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Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

Introduction

It seems mankind has forgotten about their place on Earth. Why else would they destroy Earth for the sake of making money? Wealth seems only be valued from the perspective of a single human’s life span. But what about next generations? What about species becoming extinct at such rapid speed? What about ecosystems being torn down without consideration of all that they offer us? Is it that difficult to see that we, humans, have to use the Earth’s resources be able to live? And that once these resources have become depleted, nothing may remain?

On June 10th 2010 it was election day in The Netherlands. My first task of that day was to vote for a political party that warrants a green, sustainable development of our society. My second task of that day was to take an exam in ecology. After one week, the Dutch political parties seemed to encounter some problems forming a government. In the end it took them four months to agree on several heavily debated issues: retirement age, health care, migration policy, education, and most of all, cutting down the expenses. I wondered how none of the issues that were part of my exam in ecology received attention in the political debate. I wondered about the acidification of our natural and agricultural areas, the halt to the expansion of the Ecological Main Structure, and the continuing decrease in biodiversity, which were said to be caused mainly by agricultural activities. I learnt that the Dutch agricultural yields increase every year because of new technologies, more efficient cropping, and larger agricultural areas. Then I learnt that most of the surplus yields are exported to other countries, while the majority of the Dutch food is imported from other countries.

The international trading system

My apparent confusion during that time of elections lead me to behold the incredible interconnectedness of our trading system, especially with regard to food, clothes, and luxury products such as electronic devices and jewelry. I came across several examples that increased my doubts about whether mankind really knows what it is doing.

Jeans. I could not tell where my jeans come from, but I do know thousands of liters of water are required to cultivate the amount of cotton needed to manufacture my jeans. I fear that child labor or sweat shops practices are included in my jean’s production chain, but I am not sure.

Gold. Once I watched a documentary about the gold mines in Guatemala. Canadian companies had closed deals with the government of Guatemala to extract gold ores from the land of Guatemala. To extract gold ores, often cyanide is used, a substance which can cause sickness in and death by all living organisms, including humans. The Canadian companies first stated they do not use cyanide. Then their statement was corrected, saying the cyanide is disposed off in an environmentally friendly way. In the end the statement went like this: We use cyanide considering the health of humans and environment. Either way, locals reported unsafe burial of cyanide. The cyanide might leak into the environment, enter the food chain, and eventually kill. I should not forget to mention that all yields of the gold ore extraction would end up at the Canadian companies.

Soy. Soy bean production and application is another example that worries me. Although soy consumption as a source of protein is a good replacement for meat, I wonder why  so many products contain soy as an additive. It has indeed wonderful properties as a food additive, but do people know that a lot of soy beans are cultivated on former tropical rain forest soil? The demand for soy is increasing rapidly, which leads to slash-and-burn practices all across the Brazilian rain forest. What’s more, the tropical soil is not suited for plantations, because of its low nutrient content. Fertilizers wash out easily because of the loose soil structure. As a result, the soy cultivation sites are abandoned after a few years, leaving behind bare lands. Did I already mention that Dutch cattle is fed by soy, too?

Organic food. Most people have noticed by now that the organically produced food is more expensive than the industrially produced food. We all know why. Consumers pay the ‘real’ price for organically produced food. The costs of industrially produced food are suppressed by artificial means such as mineral fertilizers,  pesticides, and antibiotics, all substances that are potentially harmful to nature and mankind. I do not believe that the few euros that organically produced food cost us more every month, are a more valuable possession than the value of a healthy agricultural system.

Food availability. Some people have started to change their behavior: they became flexitarian, vegetarian, vegan. I never understood why an increase of food production would be any kind of solution since food shortage is an issue of food distribution rather than of food shortage; let us all decrease the demand for food commodities that put a heavy burden on our production system, such as meat and dairy. Alternative sources of protein such as bean species are widely available. It would however require a change of diet. That way we can avoid the need for an industrial food production system.

