated components can be best incarnated among rural people who have lived and communicated together inherently from ancestors to descendants. Rural people have always shared the same traditions, habits and manners; faced similar challenges and jointly figured out outward-looking solutions. Besides, they are substantially more conservative and protective of their commons and common practices; more cautious and reluctant about the innovations and modernizations driven by the hegemonic force of capitalism. Concepts such as conviviality, simplicity, originality and common destiny are cherished and valued.

In contrast, people in urban areas probably come from diverse backgrounds; appreciate different beliefs, values and traditions and, in a city like London where I currently live, belong to various countries. Apparently, city people do not necessarily share the same principles, ethics or perceptions. Besides, they are increasingly more impressed, receptive and eventually submissive to the attracting baits of a capital life style and the glamorous, yet artificial, modern products. Well, this, certainly, does not eliminate the existence of commoning and commoners in the city. Yet, it makes it more complicated and infrequent.

Second, people in rural areas mainly rely on their own local subsistence and livelihoods. They consume the production of each other’s and mutually contribute to the welfare of the entire rural community. The perpetuation of such pattern is a substrate for their communal well-being. This posits the significance of their commoning, for instance, to jointly discuss the risks of an approaching storm on their crops and how to minimize the potential damage through collective efforts.

On the contrary, within the market primacy, people in urban areas basically work for private companies and corporations that widely impose long working hours and hectic, stressful atmospheres. Their income (wage) is dependent on their individual contribution and competency. Generating more monetary benefits for the owners is the principle and final destination of their endeavor. This induces the fact the capitalist utilitarian approach, in the city, critically obstructs people from doing in common and hinders the existence of commons in general.

Leadership for the Africa We Want: Sustainable development

November 30, 2016

Often the developed countries, International bodies such as IMF and World Bank, and sometimes development professional tend to reflect the notion that they ‘know’ what Africa (or developing countries)need to be able to push forward with development. This article raises some interesting issues concerning African countries’ development.

At the 2014 African Development Bank Annual Meeting, attended by African Statesmen (past and present), as well as Civic Society, South Africa’s former President, Thabo Mbeki, pointed out that what Africa wanted was:
1. Africa free of violent conflict and war
2. Africa free of poverty
3. Africa free from corruption
4. Africa driven by women emancipation
5. Self-assessment of performance by the African leaders

Former President of Tanzania, Benjamin Mkapa added that Africa wanted:
1. Equality of gender
2. Equality of opportunity
3. A promise of good, healthy life
4. Good education
5. Unselfish leadership

Both leaders and the Rwandan president, Paul Kagame, agreed that African leaders were selfish, with some attaining power for the sake of enriching themselves. However, although there is existence an African Peer Review mechanism, the leaders concur that there is a culture of fear of rebuking each other and telling them where they were going wrong. As a result of these weaknesses, (according to them), the continent which is the richest in natural resources continues to be exploited by the developed countries for their own benefit.

It follows that African leaders know what they ‘want’ and not necessarily what we think they ‘need’. The question is “How can they be helped to achieve their objectives?”

 

Aid reforms push for private sector subsidies – what about the commons

November 30, 2016

Development Aid policy is under drastic change. Governments are now aiming to use aid in forms of private sector subsidies. This raises an ethical question; should taxpayers money go to funding private businesses? Where do we draw the line?

According to a leaked official document seen by the Guardian, proposed reforms to official aid would allow a wide variety of “private-sector instruments” to be used as vehicles for development, meaning that aid could be used to invest in, or give loans to, private companies, or to underwrite those companies’ activities through guarantees (Guardian).

One side of the debate – the neoliberal perspective – believes that investment in the private sector will bring economic growth thus creating prosperity for the people, creating jobs which then provides financing of social programs.  

And the other side – aid is meant for expanding social services like healthcare and education through sustainable measures and should be reaching the poorest people.

What seems to be most problematic is – middle-income countries received the largest share of finance, primarily in the energy, industry and banking sectors (Guardian). Because aid agencies are looking for returns and “smart” investments they are focused on middle income countries rather than helping the poorest who need the aid most.

