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Posts Tagged ‘forests’

Drug Money - the real cost

Thursday, May 15th, 2008

By Ian Blythe

opium-poppiesWhile taking drugs isn’t new, the incredible growth in the illegal drug trade is! Despite all the risks involved, it has grown into a multi-billion dollar industry, and news seems to be spreading of the mula that can be made. It comes down to simple economics: the greater demand the higher the price. Drugs are in great demand and prices are high. But what is the real cost?

It begins with poverty
All drugs have been on a journey. That journey starts with a need and ends with a want. The crop growers or farmers at the start of the production chain are generally poor and desperate for income. They need money to feed their families and pay their bills, just like everybody else. Illegal drugs such as cocaine, heroin and cannabis are more profitable than legal crops such as wheat. A plot of land planted in wheat will earn a farmer $100 while the same plot planted in opium poppies could be worth $4000! Where poverty is found so are plantations for an array of drugs. For example:

  • Coca leaf, which is turned into cocaine, is cultivated in Peru and Bolivia, countries where, according to the World Bank over half the population live below the poverty line.
  • 92% of the world’s heroin derives from poppy plantations in Afghanistan, which was ranked 173rd of 178 countries in the UN’s 2004 Human Development Index.
  • 70% of the cannabis used in Europe comes from Morocco, where 14% of the population live on less than $2 a day.

Unfortunately the cultivation of drugs doesn’t stop the stop the cycle of poverty. While providing a source of income, it can be dangerous work and farmers find that because they are working in an illegal occupation they have no power and can’t fight for fair pay or better working conditions. They can easily be exploited by traffickers and gangs.

Bad for people, bad for the earth
clearedlandDrug cultivation can have a disastrous effect on individuals and communities, but it also has huge ecological implications. To grow poppies or coca leaves means that farmers need to have fertile soil, warm conditions and a private open field. So they end up cutting down or burning trees to make room. Not just a few trees though, millions of hectares of tropical forest have been cleared, just to keep up with the demand. The use of large quantities of pesticides, weed killers and fertilisers to maximise production leads to a loss in biodiversity, polluted soil and contaminated waterways. The topsoil is often left infertile by the end of the season and it can take up to three seasons to return to its original fertility. So the farmers continue to clear new areas of forest.

Who IS benefiting then?
The profit margins for the traffickers and drug dealers are HUGE. With the farmers only receiving 1% of the street value of many drugs, there is a lot of money to be made along the way. Cocaine bought in Columbia worth $1500 per kilogram could be sold on the streets of America for as much as $66,000 a kilogram. This part of the drugs journey is usually controlled by gangs or criminal cartels. Drug trafficking, estimated to account for 8% of the all global trade, has given organised crime immense power and wealth, but with this much money at stake, competition is fierce and often ends in violence.

Customer relations
The drug’s journey ends with want. With 180 million regular drug users around the world this want creates significant demand. Drug addiction is complex, but at it’s core it about a user’s physical and emotional dependence on their drug of choice. Addiction creates a secure market for suppliers and keeps the prices high. Lucrative returns and future prospects of an even higher income keep people involved in the industry

Big pond, little fish
buying-drugsEverybody involved in the chain of production and distribution is accountable for the vast effects of this industry. Society is very fast paced and everybody is looking for instant gratification - kiwis are no different. We are not a major drug producer, but Aotearoa New Zealand is home to an increasing number of users. In the last couple of years there has been a steep increase in usage of Methamphetamine, more commonly known as “P”. As “P” is problematically addictive the spread was inevitable. But P isn’t the only drug we’re using. Cannabis is the most readily accessible drug, as it is not only cheap as chips, but very easy to cultivate. Per capita Oceania (an area that includes us, Pacific Island Nations and Australia,) has the highest level of cannabis users in the world.

Five Facts about the Global Drug Trade

  1. 92% of the world’s heroin derives from poppy plantations in Afghanistan
  2. The income of those involved in growing drug crops is 1% of their drugs street value
  3. Millions of hectares of tropical forest in South America have been destroyed in the cultivation of coca (used to make cocaine)
  4. 180 million people worldwide use illegal drugs regularly
  5. Drug trafficking is estimated to account for 8% of all global trade

The circumstances may seem overwhelming, but there is a lot you can do to help!

