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Declaration for International Women’s Day, 8 March 2015

Navdanya Diary - Fri, 03/06/2015 - 02:47

Declaration for International Womens Day, 8 March 2015

 

Diverse Women for Diversity

Mahila Anna Swaraj

Initiative for Health , Equity and Society

Navdanya

Moms Across the World

 

 

 

BIODIVERSITY OR GMOS: WILL THE FUTURE OF NUTRITION BE IN WOMEN’S HANDS OR UNDER CORPORATE CONTROL?

 

Summary:

 

Women have been the primary growers of food and nutrition throughout history, but today, food is being taken out of our hands and substituted for toxic commodities controlled by global corporations. Monoculture industrial farming has taken the quality, taste and nutrition out of our food. As a result, India is facing a nutritional crisis: every fourth Indian goes hungry, and in 2011 alone, diabetes took the lives of 1 million Indians.

 

Now, the same companies who created the crisis are promising a miracle solution: GMOs. Genetically engineered Golden Rice and GMO Bananas are being proposed by corporations hiding behind the cloak of academia as a solution to hunger and malnutrition in the Global South. But these are false miracles. Indigenous biodiverse varieties of food grown by women provide far more nutrition than the commodities produced by industrial agriculture. Golden Rice is 350% less efficient in providing Vit A than the biodiversity alternatives that women grow. GMO ‘iron-rich’ Bananas have 3000% less iron than turmeric and 2000% less iron than amchur (mango powder). Apart from being nutritionally empty, GMOs are part of an industrial system of agriculture that is destroying the planet, depleting our water sources, increasing green houses gases, and driving farmers into debt and suicide through a greater dependence on chemical inputs. Moreover, these corporate-led industrial monocultures are destroying biodiversity, and we are losing access to the food systems that have sustained us throughout time. When we consider the number of patents involved in these initiatives, it becomes all too clear that the only beneficiaries of these supposedly ‘people-led’ ventures are large companies operating for profit – not for people.

 

This needs to stop now. On this international women’s day, we call on all women – the world’s primary food-growers and food-givers – to stand together and reclaim our knowledge, our farming, and our food. To expose the lies generated by the GMO industry, to reject the false promises of Golden Rice and GMO Bananas, and to reclaim the planet for all living beings.

India’s nutritional emergency

 

India is facing a nutritional emergency. We are the capital of hunger and malnutrition. Every fourth Indian is hungry. Every second child wasted and stunted. India is the diabetes capital of the world with 50.8 million patients.

http://archive.indianexpress.com/news/india-has-largest-number-of-diabetes-patients-report/531240/

 

In 2011 the diabetes epidemic in the country took 1 million people’s lives. Diabetes, a metabolic disorder, is a result of an imbalanced diet. The Green Revolution’s focus on rice monocultures has been made at the cost of greens, daals, and more nutritious millets – and diabetes has crept into rural areas. Contrary to popular belief, diabetes affects more people in rural India (34 million) than affluent urban Indians (28 million) http://ccebdm.org/news.php

An imbalanced agriculture based on monocultures and an imbalanced diet based on white polished rice has become a killer. Nearly 50% of Indian women suffer from iron deficiency anaemia.

 

What should be our response to this nutritional emergency: bringing biodiversity into our agriculture and food, or intensifying chemical monocultures of rice through the introduction of GMO Golden Rice? Empowering women by keeping food and nutritional security in their hands, or allowing corporations to take control of our food?

 

Nutritional deficiencies are a direct result of destruction of biodiverse sources of nutrition by industrial monocultures. Proponents of industrial agriculture – most significantly implemented in India through the Green Revolution – did not value nutrition. Instead, they focussed on increasing inputs of imported chemicals, water and fossil fuels to grow chemical monocultures, in which food was reduced to an empty, toxic commodity. It lost is quality, taste, aroma, and – most importantly – its nutrition.

 

There are six processes through which industrial farming robs food of its nutrition.

 

First, industrial breeding is based on uniformity, long distance transport, and industrial processing. In comparison, food grown by women – who have been the primary seed breeders and producers of food is based on diversity, taste, nutrition, quality and resilience. Traditional Indian wheats like kathia, bansi, and mishri are full of taste and nutrition. Industrially bred wheats, on the other hand, are low in nutrition and have contributed to the epidemic of gluten intolerance.

 

Second, by replacing biodiversity with monocultures, industrial agriculture reduces the amount of nutrition per acre. With diversity we can grow enough iron for 20 Indias, and enough Vit A for all of India today.

 

Third, by substituting the sophisticated ecological processes of renewing fertility with chemical inputs of synthetic fertilisers, the health of the soil is destroyed, nutrition in soils is reduced, and plants which provide our food become nutritionally empty.

 

Table 1 Percentage Decline in Mineral Content of US and British Crops in the Last Sixty Years

Mineral

US 1963-1992 (13 fruits & vegetables)

Britain 1936-1987 (20 fruits & 20 vegetables)

Calcium

-29

-19

Magnesium

-21

-35

Sodium

N/A

-43

Potassium

-6

-14

Phosphorus

-11

-6

Iron

-32

-22

Copper

N/A

-81

 

N/A, not analyzed. * U.S. (Berginer, 1997) and British (Mayer, 1997) data.

 

The British Journal of Nutrition published a meta-analysis done by Professor Carlo Leifert of Newcastle University and 15 other scientists from around the world. This research finds significant differences in the nutritional content of organic and non-organic crops (fruit, vegetables, cereals and pulses).  Organic crops and crop-based food products were found to have significantly higher concentrations of antioxidants (including phenolic acids, flavanones, stilbenes, flavones, flavonols and anthocyanines) compared with their conventionally produced counterparts.  The mean percentage difference for most antioxidant compounds was between plus 18% and 69%. Smaller, but still statistically significant, composition differences were also detected for a number of carotenoids and vitamins.

 

A switch to eating organic fruit, vegetable and cereals (and food made from them) would lead to a 20–40% (and for some compounds up to a 60%) increase in crop-based antioxidant/(poly)phenolic consumption without any increase in calories. This is important as there is strong scientific evidence of the health benefits of increased consumption of (poly)phenolics and other plant secondary metabolites with antioxidant activity, most notably protection against chronic diseases, including cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases and some cancers.

 

http://research.ncl.a.c.uk/nefg/QOF

 

Fourth, GMOs are also leading to a decline in nutritional availability, because the biotechnology industry is growing commodities, not food. 90% of the GMO corn and soya goes to biofuel and animal food, not human food. This is not a viable food system.

 

Fifth, herbicide tolerant crops account for most of the GMOs cultivated. The use of Roundup (glyphosate) with Roundup Ready crops removes vital minerals like manganese through “chelation”-binding. Manganese is vital to the gut-brain connection. The depletion of this nutrient could be contributing to the autism epidemic in the USA. According the Centre of Disease Control, in the 1970’s I in 10,000 children were autistic.In 2007, it rose to 1 in 150 . Today it is 1 in 68 .

At current rates of increase, 1 in 2 children in the USA could be born autistic by 2025

(Seneff in Vandana Shiva(ed) Seed Sovereignty, Food Security:Women in the Vanguard, Women Unlimited New Delhi, 2015)

 

Sixth, just as there is an ecology of biodiversity in our fields, there is an ecology of biodiversity in our nutrition. Nutrients need each other. Fats are needed for bioavailability of Vit A, and Vit C is needed for absorption of iron. That is why we use mustard seeds for seasoning greens, and have “chutneys” with our meals. Mechanistic reductionism in agriculture combined with mechanistic reductionism in nutrition, undermines the ecological processes through which our farms grow nutrition and our bodies are nourished through a balanced diet.

 

All the evidence points to the need to grow nutrition by intensifying biodiversity and ecological processes in our food and farming systems. This is the path Navdanya has followed over more than 2 decades. We have increased production of nutrition (Health per Acre) as well as farmers incomes (Wealth per Acre) through agroecology and biodiversity.

 

But today, industrial agriculture paradigm is trying to extend its non-sustainable life by promising answers to malnutrition through GMOs such as Golden Rice and GM Bananas.

 

Golden Rice is a False Miracle

 

Golden Rice is a genetically engineered rice with two genes from a daffodil and one gene from a bacterium which gives it a yellow colouring, which is supposed to increase beta carotene, a precursor to Vit A. It is being offered as a miracle cure for Vit A Deficiency (VAD)

 

But Golden Rice is a false miracleIt is a disease of nutritionally empty monocultures offered as a cure for nutritional deficiency. According to goldenrice.org, children under the age of 7 require 450 ‘units’ of Retinol (Vitamin A) Equivalents. Children would therefore have to eat 300gms of Golden Rice to get their daily requirement of Vit A. In indigenous food cultures, a child’s diet normally contains less than than 150 gms of rice, but also contains a range of other nutritious foods grown by women. In fact, Golden Rice is 350% less efficient in providing Vit A than the biodiversity alternatives that women have to offer. To get your daily requirement of Vit A, all you need to eat is one of the following:

 

-two tablespoons of Spinach or Cholai leavesor Radish leaves

-four tablespoons of Mustard or Bathua leaves

-one tablespoon of coriander chutney

-one and a half table spoon of mint chutney

-one carrot

-one mango

 

Not only do these indigenous alternatives based on women’s knowledge provide more Vit A than Golden Rice at a lower cost, they also provide other nutrients. One such example is iron, which helps fight iron deficiency and anaemia. But just like the biotechnology industry is offering Golden Rice for Vit A deficiency, it is promoting GMO bananas for increased Vit A and iron. In reality, GMO bananas provide 7000% less iron than indigenous biodiversity that Indian women are experts in growing and processing.

 

The Vit A in GMO Vit A bananas has been pirated from indigenous bananas in Micronesia. The beta-carotene traits have been added to the sticky japonica rice Taipei 309, which Indians do not eat. The feeding trials for Golden Rice as well as the GM Bananas were done illegally and unethically.

http://www.gmwatch.org/index.php/news/archive/2013/15045-golden-rice-not-so-golden

http://www.nature.com/news/china-sacks-officials-over-golden-rice-controversy-1.11998

http://gmwatch.eu/index.php/news/archive/2014/15536-gm-golden-rice-paper-to-be-retracted-amid-ethics-scandal

 

By foregoing biodiversity alternatives that provide more nutrition, the biotechnology industry is pushing for a monoculture rice diet, which is a recipe for intensifying the diabetes epidemic. With 62 million patients, India already has extremely high rates of diabetes. http://archive.indianexpress.com/news/india-has-largest-number-of-diabetes-patients-report/531240/. Golden Rice is an irresponsible proposal that would intensify this by blocking much-needed alternatives – biodiversity and balance in our diets. For example, dietary fats are needed to absorb Vit A. To get these in our diets, we need biodiversity of oilseed crops and livestock. Rice monocultures displace both these forms of fat, leaving us with no way to absorb Vit A, and thus aggravate the nutritional crisis.

Source: http://www.grain.org/article/entries/10-grains-of-delusion-golden-rice-seen-from-the-ground

Golden Rice will also aggravate the ecological crisis caused by industrial agriculture. Since Golden Rice is part of the industrial agriculture package (also known as the seed-chemical package), it promotes monocultures, which further destroy biodiversity. Golden Rice will increase the use of synthetic nitrogen fertilisers, which are rupturing the planetary boundary of the nitrogen cycle.

India is already one of the largest importers of nitrogen fertilisers, and Golden Rice will only serve to increase this. Moreover, it will increase the use of water, intensifying the water crisis. It will contribute to climate change through increased green house gas emissions. And it will leave our farmers liable to higher input costs through dependence on chemicals and fees for proprietary technologies.

As a source of nutrition for the Global South, Golden Rice has no real benefits. But considering the precedents set by soya, corn, canola and cotton, introducing Golden Rice as a way for large companies to gain control over entire food cultures based on rice, makes perfect sense.

 

Golden Rice is A Trojan Horse for Corporate Control 

 

Proponents of Golden Rice declare that it is a product of public research carried out through public funding. But in reality, the scientists involved are closely linked to the biotechnology corporations pushing royalty collection through patents.

