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Posts Tagged ‘food’

A new imperialism

Friday, October 15th, 2010

by Nick Mutch

One of the words that’s been thrown around ad nauseum for the past century is the word Imperialism. An expression notoriously hard to define, but one that is nevertheless usually taken to mean something along the lines of a major, industrialised, usually Western power (the key culprit  usually being the United States, although France, Britain, Japan and Russia have been  equally guilty) preying on a poorer, less developed nation for its wealth, natural resources or cheap labour. They usually do this through direct military intervention or using superior economic muscle to bully less powerful nations.

080218-F-5677R-101Recently it has been the US invasion of Iraq that has achieved the largest outcry among the press for being ‘the new imperialism,’ with the finger squarely pointed at America’s obsessive desire to control Middle Eastern oil resources. We should be mindful that this conflict is making the headlines, it actually conceals another form of imperialism that is happening around the world right now, one which barely gets a mention in the mainstream media (as stories that do not involve criminals, blood or sex scandals often do not). It is the highly controversial activity known as ‘land grabbing’.

Put simply, land grabbing is the buying up of huge plots of undeveloped or semi-developed land by governments or corporations usually for purposes of cheap food production, and of course, profit. This is a murky issue, clouded by rhetoric from both sides, what is seen by some to be sinister capitalist imperialism is seen by others as merely an efficient and benevolent use of land that is not being put to proper use. Seen under the Western notions of private property, simple transactions of land seem quite harmless, and a sign of healthy economic activity, but the flipside to this is that much of the land being bought by large Western corporations is land that’s been used by indigenous populations for their own food production for hundreds of years, threatening them with not only hunger, but displacement from their homelands as well.

A little recent history is first necessary. It was not nearly as noticeable in Aotearoa New Zealand, although there were grumblings about small increases in grocery prices, but 2007-2008 saw a major crisis in the price of common foodstuffs around the world. Wheat, for instance, nearly doubled in price between February and December 2007, and in US, the Consumer Price Index saw the largest one year jump in nearly 20 years. In response to this, many governments and corporations begun turning to cheap land purchased from poor countries such as Sudan or Ethiopia, in order to grow food for their own countries. An Observer investigation noted that over the last few years, nearly 50 million hectares has been bought or leased in private deals.  To put that in perspective, that is more than twice the size of New Zealand, and it shows no signs of slowing down.

cornandskyIn Ethiopia for example, nearly 3 million hectares of land has been sold, mostly to Saudi Arabia. As one of the world’s poorest nations, it can be easily understood why its government would be willing to sell land, but with over 10 million Ethiopians suffering from poverty and hunger, it must seem like a mean spirited joke.  It is not difficult in a case like this to decide what shouldn’t be done. More difficult is to decide what should be done. One of the key arguments for this kind of agricultural investment, as supporters would refer to it as, is that with modern farming techniques yields on current farms can be improved by 3-4 times. In a world that’s projected to have a population of 9.1 billion by 2050, these advancements could prove invaluable. The caveat though of course is a significant one. The arguments against this kind of development is as simple as asking if we want the future of the planet’s food supply entrusted to a plutocracy (rule by the wealthy).

The World Bank recently held a conference on this exact issue, giving rather vague sounding guidelines about ‘respecting the environment’ and ‘honouring the rights of existing landowners.’ Vague guidelines, with no real enforcement procedures do not exactly compel people to follow them, especially when high levels of profit are involved.  While the issues themselves cannot be seriously simplified, there is only one solution. The individuals and communities whose land is being bought and sold, often without their consent, need a VOICE.

blogcomputerIt is hard for some like me who can wax lyrical about relationship dramas, unfinished assignments and weekend parties on blogs and Facebook and Twitter updates, to believe that there are people who have little or no access to the technology to spread any kind of information. But this is often the case and is demonstrated clearly when you do a google search for ‘landgrab’, and find just a few passing references or short articles in reputable news sites, and the odd anti-capitalist rant. What is harder to find is any kind of truly democratic representation for people whose living spaces and livelihoods may be vanishing before their eyes. We take it for granted, whilst millions of people who desperately need to tell their story are being marginalized. In the words of Harlan Ellison (American writer), they want to scream, but have no mouth to do so.