The examples above illustrate how little people know about where commodities come from and what resources, both ecologically and socially, are required to produce these commodities. A word was invented to define this development: consumerism. People do not know where products come from. We are blind to the origin of products we consume. The global character of current production chains mask the scattering of environmental destruction at one site, and the consumption of products at another site. The global market masks hypocrisy among the ‘civilized’ western organizations. Few companies communicate in a transparent way about transportation costs, location of origin, labor conditions, etc.

Artificial markets

It is, however, not only the commercial businesses that operate in non-transparent ways. Did you know that European food production is sponsored by government allowances? You might wonder why. Well, it has most of all to do with the industrial food production system that continuously increases production, which causes a production surplus and, hence, a price decrease. To compensate for the price decrease, a government allowance is required to prevent farmers to go bankrupt. In this time of a global market, such artificial financial measures create an unfair playing field for farmers that live in countries that are not able to compensate their farmers with an allowance. As a result, countries that are upcoming in the agricultural market, experience large difficulties to sell their commodities for a reasonable price on the international market. Even worse, the European food production surplus is often sold for below-market prices at the developing food markets, causing food prices to drop and negatively affecting the income of local farmers in developing countries.

Ironically, a lot of money has been invested in enhancing economic growth of developing countries to make them participate on the global market. Some time ago the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund kindly forced developing countries to implement the so-called Structural Adjustment Programs. Quite fast it became clear that the developing countries could not beat the prices of industrially manufactured products with their own products, often produced under less efficient, more labor-intensive conditions. Hence these products are of larger monetary value.

The Western discourse

Why would the two largest international financial organizations uphold economic growth as the answer to the alleviation of poverty? I think because they visualize the process of societal progress and development as a linear process, a one-purpose, one-way method to outgrow this vision of the prehistoric wildling, the sewer-lacking Medieval villages, the years without electricity-on-demand or cell phones enabling 24/7 communication. I would never contradict the perks and comforts of our western modern society; but I wonder if the current and past alternatives have not been defined as undesirable, rather than simply alternatives.

If economic growth is the answer to poverty alleviation, or to a modern, ‘civilized’ society, or to, maybe, our future, then why are there so many signals coming from all over the world that seem to warn us that our current discourse might not be so fantastic? Economic growth in our liberal market system does not take into the account the effects of this economic growth on the environmental resources. People do not know where their commodities are coming from and what it takes to produce them. Poverty is a matter of maldistribution. Maldistribution is caused by power inequality and corruption. Economic growth only would not alleviate poverty; a transparent government and fair trade are necessary as well.

By focusing mainly on economic growth, little room is left for sustainable development. Economic growth is a quantitative measure, a variable operationalized to indicate the status of an economy. But what about quality of products? What about the quality of the resources? What about health and happiness? The strong economic growth that characterized the western economies after the last World War had not been possible without several conditions. We had strong operating governments, a relatively quiet political arena, resources, knowledge, a juvenile international economy, and money. Are these conditions met in developing countries nowadays? How are they different? What alternative conditions do they have that could lead to their successful economic development?

A time for change

The world is a system of structures. Nature is a system of structures. The larger picture seems lost in a web of advertisements, shop windows, sales, discounts, and uninformed consumers that have lost connection to what it is all about. So what is it all about? It is about our Earth that provides us resources that all the money in the world cannot buy. I understand that a market systems comes with competition, with a certain ‘race to the bottom’ to sell, to increase efficiency and increase production. But enough is enough.

Creating and maintaining a world without this focus on economic growth but more emphasis on the quality of products, the quality of resources, and the quality of our current and future life, requires a structural approach. People need to know. We can no longer preach concepts such as profit, free market, progress, and economic growth while our resources are being depleted and our environment is being harmed. Today is not the time anymore to rely on a God that will save our souls. Today is not the time anymore to be a blind consumer and forget about what Garrett Hardin once wrote. We cannot ignore the words of Pigou and leave out the costs of effects on our resources while consuming.

All the efforts of the greens and the sustainable seem futile in the shadow of this environmental parody. Do we really want to save our future? Do we believe the numbers that warn us for climate change, droughts, storms, food shortage, resource depletion, infertile lands, toxic waters, smog air, and dying nature? I do not think we do. We participate in this parody. Today is the day to start thinking and make a change. Become an informed consumer and do not turn our environment into a parody.