This leaves me wondering what about the commons. Why are aid agencies not looking for alternatives and identifying ways in which communities can be prosperous and self sufficient in other forms. We continue to see mass amounts of money going into the hands of the wealthy and is that really going to help eliminate poverty?

profit

poverty

Healthcare Systems: move towards sustainability

November 17, 2016

Good health is dependent on so much more than a good doctor and access to treatment. “The rest is environmental and behavioral—clean air, clean water, good food. We can’t be healthy people if our communities aren’t healthy (Jamie Harvie)” 

In The Case for Commons Health Care, an article published in Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing, he highlights how a tragedy of the commons is underway in health care, agriculture, and our global climate (onthecommons.org).

There has been a push by Health Systems like the NHS and Kaiser Permanente in the United States to promote community ownership and involvement in healthcare. This means community involvement in the decision making process of fund allocations, community campaigns to educate people on healthy living lifestyles. Education on prevention and behavioral changes that will impact health. The system cannot survive unless preventative care and behaviors of patients changes. Currently, health systems are treating very sick people with health issues that are preventable by behavioral changes. 

Healthcare systems can no longer continue to run as profit systems that fill as many beds as possible, writing as many tests and overutilize resources. It must be a preventative system that uses the community to create social awareness around healthy living and ways to prevent illness by lifestyle choices and access. Healthcare needs to be seen as a lifestyle and a place that promotes healthy living and care for our bodies. 

How hospitals  help tackle obesity – Commons Health Hospital Challenge

The fight continues with Dakota pipeline

November 3, 2016

There are talks that the controversial Dakota Pipeline may be re-routed. Will this solve the issues? I think not. BBC News

Main concerns regarding pipeline:

Construction likely to damage Native American artifacts and pollute local drinking water

Oil spills International Energy Agency found that pipelines spill much more in terms of volume

Expropriation of land – “Republican Gov. Terry Branstad, granted ETP that right for its for-profit private pipeline, a practice that is not uncommon, in order to purchase 475 parcels from resistant landowners. This has led to numerous pending lawsuits” (Mother Jones)

Peaceful protests led by Standing Rock Sioux, have now been in action for weeks. However, the police have come with force, arresting 150 activists.

dakotascreen-shot-2016-11-03-at-3-32-30-pm

It’s not sex, it’s money; it’s not the poor, it’s the rich, who is causing climate change

December 14, 2015

 

Some folks may consider climate change is an overrated topic, but clearly it isn’t. In fact unless very recently, we haven’t seen much effort from world leaders or global corporations to tackle climate change. Oxford Professor James Martin was very good in predicting future. Well, of course his prediction was based on scientific facts and evidences. He listed 16 mega problems that 21st century will face, climate change/global warming was top of the list.

 

But is it not just recently that politicians started talking about it as USA & few other western countries were hit by tornados & cyclones? After reading my blog, we will have clear understanding why I am blaming the rich for climate change. According to an article published in BBC website back 2012, it was calculated that almost 1.3 billion people earn less than a dollar every day, meaning struggle to afford basic foods and commodities. These people without almost no electricity, no modern life facilities, how they are contributing to climate change? Well, they are not playing any major negative impacts in climate change. They are struggling to survive day to day. 47.5% population of Sub-Saharan region live below poverty line, 36% in South-Asia, can we see a single country from these two regions among 20 top countries in carbon footprint league table? Answer is no. Then why blaming the poor? People like Maurice Strong suggested us (indirectly African and Asian people) to stop breeding or else nature with destroy us brutally. Well, of course we need to control and balance population growths in order to have a sustainable planet but it is absolutely unfair to blame the poor for climate change. It is strongly speculated that one additional British person leaves carbon footprint which is equivalent to more than 22 Malawians. Yes, the birthrate of British women in the year 2012 was 1.90 and same for Malawian was 5.47 but 1.90 additional British produces carbon footprint which is equivalent to 40 Malawians. So whom should be named and shamed? The poor or the rich? The tenancy to have more kids or the tendency to lead a notorious western consumer style life?

