Monday, 27 December 2010

Archbishop of Canterbury a Christian - Shock!

Someone ought to break it to Melanie Phillips, but the elephant she is missing in her hyperbolic traduction of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Christmas Day sermon and Boxing Day newspaper article, a large pachyderm which you might have thought all too predictably present, is that Rowan Williams is not like Melanie or her socially conservative bedfellows in the US, who are clearly more interested in the jealous G-d of the Pentateuch and Old Testament.

Unlike them, the Archbishop is a Christian!

The Victorian upper classes, under contention by Archbishop Rowan and Ms Phillips were also, like herself and US fundamentalists and self-styled ‘freedom lovers’, not Christian. The nineteenth century British ruling classes doubtless spent far more time studying ancient Roman and Greek literature and thought in the public schools than they spent contemplating the words of the Prince of Peace, for obvious reasons - they too had an Empire to rule and peasants to oppress.

I found this paragraph particularly hilarious:

“Indeed, by demonising the better-off while investing the poor with a halo, he came close to suggesting that wealth — however honestly or arduously earned — is intrinsically evil, while poverty is a holy state.”

Er … Melanie, that might be because it does actually say in the New Testament, Matthew Ch.19 v.24:


"Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

Or how about 1 Timothy Ch.6 v.10?

 “For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.”

In fact, looking through what Rowan Williams has said in the sermon, and in his piece in the Daily Mail I cannot find any demonising, so presumably the demons are more to be found in Ms Phillips mind than in the Archbishop’s.

Melanie should try to realise also that underlying Christian thinking on comportment is the key concept of Forgiveness, a notion which is absent from the Old Testament mentality of punishment and vengefulness, which, especially when turned against the poor, is so painfully apparent in the words and deeds of social conservatives in the USA as well as their sad Transatlanticist hangers on and imitators in this country. Compare, for example, Matthew (NT) with Genesis (OT).


Matthew Ch.18 vv.21-22:

"Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times? Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven ..."

In sharp contrast to this, Clarke's Commentary apparently points out that: "Seventy times seven - There is something very remarkable in these words, especially if collated with Genesis 4-24, where the very same words are used - "If any man kill Lamech, he shall be avenged seventy times seven."

There is also the crucial Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus is not big on people judging one another,
saying things like:

"But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, "You good-for-nothing," shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, "You fool," shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell."

Who'd have thought it, eh? The Archbishop is a Christian, and Melanie Phillips and her allies are not!

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Geo-Engineering: Garbage in - Garbage out

If you already had a hunch that blowing huge volumes of gas down a hole in the ground and expecting it to stay there sounds like a stupid idea, or potentially dangerous perhaps, then you’re not the only one, and geophysicist Mark Zoback has some evidence …

Where Have They Gone?




Redwings and Pyracantha: who ate all the berries?


There’s a lot of argument now about whether, as well as how, what and when to feed wild birds, with the crucial word there being wild, ie not domesticated.

Now that most farmland has been turned over to little more than ‘green deserts’ of monoculture many farmland bird populations have died down to a tiny fraction of what they used to be, although some farmers are now growing some areas of seed crops to revive winter seed-feeders like tree sparrow, reed bunting, corn bunting, yellowhammer, linnet, house sparrow, bullfinch and skylark (PDF).

For anyone with a bit of garden or land, avoiding insecticides so as to allow insects and birds to flourish in the spring and summer, and growing a good diversity of plants to provide fruit and seeds naturally in the winter seems to me the best option for genuine long term benefit to wildlife.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Are You Ready for the Shift?

Short and incisive, these videos from Kit Hill at the Stockholm Resilience Centre pack a fair punch into a minute or two.

Life operates in thresholds, time-lags and tipping points, on a multitude of scales. Breezing along for years, decades, millennia or aeons, before, quite suddenly, the paradigm crumbles and shifts to a wholly new state.

Wise old Charles Darwin understood the workings of evolution all too well, explaining, as Gautama Buddha did, also in his way, that suffering and death are inescapable parts of life, intrinsic to it, whether we humans accept that fact or no.


"... the Struggle for Existence amongst all organic beings throughout the world, which inevitably follows from their high geometrical powers of increase, will be treated of. This is the doctrine of Malthus, applied to the whole animal and vegetable kingdoms. As many more individuals of each species are born than can possibly survive; and as, consequently, there is a frequently recurring struggle for existence, it follows that any being, if it vary however slightly in any manner profitable to itself, under the complex and sometimes varying conditions of life, will have a better chance of surviving, and thus be naturally selected. From the strong principle of inheritance, any selected variety will tend to propagate its new and modified form ..."

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Why Does Richard Murphy Delete Harmless Comments?

Call me anally retentive, but I’ve got a blockage when it comes to bloggers censoring comments for no reasonable motive. Top political insider bloggers like Iain Dale do it all the time, and of course it is completely characteristic of most narrow ideologues that they need to create an environment where there are only two ways of seeing the world; the right way, which is their own, and the wrong way, which is the vile Other.

While many political bloggers simply delete comments that frighten them or the horses, ConHome has developed an especially sneaky approach. So, when one of their pet commenters has posted a particularly obnoxious or vituperative comment they put up a notice in its place, stating that the comment has been deleted, thus giving the impression of an open transparent process.

But what a fraud! As anyone not 'in with the in-crowd' will find, an intelligent, well-argued and polite comment that seriously challenges the group-think will simply be deleted covertly, without anyone the wiser.

And so, sad to find that Richard Murphy at TaxResearch blog is no better than ConHome. Or can anyone please tell me where the comment below, which he deleted, breaches his comments policy?

"Richard Murphy wrote: “And there’s much to oppose. If he did it properly he could bring the government down, and that would be a good thing.”

Don’t be too sure of that. Once the LibDems signed in blood the pact with the Tories they are in the fight to the death.

Besides which, where’s the alternative, when Labour have proven to be bankrupt?"

Harmless enough, you'd think. Why expunge it?

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Debt Kills

Micro-Finance Becomes Big Business

Debt has been driving farmer suicides in India over many years, but now the southern Dravidian state of Andhra Pradesh - an area already notorious for so-called Naxalite insurgency - is in the spotlight over renewed misery, whose proximate cause this time is that great white hope of development luvvies; microfinance.

Years before Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank received that, now increasingly politicised and jaded accolade of the Nobel Peace Prize, micro-finance, or the lending of small amounts of money to poor, often female recipients, for them to develop small businesses, was heralded as a saviour. It became very fashionable.

As ever though with such panaceas, they have simply provided more plausible and attractive clothing for common human rapacity.

