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When the Ill is ‘Pimped’ as the Cure

An Anthropological Critique of ‘Sustainable Development’ Ideologies as Applied to the Amazon Rainforest

Bachelor of Arts Thesis
Suzanne Nievaart e-mail: suzanne.nievaart@gmail.com Scriptie begeleiders: Dr. Gerd Baumann Drs. Beatrice Simon Cultural Anthropology and Sociology of Non-Western Societies University of Amsterdam 20-09-2006

When the Ill is ‘Pimped’ as the Cure

Table of Contents

Introduction Death to Amazonia and Filling the Bellies of the Wealthy Development as the Ill and the Cure? The Sustainability of Poverty Blaming the Victim The Overpopulation of Overconsumers Whose Future is ‘Sustainable’? Mañana, Mañana Conclusion References Appendices A : Deforestation Rates in Amazonia B : Growth of Soy Planted Area in Brazil C : Soybean Imports and Exports D : Photos of Soybean Cultivation in Brazil E : Correlation Growth of GDP in Brazil and Amazon Deforestation F : Population Growth and Urbanization in Amazonia

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Introduction
In a ‘top-down’ approach to sustainable development, which is unfortunately the case in most projects, there is rarely consideration for what people on the ground, at the local level, want and need. What is the ideal of sustainability to them? Environmental and development agencies try to get around this problem by introducing the concept of so-called ‘participation’, but this does not fully place the power in the hands of the people directly. Rather, they are allowed to ‘participate’ in the top-down scheme. How generous. Drawing from Persoon and van Est (2000), I will discuss an anthropology of the ‘future’ as an alternative to this approach, to see what sustainability means at the local level. Throughout the literature on development in general and industrial agriculture in particular, social scientists and other critics signal symptoms of a sick system. It is ‘aid’ gone awry, as unintended consequences of ‘fighting’ poverty – increasing poverty and environmental destruction – appear because of exactly the same tools that caused poverty to begin with. These phenomena are found in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Soybean cultivation in the Brazilian Amazon is a prime example of this illness, where consumption patterns of the wealthy in Western Europe affect the daily lives and environment of the poor in Latin America. This case study has been widely discussed, yet the system with all its ills and effects continues and increases unabated today. Not only is it time for this suffering to end, it is time for those promoting this system to face up to its tragic consequences. In 1987, the Brundtland commission launched the term ‘sustainable development’ into the international political arena (WCED 1987). Since then, it has formed a precedent for the neoliberal approach to ‘developing’ populations, and planning their futures. ‘Sustainable development’ is thus a continuation of the hegemonic development discourse and paradigm, which, according to Escobar (1995), disguises power relations. In the Brundtland report to the UN, Our Common Future, ‘fighting’ poverty is deemed necessary in order to achieve sustainability, because poverty leads to unsustainable practices. Despite its shortcomings, as I will discuss in this thesis, this position has maintained its course into the UN’s Millennium Development Goals. True, sustainability is impossible as long as there is poverty; however, the danger in emphasizing this fact is that actors of the neoliberal capitalist world market oversimplify it as “poor people cause environmental problems”. I will argue that this is a result of the concept of sustainability now being a part of the larger capitalist discourse of development. I will deconstruct this discourse, to show that the relationship between poverty and the environment is actually the reverse, as the poor are truly the victims of poverty as well as environmental problems. I will draw on Frank’s (1972) dependency theory of ‘metropoles and satellites’ relations to explain these contexts, and I will
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demonstrate that they are reproduced in the neoliberal free-trade system, which is the postmodern form of the capitalist world system of power relations, as analyzed by Wallerstein (1974). Among others, Esteva’s (1992) critique is that the development discourse perpetuates an attitude in which ‘underdeveloped’ populations are inferior to ‘developed’ populations, creating a detrimental approach to relations on both sides. Therefore, I shall use the term ‘poverty’ to replace the term ‘underdevelopment’ in Frank’s theory. According to Frank, poverty is generated by the same historical process that generated the development of capitalism itself. Therefore, I will look at the cause of poverty, as being wealth accumulated in the world capitalist system of the metropoles by appropriating natural resources of the satellites in order to accumulate material goods, as the root of environmental problems. Different actors of the sustainable development discourse live by different definitions of sustainability. Their respective definitions allow them to act in various contradictory ways. Their perceptions of the Amazonian rainforest most often differ from its inhabitants. Therein I suggest that the ‘mañana’ philosophy in Latin America is a concept for sustainability. To be clear, the ‘mañana’ attitude is not one of laziness, but rather one of ‘non-stress’. How does this concept of the future relate to the concept of future generations in the Brundtland definition of sustainability? Poverty, like sustainability, is an endlessly contested concept throughout development studies. I will not define it according to any statistically derived formula, such as the World Bank and the UN attempt with their GDP measurements or ‘dollar-a-day’ pleas. Instead, its definition in itself is part of the ill instead of the cure. The labelling of people as being ‘poor’ by the Brazilian government, local or international NGOs, development programs and projects, perpetuates judgments of their inferiority, ignorance and insufficiency, which the people themselves often then internalize as if these were their inherent characteristics (see ScheperHughes 1992). Who defines poverty and what this implies certainly depends on whose interests this represents, and the different definitions create tensions between these different actors, much like the sustainability concept. Do the ‘poor’ see themselves as such, and if so, is this because others imposed it? These are questions that anthropologists would want answered in any study of poverty. Therein, poverty has multiple dimensions: economic, cultural and ecological. This said, in this thesis I will focus on those Brazilians that have found themselves victims of a system that deprives them of their economic and/or ecological means to survive. In their struggle to gain economic capital for survival, they are blamed for depleting the ecological capital of the ‘commons’, as is evident in the case of soybean cultivation in the Brazilian Amazon. In Amazonia, the ‘poor’ are not often able to fuel their fires for cooking with anything other than the young trees, and therefore receive the blame for deforestation. Meanwhile, large logging companies and agrochemical companies are
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Death to Amazonia and Filling the Bellies of the Wealthy One of the big problems with Latin America has been that relations among the countries. Since then. and does not seem to have a tendency of stopping anytime soon. Brazil was reified in the popular imagination as ‘the place where they’re burning all the forests’ (Cleary 1991: 116). I have repeatedly received chain protest e-mails in my inbox from concerned friends. Deforestation. and Chico Mendes represents a turning point in the global consciousness of environmental issues (Perz 2002). foreign imperial powers (Chomsky 1999: 99). the large foreign companies dominated the market in the end. See Appendix A for a graph showing the increasing deforestation rate since 1978. in the name of ‘development’. even among regions within the countries. For the past twenty years. Amazonia is the icon of the environmental movement as the ‘lung of the earth’. however. to stop deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest. to sketch here the main outlines of the changing politics of the agroindusty as it pertains to the Brazilian case. factories and electric generators…Its preservation is therefore crucial for moderating global warming. it has become apparent that Brazil’s tropical forest has been under a massive transformation due to deforestation (Bilsborrow 1997: 9). despite the risks of selective historical summaries. wealthy elites have exploited the native and African populations. for the past five years. through ‘the open veins of Latin Suzanne Nievaart -420/09/2006 . have largely been broken and they have individually been related to. became aware of Amazonia (Cleary 1991: 117). people around the world are concerned about the forest. even though it is very far from their homes. To understand the recent and pending ‘developments’. it is useful. absorbing some of the increasing quantity of carbon man is pouring in the air largely due to the burning of fossil fuels by automobiles. In 1988. ‘The role of Amazonia in Brazil’s national economy has historically been that of an extractive periphery in the world system. Amazonia is seen by environmentalists as ‘important in terms of carbon sequestration. It has been the source of heated political debate and formed the stage for many of Brazil’s policies. a region of rich natural resources that were exported for processing elsewhere’ (Perz 2002: 45). still continues today. and hence dependent on. However. Wealth as the cause of poverty is imbedded in Brazil’s historical colonial context of slavery and discrimination. probably also in regulating global weather systems’ (Bilsborrow 1997: 6-7). the world went in uproar. Since the 1970s. whereby the ill is peddled as the cure (Hall 1989: 234).When the Ill is ‘Pimped’ as the Cure destroying the bulk of the forest. when the rubber tapper cum activist Chico Mendes was assassinated. throughout the nineties. Even now. and for the first time. while enjoying European lifestyles. Since the European invasion of the Americas.

