Archive for the ‘extracts’ Category

Charity Embraces Food and the Commons

November 28, 2011

Edinburgh Cyrenians works in partnership with the Fareshare network to reduce food waste of big corporations and supermarkets.  Diverting food from landfill, Cyrenians Good Food collects food that is near its use by date, sorts it in their small warehouse and re-distributes to organisations working with people in need.

This video presents the Cyrenians Good Food project.

Fareshare were also featured recently on the BBC news.  The report on a collection of charities distributing food in Trafalgar Square, London, highlighted the amount of food that is wasted in the UK.  This is not only bad for the environment, but is extremely wasteful when we here of so many reports of hunger and lack of food n other parts of the world.

Cyrenians also operate two other services connected with food, waste and the environment.  The Cyrenians Farm and Cyrenians COREThe farm operates as a business providing income for the organisation as a social enterprise.  However, the farm is sited within one of their communities that provide accommodation for up to 8 young people and a team of residential volunteers.  Although, residents are not obliged to work on the farm they are encouraged to.  By doing so they learn about food – from how and when it is grown to harvesting and cooking.  The residents then collectively agree menu’s and cook together.

Cyrenians CORE project fills the gap that Good Food leaves.  Taking the food that is passed its useby date or waste from restaurants Core collects this in a large lorry and delivers this to a farm where it is turned into compost.

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Comodification of Rights: Votes on Sale in Sub-Sahara Africa.

November 28, 2011

One of the fundamental of human rights is the right to vote and be voted for freely without fear, favour and intimidation. It is very inappropriate in most Sub-Sahara countries where voting rights are flouted with impunity by politicians and people placed in high offices. Armed with improper acquired state resources, these politicians deprive their citizens of the basic necessities of life only to use a token of the squandered resources to buy peoples votes during elections periods. People are in abject poverty and some are so pressed to the stage of destitution and thus accept the vote trades which infringe their freedom and rights.

Citizens’ choice in a democratic society where people enjoy the liberty to vote is a right enshrined in the constitutions of these nations. In a democracy people are at liberty to chose what may lead to the fulfilment of their desires but to decide or chose, the choices first of all has to be available otherwise the freedom is not there.  They lack the capabilities to exercise their rights.

Ideally, the political set up should make sure rights to free voting are exerted. Without being empowered, the poor have no democratic legitimacy of freedom. This is about being marginalized and lack of capabilities. Such actions do not translate into these vulnerable poor making informed voting decision but rather they exchange their power for money or as agreed.

Consideration of future impact of their actions, their behaviours shows that they are not aware of the collective restraint gains from the common freedom. In any case, even if the consequences are understood, the poor are left with little or no options to ease their state of being ultra poor and basically not provided for by the very power holders. They lack access of information to enhance them make free decision. The people have little or no power to influence the political gains thus they are mere puppets of the politicians who set up the rule of the dirty political games. This actually violate decent functioning democratic right or principles such violation is inimical to the societal freedom so much so that the community itself is not free and so can not exert influence on individual and restrict the freedom especially as misguided

Climate Change is the Biggest Global Health Threat of the 21st Century

November 4, 2011

On the AMSA (Australian Medical Students’ Association) website I found a very powerful message on climate change and health. The message is that climate change has the biggest impact on health on the globe, even bigger than single vector diseases. The scale is enormous, from direct and indirect effects, small scale diseases and natural catastrophes.

On this link you can find the website. There are four steps to follow which I am sure will impress you if you don’t know these issues already. In step one is a video called Climate Code Green – the impact of climate change by danielyore which can also be found on youtube. When I watched this video for the first time I got goose bumps, so I hope it will have the same influence on you.

To give a little sum up the effects of environmental change due to climate change are:

Direct: exposure to UV radiation, extreme weather events (floods, water shortages, heat waves, hurricanes), pollution events (Asian Brown Cloud).

Indirect: Vector-borne diseases (Malaria), (Re-) emergent diseases, displacement of population, Land-use change (deforestation), reduced food security, conflicts.

For further explanations and definitions the World Health Organization has published a fact sheet; the solid facts on climate change and health dated 12 March 2010. And there is a video from Google Tech Talks by Paul Epstein from the Harvad Medical School on the effects of climate change on health.  He is talking about the history of health and climate change and what is being done at the moment.