The problem of rural indebtedness was already horrendous. P.Sainath wrote in Counterpunch that the decade to 2007 had seen over 180,000 Indian farmers driven to suicide:

"What do the farm suicides have in common? Those who have taken their lives were deep in debt – peasant households in debt doubled in the first decade of the neoliberal “economic reforms,” from 26 per cent of farm households to 48.6 per cent. We know that from National Sample Survey data. But in the worst states, the percentage of such households is far higher. For instance, 82 per cent of all farm households in Andhra Pradesh were in debt by 2001-02. Those who killed themselves were overwhelmingly cash crop farmers – growers of cotton, coffee, sugarcane, groundnut, pepper, vanilla. (Suicides are fewer among food crop farmers – that is, growers of rice, wheat, maize, pulses.) The brave new world philosophy mandated countless millions of Third World farmers forced to move from food crop cultivation to cash crop (the mantra of “export-led growth”). For millions of subsistence farmers in India, this meant much higher cultivation costs, far greater loans, much higher debt, and being locked into the volatility of global commodity prices. That’s a sector dominated by a handful of multinational corporations."

Small Debt Becomes Big Debt

“Is there a bubble being created? Are most microfinance institutions chasing the same customer? Are we pushing the customer — the poor woman — into a debt trap? Would this lead to suicides?" asked Dr MS Sriram in May this year.

The answer to all four questions is yes.

"As a pioneer in organising women’s SHGs, Andhra Pradesh provided an opportunity to MFIs to provide small loans to lakhs of rural women who are otherwise denied credit by banks. As MFIs expanded operations in the state, they targeted individual borrowers too. In recent years, many MFIs turned into for-profit organisations in a race to make a quick buck begun. MFIs are now under fire for charging exorbitant interest rates and using strong-arm tactics to collect interests." says the Indian Express, with an on the ground report of impoverished rural Indian women being first lured into debt and then terrorised.

What Milford Bateman calls "the distressing and entirely predictable situation in Andhra Pradesh", is that "today, AP is now second only to Bangladesh as the most microfinance ‘saturated’ place on earth, with a full 17% of the population in possession of a microloan account. That this represents a massive over-supply seems clear …"
 
"And there can be no doubt whatsoever what the real driving force behind the current crisis is: it is clearly, and overwhelmingly, a result of the largely ideologically-driven move to commercialise microfinance."

So can anything be rescued from this terrible situation? Some people keep hoping so ...

TitferTip: NEF and TaxResearch.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Big Feet

What do Gibraltar, US Virgin Islands, Qatar, Former Netherlands Antilles, Trinidad and Tobago, UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, Singapore, Luxembourg and Brunei have in common?

Small places, but resource intensive. Answer in this neat PDF

Bottom Massage

“… 200 years of abundant energy have allowed us to build an extremely complex civilization based on dozens of interrelated systems without which we can no longer live - at least not in the style to which we have become accustomed … Those who believe that ten years from now we will be able to get along with much reduced government have little appreciation of how modern civilization works or how bad things are going to get as fossil fuel energy fades from our lives …”

Read more at “peak oil crisis: the future of government” by Tom Whipple.

And more on 'bottom bouncing' at Shadowstats, where Walter J. "John" Williams notes that "despite minor changes to the system, government [economic] reporting has deteriorated sharply in the last decade or so." Can this be purely accidental? Surely not. After all, covering the hideous truth in a cheering blanket of confusion always helps, leaving only a few suspicious buggers to write dry headlines like  "November Jobs Increase Was Statistically Indistinguishable from Decline."

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Disjuncture

Skating skating skating,
Round in circles.
Over thin ice,
Refusing to see
People
Trapped
Beneath.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Fished Out

One product of this weekend's semi-structured wilfing was yet another absorbing eco-blog, Constantine Alexander, who on his latest round-up, features research on the denudation of our oceans caused by industrial fishing, reported by Science Daily:

"Earth has run out of room to expand fisheries, according to a new study led by University of British Columbia researchers that charts the systematic expansion of industrialized fisheries."


“… the reality is that for decades now, numerous fisheries are corporate operations that take a mostly no-fish-left-behind approach to our oceans until there's nowhere left to go …"

"The National Geographic Society, the Waitt Foundation, the SEAlliance along with strategic government, private, academic and conservation partners including the TEDPrize, Google and IUCN, are beginning an action-oriented marine conservation initiative under the banner of "Mission Blue" that will increase global awareness of the urgent ocean crisis and help to reverse the decline in ocean health by inspiring people to care and act; reducing the impact of fishing; and promoting the creation of marine protected areas. For more information, go to http://www.iamtheocean.org/."

UK Marine Protected Areas: Interactive Map

Monday, 6 December 2010

Scientists Agree: We Need to Act Now to Halt Biodiversity Loss

It's not exactly a snappy title, but after a 5 year gestation, the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, or IpBES for short, is at last officially up and running.

In true dry-as-dust scientific form also, the new body states its brief thus

"Scientific knowledge on the links between biodiversity, ecosystem services and human well-being has increased significantly since the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MAs) was completed. There is however a need for a stronger international science-policy platform to enable emerging scientific knowledge to be translated into specific policy action at the appropriate levels."

The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment "found universal agreement across the studies that fundamental changes are needed in society to avoid high risk of extinctions, declining populations in many species, and large scale shifts in species distributions in the future." Genengnews.com.

"There is no question that business-as-usual development pathways will lead to catastrophic biodiversity loss. Even optimistic scenarios for this century consistently predict extinctions and shrinking populations of many species."

It is worth stressing here, that those who ignore these facts are flying in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence. The destruction and degradation of biodiversity is the single most important issue of the 21st century, an issue that, if not addressed forthwith, without any more shilly shallying around, will continue eroding our prosperity and our future, ultimately destroying our whole way of life.

So How Much is Nature Worth to Us?

Global biodiversity is worth much, much more to humanity than casual observers might think. Far in excess of the entire business output of any mere human artefacts such as countries, multinationals or banks.

"In one of the first efforts to calculate a global number, a team of researchers from the United States, Argentina, and the Netherlands has put an average price tag of US$33 trillion a year on these fundamental ecosystem services, which are largely taken for granted because they are free. That is nearly twice the value of the global gross national product (GNP) of US$18 trillion ..."


 HT: British Ecological Society Blog 

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Cries Unheard

Easter Island, Rapa Nui, seems almost legendary and untouchable to us here, being far distant and with a mysterious history. So it ought to shock us to find that the indigenous people of even this remote UNESCO World Heritage Centre are under attack. In this instance, from the Chilean government.

The Rapa Nui people have been reduced to less than half of the island’s population now. Chileans have taken over their land without compensation and built over parts of it. The Rapa Nui have good reason to fear that the government wants to turn their land and their heritage into a theme park for its own profit. So now that people are standing up and peacefully protesting, the Chilean state has sent in military forces to attack them.

And what is the UN doing? What of human rights and international law?