This essay has been rewritten from this blogpost and was published in the photobook 3P’s by Lizette Schaap.

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It’s been a long time since I came around

It’s been a long time but I’m back in town

But this time I’m not leaving without you

You taste like tick-tack when you kiss me oh

I’d give everything again to be your baby doll

This time I’m not leaving without you

You said: “Sit back down where you belong

In the corner of the bar with your sneakers on.”

I said: “Sit back down on the couch where we

Will make love the first time.”

And you’ll say to me

Something, something about this place

Something, about those lonely nights

Or my lip-gloss on your face

Something, something about my cool science guy

Yeah there’s something about

Baby, you and I

It’s been six years, since we’ve first met

In those years few words have been said

While muscle cars drove a truck right through my heart

On my birthday singing about that heart of gold

With your guitar humming in childhood overload

This time I’m not leaving without you

You said: “Sit back down where you belong

In the corner of the bar with your sneakers on.”

I said: “Sit back down on the couch where we

Made love the first time.”

And you said to me

Something, something about this place

Something, about those lonely nights

Or my lip-gloss on your face

Something, something, about my cool science guy

Yeah something about, baby, you and I

You and I

You, you and I

Baby, I’d rather die

Without you and I

You and I

You, you and I

Jay Mister, I’d rather die

Without you and I

Put your drinks up!

We got a whole lot of money

But we still pay rent

‘Cause you can’t buy a house in heaven

There’s only a few man

Imma serve my whole life

It’s my daddy, Jay Mister and

Darwin, for the theory of evolution

Hutton, for showing us the age of our world

Newton, for universal physics application

Malthus, for seeing that population growth will always outrun food production

Hardin, you discoverd our tragedy of the commons. “The population problem has no technical solution; it requires a fundamental change of mind.” We should reflect more on our technical evolvement, for new solutions should not bring about new problems. Critical reflection is at the base of a healthy progress, and we humans are blessed with a self-reflective mind so let us not ruin our world with foolishness…

Now something, something about the chase

It’s one shy guy

I’m a science girl chasing science boys

And want my lips all over your face

Something, something, about just knowing when it’s right

So put your drinks up!

For science, Jay Mister, oh boy, I love ya!

You and I

You, you and I

Baby, I’d rather die

Without you and I

You and I

You, you and I

Jay Mister

I’d rather die

Without you and I

It’s been a long time since I came around

It’s been a long time but I’m back in town

But this time I’m not leaving without you


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May 14, 2011

Dear Malthus

Yeah, but if I’m hungry

You were right: the world population expands faster than food production. Although Western population growth has slowed down because we have a higher prosperity level, theThird Worldsuffers from an unrestrained increase in population amounts. For decades, farming land and cattle ranching have been taking over nature landscape. To supply six billion people with food, everything is produced at large extent, with monoculture, aided with fertilizer and factory farms. Still people are starving while, according to recent figures, food production is high enough to supply twelve billion people.

I guess you did already know that poverty in developing countries maintains the people surplus and food shortage. It is probably new to you that food-scarcity is a matter of equal sharing. In theThird Worldthey lack everything: job opportunities, food, a solid position in world economy, money. Here in the West we have plenty of everything and I think that we can feed the one hundred thousand people dying of hunger every day with all the food we throw away.

Beside that, since your time income differences between the West and theThird Worldhave increased and several economic activities maintain these differences. Here in the West governments subsidize farmers because they are going through economically uncertain times. The production surplus that originates from the subsidizing is sold – for usurious prices – in African countries, which economically harms the farmers there.

Yet the local farmers try to survive and this causes the unsustainably use of water and soil in developing countries: each year tropical rain forest areas as large asEnglandare cleared for agriculture. Production per hectare is enlarged by not leaving any land as fallows and increasing cattle density on meadows.