The livestock raised for meat causes 18% of total earth’s carbon emissions; it also covers 80% agricultural land. Evidences strongly show that meat produced this way is used either by global fast food company or by chain retailer in rich countries. Now those 1.3 billion people who sometime can’t afford to have healthy food everyday, do you think they would be able to buy a burger from those fast-food shops? I think there is hardly any chain fast-food shops in county side of these developing countries, let alone buying the burger. It is suggested by George Monbiot that almost 70% of world population growth happened in areas with very less carbon emission. So, it is not the poor, it is not the habit of having sex that is to be blamed for climate change. It is rather the notorious consumer style life-style of west that is to be blamed for. What is also astonishing is that even the  portion of carbon emission in Africa is actually caused by the American and British fuel company.

 

Newspaper like the Guardian claimed that Paris climate talk-2015 is the greatest diplomatic success in human history. I think such journalism is absolutely naïve. The politicians are not honest enough to take the blame and solve the problem. System needs to be changed not climate. Yes, ministers from 196 countries signed the deal but what will happen practically on ground? Will the people in Canada & Australia start checking their electric and gas meter and feel ashamed of the damage they have just done to the planet by keeping their heater or AC on  for addition one hour  without absolutely no necessity? Perhaps not. Will the high profile multi milliners stop using their private jet that consumes almost 800 liters of fuel per hour? Probably not. Then why so much drama? Why wasting taxpayers money on meeting and end up having expensive champagne?

 

The west needs to come clean and stop blaming the poor for climate change rather they should take their own blame and try to resolve the consequences bringing everyone together.

 

 

 

Paris Talks, renewable energy and Norway: An example of the ecological and socioeconomic impacts of climate warming ‘solutions’

December 14, 2015

Saturday December 12th marked the end of the 2015 UN Climate Change Conference, where the leaders of nearly 200 nations, committing to a universal agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions to remedy climate warming, signed up to end of fossil fuel era. In its place are ambitious national plans for solutions including energy efficiency and renewable energy deployment. But is renewable energy really a feasible climate change solution? Let’s takes a look at Norway for example.

Norway’s geography is ideal for hydropower and in 1970, the Norwegian government announced its plan to build the Alta River Hydro Power Plant, to increase energy security. This caused the Alta Controversy, a decade long conflict between the indigenous Sami people – a reindeer herding community – and the non-indigenous population, concerning land rights. What had long been considered as worthless and unusable land could potentially become a gold mine for the state and industry, thanks to its natural resources. But the land has vital social, economic, and cultural functions for the Sami community.

Sami have a strong reliance on reindeer and the natural resources needed to herd them as survival in extreme arctic environmental conditions rule out many other forms of livelihood. The reindeer aren’t just substantial as food and income from trade, but they serve important traditional and cultural purposes, with reindeer herding having been carried by Sami for thousands of years. Herding is a way of life.

sami-reindeer-herder-615.jpgThe government of Norway did not include the Sami in the decision-making process for the dam, disregarding local knowledge of the environment and the potential negative impacts. In a way, ethnic discrimination occurred. The conflict lasted more than a decade with protests, hunger strikes, blockades and attempts to blow up the dam by the Sami delaying the construction of the dam for three years. Eventually, a modified version of the dam was built.

Unfortunately, to this day, the dam is having negative impacts on the environment and on the local Sami communities’ livelihoods. Displacement and a loss of land have pushed Sami people into ever more fragmented areas, making reindeer herding more difficult. Socioeconomically, this causes loss of livelihood and traditional knowledge and practices, whilst increasing social problems such as drug use. It is a struggle for the Sami to continuously fight for their rights to land and water.

The hydropower facility and equipment are also having ecological impacts. Potential direct environmental impacts include floods, loss of biodiversity and soil erosion. In fact worldwide, dam building and other factors have caused freshwater ecosystems to lose approximately 76% of their populations since 1970. Moreover, while it’s true that the actual production of electricity from hydropower doesn’t release any greenhouse gases, the production of them undoubtedly does.

Whilst affecting the domesticated reindeer owned by Sam
i, wild reindeers are also impacted by the hydropower. The Renewable Reindeer Project has started quantifying the cumulative impact caused by infrastructures on wild reindeers. Hydropower has resulted in a 40% redu
ction in the habitat of reindeers, causing the population to split into 26 detached and mainly non-interchanging sub-populations s the reindeer tend to avoid areas with infrastructure by between 2.5-5km. Research by UNEP indicates that
further hydropower development will put wild reindeer at great risk, as further loss of habitat and fragmentation will leave stretches of land that are too small to viably hold the populations.