The media just carry on ignoring these issues as ever. I only heard of this thanks to Intercontinental Cry.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

All-American Jihad

For students of the impending impact of religious insanity on the real world.

Reading recently at the Wild Hunt about the exorcism craze in the Land of the Fee drew my attention to the Talk2Action website where they have a vast compendium of links relating to "spiritual warfare" including the following demented-cum-terrifying details here:

"... as noted in a recent New York Times story ... "spiritual warfare", an aggressive approach to evangelizing developed by the leaders of a worldwide religious movement which promotes a religiously based wealth transfer scheme as a means to implement theocracy."

"God has declared through His prophets that the wealth of the wicked will be released to the Kingdom of God."

"I declare that this wealth will be distributed for the extension of the Kingdom of God by the apostles that God has set in the church." .... human agency would be a part of his wealth transfer scheme. ... specifically from the "godless":

Resistance is useless!!! "I decree that vast amounts of wealth will be released supernaturally, even from godless and pagan sources... The enemy's camp will be plundered... Resistance will be impossible. Jesus will put all things under His feet."

This charismatic group, which over the last decade has rapidly expanded as an international movement within Neocharismatic "renewal" groups within Christianity is estimated to have 295 million members worldwide.

It is a movement organizing on a massive scale for religious, social and ideological takeovers in entire nations, such as in Brazil. such as in Pittsburgh and Topeka (not in report) and over the entire U.S., such as in Georgia. According to the documents, they are even mapping out, block by block, opposition and demonic "strongholds" in cities around the United States. [Hello-o, Buffy]
 
A helpful commenter transcribed a portion of one of their sermons which they felt was particularly interesting...

"Radical Muslims ... the jihâd oriented Muslims. 5 or 6 percent of the Mulim population, not the majority, but they'll control the other 90 percent because they control the high places. We have 35 percent of the United States that's evangelical. Here's the problem. 35 percent are regenerated in their spirit. They say Jesus is Lord but they're not necessarily converted... because if they were converted, the 35 percent would have as much influence as the 5 or 6 percent that are changing America...[but]... they're not taking territory ... So, meanwhile, your jihâdists are wiser than us because they go right to the top of the high places to make disciples out of their nations. They will make every nation a Muslim nation if they have their way. ... That's the closest thing on Earth to what we're supposed to be doing. ... You see, it's the counterfeit for the way the church ought to operate. We should be penetrating every field until we have 10 percent or so penetration of disciples ... And when you get disciples, you can then create a Christian culture within the culture .... This is how we do it. That's how the Muslims do it."


Couldn't we just transfer them all to a nice asteroid somewhere where they could indulge their "spiritual warfare to their hearts' content. The Clangers meets Alien Intercessors for Christ sort of thing. It'd make great theatre!  


Much, much more here

Friday, 3 December 2010

Incredible Invisible Sustainable Saga

Sustaina- who? Sustainable what? Babble babble babble!

The story of the Sustainable Communities Act 2007 is an achingly slow-running, and scarcely believable saga of people struggling against the odds to get some kind of input into alleviating the hideously bloated and bureaucratic systems that are ineluctably crushing the life out of us. Not surprisingly, given the weight of vested interest on the side of the mighty apparatus, very little has actually happened in practice since 2007, when the Sustainable Communities Act was passed into law.

It is as if a tiny mouse were talking to a massive mountain, asking the mountain, very politely, to move.

Now that Nick Hurd, the very same Member of Parliament who shepherded it through the House of Commons as a Private Members Bill, is a Minister - Minister for Civil Society no less - with a government that has been talking the talk of decentralisation, the language of 'Smaller Government' and 'Bigger Society', you might be forgiven for thinking that the powers that be could get around to walking the walk and that something could actually get done to implement it in practical terms, wouldn't you?

Barkingside 21 is one of those precious few who have patiently but determinedly stayed the course, starting with this post in February 07, and regularly updating readers since then on the frenzied official inactivity that has accompanied the Act at every stage.

Here is the latest episode ... 

The Glamour of Industrialism is Deadly

From La Via Campesina, en route to Cancun:

"THE DEATH OF THE LERMA SANTIAGO RIVER

"The second caravan performed its first act in El Salto, Jalisco, a town situated thirty kilometers from Guadalajara, on the bank of the Lerma Santiago River.

This region once had a great natural diversity of corn and vegetables. There were mangoes, plums, guava, quince, white fish, carp, catfish and lots of birds and many other species. Their pride was the Salto de Juanacatlán, a waterfall of twenty-seven meters in height and one hundred and sixty seven meters in width.

By 1900 the government had installed a hydro-electric plant and the first industry in the region. With the plant as a beginning point, industry gained power over the municipality of Salto with industrial jobs and encouraged the illusion that with industry they would gain progress and end poverty.

The population went to factories and lost their view of the river. In a few years, the lack of planning, the urbanization of the jungle and the arrival of highly polluting industries transformed a paradise into a wasteland and converted the river into a receptacle for industrial poisons and excrements.

“When we returned, the river was dead. Today we are still poor, and sick, and now we have no river”, says Enrique Enciso Rivera.

Now the town is fighting for its life and to restore hope, and received the delegations that make up the caravan with a fighting spirit.

But they will never forget that less than two years ago, Miguel Ángel López Rocha, a young boy, accidentally fell in the river, and was in a coma for nineteen days and finally died due to heavy metal poisoning, hydrogen sulfide and arsenic.

In one act on the wide porch of a house, amidst the foul odors coming from the sewers that flow into the river, the members of the caravan (delegates of local, national and provincial organizations from Texas, California, Colorado, Oregon, Florida, Illinois and Chicago, also from Quebec and France) and the fighting locals share solidarity in their fights and make commitments. The road is long and uphill, but we must continue.

Already in Morelia, Michoacán, the professors of basic education of Section XVIII of the National Union of Education Workers (SNTE) and militants of the National Coordinator of Education Workers (CNTE) agreed to join the social struggles which aims to respect and preserve the environment."

Read more about La Via Campesina and the International Caravan to Cancun here ...

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Jesus v the Green Dragon

The prism through which US literalists view environmental concern ...

Community Land Trust, or A Nice Way of Turning Farmland into Housing?

There was me thinking that Community Land Trusts sounded like a lovely, quite radical but at the same time innocent and fluffy alternative sort of idea that could give ordinary folk a stake in society. Oh so naive.

Reading on Philip Booth's blog the sad news about ongoing County Farm sell-offs again being mooted in Gloucestershire, I went to look at the Community Land Trust website and was straightaway drawn to the case studies page and the example of High Bickington in North Devon. Intrigued, I moved on to visit their very well presented website to find out more about what’s been going on.