 

Scientists Ingo Potrykus (Zurich) and Peter Beyer (Freiberg) are closely connected to the Biotechnology corporations for commercialisation of Golden Rice through patents.There are more than 70 patents linked to Golden Rice, despite it being promoted as a product made for the public by the public. Corporations controlling these patents  include Bayer AG, Monsanto Co, Orynova BV and Zeneca Mogen BV.  A letter written by  Dr Portykus illustrates just how enmeshed the invention of Golden Rice and corporate interests always were. When questioned about his partnerships with corporations in an email exchange with RAFI/ETC Dr Portykus  wrote,

 

“Why did we need to involve a commercial partner? Because Golden Rice also needs a commercial basis to reach the urban poor. Why do we need a patent? Because only then we can ensure, that nobody interferes with our task. Zeneca (now Syngenta) had, therefore, legal rights on the Golden Rice. Why are you upset if in return Zeneca is trying to make profit from developing a commercial “Golden Rice”, which even also will have benefits for the poor not directly linked to subsistence farmers? Could you not agree that it is neither fair nor wise to blame industry for working for profit? This is for what they are there.”

 

The project leader on the Golden Rice project at the International Rice Research Institute is Dr Gerard Barry,  was also involved with some of Monsanto’s ‘golden egg’ patents and the man responsible for the company’s toxic RoundUp resistant products. There is a clear revolving door between corporations and research institutions in which a handful of actors are driving a for-profit corporate venture. Giants including Monsanto and Syngenta sit in the driver’s seat by controlling patents, while cleverly spinning these initiatives as philanthropy.

 

http://www.agbioworld.org/biotech-info/topics/goldenrice/shand.html

 

 

The alternative lies in women’s hands and minds

 

On International Women’s Day 8th March 2015, we the women of India and the world commit ourselves to reclaiming our seed, food, and knowledge sovereignty so that we can all enjoy healthy, safe, nutritious, tasty and diverse food.  And through our food, we will reclaim our health and the health of the planet.

 

We will not allow a further degradation of our food systems and knowledge systems. We do not have to go down the road of replacing our biodiversity with GMO monocultures and our rich knowledge of food and nutrition with scientific and ethical fraud. We will not sacrifice our seed and food sovereignty for corporate control and profits.

 

We commit ourselves to

 

1 Promote and evolve the use of our indigenous seeds, crops  and foods to address the crisis of malnutrition and health. http://seedfreedom.info

2 Spread gardens of hope, diversity and nutrition everywhere: in schools, on rooftops, on balconies.

3. Spread nutritional literacy about our diverse foods , and food safety and biosafety awareness about toxics and GMOs

3 Celebrate Mahila Anna Swaraj (food sovereignty in women’s hands) at Navdanya’s biodiversity farm in Doon Valley (27-29 March 2015) by strengthening alternatives that promote sustainability, justice and health

4 Celebrate  Mother Earth Day ,22nd April 2015 to liberate the Earth , our farms , our kitchens and our bodies from the burden of disease caused by toxics . Celebrate the connection between the health of the soil and the health of all beings on the planet during 2015 the United Nations’ ‘Year of Soil’

 

As women, in all our vibrant diversity, we will make a paradigm shift from monocultures to diversity, from chemicals to organic, from reductionist and mechanistic science to ecological knowledge, from corporate control and monopolies to seed sovereignty, food sovereignty and knowledge sovereignty in women’s hands and women’s minds. We will grow alternatives to the ecological and health disaster of industrial agriculture and its new false promises of Golden Rice and GMO Bananas.

 

We will shape the future of food and nutrition through biodiversity in our hands and in our minds. We will take back our seeds, and we will take back our food.

 

 

For further information

Dr Mira Shiva                                                     Dr Vandana Shiva

IHES                                                                        Diverse Women for Diversity mirashiva@gmail.com                                  vandana@vandanashiva.com

Ph 91 9810582028                                          Ph 91 9810025169   

 

 

 

 

                          
Categories: Ecological News

Maneka Gandhi urges farmers to fight negative developments

Navdanya Diary - Mon, 03/02/2015 - 23:59

Day & Night News, 1 March 2015

Source: http://www.dayandnightnews.com/2015/03/maneka-gandhi-urges-farmers-to-fight-negative-developments/

Sunday, March 01, 2015, Chandigarh: Union Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi urged the farmers to fight the negative developments like synthetic agrochemicals and GM crops that are becoming a great threat to health, environment and farming.

Addressing the gathering at the  fifth National Organic Farming Convention here today, Ms Gandhi said, “the owners of Bt cotton (the only genetically modified crop grown commercially in India) lied to us. They told us that this does not require pesticides. But now, we find that Bt cotton cannot grow without the most dangerous pesticide.”

She was referring to neonicotinoid pesticides, which are used for seed treatment in maize and cotton including Bt cotton, among other crops.

They have been mired in controversy globally given their deleterious impact on the population of pollinators like  bees.

Many countries, including the European Union, have banned neonicotinoids or placed restrictions on its use.

She praised the work of organic farmers and said it was a ‘service to the nation’.

                          
Categories: Ecological News

New Book — “Seed Sovereignty, Food Security: Women in the Vanguard”

Navdanya Diary - Mon, 03/02/2015 - 02:33

Source: http://www.spinifexpress.com.au/Bookstore/book/id=277/

This unique, international offering on an issue of critical importance today, demonstrates how women as activists, scientists and scholars are at the forefront of shaping new scientific and economic paradigms to reclaim seed sovereignty and food security across the world. Women in the North and South are leading movements to change both practice and paradigm: how we grow and transform our food. As seed keepers and food producers, as mothers and consumers, they are engaged in renewing a food system that is better aligned with the ecological processes of the earth’s renewal, the laws of human rights and social justice and the means through which our bodies stay well and healthy.

Vandana Shiva is a world-renowned environmental thinker and activist, a leader in the International Forum on Globalisation, and of the Slow Food Movement. Director of Navdanya and of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, and a tireless crusader for farmers’, peasants’ and women’s rights, she is the author and editor of a score of influential books, among them Making Peace with the Earth, Soil Not Oil and Globalisation’s New Wars. Shiva is the recipient of over 20 international awards, among them the Right Livelihood Award (1993); Medal of the Presidency of the Italian Republic (1998); Horizon 3000 Award (Austria, 2001); John Lennon-Yoko Ono Grant for Peace (2008); Save the World Award (2009); Sydney Peace Prize (2010); Calgary Peace Prize (Canada, 2011); and Thomas Merton Award (2011).

Table of Contents

SECTION I: International: Reflections on a Broken Paradigm

Fields of Hope and Power

Frances Moore Lappé & Anna Lappé

The Ethics of Agricultural Biotechnology

Beth Burrows

Food Politics, the Food Movement and Public Health

Marion Nestle

Autism and Glyphosate: Connecting the Dots

Stephanie Seneff

The New Genetics and Dangers of GMOs

Mae-Wan Ho

SECTION II: Global North

Seed Emergency: Germany

Susanne Gura

GM Soy as Feed for Animals Affects Posterity

Irina Ermakova & Alexander Baranoff

Seeds in France

Tiphaine Burban

Kokopelli vs. Graines Baumaux 

Blanche Magarinos-Rey

If People Are Asked, They Say NO to GMOs

Florianne Koechlin

The Italian Context

Maria Grazia Mammucini

The Untold American Revolution: History of the Seed in the US

Debbie Barker

Reviving Native Sioux Agriculture Systems

Suzanne Foote

In Praise of the Leadership of Indigenous Women

Winona LaDuke

Moms Across America: Shaking Up the System

Zen Honeycutt

SECTION III: Global South

Seed Freedom and Seed Sovereignty: Bangladesh Today

Farida Akhter

Monsanto and Biosafety in Nepal

Kusum Hachhethu

Sowing Seeds of Freedom

Vandana Shiva

The Loss of Crop Genetic Diversity in the Changing World

Tewolde Berhan Gebre Egziabher & Sue Edwards

Seed Sovereignty and Ecological Integrity in Africa

Mariam Mayet

Conserving the Diversity of Peasant Seeds

Ana de Ita

Celebrating the Chile Nativo

Isaura Andaluz

Seed Saving and Women in Peru

Patricia Flores

Seeds of Liberation in Latin America

Sandra Baquedano & Sara Larraín

The Other Mothers and the Fight against GMOs in Argentina

Ana Broccoli

Seeding Knowledge: Australia

Susan Hawthorne

 

Contributors:

Frances Moore Lappé

Anna Lappé

Beth Burrows

Marion Nestle

Stephanie Seneff

Mae-Wan Ho

Susanne Gura

Irina Ermakova

Alexander Baranoff

Tiphaine Burban

Blanche Magarinos-Rey

Florianne Koechlin

Maria Grazia Mammucini

Debbie Barker

Suzanne Foote

Winona LaDuke

Zen Honeycutt

Farida Akhter

Kusum Hachhethu

Tewolde Berhan

Gebre Egziabher

Sue Edwards

Mariam Mayet

Ana de Ita

Isaura Andaluz

Patricia Flores

Sandra Baquedano

Sara Larraín

Ana Broccoli

Susan Hawthorne

                          
Categories: Ecological News

Budget 2015: There is nothing for farmers to cheer about

Ground Reality - Sun, 03/01/2015 - 13:24


  When Finance Minister Arun Jaitley mentioned raising agriculture income as the first among the four challenging tasks before the government, I expected him to spell out some mechanism to pull out farmers from the terrible economic distress that continues to prevail in the farming sector. I am sure, like me, farmers too would be disappointed at being left high and dry.
At a time when agricultural production has dropped because of a shortfall in monsoon and the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO)  2014 has estimated the average monthly farm family income that a household drives from farming alone at a paltry Rs 3,078, the need for a bailout package for farmers was absolutely essential. But once again, the Finance Minister failed to see the crying need of the farm sector
Except for raising the farm loan limit from Rs 8 lakh crore (announced in 2014 budget) to Rs 8.5 lakh crore this year, and promising to create a national agriculture market, there is nothing to bring cheer for the beleaguered farming community. As I have said earlier, and also having told the Finance Minister, the Rs 8.5 lakh crore farm credit actually does not benefit farmers as much as it does to the agribusiness industry. 
Almost 94 per cent of the farm credit, available at a subvention interest rate of 4 per cent, goes to the agribusiness industry like seed, pesticides, and farm machinery manufacturers. It should therefore be called as agribusiness credit and not farm credit. 
The national agricultural market, which was detailed in last year’s Economic Survey, is aimed at taking farmers out of the preview of the APMC Act. In other words, it is simply an effort to render the APMC mandis redundant thereby leaving farmers at the mercy of the private traders. Considering that only 8 per cent farmers get the benefit of procurement prices, 92 per cent farmers are in any case dependent on the markets. If the markets were so helpful in providing a higher price for farmers produce I am sure the farm economy would have on its own been looking up. But the fact that markets have failed the farmer is written all over, and any move to strength a national agriculture market network therefore is not in the interest of the farming community.
I had expected the Finance Minister to announce a nationwide programme to create a network of mandisthrough the country, and extend the provision of procurement prices to all the States. However, providing some outlays for micro-irrigation and organic farming in northeastern States, and also the Pradhan mantra krish sinchai yojna is welcome. Food processing also gets push.  
It is not the lack of improved technology or an access to markets that is behind the prevailing crisis. It is the declining farm incomes over the years that pushed agriculture into a deep pit. But unfortunately, the economic debate has never gone beyond the growth rate in agriculture. The focus has remained on growth, and not on agrarian distress. #   
Why Jaitley's budget has failed to bring our farmers cheer. IndiaTogether. Feb 28, 2015 http://indiatogether.org/union-budget-2015-arun-jaitley-provisions-for-agriculture-and-farmers-economy
Categories: Ecological News

Land Acquisition: Will farmer get a compensation of 4 times the market value?