Red Revolution: Stem Cell Technology

December 9, 2010

“The primary threat to nature and people today comes from centralising and monopolising power and control. Not until diversity is made the logic of production will there be a chance for sustainability, justice and peace. Cultivating and conserving diversity is no luxury in our times: it is survival imperative.”

_Vandana Shiva

Why do we have to worry about rising food demand in such technological age?  Exciting news was presented on BBC NEWS this morning about stem cell technology, the production of meat in laboratory. Scientists are working on it to reduce the cost of production and few other drawbacks linked to its characteristics (taste, form), to make it feasible for industrial production in the future. The technology was presented by a guest speaker in the studio as ‘NO BRAIN-NO PAIN’ technology and it will save animals from brutality. It might sound good for people working for animal rights and especially for the global corporations. However it should make clear that stem cell technology is not a new technology and scientists have been working on it since long.

In existing literature, several justifications are given in the favour of stem cell technology in addition to NO BRAIN-NO PAIN. According to Steinfield et al (2006, cited in Betti, 2009, p.14) ‘in the light of sizeable negative impacts of livestock production, introduction of stem cell technology (in vitro meat production) is becoming increasingly justifiable’. The negative impacts of current meat production are pointed out as consumption of fossil fuels, land and water resources. According to Steinfield, current meat production practices are contributing to 15% to 24% of greenhouse emission as a result of grazing and deforestation. According to Vein (2004, cited in Betti, 2009, P.14) ’considering the benefits of stem cell technology (in vitro meat production technology) it is not surprising that a number of parties (Global Corporations) have proposed (and patented) the methodology for actualizing this idea.

Despite of all advantages as mentioned by Steinfield, the technology still seems problematic. As we have seen in the case of Green Revolution, the patenting of seeds and promotion of selected species resulted into monoculture and as a result, many traditional species especially of rice and wheat became extinct. This time the object under experiment is livestock rather than crop. And the term ‘NO BRAIN- NO PAIN’ as mentioned above could also be seen contrary, in the form of species extinction. In other words, brutality of slaughter will be replaced by the brutality of extinction. It would also result into extinction of traditional farming practices, and livelihoods of poor farmers which are dependent on livestock production.

Though it would be too early to build an opinion about the future and impacts of stem cell technology, however by looking into Green Revolution it could be concluded that this technology would be another disaster for the right of existence of species after green revolution, and definitely again a success story for  global corporations in economic terms.

References

Betti, D. M., (2009), Possibilities for an in vitro meat production systemjournal of Innovative Food Science and Emerging Technologies, 11 (2010) 13-22. P.14

http://www.redorbit.com/

Amazing Seeds: Green Revolution Vs Nature’s Evolution

November 26, 2010

AMAZING SEEDS: Green Revolution Vs Nature’s Evolution

While reading about the green revolution and genetically modified seeds, I never thought that I was also an indirect customer of global corporation like Monsanto. The truth was revealed when I called back home and they told me that we had grown a new type of maize in our garden. The seeds were amazing and our garden is now full of maize cobs. It didn’t take me longer to realize that the amazing seeds were nothing else but GENETICALLY MODIFIED SEEDS.

However it was a good chance for me to explore more about genetically modified seeds and their productivity. When I asked about the cost of seeds, they told me that 1kg of genetically modified seeds cost about 350.00 Rupees (£2.69p @ £1=130PKR). Same amount (1Kg) of traditional seeds cost about 20 Rupees (£0.15p @ £1=130PKR). It means that genetically modified seeds are 17.5 times or 1750% expensive than traditional seeds.

Type Kg PKR(Pakistani Rupees) £ (British Pounds)
Genetically modified seeds 1 350 2.69
Traditional seeds 1 20 0.15
Genetically modified seeds 100 35000 269
Traditional seeds 100 2000 15.38

(A comparison of seed prices in Pakistan, November 2010)

There is huge difference in prices. If genetically modified seeds are bought for commercial scale agriculture or for large farms, the crop failure could be a disaster for poor investors especially when livelihoods are totally dependent on agriculture as it was seen in case of India where formers committed suicides when they were unable to payback their debt (Shiva, 2004). On the other hand the traditional crop with less chances of failure as having more compatibility with local environment, couldn’t be so disastrous because of less investment in seeds, fertilizers and pesticides.