Turns out that the land they’re looking at is, or was, a County Farm. County Farms are part of our heritage which should be celebrated. They are, or were, a wonderful part of the post-war settlement, a legacy of egalitarianism and ‘fairness for all’ thinking that sprang up so optimistically after the mass slaughter and sacrifice of the Great War, when some villages and rural areas had nearly all their young men stolen away.

The Wiltshire County Council website tells us that:

"Wiltshire’s County Farms Estate was developed following the enactment of the Smallholdings and Allotments Acts of 1907 and 1908. Under these Acts, all Councils were placed under a statutory duty to meet the demand for applications by young persons to enter into farming …"


"After the First World War, the Land Settlement (Facilities) Act 1919 encouraged Councils to expand their estates to accommodate, in particular, the settlement on the land of the returning ex-servicemen who had to be given preference over all other applicants. Applications increased and consequently the estate grew to 4,499 hectares (11,119 acres) by January 1923 and to 6,879 hectares (17,000 acres) with 650 tenants by Lady Day 1926. A greater proportion of these were now equipped 'full time' 15 ha to 20 ha (40-50 acre) holdings as opposed to the pre War 'part time bare land' holdings mentioned above."

County Farms provide, or provided, one of the vital but now vanishingly few remaining ways for youngsters who aren’t either wealthy, or born into a farming family, with a way of actually starting out in farming. They are a much-needed way of bringing new blood and fresh ideas onto the land, as well as broadening opportunities for young people. But sadly, as East Anglia Food Link observes:

"County Farms estates have lost their way over time, consolidating smallholdings into much larger holdings and letting them for the best available price, simply as a way of earning income for the local authority. It is now time to rediscover the original purpose of County Farms, which is to provide land access for small-scale commercial growing. Smallholdings of 3-10 acres, and even dachas of one acre each, should be the norm."

Conveniently dismissed as "redundant" or "surplus to requirements", Little Bickington Farm will be permanently lost to food production, as the High Bickington Community Property Trust (CPT) was initially granted outline planning permission by Torridge DC. Because the CPT want to build over the farmland, and this would be a ‘Major Departure from the Local Development Plan’, the decision was referred to GOSW, and eventually to a Local Public Inquiry in January 2006. The Inspector recommended refusal, and he was backed by the then Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Ruth Kelly in May 2006.

Nevertheless, a new application for full planning permission was submitted in 2008 and given the go-ahead by the District Council in January 2009.

Of around 800 people in the village, some 200 have chosen to become members of the CPT, and the Board of Directors consists of 9 individuals, 7 of whom include:

“Former Chief Executive of not-for-profit Company providing residential and other care services to around 5,000 people. Employed c. 2,000 staff.”

“… previously worked in London in the advertising industry.”

“Retired teacher and HM Inspector of Schools.”

“A background of over 20 years experience, as a manager and international management consultant, in the financial services industry. Since 1990 extensively involved in privatisation, share ownership schemes and enterprise reform in emerging economies, working as a specialist adviser and project manager on World Bank and other international funding agency programmes.”

“a background of 30 years in production and quality in the generic pharmaceutical industry with responsibility for operations at several sites in Europe. Achievements included the lowest cost, highest volume tablet plant in Europe, the introduction of total quality philosophy and of real team working.”

“Took early retirement from the NHS following a successful 20 year career in Public Health. Has recently been working across Northern Devon with the North Devon and Exmoor Regeneration Company.”

“…a career of 42 years with the UK Division of HERTZ. Spent the last 17 years as Fleet Purchasing Manager and during that period was responsible for purchasing over 500,000 vehicles.”

No housing developers or planning consultants?

A prestigious group indeed, villages ain't what they used to be. But are the villagers above in the least representative or typical of modern Britain do you think? Could just any community of 800 people in, say, Teesside, Birmingham or Plymouth rustle up such a pool of managerial talent?

It is telling also that an idea like Community Land Trusts can, in the right hands, be so very useful for turning farmland into housing.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

The Ever-Elongating Minsky Moment

There’s just no second-guessing the cold hard uncertainty of life is there?

From Wikipedia: “The financial crisis of 2007 to the present was triggered by a liquidity shortfall in the United States banking system The collapse of the housing bubble, which peaked in the U.S. in 2006, caused the values of securitities tied to real estate pricing to plummet thereafter, damaging financial institutions globally."

I seem to remember that last year it was only “the financial crisis of 2007 - 2009.”

These economists! Just grasping through the mist for any substantial thing, can somebody, anybody, explain to me intelligibly whether Paul McCulley was advocating, mocking or merely predicting when he said “"There is room for the Fed to create a bubble in housing prices, if necessary, to sustain American hedonism”?

And Paul Krugman, NYT in 2002?

One economist who truly did have the wit to see what to many of us non “masters-of-the-universe” was horrifyingly obvious, namely that what goes up must come down, and that perpetual growth is as impossible as perpetual motion, was Ann Pettifor:

“There were some unkind comments on my column of August 29 2006. In it, I argued that last summer's fall in house sales in Florida and California were canaries in the deep vast coal mine of US credit; that the impact of a credit/debt crisis in the US would have a much greater impact on us all, than the crisis in Lebanon ..."


"The scale of the crisis is beginning to be grasped. However, deniers are still at work, spreading disinformation, delusions and, in some cases, downright lies about the real state of the international financial system. "

But if I may venture to disagree with Pettifor, it seems to me that the full scale of the crisis has NOT been grasped.

There is no going back to business as usual. You can try, but it won't work.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Christmas By Order

Believe or don't believe, religion is a perennially useful tool and front for whatever it is that you are pushing.

Same old same old.

Here's one:

"Any council that does not keep the word Christmas in the annual celebrations and opts for winter festival, out of the politically-correct appeasement of others to the detriment of our traditions, will have their town visited by the ??? throughout the following year."

"The average cost to the council is £500,000 when the ??? demonstrates at any given location and it is hoped this will be avoided by your council keeping the word Christmas alive."

And here's another:


"Shoppers want to see Christmas lights, Christmas trees, carol services and nativity scenes, and councils should not hesitate in supporting them."

"We should actively celebrate the Christian basis of Christmas, and not allow politically correct Grinches to marginalise Christianity and the importance of the birth of Christ."

"The war on Christmas is over, and the likes of Winterval, [and other alternative names for Christmas festivities] Winter Lights and Luminous deserve to be in the dustbin of history."

Spot the difference.

Friday, 26 November 2010

The Something for Nothing Society

My dear, what has happened to the landed gentry of today? In the fondly remembered past, word that a few damned hooligans, poachers or homosexualists were on the loose would bring forth his lordship, calling for his gun to sort the the perishers out pronto.

Sadly matters are not what they used to be, and now, it seems, the master of the gloriously, but alas no longer aptly named Shotover Estate is reduced to importuning local council taxpayers to erect fencing to make it harder to penetrate his … (that’s enough penetration, ed.)

Has the wretched man no aunts he can draft in?