Half way the previous century, Garret Hardin noticed that biodiversity, water quality, soil fertility, production per hectare and ecosystem value drastically decline because of humans collectively using these natural resources too intensively; current environmentalists say exactly the same. What can we do? Nature is so valuable, we cannot just mess her up. Did you know that biodiversity in tropical rain forests is so huge that every step you take you can encounter a new species? Still the rain forest in South-America disappears to give place to soy, which is used to feed the European cattle. (And processed in countless food and care products.) Mangrove forests are cleared because of the high instrumental value of the timber and the areas themselves are tainted due to shrimp farms, while the forests as an ecosystem are much more valuable. Hoe can we prevent the species richness of thousands of years of development to be spoiled?

At this very moment multiple Western organizations are struggling against poverty and for sustainable technologies. I think education is a good way of giving help. We can provide sexual education to put a brake on the geometrical population growth and teach locals how to use water and soil sustainably. It is a bit like raising appreciation for nature.

Okay, I can hear your thinking: how sustainably would we live if we were hungry? A rhetorical question. Malthus, they die because we flourish. Here in the West we spend a lot of attention to sustainable technologies, nature conservation and even nature development, because we are rich enough to spend our money on that. People and nature in developing countries are the victims of the neoliberal character of our global economy. Poverty does not lead to nature degradation, as long as people live harmonically. The world-wide market is just so non-transparent that we in the West are simply not aware that our consumption pattern is destroying nature in developing countries. We do not see who or what is paying for our prosperity. It is just hypocrisy that we spend so much money on developing projects while we are indirectly responsible for the damage.

I write to you because I cannot solve this problem on my own. At least, I only know some useless suggestions. Perhaps we should discard capitalism and become communists. Then there won’t be any distinctions between poor and rich and will farmers in contemporary developing countries no longer be forced to destroy nature in order to maintain their families. Or perhaps we can use gene technology to turn off the gene that determines our avarice. Then we can be satisfied with all that nature offers without trespassing her carrying capacity.

Malthus, I write especially to you because I think you made a step towards the right direction. In your essay from 1798 you used insights from economy and biology to describe why the human population crosses the carrying capacity of nature. This problem has become a global issue now and has led to a poor state of nature preservation in developing countries.

I think it is time to build bridges between different scientific disciplines to solve this kind of social problems. We have to share knowledge with each other, because in this complex world, solo insights are not sufficient anymore. By hearing a word such as ‘free market mechanism’, biologists stay awfully quiet, and when economists are confronted with the nutrient cycles, at night they are having troubles falling asleep.

Malthus, I would like to ask you if you would like to employ your multiple disciplinary qualities in an interdisciplinary research team to come up with solutions for sustainable solutions to nature conservation in the Third World. Within this collaboration the theme ‘Yeah, but if I’m hungry’ will take a central stage, by which focus will be on both food scarcity in developing countries and Western consumption appetite. Maybe you can get in touch with Garrett Hardin, or Arjun Appadurai? Can I count on you? Because it would be a dreadful thing if our exquisite nature will be lost.

Kind regards,

CB.

Klik hier voor de Nederlandse versie van dit essay.

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I have friends who admitted that confessing you’re gay is a thing you better don’t do. The ‘otherwise’ part I missed, but as it concerned friends from a very christian village near my hometown, I could only guess it had something to do with ‘not-done’.

For a very long time I wondered why some people are gay and why other are not. I already figured out that gay people are not well accepted in most cultures, because 1) men are supposed to sleep with women and produce offspring 2) gay men are not exactly masculine and 3) people find it repulsive only to think of two men kissing and/or having sex.

Let me start with the third point. Why would you find it repulsive that two other people than yourself have a good time together? You are not forced to look, you are not even forced to think about it. It is only your upbringing that somehow emphasized that men are attracted to women and vice versa.

Then the second point. No, gay men are not masculine, but they can be strong and they look like men. They only, somehow, do not act like a straight man. Gay men usually fulfill the more (very girly) feminine occupations, related to styling, fashion and design… Scientific research concluded that brains of gay men are more suited for working with art, design and other area`s that require creativity and eye for details. Though lots of gay men have an office job or a job in engineering.