  • First you need to get motivated, so get informed and dig a little bit deeper. Check out the Learn More section.
  • After you feel motivated you need to get empowered - get involved with some of the local organisations working in this area. The New Zealand Drug Foundation not only produces lots of resources, but they run events too. Community Action on Youth and Drugs project (CAYAD) run projects all around the country, call your local council to see what’s going on near you.
  • Next you have got to live it, talk about the REAL COST of drugs with your friends and stand firm for what you believe in.


Global Bits - The Trafficking trap
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime -The World Drug Report
New Zealand Drug Foundation

This article was originally published in Jet Magazine.

Mapuche, the people of life

Monday, December 3rd, 2007

By Gonzalo Garcés
Translated by AJ McDougall

Mapuche CeremonyThe Mapuche, are a people originally from the south of Latin America, whose name means “people or persons of the earth”, and whose worldview has been intimately connected to the natural environment. It is said that “Mapu à‘uke”, or Mother Nature, has given the Mapuche culture and society the knowledge they possess. This knowledge is transmitted through conversation in sacred places of the natural world linking Mapuche to the earth and to family.

SnakeEvery part of the natural world, including human beings and the dead, possess a spirit. Amongst them there are caring and guiding spirits of nature. For example, stones and serpents have an important role in the Mapuche way of life. Even now, the Mapuche ask permission to pass through certain places that are considered sacred. On such occasions, the Mapuche people take time to appreciate these places and ask for the protection of the earth and their families, as part of their attempts to overcome the unfortunate realities for their people.

The sacred places, such as the paliwe and the nguillatuwe, are spaces where the Mapuche pray, give thanks, and share with the spirits their desire to see them respected and to see the Mapuche culture survive.

The history of the Mapuche people is a history full of battles in defense of the earth. These battles have continued for more than 500 years, since the attempted takeover of the area by the Inka and the Spanish, and later the battles against the genocide attempts of Chilean and Argentinean governments at the end of the 19th Century. These attempts have not ceased, and Mapuche FarmlandChile and Argentina have increased their efforts to transform their culture into spitting images of Western society. Big business has also appeared on the scene. These businesses have claimed — and continue to claim — to those same governments that Mapuche land would be better utilised through the development of economic projects such as single-crop forestation. Yet they do so without planning nor providing for the harmful effects on both human and environmental health.

Historically a system of private property did not exist on “Mapuche territory”. There weren’t any fences nor were there extensive plantations of single-crop forestation like that which exists today, but instead the people were free to roam. They could take freely whatever was needed for the continued sustenance of Mapu à‘uke.

Mapuche DanceThe Chilean government has, throughout history, pushed through “social integration policies” which have attempted to destroy the unique customs of the Mapuche people, and in this way the Mapuche social organisation has been twisted and modified through the imposition of unknown and destructive social models. These politicians, who are not part of the Mapuche culture or way of life, do not understand or value the traditional lifestyles of the Mapuche people, instead imposing new lifestyles upon them.

This is but a brief snapshot of the relationship the Mapuche people have with the state and big business.

There currently exists a situation which is worrying. Seven Mapuche political prisoners are on a hunger strike that has recently reached 42 days. The strikers are our Mapuche peà±i (brothers) and lamgnen (sister). They are striking for: the freedom of all Mapuche political prisoners throughout various Chilean jails; demilitarisation and an end to the oppression of various roaming Mapuche communities so that they can exercise their political and territorial rights; and an end to the political-judicial conspiracies against Mapuche organisers and leaders.

Mapuche ManTo speak of Mapuche political prisoners, and to speak of their ethnic, political, and territorial demands, has been criminalised by the Chilean government, placing the interests of big business over and above those of the Mapuche communities involved. Because of these events, Chile has received international condemnation and many recommendations to end the criminalization of the Mapuche people. One such recommendation came from the UN’s Rodolfo Stavenhagen.

Mapuche men and women are not the violent people they are made out to be by the government through their utilisation of the media. The continued struggle of our Mapuche brothers and sisters tells us that they are not ready to renounce that which is most precious and beautiful to them: the earth, la mapu.