As the price difference between traditional seeds and genetically modified seeds is 1750%, yield should be 1750% higher, however it wasn’t the case. I was told that on each plant there was one maize cob (though larger in size than traditional), in case of traditional crop 2 to 4 maize cobs per plant is normal production. There should be approximately (17) maize cobs on each genetically modified plant to get the equal production against (1) on traditional plant. It is comparison of yield against economic cost of seeds in terms of money/investment, and the cost of extra water, pesticides, fertilizers,  and environmental damage is not included. There are few more hidden costs like health, linked to modified species introduced by Monsanto.

By looking into cost of seeds, yield and compatibility with local environment, it could be seen that genetically modified species by Monsanto are not alternative of traditional species which are genetically modified by the nature through the process of evolution. Any living organism, either if it is plant or animal everywhere in the world, knows how to survive in different environmental conditions. Unlike Monsanto’s problematic recipes to modify life through laboratory processes ,  it is nature’s modification through evolution that makes the life possible in extreme water environments and at the poles by modifying genetic traits of organisms. Hibernation, migration, and evolution of predator prey strategies are few best examples in this regard.

Here are few links that shows the perfection of nature’s genetically modified species through evolution.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kzcLWXFzOm0

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LwCi5y_QphY&feature=related

CLIMATECHANGE-LOOKING AHEAD TO CANCUN/MEXICO(DEC.2010)

November 18, 2010

I am a keen listener to the ‘one planet programme’ on the BBC world service.I  listened to an interview  recently  conducted by the BBC (one planet ) with Christian Figueres-Executive Secretary UNFCCC.The theme of  this interview was what she expected to be different this time in Cancun as compared to Copenhagen,Kyoto(the general lack of binding agreement between countries in climate change interventions and emission level caps).She acknowledged that the issue of climate change is humanities greatest challenges and opportunities.That if only this meeting will increase the interest of the planet by one inch,progress would have been made and confimed that it will be a very slow process.

Weaknesses she identified in the Copenhagen summit were(1)the lack of legitimacy of some countries.That countries were not well represented in the decision making process,(2)that there was a fundermental problem of the principles of  transpirency and inclusiveness.Well according to her these  problem will be better addressed in Cancun.My question is  ‘how can people base decisions on the intelligence of others’.Lets wait and see.

The challenges faced by different countries be them social,economic,cultural,political,willingness to mention but a few will inherently make any internationally binding agreement on emission levels/changing the climate a mere talking shop.Fundermental also are market forces in their drive for globalisation with capitalist interests .Nontheless,these forces must not be allowed to function independently in a global society.There must be signals of direction to manage and support them.These can be through international agreements in carbon emissions, and at national levels to develop frameworks to encourage markets to invest in green technology.

How will this processes be acclerated in Cancun?Firstly,there was the pledge  in Copenhagen to raise the sum of $1 billion per year fund house.This will need global and bilateral agreements to subject high emission countries to pay for cardon trade,putting self interets aside and consider the interest of the planet.Will this be achieved inlight of current global recession and spending cuts at national and international levels of governments.Secondly,this fund should be used to compesate developing nations who are working towards the objectives of climate change.Thirdly,there needs to be legitimacy in the representation and decision making process and lastly but not the least to uphold the essential principle of accountability and inclusiveness.

User Fee for the Global Commons?

November 8, 2010

The German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU) suggests in its Special Report Charging the Use of Global Commons (2002) that a fee should be put on the usage of global commons, like the atmosphere or the seas. The report argues that airspace and the seas are natural common goods for which property rights are not sufficiently defined. Because of the lack of international regulations over their usage, these commons are overexploited and therefore the international community should take charge of their protection. The report shows that, for example, the CO2 emissions from international aviation or shipping are not included in the national emission listings and so they are also not subject to, for example, the Kyoto Protocol commitments. The liberalization of aviation leading to cheaper flights has also further added to the problem. The report suggests that this could be fixed by introducing user charges that could be the first practical step towards a global system for the conservation of natural goods. The charges would not only create an incentive to reduce the environmental impact but also the revenue collected could be then used for conserving these common goods. The report predicts that user charges might also be an additional incentive to plan and create innovative and improved technologies and lead to changes in behaviour when using the global commons. However, the report acknowledges the challenges and the scepticism that has surrounded these kinds of ideas. There are, for example, fears of unemployment and loss of competitiveness. Emerging countries have also been afraid that this might affect their tourism industry as well as increase transporting costs for exporting to the foreign markets.  