20040121115237

Decrease of wilderness areas in Norway from 1900-1998

This is worrying as reindeers are important in efforts tackling global warming. Research by the Arctic Centre of the University of Lapland indicates that reindeer grazing is an important determinant in counteracting climate warming, as the amount of reindeer grazing determines how much greenhouse gases will be released into the climate, directly effecting temperature rises. Long-term light grazing causes less gas to be released, but long-term over-grazing has no effect and will therefore not be beneficial in combatting global warming. Long-term over-grazing will continuously occur as more land is out of use for domestic and wild reindeer.

It is quite clear that renewable energy will not solve the climate crisis. Restoring biodiversity and natural systems through methods such as reforestation, grassland restoration, regenerative agriculture should really have been the main priority of the 2015 Climate Change Conference. Lastly, as Global Justice Now stated,

“what is needed is system change, not climate change. This change will not be made by corporations or world leaders. Rather it will be made by us as a global movement of citizens.” How is this possible when the communities which are affected aren’t invited [to the talks] and are evicted by the French police?

Britain joining bombing Syria won’t help destroying Daesh

December 12, 2015

syria1_2216336bDealing with NHS, deficit, economy, welfare can be tedious sometime. May be this is why British PM David Cameron wanted to become war time Prime minister, trust me he is trying hard. In 2013, he wanted to bomb Bashar-Al-Asad and now it’s Daesh. Yes, no doubt Bashar-Al-Asad killed his own citizens brutally but bombing him wasn’t the right measure. The Labour party under Ed Miliband didn’t support that motion, so it failed. But 66 Labour MPs voted to bomb Syria this time, so Cameron had the majority. The civil war in Syria is very complex. It can be called proxy World War III. If it was a joint coalition of USA, UK & Russia against Daesh ( so called Islamic State) or Bashar-Al-Asad, Military action may be, I am saying just may be a solution. But sadly it’s not a coalition among Russia, USA and UK like World War II. Russia is working as Bashar’s ally from the very beginning for this bloody civil war.

Of course Daesh possess a terrible threat but bombing them won’t destroy them. We shouldn’t forget that America was already bombing in major areas captured by Daesh but the impact wasn’t that impressive. With every bomb dropped in Syria, it seems Daesh managed to recruit more terrorists with their hateful ideology. Last year there were about 15,000 new recruits to ISIS from 18 countries. This year after bombing by USA and France this has increased to 30,000 new recruits. No doubt USA and UK are the biggest allies to each other but UK could play the role of mediator here bridging the gap between USA and Russia in this particular scenario. By joining bombing Syria, Britain has entered into a complex war which will put life of British military personnel into risks and the threat level of Britain being attack by terrorists has increased too. Not only this, innocents Syrian will be killed and Daesh will use this bombing as to brainwash more young people around the world, particularly in Europe and America. Bombing isn’t a piece of cake, Britain spent almost 360 million GBP by bombing Libya and as according to PM David Cameron this bombing campaign in Syria will last for years, meaning this will cost the tax-payers a fortune. Just to let the readers know a 6 hours tour by Tornado fighter jet costs 508,000 GBP.

Daesh killed 130 people in Paris and 38 Brits in the beach of Tunisia, definitely that played the emotion of few MPs to vote for bombing Syria. But we shouldn’t forget this bombing will also cause death, displacement of many innocent Syrians. Certainly, USA is already very happy to see its biggest ally UK joining in bombing campaign but till today majority of bombing is carried out by USA.

Only way to solve the complex civil war of Syria is through diplomatic and political solution. Only way to destroy Daesh and its evil ideology is through diplomacy and conversation among everyone fighting against Daesh. The role of Turkey is still not very clear, many critics suggest that Deash is getting its fund, weapon, new members through Turkey. There is no way it can be denied that the very Kurds who are fighting against the Daesh are enemy to the Turks. It is suggested by Russia that Turkey is buying the oil sold by Daesh. Recent shot down of a Russian fighter jet by Turkey in the name of territorial integrity says a lot.

Britain’s involvement in Syrian civil war through bombing won’t do much except wasting taxpayer’s money and this whole saga will make Britain more fragile.