I will therefore use the opportunity I have, to put on a tinfoil hat*for a few minutes, and say that ‘land grabbing’ is the face of the new imperialism that threatens prosperity today. The new imperialists are not afraid of word of their activities spreading, because they trust that we will be too distracted to care about it beyond a few minutes of moral outrage. We are bombarded with such an overwhelming amount of facts and figures about war, climate change dictatorships and face questions about bioethics, ecology and democracy, that an obscure debate over property in countries far away seems to pale in comparison. Yet we can’t use this as an excuse to bury our heads in the sand.  We shouldn’t avoid this, or all the other issues we will have to face in the future.  Put simply, we can’t.

* The concept of wearing a tin foil hat for protection is associated with conspiracy theorists.

Do good lives have to cost the earth?

Friday, March 19th, 2010

windOn the face of it, it would seem we must make impossible sacrifices if we want to do our bit for the environment and lead more sustainable, less damaging lives. This book shows that isn’t the case at all. It brings together household names who share a conviction that, on the contrary, living well needn’t cost the earth - and will tell you why and how.

Their collective vision, covering areas from architecture and politics to food and happiness, will completely reframe the way you think about climate change and what you’re willing to do about it. Far from the usual doom and gloom, many here argue that climate change presents a once-in-a-century opportunity to address a whole basket of problems with energy and imagination.

You can join our library and get books and DVDs out for Free!

Global Countdown: Take action!

Monday, August 24th, 2009

protestequipment

By William Zhang

2008 has been a year of financial meltdowns, chaotic weather, a global food crisis and of course elections, both here and abroad. But we want to do something about the issues we are facing, so check out our ideas for taking action!

10. Drugs

Take Action:

9. Human Rights

Take Action:

8. Global Food Crisis

Take Action:

7. Healthcare

Take Action:

  • Don’t wait until you’re sick - be proactive and make healthy choices every day. Eat well, exercise and get plenty of sleep.
  • Support The Global Fund www.theglobalfund.org, which works for the prevention and treatment of AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, by buying (RED) products www.joinred.com.

oilfree_photo6. The Oil Crisis

Take Action

  • Leave the car at home whenever possible - walk, bike, catch the bus or take the train.
  • When buying a car, pay attention to its fuel economy rating www.fuelsaver.govt.nz. Not only will it save you money, it’ll also help conserve the world’s finite oil supplies.
  • Read Life after Oil (another Just Write article) about preparing for the peak oil crisis.

5. Global Security

Take Action

  • Stay informed on the latest issues in global security. There’s a lot of hype out there, so if you want to go straight to the source, www.globalsecurity.org is one of the most trusted on the net.
  • Find out more about what you can do from the Global Security Institute, www.gsinstitute.org an organisation promoting security through the elimination of nuclear weapons.

4. Education

Take Action

  • Volunteer as a peer support worker at your school and help a fellow student get more out of their education.
  • Don’t take your education for granted - millions in the developing world aren’t as lucky. Make the most out of your school’s resources like libraries and computer labs…and (the most valuable resource of all) teachers!
  • Find out more about the UN’s Education for All programme and how you can support their goal of meeting the learning needs of all children, youth and adults by 2015.

3. Climate Change

Take Action

  • Go to www.globalcool.org or www.4million.org.nz for loads of ideas on reducing your carbon footprint - from unplugging appliances to setting up community composting projects.
  • Support New Zealand businesses which have proper climate change policies, like Meridian Energy (or if you don’t pay the bills, ask your parents).
  • Put the pressure on businesses and the government to give climate change a higher priority - write letters, use parents’ networks and join lobby or environmental activist groups.

peace_trees2. Violence and Conflict

Take Action

  • Live by the principles of non-violence, followed by Te Whiti and Tohu, Ghandi and Martin Luther King. (Download this resource Parihaka and the gift of non violent resistance for more information.)
  • Help out the victims of violence and crime in New Zealand by donating to or volunteering for the Victim Support service.
  • Check out the Peace Foundation’s new youth website, www.enact.org.nz, to find out how you can be an advocate for peace in your community.

1. The Economy

Take Action

  • Take money out of the equation. Bartering was the original form of trade, dating back to the Ancient Egyptians. Independence from money means that bartering systems prosper in difficult economic conditions. Try it for yourself, set up a class bartering system, or register with www.justfortheloveofit.org and share your time and skills with your whole community.
  • If you, or your parents, are forced to cut down on donations to charity, consider replacing them with a contribution of your time with volunteer work. Try www.volunteer.org.nz or www.volunteernow.org.nz for current opportunities in your community.
  • Anchor down. Don’t spend beyond your means - maxed out credit cards are not the best idea in an economic downturn. But most importantly, think positive! The news may be full of gloomy stories about job cuts and lost savings, but don’t let that get to your head. Remember that “after the storm, the sun shines its brightest”.