Philippe Douste-Blazy (2010) writes in his article, Millennium Development Miles, also about the aviation user charges but in a slightly different context. He mentions how a small fee introduced to air tickets have collected 1,5 billon USD since 2007 to the UN sponsored international drug purchase facility, UNITAID. According to Douste-Blazy, the money has been used to fight diseases like HIV/AIDS, to reduce child mortality and to improve maternal health – the three health related MDGs. For example, UNITAID can finance drugs for three-quarters of the children receiving anti-retrovirals in the world today. Douste-Blazy continues that UNITAID has now got together with the Millennium Foundation to create a fundraising mechanism called Voluntary Solidarity Contribution that gives the possibility for travellers to add an extra 2 USD to their plane ticket purchase and so make voluntary donation. Even though this only applies to 7-10% of all airline tickets, it has still managed to collect 400 million USD a year. Extending this programme would naturally, Douste-Blazy argues, increase the collected amounts even more.

The idea of a user charge does give us something to think about. Would a charge in air flights be a good solution to fight the climate change in one way at least? Surely this extra money collected and spend on a “good cause” cannot be a bad thing. Collecting a small amount of extra money (like that 2USD) probably does not make a difference to most of us. But when calculating together like Douste-Blazy shows, it does come up to a considerable amount. What to spend that money on, I cannot say. Would be great we could use it for developing new technologies that help us to fight the climate change, but are not the medicines important as well?

However, is collecting a user fee a sustainable solution? Would it really change our behaviour when coming to the usage of the global commons, like suggested in the report? Today people travel a lot and long distances. Which one of us is ready to change their habits and travel less in order to fight the climate change and is it even realistic to expect us to do so? And we have not even mentioned the needs for transportation in trade. As the hope of many is to see more economic growth and more trade, does that not imply more transportation, via air, oceans or even just roads?  If we keep travelling and transporting our goods to the same speed and amounts – or even faster and bigger amounts –  as before, can a small sum collected as an extra fee make that much of a difference? Or is this just another way to make us feel good about ourselves for doing ‘all this for a good cause’ – to fight the climate change with 2 dollars – and distract us from the real issue; the excessive and unsustainable usage of our global commons and our environment?

Commercialization of Education: oil companies funding university research

October 19, 2010

Yesterday’s class made me think about the enclosures that are taking place in today’s world. One of the examples of enclosures in Knowledge and Life was the marketization of education. Once again there was an example of this in Democracy Now that reported on 18th of October, 2010 about how oil companies are now funding universities and their research. Democracy Now reports how big oil companies have made agreements with different universities regarding of their research and how this seriously threatens the independence of academic research.  It is worth watching and thinking about how seriously these kinds of agreements influence the actual research findings and what implications do these kinds of agreements have for the future of independent academic research. Is this just another way to prevent us to access something that should belong to us all, knowledge?

Big Oil Goes to College: BP, ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell Fund & Influence Research at Major Universities, Democracy Now 18th of October, 2010

How to Make Profit on Human Catastrophe: The Case of Haiti

October 15, 2010

An example of how the common land can be taken away from the people in order to make profits, is the case of Haiti which shows that no matter how bad the human suffering, it is still the interests of those with money and power that come first.

Haiti, according to the World Bank Country Brief, is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere with poor performance in the social indicators. In the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Human Development Index it ranked as 149th out of 179 countries.  In the 2001 statistics 54% of its population lived under 1 USD a day and 78% living under 2 USD a day (World Bank Country Brief, 2010).  BBC Country Report tells that Haiti experiences tropical storms and grave deforestation. According to UN Environment Programme press release Haiti is “the most environmentally degraded country in the Caribbean…and the total forest cover was approximately 2% in a country where 75% of energy demands were satisfied by wood fuel.” (UNEP 21.7.2010)

So it could be argued that Haiti is facing challenges not only regarding income povertyand human development but also when it comes to the question of land and environment. With the climate change the situation can be expected to become even worse and so the question of land usage is very important.  However, to make matters worse the country made it to the world news in January 2010 with the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that killed more than 220 000 people and left 1,5 million homeless. (United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti, 2010)

Besides all the other misery and problmes the earthquake caused, the resettling of the huge amount of homeless became crucial.  According to UN Security Council report, the Haitian government set up an Action Plan that was presented to international donors at the UN in March 2010. The idea was to collect money from donors who promised more than USD 9 billion for Haiti’s reconstruction. The funds were to be handled through an Interim Haitian Reconstruction Commission that is chaired by the Haitian Prime Minister Bellerive and President Clinton. (UN Security Council, 2010)