Ground Reality - Thu, 02/26/2015 - 17:28



For the past few days the government has been at pains to explain that farmers will get a compensation of four times the market value of the land that is acquired under the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act 2013, popularly referred to as Land Acquisition Act.
Amid protests by farmers and civil society groups, the controversial Land Acquisition Amendment Bill 2015 to replace the contentious ordinance was introduced in Lok Sabha on Feb 24. It does not make any changes in the compensation clause in the 2013 Act that promises four times the market value of the land in rural and two times in the urban area for farmers whose land is acquired for industrial purposes.
Although the 2013 Act has still not been implemented, and an amendment is being sought on hypothetical fears expressed by the industry, I decided to find out whether the 2013 Act that the previous UPA government had passed would really provide four times the compensation to farmers whose lands would be acquired. Considering the widely prevailing impression in the social media that farmers were being adequately and fairly compensated for their land and so those who opposed the new law were ‘anti-farmer’ it became even more important to look at how the law would translate in reality whenever it is put in practice.
To understand this, I take you back to Section 26 of 2013 Act. It provides for determination of market value of land by Collector, stating: The Collector shall adopt the following criteria in assessing and determining the market value of the land, namely:- (a) The market value, if any, specified in the Indian Stamp Act,1899 (2 of 1899) for the registration of sale deeds or agreements to sell, as the case may be, in the area, where the land is situated; or (b) The average sale price for similar type of land situated in the nearest village or nearest vicinity area; or                   (c)  Consented amount of compensation in the case of acquisition of land for private                                 companies or for PPP 
It also explains in sub-section (1) that the average sale price referred to in clause (b) shall be determined taking into account the sale deeds or the agreements to sell registered for similar type of area in the near village or near vicinity area during immediately preceding three years of the year in which such acquisition of land is proposed to be made. (1) The market value calculated as per sub-section (1) shall be multiplied by a factor to be specified in the First Schedule. The First Schedule 2 Factor by which the market value is to be multiplied in the case of rural areas 1.00 (One) to 2.00 (Two) based on the distance of project from urban area, as may be notified by the appropriate Government. 3. In the case of urban areas 1 (One)
An informal group of eminent citizens in Chandigarh, comprising senior lawyers, senior journalists, retired bureaucrats and others have been examining various agricultural laws from time to time. As a member of this citizens group, I requested former Agriculture Secretary (Punjab), Capt S S Dhillon and senior advocate of the Punjab & Haryana High Court, Joginder Singh Toor, to help dissect the legal provisions of the 2013 Act.
As you know sale deeds are generally executed by the sub-registrar or Tehsildar under the Indian Stamp Act 1899.  Generally the collector rate is ½ or 1/3rdof the prevailing market price.  If the market price is Rs 25 to Rs 30 lakh per acre, the collector rate is Rs 8/10/12 lakh. Taking the average of 3 years and multiplying it by a factor of 1 or 2 in rural areas. This discretion is left to the land acquisition officer. Even if he takes the maximum factor of 2, the value of land will be twice the collector rate.
In addition, the final award will include a ‘solatium’ (as specified in Section 30) equivalent to 100 per cent of the compensation amount. The farmer therefore will either get a compensation equivalent to the prevailing market price or a maximum of twice the prevailing market price (if a factor of two is applied).  #   
Categories: Ecological News

Think apocalyptic – and turn despair into action

Green Blog - Sat, 02/21/2015 - 22:57
A recurring claim in articles that warn against “environmental catastrophism” is that alerting people to the threats posed by climate change will only produce apathy and despair. To win broad support, they say, we need to stress positive messages.

Robert Jensen, a professor in the School of Journalism at the University of Texas and board member of the Third Coast Activist Resource Center, argues the exact opposite. His recent book, We Are All Apocalyptic Now, opens with the provocative statement that “responsible intellectuals need to think apocalyptically.” He argues that unless we clearly understand and explain the threats confronting humanity in the 21st century, we will not be able to build a movement based on real hope, as opposed to fairy-tale dreams.

“Thinking apocalyptically can help us confront honestly the crises of our time and strategize constructively about possible responses. It’s simply about struggling to understand – to the best of our ability, without succumbing to magical thinking – the conditions within the human family and the state of the ecosphere, and not turning away from the difficult realities we face.”

Jensen’s radicalism is rooted in Christianity, but his argument deserves careful attention from all green-lefts and left-greens. He has kindly granted me permission to post the article below, which summarizes some of the key points made in his book. Thanks to Andrea Levy for drawing it to my attention.

 

Get Apocalyptic: Why radical is the new normal

Feeling anxious about life in a broken economy on a strained planet? Turn despair into action.

by Robert Jensen

Feeling anxious about life in a broken-down society on a stressed-out planet? That’s hardly surprising: Life as we know it is almost over. While the dominant culture encourages dysfunctional denial — pop a pill, go shopping, find your bliss — there’s a more sensible approach: Accept the anxiety, embrace the deeper anguish — and then get apocalyptic.

We are staring down multiple cascading ecological crises, struggling with political and economic institutions that are unable even to acknowledge, let alone cope with, the threats to the human family and the larger living world. We are intensifying an assault on the ecosystems in which we live, undermining the ability of that living world to sustain a large-scale human presence into the future. When all the world darkens, looking on the bright side is not a virtue but a sign of irrationality.

In these circumstances, anxiety is rational and anguish is healthy, signs not of weakness but of courage. A deep grief over what we are losing — and have already lost, perhaps never to be recovered — is appropriate. Instead of repressing these emotions we can confront them, not as isolated individuals but collectively, not only for our own mental health but to increase the effectiveness of our organizing for the social justice and ecological sustainability still within our grasp. Once we’ve sorted through those reactions, we can get apocalyptic and get down to our real work.

Perhaps that sounds odd, since we are routinely advised to overcome our fears and not give in to despair. Endorsing apocalypticism seems even stranger, given associations with “end-timer” religious reactionaries and “doomer” secular survivalists. People with critical sensibilities, those concerned about justice and sustainability, think of ourselves as realistic and less likely to fall for either theological or science-fiction fantasies.

Many associate “apocalypse” with the rapture-ranting that grows out of some interpretations of the Christian Book of Revelation (aka, the Apocalypse of John), but it’s helpful to remember that the word’s original meaning is not “end of the world.” “Revelation” from Latin and “apocalypse” from Greek both mean a lifting of the veil, a disclosure of something hidden, a coming to clarity. Speaking apocalyptically, in this sense, can deepen our understanding of the crises and help us see through the many illusions that powerful people and institutions create.

But there is an ending we have to confront. Once we’ve honestly faced the crises, then we can deal with what is ending — not all the world, but the systems that currently structure our lives. Life as we know it is, indeed, coming to an end.

Let’s start with the illusions: Some stories we have told ourselves — claims by white people, men, or U.S. citizens that domination is natural and appropriate — are relatively easy to debunk (though many cling to them). Other delusional assertions — such as the claim that capitalism is compatible with basic moral principles, meaningful democracy, and ecological sustainability — require more effort to take apart (perhaps because there seems to be no alternative).

But toughest to dislodge may be the central illusion of the industrial world’s extractive economy: that we can maintain indefinitely a large-scale human presence on the earth at something like current First-World levels of consumption. The task for those with critical sensibilities is not just to resist oppressive social norms and illegitimate authority, but to speak a simple truth that almost no one wants to acknowledge: The high-energy/high-technology life of affluent societies is a dead end. We can’t predict with precision how resource competition and ecological degradation will play out in the coming decades, but it is ecocidal to treat the planet as nothing more than a mine from which we extract and a landfill into which we dump.

We cannot know for sure what time the party will end, but the party’s over.
Does that seem histrionic? Excessively alarmist? Look at any crucial measure of the health of the ecosphere in which we live — groundwater depletion, topsoil loss, chemical contamination, increased toxicity in our own bodies, the number and size of “dead zones” in the oceans, accelerating extinction of species, and reduction of biodiversity — and ask a simple question: Where are we heading?

Remember also that we live in an oil-based world that is rapidly depleting the cheap and easily accessible oil, which means we face a major reconfiguration of the infrastructure that undergirds daily life. Meanwhile, the desperation to avoid that reconfiguration has brought us to the era of “extreme energy,” using ever more dangerous and destructive technologies (hydrofracturing, deep-water drilling, mountaintop coal removal, tar sands extraction).

Oh, did I forget to mention the undeniable trajectory of global warming/climate change/climate disruption?

Scientists these days are talking about tipping points and planetary boundaries, about how human activity is pushing Earth beyond its limits. Recently 22 top scientists warned that humans likely are forcing a planetary-scale critical transition “with the potential to transform Earth rapidly and irreversibly into a state unknown in human experience,” which means that “the biological resources we take for granted at present may be subject to rapid and unpredictable transformations within a few human generations.”

That conclusion is the product of science and common sense, not supernatural beliefs or conspiracy theories. The political/social implications are clear: There are no solutions to our problems if we insist on maintaining the high-energy/high-technology existence lived in much of the industrialized world (and desired by many currently excluded from it). Many tough-minded folk who are willing to challenge other oppressive systems hold on tightly to this lifestyle. The critic Fredric Jameson has written, “It is easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism,” but that’s only part of the problem — for some, it may be easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of air conditioning.

We do live in end-times, of a sort. Not the end of the world — the planet will carry on with or without us — but the end of the human systems that structure our politics, economics, and social life. “Apocalypse” need not involve heavenly rescue fantasies or tough-guy survival talk; to get apocalyptic means seeing clearly and recommitting to core values.

First, we must affirm the value of our work for justice and sustainability, even though there is no guarantee we can change the disastrous course of contemporary society. We take on projects that we know may fail because it’s the right thing to do, and by doing so we create new possibilities for ourselves and the world. Just as we all know that someday we will die and yet still get out of bed every day, an honest account of planetary reality need not paralyze us.

Then let’s abandon worn-out clichés such as, “The American people will do the right thing if they know the truth,” or “Past social movements prove the impossible can happen.”

There is no evidence that awareness of injustice will automatically lead U.S. citizens, or anyone else, to correct it. When people believe injustice is necessary to maintain their material comfort, some accept those conditions without complaint.

Social movements around race, gender, and sexuality have been successful in changing oppressive laws and practices, and to a lesser degree in shifting deeply held beliefs. But the movements we most often celebrate, such as the post-World War II civil rights struggle, operated in a culture that assumed continuing economic expansion. We now live in a time of permanent contraction — there will be less, not more, of everything. Pressuring a dominant group to surrender some privileges when there is an expectation of endless bounty is a very different project than when there is intensified competition for resources. That doesn’t mean nothing can be done to advance justice and sustainability, only that we should not be glib about the inevitability of it.

Here’s another cliché to jettison: Necessity is the mother of invention. During the industrial era, humans exploiting new supplies of concentrated energy have generated unprecedented technological innovation in a brief time. But there is no guarantee that there are technological fixes to all our problems; we live in a system that has physical limits, and the evidence suggests we are close to those limits. Technological fundamentalism — the quasi-religious belief that the use of advanced technology is always appropriate, and that any problems caused by the unintended consequences can be remedied by more technology — is as empty a promise as other fundamentalisms.

If all this seems like more than one can bear, it’s because it is. We are facing new, more expansive challenges. Never in human history have potential catastrophes been so global; never have social and ecological crises of this scale threatened at the same time; never have we had so much information about the threats we must come to terms with.

It’s easy to cover up our inability to face this by projecting it onto others. When someone tells me “I agree with your assessment, but people can’t handle it,” I assume what that person really means is, “I can’t handle it.” But handling it is, in the end, the only sensible choice.

Mainstream politicians will continue to protect existing systems of power, corporate executives will continue to maximize profit without concern, and the majority of people will continue to avoid these questions. It’s the job of people with critical sensibilities — those who consistently speak out for justice and sustainability, even when it’s difficult — not to back away just because the world has grown more ominous.

Adopting this apocalyptic framework doesn’t mean separating from mainstream society or giving up ongoing projects that seek a more just world within existing systems. I am a professor at a university that does not share my values or analysis, yet I continue to teach. In my community, I am part of a group that helps people create worker-cooperatives that will operate within a capitalist system that I believe to be a dead end. I belong to a congregation that struggles to radicalize Christianity while remaining part of a cautious, often cowardly, denomination.