WickiD

“ … it still needs all the old public institutions, like ballsy newspapers and brave MPs …”

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Deficient

Why are children in comfortable suburbs getting rickets?

Simple: their parents, despite having plenty of money, and no doubt decades of “education” funded at public expense behind them, are still ignorant about the basics of life.


They are ignorant about what is a healthy diet.

They are ignorant as to what is healthy behaviour.

1998 - 2008 - today - always the same story.

Muesli-belt Mummies, government interventionists and health fascists -

EPIC FAIL.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Managing the Descent

When you have vertigo it's best to get your feet back on the ground. You'll feel a lot better for it.

Dr Mathis Wackernagel  of ecological footprint fame on Post Growth blog: 
 
"Our current palliative economic therapies have compromised our economies’ potential to deliver in the future. These investments have not helped us access cheap, abundant resources (which no longer exist), but have brought us more deeply into “peak everything.”

Hence the questions are not: do we want growth, nor how much growth is desirable? Rather they become: What will be the consequences of a resource-imposed “end of growth?” How can economies cope with non-linearities such as unexpected contractions? How can we avoid uneven contractions that would lead to social unrest? How can economies be stable, resilient and prosperous in a peak everything world?"

Read more ...

Monday, 22 November 2010

Bee a Love

That indefatigable Councillor, busy bee Philip Booth brings us melittological wordplay and an opportunity to vote for a project to turn Gloucester into a beacon for bees.

Voting starts tomorrow evening.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Feeling a Bit Peaky

Type peak oil into Google search and you’ll get the following drop-down list:

Peak oil news
Peak oil debunked
Peal oil myth
Peak oil theory
Peak oil

So there’s obviously plenty of people still out there in denial of resource depletion, clinging resolutely to their cosy blanket even as it is shrinking and disintegrating.

Not the guys at The Industry Taskforce on Peak Oil and Energy Security though - what a bunch of hippies!

Here’s 3 minutes of Philip Dilley, Chairman of Arup, at the introduction to the Peak Oil Task Force launch earlier this year.  Now “The Taskforce warns that more urgent action is needed from Government to address the threat of peak oil following the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. It urges the UK Coalition Government to take action to reduce the impact of the oil crunch by 2015.” They have brought out a new briefing note about the implications of deep-water drilling for oil now that we are, supposedly, getting towards the end of easily and cheaply available supplies.

But I'm sure they're just imagining it, so don't worry.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

The New DDT

The cause or causes, proximate or ultimate, of the ongoing problem of Colony Collapse Disorder are still contested, but a toxicologist ought to have a useful insight into the matter. So the fact that Dr Henk Tennekes has weighed the evidence and considers that neonicotinoid pesticides are to blame, has to be taken seriously. You'd hope. Their use has already been suspended in several countries, with positive results for domestic bee populations

His recent book on the subject is comfortingly titled "The Systemic Insecticides: a Disaster in the Making" and it also has a website. Echoes of Rachel Carson.

It's also not looking good for the British Bee Keeping Association. People are starting to ask awkward questions.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Tories Do It With Money

The Yorkshire Ranter and Matthew Turner uncover “a strange and contradictory mix of complexity and simplicity” amongst everyday Tory folk, while Land Matters blog sets Richard Murphy pondering the tax haven based landlords of Millbank Tower.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Civilians More Dangerous than Armed Opposition

Prior to his attendance at the G20 conference in client state South Korea, US President Obama was in Indonesia proclaiming that country as “an example to the world”.

Oh really?

Not according to those less intimate with power than Barack Hussein. People like the civilian population of Indonesia.

So when Obama says: “as president, I’m here to focus not on the past, but on the future—the Comprehensive Partnership that we’re building between the United States and Indonesia” remember that actually “part of that relationship involves the renewed support of Kopassus, which has been denied since the armed forces burned then-Indonesian-occupied East Timor to the ground in 1999, killing more than 1,400 Timorese.”


Journalist Allan Nairn reports on his blog: “Secret documents have leaked from inside Kopassus, Indonesia's red berets, which say that Indonesia's US-backed security forces engage in "murder [and] abduction" and show that Kopassus targets churches in West Papua and defines civilian dissidents as the "enemy."

“The documents include a Kopassus enemies list headed by Papua's top Baptist minister and describe a covert network of surveillance, infiltration and disruption of Papuan institutions.”


In the Indonesian security forces view, "civilians are much more dangerous than armed opposition."

So if this is Obama’s idea of a good example to the world then we are in for a very nasty future. However the likelihood is that, like the membership of the G20 our leaders’ words are just doublespeak to cover a hideous reality with pretty speeches, and that what they say and do is governed by a cynicism as pure as poison, as Naomi Klein explained over the origins of the G20:

“[T]hey … wrote on the back of the manilla envelope a list of countries. And by Paul Martin’s admission, those countries were not simply the twenty top economies of the world, the biggest GDPs. They were also the countries that were most strategic to the United States. So Larry Summers would make a decision that obviously Iran wouldn’t be in, but Saudi Arabia would be. And so, Saudi Arabia is in. Thailand, it made sense to include Thailand, because it had actually been the Thai economy, which, two years earlier, had set off the Asian economic crisis, but Thailand wasn’t as important to the US strategically as Indonesia, so Indonesia was in and not Thailand. So what you see from this story is that the creation of the G20 was an absolutely top-down decision, two powerful men deciding together to do this, making, you know, an invitation-only list.”

More on the Indonesian rulers’ exemplary way with citizens and environment is to be seen on this video of Heather Rogers, author of “Green Gone Wrong”, talking about the destruction of the forest and indigenous communities in the pursuit of oil-palm for agrofuels.

And I know I’m not the only one smelling a rat over international aid being ring-fenced. Don’t try and kid us this is from the goodness of our leaders hearts (do they have any of either?) Overseas ‘aid’, especially post-911, is all about covering the securocrats as they keep on helping themselves in a rapidly shrinking world where ‘national security’ equates to little more than their own selfish interests. Like the absolutists they replaced with their bourgeois revolutions, l’etat c’est moi is their cry.

Cabinet Ministers of the Future

Demonstrations have a proven track record as rite of passage for many recent Ministers of State, including at least one in the current Government.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

A Deconstructionist Self-Deconstructs

Don’t you hate philosophy? There’s nothing like a spot of epistemological relativism, to take an example, for confusing the issue is there? It all seems like wading around in a grey goo of incomprehensibilty. So, if you’re the sort of person who enjoyed the Sokal Hoax, then you’ll have loved Bruno Latour's brave auto da fe on constructionism.

Unless you’re a climate conspiracist or a 911 Troofer of course.