The first point, and especially the part about producing offspring, is for me, an environmentalist, the most important one. In nearly all cultures gay people are not accepted for a whole range of reasons, that are based upon prejudices and opinion-based cultural values. I think the existence of gay people serves a very noble goal: it is a natural solution to overpopulation. Imagine that around 5-10% of a population does not breed because it does not feel attracted to individuals of the opposite sex. This would seriously reduce the amount of children and will prevent that the human population will expand excessively.

So, what I wanted to say was that we (all people on this globe) should not hate gay people just because they do not act masculine, or are more sensitive than straight guys, or scream like a girl in stead of roaring like a tough guy. Gay people are very nice to talk to – especially when you’re a girl (like me) and finally find a guy who understands you! – they will not hit on man`s wife, they will not fancy a girl when she is not interested, they do not contribute to overpopulation.

Actually, you could say gay people are totally harmless and do not deserve the hatred that they receive. Of course, there are criminal gay people, but there are also straight criminal people. And I have very rarely heard of gay people beating up straight people (which is also a crime, of course).

In short, confessing you’re gay should not be a torture. In stead, we should welcome gay people who step out of their closet.

NOTE: Click here for a short article about what the Bible says about gay marriage/same sex marriage that inspired me to write this post. I do not contradict the article, because I also do not see why people who can’t have childeren should raise children, but I want to add that what the Bible says is not doubtless true (as the Bible has been written by humans, and before these stories and ‘wisdoms’ have been written down, a lot of oral story telling has probably ruined the original story line (which does not exclude there is some true in Biblical stories) and people of a few centuries ago did not know as much about nature and biological process as we do now) and christians (and also muslims, jews, hindu’s etc.) should stop hating their fellow men because the authors of religious books judged in stead of looked at facts.

NOTE II: Click here for an article by Soulforce, an organization resisting political and religious oppression of gay/lesbian in a relentless, non violent way. Especially pay attention to the interpretation of Biblical texts that provide ways to be none-straight and still be a good, religious person. But above all, consider this:

Most people who are certain they know what the Bible says about homosexuality don’t know where the verses that reference same-sex behavior can be found. They haven’t read them, let alone studied them carefully. They don’t know the original meaning of the words in Hebrew or Greek. And they haven’t tried to understand the historical context in which those words were written.

Very interesting article, a real recommendation!

NOTE III: ‘People who can’t have children should not raise children’ I’ll bring about in a future post about in vitro fertilization (IVF).

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Betreft: Ja, maar als ik honger heb

Amersfoort, 28 april 2010

Beste Malthus,

Je had gelijk: de wereldbevolking groeit sneller dan de voedselproductie. Alhoewel de bevolkingsgroei in het Westen is afgenomen doordat wij hier meer welvaart hebben, kent de Derde Wereld een ongeremde toename in bevolkingsaantallen. Akkerland en veeteelt nemen al decennialang de plaats in van natuurlandschap en om zes miljard mensen van voedsel te voorzien gebeurt alles grootschalig, in monocultuur en met behulp van kunstmest en bio-industrie. Toch lijden er mensen honger terwijl we volgens recente cijfers genoeg produceren om twaalf miljard mensen van voedsel te voorzien.

Je wist misschien al dat de armoede in ontwikkelingslanden het overschot aan mensen en het tekort aan voedsel in stand houdt. Het is misschien nieuw voor je dat voedselschaarste een verdelingsvraagstuk is. In de Derde Wereld hebben ze overal te weinig van: werkgelegenheid, voedsel, een goede positie in de wereldeconomie, geld. Hier in het Westen is genoeg van alles en ik denk dat we van al het voedsel dat we weggooien makkelijk de honderdduizend hongerdoden per dag kunnen voeden.

Daarnaast is sinds jouw tijd het inkomensverschil tussen het Westen en de Derde Wereld alleen maar toegenomen en houden verschillende economische activiteiten dit verschil in stand. Hier in het Westen geven regeringen bijvoorbeeld subsidies aan boerenbedrijven omdat deze het economisch moeilijk hebben. Het productieoverschot dat hierdoor ontstaat wordt onder de marktwaarde verkocht in Afrikaanse landen, wat de boeren daar ernstig benadeeld.