I am apocalyptic, but I’m not interested in empty rhetoric drawn from past revolutionary moments. Yes, we need a revolution — many revolutions — but a strategy is not yet clear. So, as we work patiently on reformist projects, we can continue to offer a radical analysis and experiment with new ways of working together. While engaged in education and community organizing with modest immediate goals, we can contribute to the strengthening of networks and institutions that can be the base for the more radical change we need. In these spaces today we can articulate, and live, the values of solidarity and equity that are always essential.

To adopt an apocalyptic worldview is not to abandon hope but to affirm life. As James Baldwin put it decades ago, we must remember “that life is the only touchstone and that life is dangerous, and that without the joyful acceptance of this danger, there can never be any safety for anyone, ever, anywhere.” By avoiding the stark reality of our moment in history we don’t make ourselves safe, we undermine the potential of struggles for justice and sustainability.

As Baldwin put it so poignantly in that same 1962 essay, “Not everything that is faced can be changed; but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

It’s time to get apocalyptic, or get out of the way.
Categories: Ecological News

Freebies to poor is a populist measure; freebies to industries and business is economic reforms !

Ground Reality - Sat, 02/21/2015 - 11:23

Freebies to poor have been under constant attack. But I haven't seen any economist pointing a finger to freebies doled out to the rich (This chart is for Gujarat land deals). Courtesy: Business Standard
 
Every time the Finance Minister starts to prepare for the annual budget, a crescendo builds up on whether he is going to present a populist budget or a big bang budget. This year, with the newly-elected AAP government in Delhi promising to provide subsidized electricity and free water, there is hardly a day when the media does not drum up this issue. Switch any TV channel and the chances are that the same set of economists and politicians will be telling you about how disastrous the subsidies are for the economy. 

Still worse, if you support the subsidy the poor get you are called a ‘leftist’ and if you question the massive freebies and subsidies that the corporate walk away with every year, you are labeled ‘anti-development’.
At the heart of this contentious issue lies the clever craft with which subsidies have been demonized over the years. What the poor get as financial support (or by way of cheap food, housing and energy) is called a ‘subsidy’, but what the rich and affluent get, and that is several times more, is termed as ‘incentive’.  In reality, the ‘incentive’ that the industries and business get is also a subsidy, but then it is the vocabulary that makes all the difference.
The total subsidy that the poor get in India – and that includes the subsidies for food, fertilizer and MNREGA – stands at Rs 2.52 lakh crores. This is a huge amount, and mainline economists are telling us that fiscal prudence requires cutting these subsidies so as to reduce the fiscal deficit. There can be no denying that efficient use of subsidies is crucial, and that requires improving governance to reduce corruption and leakage I don’t find any mainline economist pointing to the massive waste of country’s economic resources in the name of tax concessions (clubbed under Revenue Foregone in the budget documents) that are doled out to India Inc every year.
It is being said that the subsidy on LPG cylinders totals Rs 48,000-crores, good enough to wipe out poverty from India for one year. It sounds really a criminal waste of resources. Using the same yardstick, Rs 36-lakh-crore tax concession (in reality a subsidy) given to India Inc since 2004-05, if recovered, can wipe out poverty from India for 72 years !
The argument is that Rs 36-lakh crore tax concessions is an incentive to the industry. But what is not being told is that the massive incentive had failed to generate additional employment, and neither did it facilitate increased industrial and manufacturing sector growth. So where has Rs 36-lakh crore gone? On top of it, many of those who got the tax concessions also default on bank loans. The non-performing assets (NPAs) of public sector banks, including restructuring of loans, stands at a whopping Rs 10-lakh crores.
Anyway, what the mainline economists are worried about is Rs 2.52 lakh crores subsidy that spoils the growth story. But let’s look at the loss in just one infrastructure project – the New Delhi airport – built on 4,799.09 acres of prime land given on a highly subsidized price to the private partner, Delhi International Airport Ltd (DIAL). According to the CAG, a loss of Rs 1.63 lakh crore has been incurred. In other words, just one airport got a subsidy that equals to more than 50 per cent of what millions of poor receive as a life-saving support.
Coming to freebies, I have never understood the economic rationale behind giving land almost free of cost to the industries/corporates. For instance, Apollo Hospital in New Delhi was given 15 acres of prime land in the heart of Delhi for Rs 1 per acre. Not the only hospital to get a freebie that it doesn’t deserve, a large number of private hospitals, schools and colleges have been allotted land at throwaway prices. Even a Supreme Court directive to hospitals, most of them now cater to medical tourism, to treat at least 25 per cent OPD patients and 10 per cent IPD patients free of cost, is being openly flouted.

It will be interesting to find out how many industries/businesses, in addition to more than 45,000 hectares given to SEZs,  have been allotted land at Rs 1/acre or Rs 1 per sq metre in all the States.   
Whatever one might say the fact remains big business thrives on subsidies.   Whether it is in the form of natural resources like land, water, forests, minerals being made available to them at a throwaway price or tax concessions, including practically no annual interest rate on investments. Take Tata's. It got land at a price that only seeks 0.1 per cent interest (for its Nano factory). Steel tycoon Laxmi N Mittal was given Rs 1250-crore loan by Punjab Government to invest in Bathinda refinery and that too at an interest of 0.1 per cent. Under microfinance, the poorest of poor pays a minimum interest of 24 per cent, which comes to about 36 per cent on weekly recovery, is he/she has to buy a goat, but the rich industrialists get interest-free loans.
I can go on listing such cases of what is popularly called as crony capitalism. I am not against the industrial sector or the corporates. We need industries for economic growth but I am sure you will agree that if freebies and subsidies are bad for the poor, these are also bad for the rich. What needs to be understood and appreciated is that it is not the poor who are a drain on the nation’s economic resources. They are being targeted simply to divert public attention from the more heinous crony capitalism that continues to bleed the nation’s economy.#

A shorter version of this article appeared on ABPLive.in
Freebies to poor is a populist measure; Freebies to industries and business is economic reforms !
http://bit.ly/1vjqZJw Feb 19, 2015
Categories: Ecological News

Yield vs wealth, measure for measure

Navdanya Diary - Fri, 02/20/2015 - 23:20

by Dr. Vandana Shiva – The Asian Age, 19 February 2015

Photo source: https://vimeo.com/114290231 (Screenshot)

Source: http://www.asianage.com/columnists/yield-vs-wealth-measure-measure-662

The paradigm shift to ecological agriculture requires new measures. Agro-ecology is a systems paradigm. It looks at the agriculture system as a whole, with all its complex relationships.

 

In The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, physicist and philosopher, Thomas Kuhn revolutionised the history of science by showing that science does not evolve linearly on the basis of objective, theory-neutral facts, instead it is characterised by periodic paradigm shifts, which open up new approaches to understanding, creating new value frameworks. The notion of “scientific truth” is shaped by the paradigm within which “facts” are measured.

Such a paradigm shift is currently taking place in the field of food and agriculture as we move from the industrial paradigm to the emerging paradigm of agro-ecology, or ecological agriculture. The old paradigm is ecologically and socially, broken. It has devastated 75 per cent of the biodiversity, soil, water. Industrial agriculture contributes 40 per cent of the greenhouse gases that are destabilising the climate and is promoted as an answer to hunger and poverty. The opposite is true. Industrial agriculture has failed as a food system that should nourish us. Industrial farms produce commodities not food.

One billion people are permanently hungry, and two billion people are suffering from food related diseases. Industrial agriculture has led to the uprooting of millions of small farmers, who are more efficient and productive than large-scale industrial farms.

Industrial agriculture has been the dominant paradigm over the past century in the Western world, and half a century in India, since the introduction of the Green Revolution. This paradigm has its roots in war. The technology of synthetic fertilisers comes from the technology used during the war for producing explosives. Pesticides such as nerve gases were first used in concentration camps and later as war chemicals. The disappearance of bees and pollinators is a consequence of this war against the bugs. The disappearance of nutritious biodiversity such as amaranth greens and chenopodium is the consequence of the war against weeds with weedicides and herbicides. Genetic engineering is the latest technology offered in the old paradigm of agriculture as war against the earth. And instead of controlling pests and weeds, it has led to the emergence of superpests and superweeds.

This industrial system goes hand in hand with monocultures, and the output of a monoculture is measured in terms of yield per acre. What is never specified is yield of what and at what cost.

The Green Revolution is based on the “high yielding varieties (HYVs)”, as if the yield was independent of inputs, soil and climate. When adequate water and chemical fertilisers are not available, the HYVs do not have high yields. The UN had cautioned that these industrially bred varieties should be defined as high-response varieties since they are bred for responding to intensive chemical inputs, and are not high yielding in and of themselves.

Similarly, farmers’ varieties are not intrinsically low yielding. In any case, a farming system involves more than the production of one commodity crop. Focusing only on the yield reduces diverse outputs of products and ecological services of an agro-ecosystem to the yield of one commodity that leaves the farm.

Neither is the biodiversity in the soil, of pollinators, of diverse foods counted nor the fact that the industrial system uses 10 times more energy inputs than it produces as food is taken into consideration. Also, the externalities of environmental and health hazards arising from the use of chemical fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides are not counted. The health costs of producing nutritionally-empty commodities loaded with toxics is not counted. The social cost of displacement of small farmers and peasants is not counted.

The paradigm shift to ecological agriculture requires new measures. Agro-ecology is a systems paradigm. It looks at the agriculture system as a whole, with all its complex relationships.

The ecological measures we have evolved in Navdanya reflect health per acre and wealth per acre, instead of the reductionist category of yield per acre.

The study shows that when we grow a richer diversity of crops, nutrition per acre increases. And on the basis of real experience with real farmers, we could produce two times more nutrition than is needed while maintaining current acreage by ecological intensification instead of chemical intensification.

Not only can we grow more nutrition than we need, we can overcome the multiple deficiencies of iron, zinc, calcium, vitamin A etc., that result from industrial monocultures.

For this, the next step being offered by the industrial paradigm are false promises like golden rice and GMO bananas.

Wealth per acre measures the social and ecological externalities that are excluded when only the “yield” of commodities is measured in. Some of these hidden costs add up to more than $1.26 trillion in the Indian context.

And include the economic and social burden on farmers when they become dependent on purchased seeds and chemicals.

External inputs lead to debt, and in the case of Indian farmers, the debt trap has pushed more than 2,90,000 farmers to suicide since 1995 when globalisation “opened” up markets for costly, non-renewable seeds.

Small farmers produce 70 per cent of the food we eat. They help conserve land, water and biodiversity and sustain the climate by recycling carbon.

The reductionist measure of yield is to agriculture systems, what GDP is to economic systems. It is time to move from measuring yield of commodities, to health and wellbeing of ecosystems and communities.

Industrial agriculture has its roots in war. Ecological agriculture allows us to make peace with the earth, soil and the society.

2015 is the year of soil. It offers us an opportunity to make a paradigm shift in the way we think about and the way we grow our food.

The writer is the executive director of the Navdanya Trust

 

                          
Categories: Ecological News

Europe installed twice as much wind energy capacity in 2014 as coal and gas combined

Green Blog - Fri, 02/20/2015 - 17:29
New data from the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) shows that wind energy installations outperformed both coal and gas last year in the European Union. In fact, Europe closed down and retired more coal and gas capacity than they commissioned in 2014.

Across the 28 EU member states, the wind industry built a total of 11,791 MW to the European grid. In comparison, coal and gas added only 3,305 MW and 2,338 MW respectively of new capacity. The wind energy capacity increased by 3.8 percent in 2014 and cumulative installations is now standing at 128.8 GW in the EU.
Wind power now cover 10 percent of the EU’s electricity consumption, up from 8% the year before. All in all, renewable power plants (and not just wind energy) accounted for 79.1% of new installations during 2014; 21.3GW of a total 26.9GW.

Thomas Becker, chief executive officer of the European Wind Energy Association, said: "These numbers very much show Europe's continued commitment to renewable and wind energy. But this is no time for complacency. The uncertainty over the regulatory framework for the energy sector is a threat to the continued drive toward sustainable and homegrown energy that will guarantee Europe's energy security and competitiveness for the long-term."