"Fancy that? An artificially maintained scientific controversy to favor a “brown backlash” as Paul Ehrlich would say. Do you see why I am worried? I myself have spent sometimes in the past trying to show the “lack of scientific certainty” inherent in the construction of facts. I too made it a “primary issue.” But I did not exactly aim at fooling the public by obscuring the certainty of a closed argument–or did I? After all, I have been accused of just that sin. Still, I’d like to believe that, on the contrary, I intended to emancipate the public from a prematurely naturalized objectified fact. Was I foolishly mistaken? Have things changed so fast?"

Guilty Consciences

It’s the politicians that are protesting too much. Now why would that be?

Cory Hazlehurst at Liberal Conspiracy or at his own blog, Paperback Rioter, on the reaction of the political classes to the Woolas affair.

Stuart Jeffery on Tory politicos hypocritically knee-jerking about behaviour at student demo. Funny how it’s all 'high jinks' when Hoorays like them do it for fun, but 'criminal destructiveness' when ordinary people feel desperately driven to similar acts.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

The Long Reckoning

From Opium Wars to Currency Wars.

What do you do when uppity natives won’t buy your goods?

Keep pushing opium at their population until they become addicts and start coughing up the dough you need?

Threaten them with a gunboat?

Sadly can’t be done in these days of political correctness. Besides which, they have more blood and treasure than we do.

Send your best Hong and his gang wearing poppy flowers, just to remind the Yellow Peril who’s boss? Flood your economy with quantitative easing, and then administer a stiff warning to the blighters for the 'tidal wave of money'?

Or how about a cap on their exports? Not at all protectionist.

No? Oh well, back to the drawing board. Let’s just hope they don’t cut up rough and hold it all against us, eh?

Counteractivity?

Bryony Rosa claims in response to the video from Asif Khan:

"I was very near the front of the protest, and i'm pretty sure these weren't students. They all happened to come dressed in balaclavas, the police stood by and watched them do what they were doing, and there was even a middle-aged woman outside the offices before it all started with a megaphone saying that "this is the tory offices, you should stay here and protest!"."

Update on the Mash-up. Lots of face, lots of camera, centre of attention ftw!

UpUpdate: And yes, Donal Blaney, CEO of that spectacular 'Conservative madrassa' YBF is well up for it, with plenty of bluster.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

International Diplomacy Failing Again

As long as the modern nation state has been conjured in the imagination of politicians there have been failures of diplomacy between these nations, with dire outcome. So what now that international negotiations on climate change and on biodiversity are crashing, if not yet burning?

Is global governance still-born?

These buggers couldn’t agree on what price to sell their grandmother for.

Controlling the Assault: On- and Offline

In the modern Risk Society where traditional forms of support and authority such as the family, trades unions, religious belief and the like are often crumbling away, while anthropogenic risks and impacts are increasing, we are all under continual assault - mental and physical - often with little or no back-up other than our own resources. Danah Boyd has been talking with some young women in the US to find how they cope with the threats that Facebook brings along with its more widely promoted promises of benefit:

“ [T]hese girls live in high-risk situations. Their lives aren’t easy and they’re just trying to have fun. But they want to have fun with as little trouble as possible. They don’t want people in their business but they’re fully aware that people are nosy. They’re very guarded in general; getting them to open up even a teensy bit during the interview was hard enough. Given the schools that they’re at, they’ve probably seen far more trouble than they’re letting on. Some of it was obvious in their stories. Accounts of fights breaking out in classes, stories of classes where teachers simply have no control over what goes on in the room and have given up teaching, discussions of moving from school to school to school. These girls have limited literacy but their street smarts are strong. And Facebook is another street where you’ve got to always be watching your back.”

Monday, 8 November 2010

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Zombie Flavour

Zombies are everywhere. They're taking over Bristol - from this to this in just two years. Work, buy, consume die and then, if you’re lucky enough to be a zombie, start over again.

Yet more zombies; with philosophical zombies, zombie economics, zombie banks, zombie computers, zombies as metaphor ...

See the happy zombie,
He doesn't give a damn,
I wish I was a zombie,
My god, perhaps I am!

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Greedy Giants

As government debates when to pay its contractors, many of them in turn are trying to calculate what they can get away with.

The IgNobel prize must go to megacorp Serco who wrote to their suppliers for money, not-so-subtly pointing out that:

"Like the Government, we are looking to determine who our real partners are that we can rely upon. Your response will no doubt indicate your commitment to our partnership but will also be something I will seriously consider in our working relationship as Serco continues to grow."

Doh!

November Nibbles




It doesn't take long to get good stuff growing in a garden or allotment if you're lucky enough to have access to one. At the moment we've still got plenty of apples, the last of the raspberries, and a few alpine strawberries, along with a windowsill of more or less ripe tomatoes. Some last carrots are still in the soil and beetroot will keep over the winter to be pulled when needed.

Just because broccoli isn't budding yet doesn't stop you cutting growing shoots for greens. Nasturtiums and cress for salad, as well as ever faithful parsley, chives, thyme and sage. Potatoes in storage alongside pumpkins. Hot and sweet peppers in greenhouse or polytunnel.

Need I point out that it all saves money, as well as being fresher and tastier than plastibles from the shop?

Not Nice

I’m almost dismayed, now the Tories are back in, and she’s back in oppositional form, to find I'm agreeing with Polly. Here’s this one, pointing out that Andrew Lansley “seems to have been bowled over by a toxic combination of Daily Mail anecdotes of dying patients desperate for a few more months of life and intense lobbying by a pharmaceutical industry that has campaigned long and hard against the one body that kept NHS drug costs under a modicum of control."

Just wait for the avalanche of astroturf that follows in the comments - and if these commenters aren’t getting paid for it then really, they are missing out.

On big Pharma, two former medical journal editors, Richard Smith of the BMJ, and Marcia Angell of the New England Journal of Medicine explain the bottom line now that health has been made into Big Business and An Industry rather than diinterested scientific enquiry:

"Publishing a drug company sponsored trial rather than, say, a study of changing the built environment to increase physical activity will bring both profit and an increased impact factor. How tempting."

“it is simply no longer possible to believe much of the clinical research that is published"

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Priceless it Ain't

For paying off Labour's Spads after 2010 General Election? ..... £1.8m

Hat-tip: Yorkshire Ranter

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Sleight of Mind

Is it democracy or populism? Decentralisation or a postcode lottery? That all depends on whether the person deploying the words likes or dislikes what they see and wants to evoke cheering or booing. The Countryman is one of many who thinks that Dave’s Big Society is actually more likely to translate into a Big Business Society, down on the cold hard ground:

“[A]nyone who has dealt with local politics and town councils, especially where planning and development is concerned, already knows that there can be wheels working within wheels. I’m not necessarily talking of anything illegal here, but about strings being pulled through an active ‘who you know’ network … ”

And just look at the poor old Tea Party foot soldiers over the Pond, so easily bamboozled, “mostly … passionate, well-meaning people who think they are fighting elite power, and who are unaware that they’ve been organised by the very interests they believe they are confronting” as George Monbiot put it, ever apt.
Here in inherently surreal England we might naturally associate the phrase “tea party” with Mad Hatters, but the Yanks have got their own fairy story about how they, The People, nobly stood up to an evil despot who wanted to tax without giving them a say.