De lokale boeren proberen toch in hun bestaan te voorzien en als gevolg daarvan wordt in ontwikkelingslanden alles behalve duurzaam omgegaan met het water en de bodem: elk jaar worden arealen regenwoud zo groot als Engeland gekapt voor de landbouw om een winstgevende oogst te verzekeren. De productie per hectare wordt vergroot door minder land braak te laten liggen en meer vee op de graslanden te laten grazen.

Garrett Hardin merkte halverwege de vorige eeuw al op dat de biodiversiteit, de waterkwaliteit, de vruchtbaarheid van de bodem, de productie per hectare en de waarde van ecosystemen drastisch verminderen doordat mensen gezamenlijk te intensief gebruik maken van deze natuurlijke hulpbronnen; de huidige milieukundigen zeggen hetzelfde. Wat kunnen we doen? De natuur is zo waardevol, we kunnen haar niet zomaar stukmaken. Wist je dat de biodiversiteit in tropisch regenwoud zo groot is dat je om de paar honderd meter een nieuwe soort tegenkomt? Toch verdwijnt in Zuid-Amerika het tropisch regenwoud om plaats te maken voor soja waarmee het Europese vee gevoerd wordt. De mangrovebossen worden gekapt vanwege de hoge gebruikswaarde van het hout en de gebieden zelf raken aangetast door de garnalenkweek, terwijl de bossen als ecosysteem veel meer opleveren. Hoe voorkomen we dat de soortenrijkdom van duizenden jaren ontwikkeling vergaat?

Op dit moment strijdt een veelheid aan Westerse organisaties tegen armoede en voor duurzame technologieën. Ik denk zelf dat onderwijs een goede manier van hulp geven is. Zo kan er seksuele voorlichting worden gegeven om de exponentiële bevolkingsgroei te remmen en kan de lokale bevolking geleerd worden hoe zij duurzaam omgaat met de grond en het water. Het is een beetje als waardering voor de natuur kweken.

Ja, ik hoor je denken: hoe duurzaam zou onze relatie met de natuur zijn als wij honger hadden? Een retorische vraag. Malthus, zij sterven omdat wij bloeien. Hier in het Westen besteden we namelijk veel aandacht aan duurzame technologieën, natuurbehoud en zelfs natuurontwikkeling omdat we rijk genoeg zijn om ons geld daaraan te besteden. De mensen en de natuur in ontwikkelingslanden zijn slachtoffer van het neoliberalistische karakter van de mondiale economie. Armoede leidt helemaal niet tot natuurdegradatie, zolang de mens in harmonie leeft met de natuur. De wereldwijde markt is gewoon zo ondoorzichtig dat wij hier in het Westen niet beseffen dat ons consumptiepatroon de natuur in ontwikkelingslanden vernietigt. We zien niet wie of wat onze welvaart betaalt. Het is gewoon hypocriet dat we zoveel geld steken in ontwikkelingsprojecten terwijl wij indirect verantwoordelijk zijn voor de schade.

Ik schrijf je omdat ik dit probleem niet alleen kan oplossen. Althans, ik weet wel een aantal nutteloze suggesties. Misschien moeten we het kapitalisme afschaffen en allemaal communistisch worden. Dan is er geen onderscheid meer tussen arm en rijk en worden de boeren in hedendaagse ontwikkelingslanden niet meer gedwongen de natuur te verwoesten om in hun onderhoud te voorzien. Of misschien kunnen we met behulp van gentechnologie het gen dat codeert voor onze inhaligheid uitschakelen? Dan zijn we voortaan tevreden met wat de natuur ons kan bieden zonder dat wij haar draagkracht overschrijden.

Malthus, ik schrijf speciaal naar jou omdat jij volgens mij een stap in de goede richting hebt gezet. In je essay uit 1798 gebruikte je inzichten uit de economie en de biologie om te beschrijven waarom de menselijke populatie boven de draagkracht van de natuur leeft. Dat probleem speelt nu op mondiale schaal en leidt ertoe dat het slechts gesteld is met natuurbehoud in ontwikkelingslanden.