A Davos report, released earlier in January, warned that badly located renewable power plants are hampering the production from these new installations – and costing Europe as much as $100 billion. A solution to these sub-optimal deployments of renewable energy resources could be a more unified European energy market.

“It's time for Europe's political leaders to create a truly European Energy Union and send a clear signal of their support for the shift to a secure and sustainable energy system,” Becker said. “Political will on their part is an essential piece of the puzzle.”

These new EWEA-statistics also shows something worrying. This renewable energy transformation is not happening equally across Europe. Almost 60 percent all-new installations were in just two countries: Germany and the United Kingdom. These two country’s installed 5,279MW and 1,736MW respectively of new wind energy in 2014.

"What we've seen in 2014 is a concentration of the industry in key countries," Becker said, adding "while markets in eastern and southern Europe continue to struggle in the face of erratic and harsh changes in the policy arena. We expect this concentration to continue into 2015."

New wind power installations also saw a dramatic decline in countries such as Spain, Italy and Denmark who all installed much less wind than in previous years. Denmark might be nearing “peak wind” as it saw a drop in installations by over 90 percent.

You can read the full EWEA report here.
Categories: Ecological News

On the road to Paris towards a new global climate deal

Green Blog - Fri, 02/20/2015 - 01:04
The first UN negotiating session preparing for a climate deal this fall just wrapped up in Geneva. The draft is the next step in a long process of negotiation and bargaining on the way to a treaty to finally replace the expired Kyoto Accords.

The negotiations were given a boost last fall by A U.S.-China deal on limiting carbon pollution. This set the stage for more serious negotiations involving all parties, with many issues still outstanding.

For the first time, the treaty is expected to include targets for both developed and developing countries. Historically, the developed countries have emitted the most carbon pollution, and so have contributed the most to the build-up of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. This cumulative build-up is the cause of the global warming the world is already experiencing. However, currently, several developing countries are emitting the most carbon pollution, led by China and India.

The Kyoto Accords included only the developed countries, and they expired in 2012. For several years before that expiration, and ever since, efforts to create a binding climate treaty have floundered.

The U.S.-China deal raised hopes of finding new ways to include all countries in the process, and marked a major step in China's negotiating posture, and also marked a major step in the US posture, calling for major steps by both countries to limit carbon pollution.

This UN process also takes place against rising demonstrations calling for climate action, most importantly the People's Climate March in NYC in September, 400,000 strong. Solidarity actions that weekend around the world added another 200,000 to the count. Many other kinds of ongoing organizing are taking place, building a multi-faceted movement.

Last weekend, 350.org and many other groups staged Global Divestment Days, calling on universities, pension funds, and public funds to be divested from fossil fuel companies. Norway became the first country to pledge divestment from its wealth fund, dumping billions in investments in fossil fuel companies, though it still has billions more to go.

Republicans and some Democrats in Congress have pushed through a bill trying to force Obama to okay the Keystone pipeline project, a bill he had promised to veto. Other battles are being waged over EPA rules for new and existing power plants.

In addition to the growing climate action movement, these negotiations take place against the backdrop of increasingly dire predictions about the results of climate change. 2014 was the hottest year on record. NASA scientists predict that large parts of the U.S. will experience multi-decades-long massive droughts later this century.

The UN negotiations are scheduled to wrap up at a major conference in Paris in November and December of 2015. While a major international treaty would be an important step forward in the fight against catastrophic climate change, the treaty will certainly not be enough by itself. Enough carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases have accumulated in the atmosphere to guarantee increasing impacts, on top of the ones already seen: increased forest fires, rising sea levels, more extreme weather events, extreme flooding and droughts, changes in weather patterns impacting agriculture, wildlife, and disease zones, glacial and ice sheet melting, and increased species extinction, to mention some.
Categories: Ecological News

Hell on rails: West Virginia burning after crude oil train derailment

Green Blog - Fri, 02/20/2015 - 00:22
The fires from Monday's derailment of a train carrying crude oil in Fayette County, West Virginia, continued to burn Tuesday morning, and emergency shelters for hundreds of people who had to evacuate after the derailment remain open.

"A CSX train, hauling 107 tank car loads of Bakken Shale crude oil from North Dakota to a transportation terminal in Yorktown, Virginia, derailed in Adena Village near Mount Carbon and Deepwater West Virginia about 1:30 p.m. Monday," according to the Charleston Gazette and Staff writer Ken Ward Jr.

At least one house was set ablaze and numerous tank cars either burned or exploded. West Virginia Rivers Executive Director Angela Rosser reported:

"Witnesses saw a gigantic fireball raise to the snow-filled heavens. This is the second terrible trauma in as many years to his the Kanawha River valley. Last January a chemical spill from coal industry connected Freedom Industries storage tanks endangered the water of 300,000 people for weeks. It's time to ask you town or county or state -- what is on the rail cars travelling through our community??"

Bakken crude has shown to be a volatile form of crude requiring highly flammable chemicals in its transport from North Dakota and other shale gas and oil fields. According to Lynn Cook in the Wall Street Journal, this risk is well known to oil and transport companies.

"Data released by a lobbying group for oil refiners confirmed that crude from the Bakken shale in North Dakota is very volatile and contains high levels of combustible gases..."

Now, who is surprised at this reaction from that group?

"The crude," which has been linked to no less than four fiery rail accidents in a year, "is no more dangerous to ship than oil from other shale regions and is being correctly loaded and transported under existing federal rules. New rules aren't warranted," the group, the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, said Wednesday.

Federal Railroad Administration workers were only able to get within 50 yards of the derailed cars late Tuesday morning, according to the agency. Some of the rail cars were still on fire, and local emergency responders were still in charge of the scene.

Flames also burned power lines in the area, knocking out electricity to about 900 customers in the midst of frigid sub-freezing temperatures. According Appalachian Power spokeswoman Jeri Matheney, reported in the Gazette, "electricity has not yet been restored because repair crews are having trouble accessing the extent of the damage. About 2,400 people were evacuated or displaced by the train derailment, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency."

Investigators the Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration are also already at the scene, and more staff are on the way.

Because of the unknown quantities of spill from the exploded or burnt cars, or tank cars in the river, Officials in Montgomery, downriver from the accident, were told to shut down their water intake as a precaution. Reduced water intakes from the Kanawha river have forces water conservation restrictions. One person was treated for smoke inhalation, officials said, but, miraculously, no other injuries have been reported.

Kelley Gillenwater, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Environmental Protection, said that the fires were keeping DEP officials from being able to fully examine the site of the derailment to determine what sort of containment and cleanup is going to be needed.

Full details of water sampling being done by the state were not immediately available, but Gillenwater said that so far the results had come back "non-detect."

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin declared a state of emergency in Fayette and Kanawha counties after the derailment. Tomblin scheduled a news conference with federal and state officials at 2 p.m. Tuesday at the Montgomery Fire Department.

In April 2014, a train carrying crude oil on the same North Dakota-Virginia route derailed in Lynchburg, Virginia. In July 2013, a 74-car train carrying Bakken Shale crude oil derailed in Quebec, Canada, setting off fires and explosions that killed 47 people.

On Saturday, at least seven rail cars carrying crude oil caught fire in Northern Ontario after a train traveling from Alberta to eastern Canada derailed, according to media reports.

What's riding through your town ready to send you to hell?
Categories: Ecological News

Land and seed laws under attack as Africa is groomed for corporate recolonization

Navdanya Diary - Thu, 02/19/2015 - 00:59

GRAIN / AFSA / The Ecologist, 12 February 2015

Sorghum, one of the crops that feeds Africa, is of little interest to profit-oriented corporate agriculture. Photo: Janki via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

Source: http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2752051/land_and_seed_laws_under_attack_as_africa_is_groomed_for_corporate_recolonization.html

Across Africa, laws are being rewritten to open farming up to an agribusiness invasion – displacing the millions of small cultivators that now feed the continent, and replacing them with a new model of profit-oriented agriculture using patented seeds and varieties. The agencies effecting the transformation are legion – but they are all marching to a single drum.

A battle is raging for control of resources in Africa – land, water, seeds, minerals, ores, forests, oil, renewable energy sources.

Agriculture is one of the most important theatres of this battle. Governments, corporations, foundations and development agencies are pushing hard to commercialise and industrialise African farming.

Many of the key players are well known. They include the World Bank, the African Development Bank, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the G8, the African Union, the Bill Gates-funded ‘Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa’ (AGRA), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and the International Fertiliser Development Centre (IFDC).

Together they are committed to helping agribusiness become the continent’s primary food commodity producer. To do this, they are not only pouring money into projects to transform farming operations on the ground – they are also changing African laws to accommodate the agribusiness agenda.

Privatising both land and seeds is essential for the corporate model to flourish in Africa. With regard to agricultural land, this means pushing for the official demarcation, registration and titling of farms. It also means making it possible for foreign investors to lease or own farmland on a long-term basis.

With regard to seeds, it means having governments require that seeds be registered in an official catalogue in order to be traded. It also means introducing intellectual property rights over plant varieties and criminalising farmers who ignore them. In all cases, the goal is to turn what has long been a commons into something that corporates can control and profit from.

Lifting the veil of secrecy

This survey aims to provide an overview of just who is pushing for which specific changes in these areas – looking not at the plans and projects, but at the actual texts that will define the new rules.

It was not easy to get information about this. Many phone calls to the World Bank and Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) offices went unanswered. The US Agency for International Development (USAID) brushed us off. Even African Union officials did not want to answer questions from – and be accountable to – African citizens doing this inventory.

This made the task of coming up with an accurate, detailed picture of what is going on quite difficult. We did learn a few things, though.

While there is a lot of civil society attention focused on the G8′s New Alliance for Food and Nutrition, there are many more actors doing many similar things across Africa. Our limited review makes it clear that the greatest pressure to change land and seed laws comes from Washington DC – home to the World Bank, USAID and the MCC.

‘Land reform’ is to benefit investors, not farmers

Land certificates – which should be seen as a stepping stone to formal land titles – are being promoted as an appropriate way to ‘securitise’ poor peoples’ rights to land. But how do we define the term ‘land securitisation’?

As the objective claimed by most of the initiatives dealt with in this report, it could be understood as strengthening land rights. Many small food producers might conclude that their historic cultural rights to land – however they may be expressed – will be better recognised, thus protecting them from expropriation.

But for many governments and corporations, it means the creation of Western-type land markets based on formal instruments like titles and leases that can be traded. In fact, many initiatives such as the G8 New Alliance explicitly refer to securitisation of ‘investors’ rights to land.

So this is not about recording and safeguarding historic or cultural rights, but about creating market mechanisms. So in a world of grossly unequal players, ‘security’ is shorthand for the power of the market, private property and creditors.

Most of today’s initiatives to address land laws, including those emanating from Africa, are overtly designed to accommodate, support and strengthen investments in land and large scale land deals, rather than achieve equity or to recognise longstanding or historical community rights over land at a time of rising conflicts over land and land resources.

Most of the initiatives to change current land laws come from outside Africa. Yes, African structures like the African Union and the Pan-African Parliament are deeply engaged in facilitating changes to legislation in African states, but many people question how ‘indigenous’ these processes really are.

It is clear that strings are being pulled, by Washington and Europe in particular, in a well orchestrated campaign to alter land governance in Africa.

Seed laws based on neoliberal ideologies

When it comes to seed laws, the picture is reversed. Subregional African bodies – SADC, COMESA, OAPI and the like – are working to create new rules for the exchange and trade of seeds. But the recipes they are applying – seed marketing restrictions and plant variety protection schemes – are borrowed directly from the US and Europe.

And the changes to seed policy being promoted by the G8 New Alliance, the World Bank and others refer to neither farmer-based seed systems nor farmers’ rights. They make no effort to strengthen farming systems that are already functioning.

Rather, the proposed solutions are simplified, but unworkable solutions to complex situations that will not work – though an elite category of farmers may enjoy some small short term benefits.