Only that isn’t what actually happened. What actually happened was that a small group of wealthy Boston merchants had been taking advantage, smuggling tea into America and making a tidy profit for themselves. Then when the East India Company started shipping tea in at a lower price, even with a bit of added tax added on by the government, of course the Boston Brahmins saw their nice little earner under threat, but acted cunningly to hide their self interest under the guise of principle, by tricking ordinary people into seeing only The Tax and rendering invisible the benefit of cheaper tea.

And now in 2010 a small group of wealthy merchants is again laughing up its sleeve and playing on the prejudices of ordinary Americans to make believe that they would lose out from healthcare or banking reforms, when in fact it is the wealthy few who would lose and the poorer majority who would gain. In with generous lashings of (superficially) high-minded rhetoric, here from Edward Cline:

“It is time for Americans to understand that it is not merely a political fight they have on their hands, but a moral one. They must reject the moral code, altruism, that asks them to live for the sake of other men … Americans must proudly, loudly proclaim the selfish virtue of individual rights, which has been the source of all the wealth and prosperity that we enjoy but which Obama and Congress seek to destroy through socialist redistribution.”

But before we English get too smug that we would never fall for this line, back here in the UK we’re not so different. Many times I’ve spoken to people on quite low incomes or on benefits and raised the issue of the super-rich getting away with vast “remuneration” and very little tax, only to find that what really gets up their noses is not the super-rich, who might as well be in another universe, but the thought that some man or woman they know round the corner is getting a few quid more than them because of one dodge or another!

That sort of petty envy along with the fatalistic idea that “there’s nothing we can do anyway, it’s always been like this” are what make me suspect that the Coalition may well have a relatively easy ride from the mainstream British public.


Astroturf Wars

Monday, 25 October 2010

Freedom is ...?

In Iran  Italy "police will be checking women's hemlines to see if they can spot knickers, and imposing fines of up to €500 ...” Oh really?

We’re talking serious decorum now, so no more mini-skirts, low-cut jeans, kissing in cars, smoking on the beach, or sandcastles, thank-you.

And who is imposing these bans? Why, the "People of Freedom Party", of course. 

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Youth Clamour for Cuts

From otter-haters in Kant, to real-life-you-couldn't-make it-up Gloucestershire. Matty in Cinderford apparently can't wait for government cuts to force the sell-off of public forests in the Dean. He's hoping that developers will buy the lot and cover it in concrete:

"This is great news - hope they build lots of industrial buildings so there will be more work in the area. There will still be enough trees there & sheep at the side of the road for tourists & those locals that like that sort of thing ..."

Saturday, 23 October 2010

County Celebrates Otter-Free Status


Residents of Kant expressed their relief at hearing themselves officially declared the only English county without otters.

Councillor Mrs Jean Control-Freke said “We’ve got a nice ordered environment here, within easy reach of London thanks to the M25 and high-speed rail link. Everywhere is buzzing with traffic and lots of new housing going up. The last thing we need is a load of wild animals coming here and making a mess."

Just a few minutes drive away, local developer Dennis Tidysum fully backs the Council’s stance, saying, “Jean’s absolutely right. Beasts like these can cause havoc with planning, because they seem to think they have some sort of right to live here for nothing. Why, they don’t even use shops and businesses, let alone pay council tax."

Local parents are also very worried about the threat that otters could pose to children. “We’ve already seen how foxes can attack babies. Otters are at least as dangerous because they can operate on both land and water, meaning that our children will not even be safe in the swimming pool or the bath."

And in the youth club we find a surprising consensus from young people concerned about their jobs and prospects; “Yeah, they stink of fish innit” is the unanimous verdict.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Hunger: The Future is Obvious

Whoever heard of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food? Well me neither, but he exists, he's called Olivier de Schutter and he has the website to prove it.

Yesterday M. de Schutter was at the United Nations in New York delivering his latest report "Access to Land and the Right to Food" (PDF).

There's some stuff in there that ought to worry us, for example he says that: "... up to 30 million hectares of farmland is lost annually due to environmental degradation, conversion to industrial use or urbanization. A trend exacerbated by the expansion of agrofuels and the speculation on farmland."

But there's also some interesting and useful data in the report that further supports all those of us who believe that small proprietorships, small farmers and growers, are the best and most effective way forward for everyone to have that most basic human requirement: Food.

The Rapporteur points to the necessity for reform of the currrent land-ownership systems: 
 
"Agrarian reform leading to owner-operated family farms is desirable for a number of reasons. As land is transferred to family farms, idle lands of large estates are brought into production, thus increasing productivity levels. A 2003 World Bank analysis of land policies in 73 countries between 1960 and 2000 shows that countries in which the distribution of land was initially more equitable achieved growth rates two to three times higher than those in which land distribution was initially less equitable."

"The poverty-reducing potential of more equitable land distribution is further illustrated by statistical analyses showing that “a decrease of one third in the land distribution inequality index results in a reduction in the poverty level of one half in about 12-14 years. The same level of poverty reduction may be obtained in 60 years by agricultural growth sustained at an annual average of 3 per cent and without changing land distribution inequality”. Land reforms in Asia following the Second World War resulted in a 30 per cent increase in the incomes of the bottom 80 per cent of households, while leading to an 80 per cent decline in the incomes of the top 4 per cent."

"In addition to its economic functions of stimulating growth and reducing rural poverty, more equitable access to land for the rural poor contributes to social inclusion and economic empowerment. Access to land also improves food security, since it makes food more easily and cheaply available, providing a buffer against external shocks. Evidence resulting from land redistribution in China suggests that “even though access to land insures household income only moderately against shocks, it provides almost complete insurance against malnutrition”. More equitable land distribution and the development of owneroperated family farms are thus desirable on both efficiency and equity grounds. Small family-owned farms can use the land in more sustainable ways, since sustainable farming is often more labour-intensive and requires the linking of
farmers to the land. Moreover, where rural areas face high unemployment and underemployment and relative scarcity of land, it is more sensible, from both an economic perspective and a social justice perspective, to raise land productivity than to try to increase labour productivity."

So what's the hold-up? The same old dog-in-the-manger vested interests that always intervened in Jesse Collings' day is the shameful fact. As George Monbiot put it in his article "Small is Bountiful":

"Though the rich world’s governments won’t hear it, the issue of whether or not the world will be fed is partly a function of ownership. This reflects an unexpected discovery. It was first made in 1962 by the Nobel economist Amartya Sen, and has since been confirmed by dozens of further studies. There is an inverse relationship between the size of farms and the amount of crops they produce per hectare. The smaller they are, the greater the yield."