Ik denk dat het tijd is om meer bruggen te slaan tussen verschillende wetenschappelijke disciplines om dergelijke maatschappelijke problemen op te lossen. We moeten kennis met elkaar delen, want de afzonderlijke inzichten zijn in deze complexe wereld niet meer toereikend. Bij een term als vrije markt mechanisme blijven biologen namelijk angstwekkend stil en als economen geconfronteerd worden met een woord als nutriëntencyclus hebben ze ’s avonds moeite om de slaap te vatten.

Malthus, ik zou je willen vragen of je met je meervoudige disciplinaire kwaliteiten mee wilt denken aan een duurzame oplossing voor natuurbehoud in de Derde Wereld in een interdisciplinaire onderzoeksgroep. Binnen dit samenwerkingsverband zal het thema “Ja, maar als ik honger heb” centraal staan, waarbij wordt gefocust op zowel de voedselschaarste in ontwikkelingslanden als de Westerse consumptiehonger. Wellicht kun je contact leggen met Garrett Hardin, of Arjun Appadurai? Kan ik op je hulp rekenen? Want het zou verschrikkelijk zijn als die prachtige natuur verloren gaat.

Met vriendelijke groet,

CB

Click here for the English version of this essay.

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source: www.cartoonstock.com

I know we can’t repeal the laws of nature, but I don’t see why we can’t amend them a little. It seems mankind has forgotten their place and is ruining the earth to make money. Wealth is only seen in the light of human’s own life span. But what about next generations? What about species becoming extinct, about ecosystems being teared down? Is it that difficult to see we humans use the earth’s resources to create our wealth? And once these resources become depleted, nothing will remain? The West even decided to enhance the poor countries, but in a way that has nothing to do with offering help.

Previous year, on June 10th 2010, was election day in the Netherlands. My first task today was voting for the political party that warrants a green, sustainable development of our society. My second task was finishing an exam about ecology. One week later the Dutch political parties seemed to have problems formating a government. It took them nearly four months to agree on several heavily debated issues: retirement age, health care, migration policy, education and most of all, cutting down the expenses. None of the heavily debated issues involved environmental problems like the acification of the Netherlands, the expansion of the Ecological Main Structure (Ecologische Hoofdstructuur, EHS) and the decrease in biodiversity. No, the new government decided agriculture was more important than natural areas in stead, though Dutch agricultural yields already increased every year due to new technologies and by no means there was any food shortage. Moreover, a lot of the yields were exported and the majority of Dutch food is imported from other European countries.

It was during these elections my attention was drawn towards the incredible interconnectedness of our trading system, especially with regard to food, clothes and luxury products (radio’s, computers, jewelry). I cannot tell where my jeans come from, but I do know it costs thousands of liters of water to cultivate the amount of cotton needed to manufacture my jeans, let alone the chance of child labor or sweat shops included in the process.  I am, moreover, terribly opposed to processing soy in all kinds of food products, but yet I have not spot much food products without soy. It is, like, everywhere, and it hurts me in the heart because I know the tropical rain forest in (for example) Brazil is cut rapidly to provide for soy plantations, though the tropical soil is not suited for plantations, because it is low in nutrients and fertilizer will wash out easily due to the loose soil structure.

Farming factories are like heaven to capitalism, but like hell to environmentalists and animal-lovers. Farming factories serve to serve the meat demand. But why do we have to eat so much meat? Can’t we just eat less? And is it so difficult to buy only biologically produced food? Unfortunately yes, it is, because the ‘good’ meat is more expensive than the ‘bad’ meat. And in this capitalist, free market ecnonomy our money is our most valuable possession, right?

In December, I watched a documantery about the gold mines in Guatemala. Canadian companies close deals with the government of Guatemala to extract gold ores from the land. All yields end up at the Canadian companies; all harm ends up at the indigenous people and the environment. The companies are using cyanide to mine the gold, a very venemous substantion causing sickness and death by living organisms, including humans. Though the companies state they do not use cyanide, or they state the cyanide is disposed off in an environmental friendly way, or they state the cyanide is used with care for the environment and human healt. Either way, it has been reported the cyanide disposals have been buried unsafely, meaning the cyanide will leak into the environment, enter the food chain end eventually kill.