With seeds, which represent a rich cultural heritage of Africa’s local communities, the push to transform them into income-generating private property, and marginalise traditional varieties, is still making more headway on paper than in practice. This is due to many complexities, one of which is the growing awareness of and popular resistance to the seed industry agenda.

But the resolve of those who intend to turn Africa into a new market for global agro-input suppliers is not to be underestimated, and a notable consolidation of seed suppliers under foreign corporate ownership is under way. The path chosen will have profound implications for the capacity of African farmers to adapt to climate change.

Interconnectedness between different initiatives is significant, although these relationships are not always clear for groups on the ground. Our attempt to show these connections gives a picture of how very narrow agendas are being pushed by a small elite in the service of globalised corporate interests intent on taking over agriculture in Africa.

New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition

“The 50 million people that the G8 New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition claims to be lifting out of poverty will only be allowed to escape poverty and hunger if they abandon their traditional rights and practices and buy their life saving seeds every year from the corporations lined up behind the G8″, warned Tanzania Organic Agriculture Movement in September 2014.

Launched in 2012 by the G8 industrialised countries – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, UK and US – the aim of the gtrandly titled G8 New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition is in fact to mobilise private capital for investment in African agriculture.

To be accepted into the programme, African governments are required to make important changes to their land and seed policies. The New Alliance prioritises granting national and transnational corporations (TNCs) new forms of access and control to the participating countries’ resources, and gives them a seat at the same table as aid donors and recipient governments.

As of July 2014, ten African countries had signed Cooperative Framework Agreements (CFAs) to implement the New Alliance programme: Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal and Tanzania.

Under these agreements, these governments committed to 213 policy changes. Some 43 of these changes target land laws, with the overall stated objective of establishing “clear, secure and negotiable rights to land” – tradeable property titles.

The New Alliance also aims to implement both the Voluntary Guidelines (VGs) on ‘Responsible Land Tenure‘ adopted by the Committee on World Food Security in 2012, and the ‘Principles for Responsible Agriculture Investment‘ drawn up by the World Bank, FAO, IFAD and UN Conference on Trade and Development. This is considered especially important since the New Alliance directly facilitates access to farmland in Africa for investors.

New Alliance pushing seed ‘reform’

As to seeds, all of the participating states, with the exception of Benin, agreed to adopt plant variety protection laws and rules for marketing seeds that better support the private sector.

Despite the fact that more than 80% of all seed in Africa is still produced and disseminated through ‘informal’ seed systems (on-farm seed saving and unregulated distribution between farmers), there is no recognition in the New Alliance programme of the importance of farmer-based systems of saving, sharing, exchanging and selling seeds.

African governments are being co-opted into reviewing their seed trade laws and supporting the implementation of Plant Variety Protection (PVP) laws, as has been seen in Ghana where farmers have risen up against the changes.

The strategy is to first harmonise seed trade laws such as border control measures, phytosanitary control, variety release systems and certification standards at the regional level, and then move on to harmonising PVP laws.

The effect is to create larger unified seed markets, in which the types of seeds on offer are restricted to commercially protected varieties. The age old rights of farmers to replant saved seed is curtailed and the marketing of traditional varieties of seed is strictly prohibited.

Concerns have been raised about how this agenda privatises seeds and the potential impacts this could have on small-scale farmers. Farmers will lose control of seeds regulated by a commercial system, while crop biodiversity may be eroded due to the focus on commercial varieties.

Making these processes hard to combat is the mutliplicity of programmes and initiatives carried out by different countries and both national and transnational entities in different parts of Africa, all offering short term benefits to governments but all directed towards a single objective – the neoliberal transformation of land, seed and plant variety governance to open the continent up for full scale agribusiness invasion.

The report:Land and seed laws under attack: who is pushing changes in Africa?‘ was drawn up jointly by AFSA and GRAIN. Researched and initially drafted by Mohamed Coulibaly, an independent legal expert in Mali, with support from AFSA members and GRAIN staff, it is meant to serve as a resource for groups and organisations wanting to become more involved in struggles for land and seed justice across Africa or for those who just want to learn more about who is pushing what kind of changes in these areas right now.

AFSA is a pan-African platform comprising networks and farmer organisations championing small African family farming based on agro-ecological and indigenous approaches that sustain food sovereignty and the livelihoods of communities.

GRAIN is a small international organisation that aims to support small farmers and social movements in their struggles for community-controlled and biodiversity-based food systems.

This article is based on the above report.

 

                          
Categories: Ecological News

UK approves world's biggest offshore wind farm project

Green Blog - Wed, 02/18/2015 - 20:59
Plans to build the world’s biggest offshore wind farm has just been approved by the UK’s energy secretary. The massive offshore wind farm, named the Dogger Bank Creyke Beck project, will be located around 130 km off the coast of the East Riding of Yorkshire.

It will actually comprise of two offshore wind farms (Creyke Beck A and B.) with an installed capacity of up to 1.2GW each. But once built, it will act as a single wind farm and have up to 400 turbines generating a maximum of 2.4GWh per year – enough electricity to power almost two million homes. This means that this wind farm alone would fulfil 2.5 percent of the UK’s total electricity needs.

The offshore wind project is also expected to boost the local economy. The government estimates that the wind farm will directly create up to 900 green jobs in Yorkshire and Humberside.

“Making the most of Britain’s home grown energy is creating jobs and businesses in the UK, getting the best deal for consumers and reducing our reliance on foreign imports,” Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey said. “Wind power is vital to this plan, with £14.5 billion invested since 2010 into an industry which supports 35,400 jobs.”

RenewableUK, the wind industry association, says the project could create up to 4750 direct and indirect jobs and generate more than £1.5 billion for the UK economy.

It’s estimated that the two offshore wind farms will cost somewhere between £6 billion to £8 billion.

But the project could face construction problems and delays as it would be the furthest offshore farm that have ever been attempted. RenewableUK’s Director of Offshore Renewables Nick Medic said: “It will surely be considered as one of the most significant infrastructure projects ever undertaken by the wind industry. A colossal wind energy power station right in the middle of the North Sea, comprising hundreds of offshore wind turbines over 80 miles off shore.”

“It is a project that pushes the offshore engineering envelope - demonstrating how far this technology has evolved in the ten short years since the first major offshore wind farm was installed in North Hoyle just 5 miles from shore.”



A date for when construction starts has not yet been set, but is likely to be years away. The Forewind consortium, which the project is being developed by, has yet to make a final investment decision. The consortium includes the Scottish and Southern Energy, Germany’s RWE, and Norway’s Statoil and Statkraft.
Categories: Ecological News

Vandana Shiva: ‘All Life Depends on Soil’

Navdanya Diary - Wed, 02/18/2015 - 02:21

by Dr. Vandana Shiva – Ecowatch, 16 February 2015

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Source: http://ecowatch.com/2015/02/16/vandana-shiva-life-depends-soil/

2015 is the year of soil. Bringing the soil to the center of our consciousness and our planning is vital for the life of the soil, but also for the future of our society. History provides ample evidence that civilizations which ignored the health and well-being of the soil, and exploited it without renewing its fertility, disappeared along with the soil.

 

Indian civilization has sustained itself over thousands of years because it revered the soil as sacred and inviolable. It treated it as Mother Earth.

The Atharva Veda invokes the prayer to prithvi, the Earth:

“Let what I dig from thee, O Earth, rapidly spring and grow again.
O Purifier, let me not pierce through thy vitals or thy heart”

Today’s dominant policies and laws seem to be saying the opposite to the Earth—“We will dig so deep and so violently, we will bulldoze so brutally, on such a large scale and at such a high speed, that we will tear through your vitals and your heart, ensuring that nothing can grow from you again.”

Both ecological science and our ancient wisdom teaches us that all life depends on soil. But we are now unthinkingly adopting the illusion that human progress is based on how fast we can destroy, bury and consume the soil.

Uncontrolled urbanization, mega mines, superhighways and gigantic infrastructure projects are the burial grounds of fertile soil. We are forgetting that life grows from soil, not concrete and tarmac.

It is only our farmers who are practicing ecological agriculture, returning organic matter to the soil and growing soil fertility, and, through it, the foundation of our food and our future. In practicing organic farming, they also conserve water and absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, thus addressing climate change. Money might grow from speculative real estate development, but not life. Multiple “clashes of civilization” are taking place in India today around soil and land.

There is a clash between what Aristotle called “chrematistics,” the art of money-making, and “oikonomia,” the art of living. The clash is between the soil and Earth centred agrarian economies of peasant societies and the money-centered speculative economies which are obsessed with the art of money making, with no respect for the democratic rights of people whose land is being grabbed, or for the soil that has sustained our civilization over millennia.

This intense clash is because the government wants to forcefully and undemocratically appropriate land from the farmers and hand it over to builders and speculators.

A war against land and people has been declared through the land acquisition ordinance which, by reversing the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, takes us back to the colonial law of 1894.

There is a clash between two views of history on the land question. There is a false, linear view of history that projects human progress as moving from agriculture to industry to service economies. A more realistic view recognises that history moves in cycles.

At the national level, history of land is not a linear history of dispossession, but a cyclical history of land grab and land reform.

The British created the zamindari system, which led to violence, injustice and famines. Peasants started movements like Tebhaga after the great Bengal famine, and movements for land reform and land rights based on “land to the tiller” philosophy. West Bengal had its Operation Barga, India introduced “land ceiling,” a limit on the ownership of land, and land reform along with land distribution made Independent India a land of hard working, sovereign and proud small farmers.

The land grab ordinance is, in fact, a new zamindari, aimed at reversing all that Independent India put in place to protect—land, food security, the sovereignty of small farmers and the country. But it is more than a reversal because the context is different. In today’s context, unjust laws passed undemocratically for land acquisition have far more impact because the activities are more destructive ecologically and socially. Removal of the clauses for consent in the land ordinance is an assault on democracy. Removal of the food security clauses is a reckless and irresponsible action forfeiting the future. Has the government been so blinded by corporate “chrematistics” that it cannot see the damage this will do to life of the soil, the “oikonomia,” the vital food economy of the peasants? Has it been so deafened by the voice of those whose only objective is profits and money-making, that it cannot hear the screams of a dying soil and the people of the soil—the tribals and peasants?

A new Singapore-style capital is proposed for Andhra Pradesh at the cost of Rs 100,000 crore. About 100,000 acre of prime farmland on the banks of the Krishna river is being grabbed from small farmers who, with one acre land, earn more than Rs 30,000 per month. Former Indian Administrative Service officer Devasahayam reports how the government is describing the concrete jungle it is planning as being “full of life and economic activity,” implying that farming that feeds people is a “lifeless activity!”

Globally, young people are moving back to the land, driven both by crisis of unemployment and by frustration with the urban corporate life which might bring money, but no satisfaction. Young people from banks and software companies are coming to Navdanya to learn how to be organic farmers and make a living from the land. After the banks and information technology (IT), it is soil and land that holds the future.

We already have a scarcity of land and fertile soil. To bury this scarce and precious resource on the basis of an outmoded view of history, progress and development is not enlightened policy-making. There is not enough land in the country for the limitless appetite for mining, urbanisation and industrialisation. While profiteering from land in a globalised economic system based on the false idea of limitless growth might inspire current policies, land and fertile soils set their own ecological limits. There are also social and political limits to how much dispossession, injustice, violence and destruction of democracy a society can bear. Protests against land grab and the land law are growing across the country. If they are violently crushed, as in the tribal areas, violent conflicts will intensify. In the worst case scenario, if the fabric of the soil and society are ruptured beyond repair, we will disintegrate as a civilization, as is happening to so many societies around us.

We can avert the collapse of our civilization if, in this year of soil, we collectively and democratically commit ourselves to protecting and rejuvenating the soil and, thus, our future.