This article was originally published in Tearaway Magazine.


Global countdown: Global meltdown?!

Monday, August 24th, 2009

By William Zhang

The year of 2008 was one of financial meltdowns, chaotic weather, a global food crisis, and of course, elections both here and abroad. If you get depressed easily, you might want to stop here. If you want to keep up and get ahead with the issues that will affect us most through 2009 though, read on. This is my Top 10 countdown for the issues of 2008 and 2009.

Just to show you I am not a complete pessimist the Top 10 list is followed by the actions you can take on each issue.

10. Drugs

Drugs continue to be a global problem. Annually the US alone spends $35 billion on its ‘War on Drugs’. 2009 will mark a century of international cooperation on drug control. In 1909 leaders from around the world met in Shanghai to discuss the drug problem of the time - the Chinese opium epidemic. In Aotearoa New Zealand, 2008 has been the Year of the Drug Bust. The aptly named Operation Viper saw the New Zealand Police make almost a hundred arrests, following numerous drug busts throughout September. The following month, a $28 million shipment of pseudoephedrine (a component of P), was intercepted by Customs - and that’s only the third largest drug bust in New Zealand history!

9. Human Rights

human_rights_chinaFor human rights campaigners around the world many milestones were made in 2008, such as the signing of an international treaty which bans the use of cluster bombs after years of campaigning by peace and disarmament groups. We also witnessed the spectacle (and sport) of the Beijing Olympics, which was accompanied by protests over China’s human rights record, raising some much needed awareness and generating media coverage around the world. 10 December 2008 marks the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a chance to celebrate achievements and focus on the upcoming challenges for 2009 and beyond.

8. Global Food Crisis

Millions of people in some of the world’s poorest nations face starvation in 2009 and beyond, due to skyrocketing crop prices and food shortages. Last year, over 25 000 farmers committed suicide in India alone, disillusioned by the debts they had been driven into by grain shortages and soaring costs. 2008 was the International Year of the Potato, but while the world celebrates the virtues of this staple food, the issue of hunger in developing countries remains as significant as ever.

7. Healthcare

global-healthcare1Globally over a billion people are still living without access to basic healthcare, with huge numbers dying from preventable diseases, such as tuberculosis and malaria. Locally too, the healthcare system was stretched to its limit in 2008, with red - and even purple - alerts flying everywhere, indicating shortages of hospital bed space. And let’s not forget the many overworked doctors and nurses around the country. 2009 may see further challenges, with many governments struggling to maintain expenditure on healthcare given the global economic slowdown and falls in GDP.

6. The Oil Crisis

In July, the price of petrol was thrust above $2 a litre, reaching new all time highs. While the price may have come down significantly since then, once economic growth takes off again when the world emerges from the economic slump, petrol prices are likely to soar once more - look out for new highs by 2010. In the long-term future, the peak oil crisis is coming. We’ll start to experience oilcost-photoa decline in the availability of cheap and easily accessible oil sources, with some predictions picking petrol prices to surpass $10 a litre within a decade. (And to think we were complaining when it hit $1 a litre back in April 2000!)

5. Global Security

Both Iran and North Korea are carefully nurturing their nuclear programmes going into 2009. In the case of Iran, retaliatory action from other countries, such as the US or Israel, threatens to throw the Middle East into further turmoil. The picture looks a little brighter for North Korea though, with agreements made to dismantle their central nuclear complex in return for financial aid from the US. Meanwhile, terrorism continues to remain a risk to global security as we head into 2009, with the prospect of biological weaponry being used against civilian targets a very real threat according to US National Intelligence Agency.