You can find more information on how to support the Mapuche cause at:

You can sign a petition to President Michelle Bachelet and the Chilean Government led by at

Gonzalo Garcés is from Chile and is an Oxfam International Youth Partner. He recently attended Kaleidescope in Sydney, check out Pip Bennett’s article on her experience at this event.

All photos are from www.mapuche-nation.org

Vegetarianism…make the move!

Monday, September 25th, 2006

Kayt Bronnimann

supermarket shelf of meatWhen you think of issues of global justice, vegetarianism is not one that immediately comes to mind. Many would think that choosing to become a vegetarian is less important than other issues that we should be campaigning for.

It may seem that vegetarianism is an individual choice has little effect in the wider scheme of things. However, the benefits of a vegetarian diet are widespread and effect more than just animals.

Vegetarianism’s links to global issues/why be a vegetarian:

  • compassion to animals/ animal rights
  • refusing to buy into another system of exploitation
  • a diet based on meat is no longer required
  • health benefits
  • compassion to our fellow human beings are great
  • environmental
  • hunger problems

Meat and the Environment/Pollution…
burger close upSince the industrial age the world has seen a rapid destruction of the environment around us, including increased pollution and global warming Much of the Amazon rainforest has been destroyed in order to make way for cattle ranches where cows are fattened up and slaughtered to become tomorrow night’s dinner. McDonalds in particular, along with all its other injustices, is guilty of this crime. (See the McSpotlight website for more info)

Unlike the indigenous Indians of the Amazon who use traditional deforestation techniques, including slash and burn, that allow the forest to renew itself after a time, the techniques that McDonalds some cattle ranchers employ ensures that nothing will be growing in that spot once they’re done. Eventually they exhaust the land and have to move on destroying more and more rainforest in their wake. The Amazon is responsible for a large part of the world’s oxygen yet we carnivores seem hell-bent on getting our products no matter what the cost may be.

It’s not only the big multi-nationals that are guilty of contributing to environmental pollution. Farmers are part of the problem too. For years, in New Zealand farming practices were unregulated, allowing the effluent from their activities to be dumped anywhere, most often in our waterways. Although there are much stricter laws concerning this now, with farmers being expected to build settling ponds, the damage has already been done. New Zealand used to be a place where people could swim and drink from most rivers or lakes around the country without fear of contamination, but this is fast becoming a thing of the past.

Many of the world’s plant and animal species are now extinct; hunted to death in a senseless display of man’s bloodlust. And it’s still happening at an ever-increasing rate.

World Hunger
World hunger is something that can be helped in part by adopting a vegetarian diet. A large number of the world crops are grown to be fed to animals that end up on the dinner plate of many a rich Westerner. A huge percentage of agricultural land is used to grow feed for animals. And the developing world also provides much of our animal feed. It doesn’t take a genius to realise that this is an illogical system. With the crisis of world hunger growing worse every year, it is not justifiable to continue taking away valuable land and food from developing countries so that we can enjoy a nice Sunday roast.

sausage bbqIn terms of energy and protein it is much more efficient to grow food directly for human consumption. And with obesity becoming a problem in Western countries it is obvious we are consuming far more than our energy needs require. Our meat consumption is directly affecting the lives of billions of people.

Meat and Oppression
In her book The Sexual Politics of Meat’ Carol J. Adams links meat consumption to an oppressive, patriarchal, war mongering society. If we can so easily kill animals for our own gratification and not link the slab of meat (or more aptly put, corpse) in front of us to a dead animal, how can we be expected to spare a thought for the millions who have been killed in senseless wars over the years?

Pacifism and vegetarianism have often gone hand in hand - with the belief that it is hypocritical to condemn war, and killing around the world, while buying in to the culture of meat eating. If one can justify killing animals, it is only a small step to justify taking human life. Killing, whether of a human or a cow, should never be justified. What right do we have to take another creature’s (human or otherwise) life so that we can continue with our existence?
cow in a field
Challenge the status quo

This constant need for expansion, growth, consumption of more, More, MORE!! that capitalism advocates is destroying our environment, extinguishing species, and keeping the poor in poverty so we can enjoy our comfortable lifestyle.