                          
Categories: Ecological News

Sea Shepherd will build a new ‘dream’ ship after receiving €8.3 million from the Dutch Postcode Lottery

Green Blog - Tue, 02/17/2015 - 17:42
The non-profit marine conservation organization, Sea Shepherd has received 8.3 million Euros from the Dutch Postcode Lottery at the annual Goed Geld Gala (Good Money Gala) in Amsterdam. Sea Shepherd was awarded by the Dutch postcode lottery for their “dream project” submission to stop illegal fishing in the Southern Ocean. The controversial organization, which has received criticism for their direct-action methods, now plans to use the donation, the biggest in the organization’s history, to build a new dream ship.

“We are now able to proceed with the purchase of our dream ship and lift our conservation efforts to protect the Southern Ocean from illegal exploitation to the next level. We are extremely grateful to the Dutch Postcode Lottery and the people of the Netherlands for this very generous support,” said Alex Cornelissen, CEO of Sea Shepherd Global.

Sea Shepherd has been confronting illegal whalers and illegal fishermen in the waters surrounding the Antarctic continent since 2002. Their actions has received a lot of media attention – in 2008 they got a documentary-style reality television series on the Animal Planet cable channel – but their current fleet is aging and their vessels are lacking speed. The organization therefore hopes that the new dream ship will enable them to be more effective in the fight against poaching on the high seas.

“Sea Shepherd will now be able to have a custom-designed ship built, capable of achieving speeds that far exceed any of the vessels in our current fleet. After researching possible ship builders for the last two years, negotiations with Dutch ship builder Damen has resulted in a blueprint of our ideal ship”, said Cornelissen.


Artists' impression, depicting the potential look of Sea Shepherd's 'dream' ship.

Sea Shepherd received 8.3 million Euros from the postcode lotteries in the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom for this project. The Dutch Postcode Lottery contributed 7.5 million Euros. Further to the Dream Project, Sea Shepherd once again received a check for 900,000 Euros from the Postcode Lottery, bringing the total donation that Sea Shepherd has received from the Lottery since 2007 to the incredible amount of 15.5 million Euros.
Categories: Ecological News

The fetish for a higher GDP.

Ground Reality - Mon, 02/16/2015 - 12:21


It’s a mad race. In a long drawn chase with China, India has been trying desperately to showcase a higher economic growth rate. But while China has promised to slow down to a relatively more sustainable levels of growth, India appears determined to race ahead.
By readjusting the base year, India has successfully managed to raise its GDP growth rate by about 50 per cent, from the existing 4.7 per cent to an impressive 6.9 per cent in 2013-14. By doing so, India now joins the ranks of Nigeria and Ghana, which have revised GDP estimates by 90 per cent and 60 per cent, respectively. With the overall size of the $1.8 trillion Indian economy remaining unchanged, it doesn’t however mean more money in your pocket. But surely a higher GDP provides a feel good factor to the investors and policy planners.
The significant jump has been arrived at by simple arithmetic – shifting the base year from 2004-05 to 2011-12. Measuring the market prices in addition, the GDP for the current fiscal is projected at 7.4 per cent. In a country where a high growth rate is mistakenly considered to be a touchstone for development, including job creation and poverty alleviation the fetish for a higher growth rate is simply astounding. With media screaming at the GDP figures every now and then, and with not many analysts even understanding that a high growth rate does not automatically translate into more jobs, the Finance Minister is continuously under pressure to show a higher growth rate. Whether we like it or not, such is the economic sanctity attached that GDP is being treated for all practical purposes as a report card of the government’s performance.
Adding smart phones and LED television into the GDP calculations is therefore one way to raise the growth rate. But there are some more innovative ways to measure the contribution to the domestic economy. In the “miscellaneous goods and services” category, Britain has decided to add the contribution of prostitution and illegal drug sales to the national accounts. Illegal drug sales and prostitution brings in 9.7 billion pound Sterling’s to the British economy – raising the GDP by 0.7 per cent, almost equivalent to the contribution of agriculture in British economy. Italy is another country which adds prostitution and drug peddling in its economic calculations.
That such calculations will become a global norm is evident from what Joe Grice, the chief economic adviser at the British Office for National Statistics was quoted as saying: "As economies develop and evolve, so do the statistics we use to measure them. These improvements are going on across the world and we are working with our partners in Europe and the wider world on the same agenda.” If this becomes the global norm, I am not sure whether a country’s economic growth can be seen through more jobs created in prostitution and among drug peddlers.
Sometimes back, senior journalist M J Akbar had in one of his columns given us an excellent peep into the way economic growth is being perceived. He quoted the then Russian Finance Minister, who in the wake of declining GDP in Russia, asked fellow Russians to at least start drinking more of Vodka, which in turn will increase the country's GDP. Similarly, if you cut down more trees, the GDP goes up. Now you have to decide whether you need trees or you need to raise GDP by axing them.
It may startle you. But the fact is that the more you destroy the environment (and the planet) the higher is the economic growth. You can bomb a city, and then rebuild it. The GDP soars. Similarly, if you allow the biotechnology companies to contaminate your food and environment, the health costs go up and so does the GDP. The more the application of all kinds of deadly pesticides and chemical fertilizers the higher is GDP growth.
Now tell me, if there is an oil spill along the sea coast where you live, would you take it as an opportunity for economic growth? Or would you it is an environmental disaster that could have been avoided? Well, a Houston-based oil pipeline company has in a written submission before Canada’s National Energy Board claimed that oil spills are actually good for the economy. Oil Pipeline company Kinder Morgan says “Spill response and clean-up creates business and employment opportunities for affected communities, regions, and clean-up service providers,” It provides business opportunities and creates jobs.
It is primarily for such blunders in national accounting that at least 70 cities and smaller countries have abandoned the GDP pathway last year, reports CNBC. Accordingly, Shanghai has become the first major city in China to drop the GDP metrics as “government policy shifts towards a focus on growth quality over quantity”. The report also quotes the Chinese President Xi Jinping as saying “we can no longer simply use GDP growth rates to decide who are the (party) heroes here.” Interestingly, 26 out of 31 mainland provincial governments in China have lowered GDP targets to more sustainable levels.
That the GDP is a flawed estimate of a country’s progress is now being increasingly realized. Nor does a high GDP mean more job creation. If that were so, there is no reason why India should have witnessed a jobless growth in the past 10 years, between 2004-05 and 2013-14, when its average annual growth had remained over 7 per cent. In the past 10 years when GDP on an average remained higher than 7 per cent only 15 million jobs were created. Every year, some 12 million people enter the job market.
Even during the period when India was on a high growth trajectory exceeding 8.5 per cent annual growth, between 2004-05 and 2009-10, a Planning Commission report states that 140 million jobs were lost in agriculture. Those moving out of agriculture are generally perceived to be joining the manufacturing sector. But another 53 million jobs were lost in the manufacturing sector. The illusion that more the GDP more will be the job creation has been clearly belied. #
Categories: Ecological News

The distinction between nationalism and jingoism

Ground Reality - Sat, 02/14/2015 - 16:47



Some years back I was speaking in Mangalore. It was at a time when the nation was hooked on to the magic of Special Economic Zones (SEZs). Without even ascertaining the economic potential of these specially-carved out export zones, and without even evaluating the socio-economic costs involved, these SEZs were being pushed aggressively as the engines of economic growth.
Addressing a huge gathering of farmers, villagers and civil society activists I was trying to explain the irrelevance of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) given the extent of land grabbing and displacement of people. There was a huge social cost involved which often outweighs the gains that are projected, but rarely achieved. But after finishing my talk, when I walked out of the auditorium, I was greeted by posters labeling me as a ‘naxalite’ and ‘anti-national’.
Seven years later, the SEZs have turned out to be a big scam. A damming CAG report has however gone unnoticed. But in the meanwhile, there isn’t any word of sympathy expressed for those lakhs of poor who were forcibly evicted in the name of development. They are simply measured in numbers, as if the poor and marginalized are nothing more than a statistic.
I was reminded of this incident when I read a news report about Delhi High Court’s remark in a preliminary hearing on Greenpeace activist Priya Pillai’s well publicized case of being offloaded and denied permission to travel abroad. The court told the government representatives that holding a different opinion to the government does not constitute being ‘anti-national’. In a later hearing, the court told the government to distinguish between “nationalism and jingoism”.
At a time when the world is witnessing massive social and environmental fallout of economic growth, when the international community continues to grapple with global warming and warn of the disastrous consequences of climate change, I don’t see any effort being made to bring some amount of sagacity into the mainline discourse on achieving higher growth. The narrative of the popular discourse on the unfettered gains of economic growth measured in terms of rising GDP are often drummed up by the mainline media, backed by the academic curriculum. The popular narrative has reached such a level of jingoism wherein the moment you question or point to a negative repercussion, you face a loud and abusive tirade. This has become easy with the advent of social media.
Not that it didn’t happen earlier but twitter and facebook has made this much more easy, loud and aggressive. Let me share with you another incident. Some 20-years back, I was invited to address the 1stworld Food and Farming Congress in London. This is an event of the international agribusiness industry.  I spoke in the inaugural session on why genetically-modified crops are not the answer to food security, highlighting the health and environmental consequences of cultivating GM crops. In one of the following sessions, a proponent of GM crops went to the extent of accusing of me of being linked to ‘Al-Qaeda’. It was only after a protest from some of the WTO Ambassadors who were in the invited audience that this particular scientist was made to apologize before he could proceed ahead.
Anyone opposing GM crops is also branded ‘anti-development’ . But because the narrative has been well-defined by the academic curriculum and the media, policy makers find it politically incorrect to question the risky technology. Moreover, knowing that the commercial interests are very powerful, it becomes easy to look the other way. All kinds of innuendoes are then thrown at those who talk of simple, cheap and effective alternatives available. In other words, when you run out of logic, and fail to provide any scientific reasoning, the best way to put an end to debate is to label your opponent as ‘leftist’, ‘anti-development’ and finally ‘anti-national’.
As Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the other day critiquing requires a lot of research and analysis. I agree. In an age of mediocrity not many of us have the time and inclination to look beyond the obvious. A newspaper headline is all that we believe in, and helps form our opinion. Not many of us even care to go beyond the headlines. With the fundamentals laid out in the college/university, and with the mainline media buttressing the narrative, we refuse to look beyond. I have often faced this on TV debates where I confront panelists from only one school of thought. Alternate viewpoint is either suppressed or is ignored.
All those who raise questions and critique are also nationalist. These are the people who are working towards making the planet a better place to live in. They are for sustainable growth, wanting development to be pro-women, pro-people, and pro-environment. Growth is possible without ruthless exploitation and appropriation of the natural resources leading to wanton destruction of the environment, without acerbating climate change, and without creating inequality. That is what each one of us looks forward to. 
Let’s therefore make the distinction. Those who raise their voice are actually the conscious-keeper of a nation. And those who indulge in jingoism are not nationalists. They only push us towards fascism. #
SourceThe distinction between nationalism and jingoism. ABPLive.in Feb 11, 2015bit.ly/16WmXvm
Categories: Ecological News

Maharashtra – Bija Swaraj

Navdanya Diary - Fri, 02/13/2015 - 01:18

Navdanya, Published on Feb 2, 2015

Since 1998, Navdanya’s work in Vidarbha, Maharashtra has come full circle. From saving traditional seed varieties, establishing community seed banks and enabling farmers to be their own seed suppliers, to having thriving farms based on biodiversity, sustainable agricultural practices and a self-reliant farming community. Navdanya’s member farmers in Vidarbha are a shining example of the success of farming in co-operation with nature and the soil.

In the year of the soil, we salute our member farmers who work to protect the soil which in return has given abundance.

                          
Categories: Ecological News

Sacred soil to land grab

Navdanya Diary - Mon, 02/09/2015 - 23:16

by Dr. Vandana Shiva – The Asian Age, 5 February 2015

Pic: Cintia Barenho (Flickr CC)

Source: http://www.asianage.com/columnists/sacred-soil-land-grab-501

“The land grab ordinance is, in fact, a new zamindari, aimed at reversing all that Independent India put in place to protect — land, food security, etc. But it is more than a reversal because the context is different.”

 

2015 is the year of soil. Bringing the soil to the centre of our consciousness and our planning is vital for the life of the soil, but also for the future of our society. History provides ample evidence that civilisations which ignored the health and well-being of the soil, and exploited it without renewing its fertility, disappeared along with the soil.