4. Education

Millions of children worldwide don’t even have access to the most basic forms of education. Over a billion people will enter 2009 unable to even read a book or sign their name. In 2009 progress will be made towards addressing this issue, with US$ 4.5billion pledged to support Education For All, a UN programme with the goal of meeting the learning needs of all children, youth and adults by 2015. In Aotearoa New Zealand, over 20% of students leave secondary school without any formal qualifications. While the solution to this is debated, the merits of NCEA continue to draw harsh criticism for not being challenging enough; with over 10% of New Zealand schools opting to offer Cambridge or IB instead - the list is growing steadily going into 2009.

cyclonenargis3. Climate Change

The Aotearoa New Zealand winter was full of extremes, with the coolest May since 1992, followed by higher than average temperatures in June and July, and of course the ‘weather bombs’ of August. Globally, Australia was hit by record droughts in early 2008, and South-East Asia was hit by record storms later in the year. This trend may turn out to be a title page for what’s to come in future years, with many scientists claiming climate change is responsible for this extreme weather and that things are likely to get worse. But its not just weather we have to worry about. A recent report found that the impact on ecosystems of climate change is already very severe, with falls in krill population caused by rising sea temperatures even being attributed to cannibalism among polar bears in the Arctic - nasty!

2. Violence and Conflict

According to the 2008 Global Peace Index, a system used to rank countries by their levels of conflict, Iraq is the least peaceful country, with the most internal conflict. Most of this can be attributed to US-led occupation of the region, with much of the violence being targeted at coalition forces. Meanwhile, Iceland took out the top spot as the most peaceful country. Aotearoa New Zealand was ranked fourth most peaceful, down two places from last year. 2008 saw violent crime in New Zealand rise, despite the overall crime rate going down. What seemed to be an endless string of senseless murders throughout the year left the country shaken and demanding action. Yet, this violence may be a dramatic symptom of deeper social issues, such as poverty, education and unemployment. If so, such issues will have to be addressed in 2009 before the issue of violent crime can be tackled successfully.

1. The Economy

tillCrises in the financial markets have dominated the news, election campaigns, and conversation since September. Aotearoa New Zealand is in a gloomy recession going into 2009, and many economists believe that the world’s going to join us soon. The underlying issues to the economic crisis are yet to be untangled though, so 2009 is looking to be a year which will be financially difficult for people throughout the world, including many New Zealanders. Sure, could have lower interest rates, but troublesome things may also be ahead - job cuts for example. This issue is also likely to have spill-over effects into several other areas. For instance, the climate change issue will likely take a back seat in the face of economic uncertainty. Likewise, those in poverty will be hit especially hard, as the willingness of governments and individuals to contribute financial aid and support may diminish.

2009 is going to be a rollercoaster of a year
The year of 2008 may have looked pretty gloomy, but there is still hope for the future. The United States has a new President and New Zealand has a new government. Will 2009 see Obama’s vision of “change we can believe in”, or the new government’s promise for a “brighter future” realised? Let’s hope so.


TAKE ACTION

William has lots of ideas for ways to take action Check them out here.

This article was originally published in Tearaway Magazine.


Global Poverty Project

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

gpp-logo

www.globalpovertyproject.com

Who are they?

A UN-backed movement to end global extreme poverty has reached New Zealand, and those involved are determined to break the apathy they see present in the country’s global conscience.

The Global Poverty Project (GPP) is the brainchild of Australians Simon Moss and Hugh Evans (former Australian of the Year); a team who were also behind the MAKEPOVERTYHISTORY campaign last year in Australia.

Instead of gathering aid, the project is aiming to educate and inspire people to make achieving the Millennium Development Goalsa reality by delivering engaging presentations. The GPP presentations, staged around the world, are expected to culminate in a documentary-style film of the movement, narrated by Australian actor Hugh Jackman.

How can I get involved?
There are GPP committees in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, and Dunedin, but you can create your own too!

Go to the GPP website to become a Global Poverty Project Advocate. Advocates can:

  • organise and promote events
  • form groups, including giving groups, and invite friends to join
  • network with other advocates
  • lead the grassroots movement to end poverty, starting in their local area, place of work, study or worship!

Get Creative! Make a statement about poverty with whatever skills you have.  Upload a video, song, artwork, poetry etc, and the best ones will be featured on the GPP website.

For more info, check out the website above, or watch this trailer:

World Vision

Friday, February 20th, 2009


www.worldvision.co.nz

What do they do?
World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organisation dedicated to working with children, families and communities to overcome extreme poverty and injustice. World Vision New Zealand currently supports more than 70 projects in more than 25 countries.

How can I get involved?