Obviously vegetarianism isn’t going to solve all the world’s problems, but it’s a step in the right direction. We need to combat the apathy that we all seem to have, realise our privileged position, and think how our actions may be affecting the rest of the world. And extending this consideration to animals can’t hurt. Ignorance is not bliss, it’s time we opened our eyes and start giving a damn about the world we inhabit.


The Vegetarian Society
The Vegan Society
The New Zealand Vegetarian Society


  • Become a vegetarian!
  • Join an animal rights group

Visiting the Jungle

Thursday, July 7th, 2005

Mariana Gledhill from Wellington, N.Z spent 7 months, in 2005, in Peru doing voluntary work. She shares her experiences.

Hi all

I am travelling right now and I have so much to talk about but not much time to say it.

There have been a few questions recently:

When am I back in New Zealand? 14 October (I went into Miraflores today and changed the ticket all by myself. It was funny because I was speaking Spanish and all of the Lan staff were speaking English).

Have I met a gorgeous Latin spunky guy? No.

How is my Spanish? Better, but it still has room for improvement. Apparently I was dreaming in Spanish the other night, about cockroaches. But I do not remember this.

I have finally been to another zone of Peru (Peru has 3 zones, coast, mountain and jungle). The jungle was great… it’´s not rainforest. It could have been once, but I don’t know. The area I went to is used for growing coffee (really good coffee) and bananas. BananasSomeone told me that there are two varieties of banana and that bananas are going to die out because of lack of diversity. I don’t think so!!! I have encountered 6 types of bananas here. Some are huge… about as long as the length of my arm up to my elbow. Others are tiny and can fit in my hand. There are ones that are orange inside, and red ones too.

I will be going to the mountains soon…. I have not visited but I have already had altitude sickness from the trip to the jungle (it went over mountains you see!) I could not hear for half a day from it…. feo!

See you all later


Nature’s Pain

Friday, April 9th, 2004

By Callum Gay, Kate Thompson, Bella Shewan, Blaise Ramage, Courtney Richards and Paul Zoubkov

Reading the environmental facts is like being subjected to one of those infomercials that just won’t shut up. Every time you think it’s over, it starts up again with more bad news.

Did you know?

  • An area of rainforest roughly the size of a rugby field is hacked down every second.
  • Your average domesticated cat eats more protein per day than a person in Africa.
  • Ninety percent of all large fish have disappeared from the oceans in the last fifty years.
  • And — YES! — the ozone hole is larger than Russia and China combined.
  • According to international pollution standards, one fifth of the world’s population breathes air that is unsafe
  • An estimated 500,000 plant and animal species will become extinct in the coming decades
  • Every year an area of land the size of New Zealand turns into a desert due to deforestation and poor agricultural practices
  • The world’s population grows by 90 million people per year — or 240,000 each day
    Six and a half million tonnes of litter are dumped into the sea every year
  • Nearly half the world’s rivers are going dry or are badly polluted. Eighty percent of major rivers in China are so degraded that they no longer support life
  • Some 60-70 million people die of hunger each year.
  • Around 80 percent of what we produce in NZ is thrown away after one use

Don’t Give Up

The state of the environment can be pretty hard to get your head around. BUT the world isn’t completely stuffed yet. It sustains us: it gives us life. We have an obligation to future generations to do the best we can. And theres heaps we can do.

You CAN make a difference!

USE WISELY: Conserve energy, avoid using disposables, recycle materials, and try to walk and cycle instead of using the car.

SHOP WISELY: Support companies that are enviro-friendly, buy goods with the least amount of packaging and always ask yourself, Do I really need it? What makes me want to buy it?’ Make your own stuff!

RAISE AWARENESS: Talk to your mates or whanau about environmental issues. Organise an awareness-raising event or campaign — maybe a concert, public talk or demonstration.

GET POLITICAL: Pressure city council, government and your local members of parliament to make positive change. If you’re 18 you can stand in elections!

JOIN OTHERS: Volunteer with organisations like Greenpeace, or join a global network of concerned and active young people

GO FOR IT! Learn more about the issues, and realise that you can do plenty. Every little bit helps!

This article was written as part of the Global Focus a collaborative project of Tearaway Magazine and the Global Education Centre. It was first published in Tearaway magazine and is reprinted here with their permission

Illustrator: Gavin Mouldey