Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Climate’ 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.

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

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

Read Full Post »

It dit not happen suddenly. I could see it coming for months. I longed for it so badly; I could feel my heart become weak just by thinking of going there, just by thinking of being free of obligations. And now the time is nearly there, but in stead of happiness there is more of emptiness. An odd, aching emptiness that slowly fills with understanding. The process of learning should never stop for me, though I very much enjoy doing nothing and just thinking how I could make the world a little bit better.

It will be hard work to aim for a little bit of change in the right direction and it will even be harder work to accomplish any change. Any change at all. If I need to take a breath at the end of a year of learning and understanding, I wonder how much breath the low-skilled and low-educated labourers need to take at the end of a year of working their asses off. Where is this change going to take place? Who will suffer and who will profit? I don’t know the correct answer, but I have bad expectations.

This so-called change we need to save our planet. To save our environment, our fossil fuels, our climate, the ecosystem(s), the plants, the animals, the micro-organisms, the unique relations between the air, the soil, the water and life. It is all ours, but not ours only. We share our planet with the plants, the animals, the micro-organisms, and all those species still live next to us, besides us, on us. Even in us. And we need them to survive: we need them for food, for medication, for our metabolism; and they need us. And everything needs everything to sustain the bonds of life. Why don’t people recognize it is a netwerk, and once we humans remove the massive pillars, the system will collapse?

This change, it is not going to happen. It will come too late, too inefficiently, or not at all. Leaving nothing more than to enjoy the days that are left. Right?

Read Full Post »

The problems to be faced are vast and complex, but come down to this:

6,7 billion people are breeding exponentially.

The process of fulfilling their wants and needs is stripping earth

of its biotic capacity to support life;

a climatic burst of consumption by a single species

is overwhelming the skies, earth, waters, and fauna.

PAUL HAWKEN

(Tyler Miller, G., Living in the envrionment, p 123)

Read Full Post »

Last time I mentioned the difficulty with environmental problems, in particular the solutions to environmental problems. I have been thinking: we, humans, are strange creatures, able to use signs and logic and to communicate with written messages. Sometimes I wonder if humans are the only organisms on earth that have emotions. And if we are not, whether humans are the only organisms that are aware of their chaning feelings, able to recognize them and call back any feeling of happyness by remembering nice things.

I like to hide from daily life, I like to run away in a fantasy world, enjoy scenes: a mix between real memories and fake ones. The only thing I have to avoid is the smash in the face when I wake up and realise I got lost in my own world. Reality sucks, and this awareness calls on my failed attempt to cross the ocean swimming.

A couple of years ago I buried my mind at an inland beach, and I forgot to dig it up again. Last summer I lost my heart at England; I am still wondering when I will find it back. There is not much more to lose, actually, but being aware of the degrading environment, the unrealistic solutions and my changing feelings that come and go…

Sometimes I wish I could stop myself thinking, stop bothering myself with out-of-reach problems, that one math assignment I messed up, my reputation and the rest of my life. Will I be happy? Will I get married? Will I earn money as a scientists? As an artist? If I could just finish off my thoughts…

In youth we learn, at age we understand. Let me be a child again: I am curious enough to learn, but getting older and being able to understand makes me wanna hide. Hide in the most far-away caves of my only desolate, inhabited island: Eternal Wandering.

Eventually I learned the environmental problems and their demographic, geographic and economic components are even more complicated than I thought, but at least I finished that one math assignment…

Read Full Post »

You have to have something to hide from, even though you feel like breaking apart and drifting away in different directions, time after time. My regular journal has transformed to three seperated writing books, as if my thoughts did not take the same turn in time. Therefore, I think drowning is the right word to describe any status of doubt while dragged into unwelcome situations. Drowning in the open ocean, gulps of water coming in, not willing to give in and to dive for the dared fantasies, the dreams that lay waiting just beneath the surface, not willing to make a final decision. Not yet. First we play on safe, desperately and slowly sewing a net. Just in case I need to be caught.

Education, colleges, skills, considering the world. The planet needs to be saved vs. the most beautiful voice and a cello, with piano, violins, a guitar, discolights, a crowd in front of a stage and happy faces staring at me.

I cannot believe how much I love culture, and how much I hate certain people ruining forests, depleting fish stocks, contaminating water and relying on easy-accessible energy sources such as fossil fuels… But it would be wrong to say I hate myself. I live in a country with a big ecological footprint, and I am neither a vegetarian nor living simple. But I do eat plain food.

We are all concerned about the environment, but it worries me most that the changes that need to be accomplished are unrealistic, in a way it involves changing a whole culture in a very short time. And it involves finding a solution for poverty, food shortage, pollution, selfish businesman running an oil or car company and so much more. But it involves most of all a change in our way of living: no more two televisions, personal computers, bathrooms, cars houses. No more five brands for one product, fashion that alters every year, luxuruous hotels etc. It will destory the economy and ruin the affluence we have built up for so long a time. Might one still wonder whether the above solutions are possible in any way…

Demotivated I realise the globalization put everything in the spot lights, but some people – important, rich people – seem to close their eyes. Are they blinded by greed? Or do they just realise the effort will not be worth the prize?

People hide from the truth, and unconciously we share this fear that the rich people may be right, and that they are acting because they know the battle for planet earth has already been lost.

Read Full Post »