  • Sponsoring a Child
  • Getting involved in a Charity Challenge (biking round Cambodia or climbing Mt Kilamanjaro are a few examples)
  • Volunteer to help run World Vision programmes in NZ
  • Participating in/running a 40-hour Famine
  • Donating directly
  • Getting involved in World Vision advocacy campaigns
  • Joining/starting a World Vision group at your school or university

UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund)

Friday, February 20th, 2009


www.unicef.org.nz

What do they do?
UNICEF - the United Nations Children’s Fund - is the world’s leading agency for children. UNICEF works closely with children, women and communities as well as governments, other UN agencies, faith-based groups, non-government organisations and the private sector to create a better world for every child.

How can I get involved?

Fundraise – Put the ‘fun’ back into fundraising!  Take part in a run, cycle, or swim while raising money for UNICEF.  It’s easy to make your own fundraising web page!

Campaign for Change - Make some noise and help shape better policies and practices for children.  Whether you write to your local MP about an issue affecting children, fill out one of our surveys or sign a petition, you’re helping affect change for a new generation of kids.  Join UNICEF’s Campaigners for Change by emailing takeaction@unicef.org.nz for further updates.

Buy an Inspired GiftDoes your Dad need another pair of socks?  Why not help girls in Ghana go to school instead?  Purchase a bicycle for a girl in Ghana from our online shop and help give a better future to children!

Donate
- Your donation will go further with UNICEF! For every dollar donated, we can leverage $10 for children who need your help.

Volunteer - There are a number of ways that you can get involved with UNICEF NZ as a volunteer:

  • You can help out in their Wellington office with administration duties
  • You can help them with fundraising events
  • If you think you have some specific skills and experience that will be of value to them then you can apply for an internship


Save the Children

Friday, February 20th, 2009

save-children

www.savethechildren.org.nz

What do they do?
Save the Children are a humanitarian organization that fights for children’s rights, both in New Zealand and overseas. They desire to see a world which respects and values each child, a world which listens to children and learns, and a world where all children have hope and opportunity.
How can I get involved?
Sponsor a Child - Help transform the lives of vulnerable children. You can either sponsor a child in a region of your choice, or nominate the money to go to the area of greatest need.
Shop – there are 33 shops all across New Zealand, which all sell quality products for mums, dads, children, grandparents and friends at competitive prices. They are run by volunteers and the funds raised help with Save the Children’s work around the world.
Volunteer your time – You can help with a wide variety of fund-raising activites, such as advocacy and awareness raising, staffing a STC shop, or collecting during their Annual Appeal.
Apply for a Small Grants Fund - Save the Children will fund local initiatives that make lasting benefits for children and young people by building their capacity to reach their full potential. If you are under 18 you can still apply, but you are required to partner with a registered organisation for financial and other support.

Quaker Peace and Service Aotearoa/New Zealand

Friday, February 20th, 2009

quaker

www.quaker.org.nz/groups/qpsanz

What do they do?
This is the arm of the Quakers (The Religious Society of Friends) in Aotearoa New Zealand that deals with social justice issues. They aim to give service and create peace in Quakerly ways.

How can I get involved?
If you are a young Quaker (aged between approximately 16 and 39) you can join the ‘Young Friends’. Regular meetings are held in Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch. At their annual camps, held over Easter, Young Friends have speakers come and talk to the group, where there will tend to be discussion on important issues related to justice and peace. Young Friends also pay to offset their carbon from camps, and aim to shop local and eat vegetarian as a means of reducing damage to the Earth.

Jubilee Aotearoa

Friday, February 20th, 2009

jubilee
www.debtaction.org.nz

What do they do?
Jubilee Aotearoa is campaigning to cancel the unpayable debt of poor countries and to end the harmful conditions on loans from the international financial institutions including the IMF and World Bank.  It grew out of a meeting of agencies and individuals meeting in 1997 who jointly campaigned for a special one-off effort to mark the millennium in 2000.  Jubilee Aotearoa continues to meet regularly with government to discuss debt related issues, the agendas and programmes of the IMF, World Bank and Asian Development Bank and from time to time organizes campaign actions.

How can I get involved?
Check out the website: www.debtaction.org.nz for more information.  Follow the links to find up-to-date international news on the current situation.

Invite a speaker or borrow resources (DVDs and videos).

Write a letter or ask a question of a political candidate regarding debt.  Jubilee is producing some background material and questions which will be available on the website soon.

Join the email list and attend the meetings with government.  Contact: gillian.southey@cws.org.nz to find out how.

Get Jubilees help to organise a stall, a petition or a local action asking the NZ government to take a stronger stand on debt cancellation.