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Yes Food Does Grow on Trees

A few weeks ago, on a beautiful September day, the nascent North Devon Permaculture Network shared cars and went 'down South' to Dartington, a surprisingly noisy place after the peace up here.

Behind Schumacher College you'll find the renowned Agroforestry Research Trust, originated around fifteen years ago by the fertile mind of Martin Crawford who, incidentally, once worked at North Devon's own Yarner Trust, over Hartland way. I was quite surprised to find how quickly a lot of the trees and bushes have grown in temperate UK, given the impressive size of many of them. Wonderful to discover also how few days Martin has to work in order to cultivate what is about two acres: only eight days per year!

Some twenty people, we ate our way round the plot over an absorbing couple of hours. We discovered just how fast some bamboos will grow - providing practically instant meals - as you can literally hear them growing - it's that quick! We heard the 'shocking' tale of shiitake mushrooms and how to get a continuous supply using nothing more than freshly cut oak boughs. And some of us learned, unforgettably, never again to put raw Szechuan Pepper into our mouths.

























Full plant list here



Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Agribusiness: Environmental Destruction and Slavery

"It is no accident that globalisation has seen the reemergence of slavery …" writes Felicity Lawrence:

"In Brazil, investigating the explosion in soya production  in the Amazon region for my book 'Eat Your Heart Out', I heard of the slaves found on farms being cleared in the rainforest. A Dominican priest, Xavier Plassat, who campaigns to free them told me how he had just returned with government swat squads from a farm 60km off the road where 200 workers were being kept in slavery, labouring without pay, deprived of freedom of movement and controlled by debt bondage. They had no clean water and little food and were living 30 to a room. Plassat believed slavery and agribusiness were inextricably linked. Monoculture for export, the large-scale intensive farming dominated by transnational corporations (TNC), and favoured by trade rules and international financial institutions, had created the conditions for slavery by eliminating the traditional small scale farming that provided food for 60% of the Brazilian population. He is not alone. Kevin Bales, the great expert on modern slavery, has shown how driving peasant farmers off the land has created a new supply of dispossessed workers who can be pressed into this condition."

And although people were already being driven off the land before, NGOs like GRAIN are now showing that this process has been even further intensified since the Banker-induced Crisis. The ramifications of the appropriation of poor peoples' land by rich nations are huge. In Madagascar a plan by South Korea to buy up around a third of the country's arable land caused the fall of President Ravalomanana. Thankfully that deal was cancelled, but many other people's land is still under the hammer. Even the World Bank has been reluctantly forced to admit there is a problem, despite shamefully being implicated in it themselves:

"[T]here is an enormous farmland grab going on around the world ever since the 2008 food and financial crises and it shows no signs of abating. The Bank says that the 463 projects it tallied from Farmlandgrab.org between October 2008 and June 2009 cover at least 46.6 million hectares of land …"

"… investors are taking advantage of "weak governance" and the "absence of legal protection" for local communities to push people off their lands. Additionally, it finds that the investments are giving almost zero back to affected communities in terms of jobs or compensation, to say nothing of food security. The message we get is that virtually nowhere, among the countries and cases the Bank examined, is there much to celebrate."

"Many investments (...) failed to live up to expectations and, instead of generating sustainable benefits, contributed to asset loss and left local people worse off than they would have been without the investment."

The reality of modern industrialised agriculture is plain, and again succinctly expressed by Felicity Lawrence:

"Expansionist agriculture and empires have always depended on slave labour, as Latin authors of the Roman empire complained centuries ago. Today, we live in an era when the dominant powers don't officially "do" empire, so economic control takes a new privatised form in the TNC. Modern slavery has evolved to match. The straightforward ownership of chattel slavery is gone, replaced instead by an outsourced, subcontracted kind of control over people, which can be terminated when they have served their purpose. The transnationals universally abhor any idea of slavery or forced labour and yet it is found in their supply chains. Slaves and exploited migrants, often driven into migration by the squeeze on family agriculture, are what make the economics of today's agribusiness work."

There is currently a Sustainable Livestock Bill (PDF) going through Parliament, which should go a little way to addressing some of the iniquities of globalised agriculture, by ensuring that subsidies are re-oriented towards more local and small-scale farming, for example. It is due to receive its second reading on Friday 12th November. Has your MP signed the EDM? It is important to get as many MPs to be in the House and vote for the Bill as possible. More information here and here (dumbed down version).

More on the Global Land Grab

Upstanding for Canute

In reply to Barkingside21, a Smart-arse writes:

Canards, don’t you hate ‘em? A perceived exception does not prove anything except maybe you're paying too much in lawyers' fees; the sixth commandment is not against killing per se, but against unlawful killing (ie murder); Vince Cable did indeed, unbelievably even by himself, end up in government; and, furthermore, King Cnut did not ever dream that he could stop the tide’s advance.

See what Canute was really up to
here.



"Let all men know how empty and worthless is the power of kings. For there is none worthy of the name but God, whom heaven, earth and sea obey".

Zabaleen: Environmental Entrepreneurs

Here’s why some in the “Third World” are several steps ahead of us. Despite official indifference and sometimes downright hostility, some communities just keep on with dogged ingenuity and common sense.

SolarCities Blog

Monday, 18 October 2010

Best = Worst

“… [O]ne blogger decided to do a poll for the Top 100 Worst UK Political Blogs. I don’t know whether he actually published the results but a quick glance at the comments indicate that the worst blogs are the same ones as the best blogs. I would guess that this is because all the Dale faithfuls will vote for the opposition and vice versa. So it seems that traffic levels are not really that good an indicator of popularity. People may just be dropping by to see what garbage you are pouring out today and have a good laugh.” B21.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Strategic Incompetence

Top tips for bureaucrats, from the Yorkshire Ranter:

"Incompetence is as effective a barrier to freedom of information as secrecy - in fact, it's arguably better. There are no legal bounds to incompetence."

Artn't

Strange people, doing strange things, on Eugene Byrne's blog.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Pixie Led Fun

Well today started out quite a normal sort of day until a multicoloured lady stopped and asked where I got my hat. “I made it” says me. Next thing I know I’m partaking of caffeinaceous liquor nearby, trying my hand at colouring in pencil drawings and swapping munchhausnissen.

Now anyone who has followed a few of my somewhat erratic online peregrinations over the last four or more years - and you know who you are - may intuit that I have a penchant for the eccentric and off-the-wall, so....

Coming away with several conte crayons and some pictures as well as an annotated biography of Gaudier Brzeska and a further invitation to one of the more magical parts of North Devon, life looks still more intensely multi-hued than before …