However, in July 14, 2010 Democracy Now reported on what is happening in reality in Haiti and how the resettling of the Haitian people has been handled. Long time Haitian democracy activist, Patrick Elie, explains that after Haitian independence, the country’s elite took over the common land, pushing the people to the mountains. Intrestingly, according to him, this is also one of the reasons explaining the deforestation of Haiti. So today it is almost impossible to figure out, who in reality owns what part of the land.  Kim Ives, Haiti Liberté journalists, reports that the Haitian elite – still – control huge parts of the land that could be perfect for resettling the people. However, he continues, the elite keep the best part of the land for themselves and are selling the worst part of the land with high profits. According to Ives, the Interim Commission that was supposed to bring help for rebuilding Haiti, is in fact controlled by foreign bankers and governments like the USA and France together with institutions as the IMF, World Bank and several multinational corporations like Halliburton and Blackwater who are there to make sure of their own interests are seen and to be able to get their share of the billions promised for rebuilding of Haiti. The Commission also has members from the Haitian elite who want to make sure that they can keep good land for themselves where to build their luxury houses and offices. Mario Joseph, Haitian Human Rights Attorney, calls this as coup d’état as the Commission took over the power from the parliament without any transparency and is now acting without any accountability.

So, Democracy Now asks, where do all these people then go? Democracy Now reports that the bourgeoisie own large pieces of land that could be used for rebuilding but instead of doing this, land that has been used as the commons by the Haitian people is been taken away. Democracy Now uses as an example the community of Ganthier. According to Kim Ives, Ganthier is a rural community of 72 000 people who have used tracks of state land as common land to grow food for 80 years. Now that land has become so important, businessmen have started coming into the community claiming land with false papers and pushing peasants out of the land. When the peasants resisted and attacked back, they became the criminals that police is hunting down. According to Democracy Now interview, even the Mayor of Ganthier, Ralph Lapointe, was also arrested when he did not approve the eviction of the peasants.

So it could be argued, like Kim Ives puts it, the question of Haiti is not geological, it is a war between the classes over land.  According to him, Haiti is in the point where it would be crucial for the people to have access to the land and start building their houses and farming their land in order to secure food production but unfortunately they are seeing little of this as when there is a chance for profit making, the destiny of the people does not seem to be of any interest.

Land Ownership at the Crux of Haiti’s Stalled Reconstruction, Democracy Now 14.7.2010<script type=”text/javascript” src=”http://www.democracynow.org/embed_show_v2/300/2010/7/14/story/land_ownership_at_the_crux_of”></script>

Global warming.Do we need to change ourselves?

October 11, 2010

In our first lecture,Global warming was discussed as a burning issue of 21st century. It is agreed by scientists that the mean global temprature is rising. CO2 is considered as a major gas reponsible for global warming along with water vapor,CFCs,ozone,and methane etc.CO2 is contributing about 60% in global warming. Once released into atmosphere, it may remain about 50-200 years. Miller, T,. (1996) Living in the environment.

If we look at its sources,power staions are its major source of  production (37%)  followed by transport  21%, industries 18%, domestic 16% and other 8%.( Climate change: The uk programme 2006).Along with its release from these sources,we are also contributing to rise in its level be means of deforestation. According to an estimate, the CO2 concentration in the air was 314 ppm in 1958 that was gradually rise to 355 ppm in 1992 and 388 ppm in 2010.To see full table click Here . Droughts, rising sea level, loss of biodiversity are some common problems linked to it.  Miller,T,.  (1996) Living in the environment. p. 305.

As we discussed about the copenhagen conference, which was ended without any significant result, make me think that why we are relying on few thousand peoples to decide about our future. Global warming is an issue of every single specie inhabiting on earth. What i believe, more or less, every one of us is contributing to global warming. When i was trevelling on the tube, i saw 100s of people many of them were comming back from offices. What about if every one of them was driving rather than travelling on the tube and what about 100s of people on the following tube. As we know that transport is contributing 21% to global warming, and  according to an estimate, a small car emits 0.1 kg of CO2/passenger/km while a tube emits 0.07 kg of CO2/passenger/km. It is just an example.We should change ourselves and work individually for the betterment of environment and it will make difference at some point.

“Never underestimate the power of a small group of comitted people to change the world.

Infact,it is the only thing that ever has” (Margaret Mead)