One word: consumerism. People don’t see where products come from. Consumerism comes with a blind eye for the start of the products we consume; the global character of current production processes veils environmental desctruction, unhealthy labour conditions, corruption, monopoly and hypocrisy among the ‘civilized’ western organizations. Companies don’t mind telling the production and transportation chain of their products. Then it would become clear transportation costs cover a large part of products’ prices or would bad labour conditions become reveiled. Then it would become clear biologically produced food is doing bad on the market because non-biologically produced food is sponsored by government allowances. Une painful example I read in a Dutch newspaper lately: on one page there was an article about how some Dutch farmers wanted more allowances from the government to ensure a proper income; on the next page there was an article about an African farmer who opposed the allowances provided in western countries because these allowances caused an unfair playing field for upcoming agricultural companies and countries.

It was the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund forcing developing countries to implement the Structural Adjustment Programs which were aimed at enhancing economic growth by participating on the global market. But the global martket was an unlevel playing field with the developed countries laying way ahead of the newbies. Prices of industrally manufactured products were way lower than the more hand-make products of developing countries. Western countries dump the surplus of fruits and vegetables on the local markets of developing countries, causing food prices to drop and negatively affecting the income of local farmers. It was also the WB declaring mining activities are a good way to escape poverty.

Perhaps they still don’t see economic growth is no answer to alleviating poverty or enhancing underdeveloped countries. Why is that? One: economic growth, or a free market system, does harm to the environment. Because people do not know where products are coming from and whatresources it takes to produce them. Two: poverty mainly is caused by maldistribution. And maldistribution is caused by power inequality and corrpution. So it is not economic growth that should help people out of poverty, but a transparant functioning government and fair trade. Three: by focussing merely on economic growth there is no room for sustainable development. Quantity is useless if quality is poor. Four: in western countries economic growth only came after some (World) Wars, protests, revolutions, a strong operating government. But hey, history is forgotten easily. And why bother the hard approach if there is an approach that seems to work fine? But it only works fine for now and for us, and not for the next generation, for the quality of the environment and for the very survival of all species.

The world is a system with structures; nature is a system with structures. It is no use giving money to one of the employees in your company to save the whole business. It is no use replacing the tire of your car if the engine has broken down. It is no use giving money to a gambler and asking hiim to spend his money on charity. Making and keeping a better world asks for a more structural approach. Envirionmentalists can’t save the planet as long as not everyone is coorporating. Western organizations should not cover their practises by the empty words of profit, money-saving, free market, economic growth and progress. It is sustainability we need. And people, all people, need to know how the Earth works. No more: God created it and will save our asses. No more: it is not that big a deal if I give myself what I need and Garrett Hardin was wrong. No more: we should focus on lessen the poverty in this world without caring for the enormous amount of resources needed to provide all this people with the wealth of our current western society and forget about Thomas Robert Malthus. No more: what I do in my backyard won’t effect my neighbours and ignore the externalities of Pigou.

Do not turn our beloved and required clean, healthy environment into a parody. Realize there is only one Earth and if we kill it we cannot make a new one. We should remember our evolutionary place and  never forget we were here last.

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your brown-green freckled face

your blue eyes

your soft, soothing skin

your white hair


everytime I fall

I fall to you

my sweet Lilly


but Lilly died

they burnt Her

and Lilly cried

while they teased Her


you are so magical

your fluids sparkling

you’re so mysterious

all your many colours


I fall in love

in love with you

my sweet Lilly


but Lilly died

they cut Her

and Lilly cried

while they stripped Her


it is them

they take away

without grieving

my sweet Lilly

without you

we can´t live

please understand

our Lilly

She won´t make it

to next spring

but they don’t know

you don’t know

now Lilly died

they killed Her

sweet Lilly death

the people tortured

and they poisoned

Lilly

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