Indian civilisation has sustained itself over thousands of years because it revered the soil as sacred and inviolable. It treated it as Mother Earth.

The Atharva Veda invokes the prayer to prithvi, the Earth:
“Let what I dig from thee, O Earth, rapidly spring and grow again.
O Purifier, let me not pierce through thy vitals or thy heart”

Today’s dominant policies and laws seem to be saying the opposite to the Earth — “We will dig so deep and so violently, we will bulldoze so brutally, on such a large scale and at such a high speed, that we will tear through your vitals and your heart, ensuring that nothing can grow from you again.”

Both ecological science and our ancient wisdom teaches us that all life depends on soil. But we are now unthinkingly adopting the illusion that human progress is based on how fast we can destroy, bury and consume the soil.

Uncontrolled urbanisation, mega mines, superhighways and gigantic infrastructure projects are the burial grounds of fertile soil. We are forgetting that life grows from soil, not concrete and tarmac.

It is only our farmers who are practising ecological agriculture, returning organic matter to the soil and growing soil fertility, and, through it, the foundation of our food and our future. In practising organic farming, they also conserve water and absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, thus addressing climate change. Money might grow from speculative real estate development, but not life. Multiple “clashes of civilisation” are taking place in India today around soil and land.

There is a clash between what Aristotle called “chrematistics”, the art of money-making, and “oikonomia”, the art of living. The clash is between the soil and earth centred agrarian economies of peasant societies and the money-centred speculative economies which are obsessed with the art of money making, with no respect for the democratic rights of people whose land is being grabbed, or for the soil that has sustained our civilisation over millennia.

This intense clash is because the government wants to forcefully and undemocratically appropriate land from the farmers and hand it over to builders and speculators.

A war against land and people has been declared through the land acquisition ordinance which, by reversing the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, takes us back to the colonial law of 1894.

There is a clash between two views of history on the land question. There is a false, linear view of history that projects human progress as moving from agriculture to industry to service economies. A more realistic view recognises that history moves in cycles.

At the national level, history of land is not a linear history of dispossession, but a cyclical history of land grab and land reform.

The British created the zamindari system, which led to violence, injustice and famines. Peasants started movements like Tebhaga after the great Bengal famine, and movements for land reform and land rights based on “land to the tiller” philosophy. West Bengal had its Operation Barga, India introduced “land ceiling”, a limit on the ownership of land, and land reform along with land distribution made Independent India a land of hard working, sovereign and proud small farmers.

The land grab ordinance is, in fact, a new zamindari, aimed at reversing all that Independent India put in place to protect — land, food security, the sovereignty of small farmers and the country. But it is more than a reversal because the context is different. In today’s context, unjust laws passed undemocratically for land acquisition have far more impact because the activities are more destructive ecologically and socially. Removal of the clauses for consent in the land ordinance is an assault on democracy. Removal of the food security clauses is a reckless and irresponsible action forfeiting the future. Has the government been so blinded by corporate “chrematistics” that it cannot see the damage this will do to life of the soil, the “oikonomia”, the vital food economy of the peasants? Has it been so deafened by the voice of those whose only objective is profits and money-making, that it cannot hear the screams of a dying soil and the people of the soil — the tribals and peasants?

A new Singapore-style capital is proposed for Andhra Pradesh at the cost of Rs 100,000 crore. About 100,000 acre of prime farmland on the banks of the Krishna river is being grabbed from small farmers who, with one acre land, earn more than Rs 30,000 per month. Former Indian Administrative Service officer Devasahayam reports how the government is describing the concrete jungle it is planning as being “full of life and economic activity”, implying that farming that feeds people is a “lifeless activity”!

Globally, young people are moving back to the land, driven both by crisis of unemployment and by frustration with the urban corporate life which might bring money, but no satisfaction. Young people from banks and software companies are coming to Navdanya to learn how to be organic farmers and make a living from the land. After the banks and information technology (IT), it is soil and land that holds the future.

We already have a scarcity of land and fertile soil. To bury this scarce and precious resource on the basis of an outmoded view of history, progress and development is not enlightened policy-making. There is not enough land in the country for the limitless appetite for mining, urbanisation and industrialisation. While profiteering from land in a globalised economic system based on the false idea of limitless growth might inspire current policies, land and fertile soils set their own ecological limits. There are also social and political limits to how much dispossession, injustice, violence and destruction of democracy a society can bear. Protests against land grab and the land law are growing across the country. If they are violently crushed, as in the tribal areas, violent conflicts will intensify. In the worst case scenario, if the fabric of the soil and society are ruptured beyond repair, we will disintegrate as a civilisation, as is happening to so many societies around us.

We can avert the collapse of our civilisation if, in this year of soil, we collectively and democratically commit ourselves to protecting and rejuvenating the soil and, thus, our future.

The writer is the executive director of the Navdanya Trust

                          
Categories: Ecological News

The Re-Colonization of Africa

Navdanya Diary - Sun, 02/08/2015 - 22:36

byJim Goodman – Common Dreams, 6 February 2015

As global agribusiness interests look to expand their profits with the financial backing of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), various “charitable” foundations and the political backing of the more “developed” countries of the world (the G-8), Africa is the obvious target to be saved and developed. Corporations profit, Western governments gain control. (Photo: NewsAfrican)

Source: http://www.commondreams.org/views/2015/02/06/re-colonization-africa

Most of the world’s food is grown by small scale farmers. While it is called “traditional” agriculture, it is never static and farmers constantly adapt. This traditional agriculture relies on a varied and changing mix of crops, a polyculture, which provides a balanced diet, is affordable for local farmers and can accommodate changing local conditions.

The Green Revolution relied on increasing acreages of monocultures, mostly cereal grains, which also increased the use of herbicides, insecticides and fertilizers as well as new varieties of high yielding crops. Inputs that small farmers, those who fed the people, were never meant to afford.

It was an unsustainable system that called for too many inputs, too much machinery and too much energy. Credit was an essential part of the Green Revolution—creating debts that could never be repaid. And it did nothing to empower women, who grow a considerable portion of the world’s food. It gave them no access to education, no power, and made it more difficult for them to maintain the rights to their land. Most importantly, the Green Revolution did not end hunger.

The Green Revolution never met expectations in Africa. This was for many reasons, including: civil wars, corrupt governments, governments that often could not work together, inaccessibility of water for irrigation, very diverse soil types, a lack of infrastructure and the sheer breadth of the continent. Perhaps Africa was lucky, while the Green Revolution was put forth as a solution to feed the hungry, it was also focused on permanently allowing Western governments to dominate politics and national economies—a new brand of colonialism.

Now, as global agribusiness interests look to expand their profits with the financial backing of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), various “charitable” foundations and the political backing of the more “developed” countries of the world (the G-8), Africa is the obvious target to be saved and developed. Corporations profit, Western governments gain control.

The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) seems to have all the answers. Started by the Bill and Melinda Gates and Rockefeller Foundations and fronted by African dignitaries, their goals for Africa appear to be remarkably similar to those of the first Green Revolution, increasing agricultural production through increased inputs, monoculture farming, production of grain crops for the global market and little in the way of societal change to empower small scale farmers, women or the poor.

In a new twist to the old Green revolution, AGRA is focusing on private control rather than public—more profit, less oversight. A prime example, private seed companies will produce and sell their “improved” seed varieties to farmers, rather than giving farmers access to publicly developed seeds.

While most countries in Africa have no commercial plantings of Genetically Modified (GM or GMO) crops, many are conducting trials, aided by and politically pushed by Western governments. While AGRA claims their partners are not currently selling GM seeds in Africa, the push is clearly there.

The Gates Foundation would like their association with AGRA to appear as a strictly philanthropic venture, but, it appears that as Monsanto stands to profit so does the Gates Foundation‘s endowment.

AGRA states that “only about one quarter of Africa’s small-holder farmers have access to good seeds”—and good seeds, in the eyes of AGRA funders and partners, are GM seeds, seeds that must be purchased every year, not farmer-saved seeds. Traditional seed laws that allow saving and exchange between farmers are “outdated” according to AGRA and they continue to push for changes in seed laws that would protect patented seed.

In Ghana, the national parliament has given full support to the Plant Breeders Bill, which would restrict seed saving and swapping. According to the Ghana National Association of Farmers and Fishermen, “This system aims to compel farmers to purchase seeds for every planting season.” This bill, being pushed by AGRA, the G-8, USAID and corporate agribusiness, will make it difficult to find any seed other than GM seed. For bio-technology companies like Monsanto, Africa is the new frontier. Lots of land, lots of people, lots of foreign investment money, and governments willing to push their agenda. It all adds up to lots of profit.

AGRA may think they have all the answers, but the problem is, they never asked the questions, they never asked the people of Africa or the farmers what they wanted. This is colonialism, not democracy.

As Mariann Bassey Orovwuje of the Environmental Rights Action (ERA)/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (FoEN) noted at a Town Hall Forum in Seattle last October, “if you are helping me, ask me the kind of help I need.”

Mercia Andrews, of the Trust for Community Outreach and Education (TCOE) in South Africa, sees AGRA and the Green Revolution as “another phase of colonialism.”

“What we need,” she stated, “is not more charity and more investment of the kind that’s being imposed on us, we need solidarity, we need learning together from you, from the peasant farmers, from the food movement, all these small markets that exist here, from the community to community movement. People to people solidarity, not corporate takeover.”

Mariam Mayet, director  of the African Centre for Biosafety (Acbio), felt that “peasant farming systems have become reviled by the like of Gates as backwards and responsible for poverty and starvation in Africa. It’s almost as if there is a concerted effort to make these systems obsolete, to do away with them, they are ugly, they are backward they have to go and they have to go now.” She noted that “I want you take home the message that there are African farmer organizations that are outraged, we are angry because these decisions have been made—imposed on us in a very patronizing, patriarchal, violent way, like we are children, that they have designed a solution for us as to how they can fix up what is broken.”

In his address to the Triennial Forum for Research in Africa General Assembly on July 18, 2013, Dr. Kanayo Nwanze, president of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), stated that “Africa can feed Africa. Africa should feed Africa. And I believe that Africa will feed Africa.” And, interestingly enough, he didn’t once mention GMOs.

Just as AGRA would force its program on Africa, Nwanze felt that the decline of African agriculture, in large part, was due to structural adjustment programs forced on many of the continent’s nations by the World Bank. And cutting to the heart of the Green Revolution he noted that “if we set our sights only on improving productivity, there is a very real danger that we will grow more food in Africa without feeding more people.”

He stressed that “results must be measured NOT by higher yields alone, but by reduced poverty, improved nutrition, cohesive societies and healthy ecosystems. And, agricultural development must involve women who are too often… the most disadvantaged members of rural societies.”

While IFAD has not always been on the right side of agricultural change in Africa, Nwanze clearly articulated a vision much different than that of the original Green Revolution or of AGRA’s idea of progress in Africa. We can only hope he is sincere, it is important to acknowledge that Africans can exploit Africans, just as Western governments and corporations can. Democracy and food sovereignty should determine the future of Africa, not rich Africans or Western corporations.

AGRA believes progress is large scale farming, mono-cultures, “improved” GM seed, and a further industrialized agricultural system. However, none of these have ended hunger. This style of agriculture thas not and will not feed the world, though this is what we are constantly told to believe.

In his book, Farmageddon, Brewster Kneen notes that “In the name of progress, these new powers would like us to believe that there is no alternative to their biotechnological project. They are simply the agents of destiny. We should adjust to their rule with gratitude for their leadership and their efforts on our behalf, whether we asked for it or not.”

Colonialism is patronizing, patriarchal and violent, and to believe that AGRA’s vision for Africa, Africa’s people, its farmers, or the continent itself is anything other than a new colonialism designed to benefit corporate agribusiness and the partners of AGRA while it ultimately impoverishes the people and the culture of Africa is not just laughable, but unequivocally misguided and dangerous.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

Jim Goodman is a dairy farmer from Wonewoc, Wisconsin.

 

                          
Categories: Ecological News
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