as interest on interest is collected. which led to increased social polarization and poverty. while only a small percentage went to schools and hospitals. exports. ‘the business of debts’ results in the lenders earning while the borrowers lose. This form of “internal colonialism” ‘wishes to dispose of Amazonia in three ways: consume it. and Stiglitz 2002). mass migrations. the Brazilian government further intensified this scheme. to ensure their loyalty to the U.S. investors. Lending from commercial banks. writes Klein. it is a pure commercial trade-off. At the same time. were often spent unwisely on arms. export it. This is echoed by Sachs’ (1999) and simultaneously Radermacher’s (2004) notion of ‘global apartheid’ based on class. and set the tone for the proceeding decennia of socio-economic as well as ecological transformations. the perception of Amazonia was of an ‘empty space. the oil crisis propelled Brazil into a debt crisis (Rist 1997: 122). this has led to accelerated deforestation. Amazonia itself was a project for development. ripe for development’ (Cleary 1991: 120).When the Ill is ‘Pimped’ as the Cure America’ (Galeano 1973). In Latin America. the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank became the guarantors of 80% of these debts. placed Amazonia on the international political and popular environmental agenda (Ibid. forced into squatting land and clearing the Amazonian forest for survival (Leonel 1992). While the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) increased. Suzanne Nievaart -520/09/2006 . higher loans than were needed were given to Latin American countries frivolously by U. whereby they implemented their ‘Structural Adjustment Programs’ (SAPs) for repayments (Stiglitz 2002). and get rid of the landless and other marginalized people by settling them there’ (Leonel 1992: 9).). reinforcing processes of inclusion and exclusion throughout the region. This name was given for a set of deregulation and free-trade policies to increase Latin American export production and open the market for multinationals by privatizing public services. protecting the ‘haves’ from the ‘have-nots’ (2002: XX. where fences create a global security state instead of a ‘global village’. large industry etc. Klein 2002. Large industrial projects like the Green Revolution accelerated the widening gap between rich and poor. From the 16th Century onwards. These loans.S. in turn. only the wealthy elite benefited and the poor became marginalized. In this stage of capitalism. In a battle for power. the ‘commons’ are for sale. see also Stiglitz 2002). meanwhile improving the bank’s image as a ‘donor’ (Hertz 2004: 46). expanded drugs trade. Hertz 2004. There are countless accounts of devastation due to the ‘SAPs’ of the IMF and the World Bank (George 1997. entailing deforestation and human resettlement. ‘Debtor countries had to accept IMF and World Bank ever more intrusive control over their internal economic policies…But developing countries were by now in no position to argue’ (Hertz 2004: 71).. After 1970. Historically. which in turn. Chomsky 1999. After the ‘Brady Plan’ of 1989. so that they would not join “the Reds” by receiving loans from the Soviet Union during the Cold War (Hertz 2004: 26). with the goal to eliminate global debt. deepening poverty..

which require so much agriculture. but in fact it is merely a self-justifying construct’ (Burgess 1996: 134). Since the SAPs. they were a ‘powerful symbol of external interference in domestic Brazilian affairs’. Crucial to Brazil’s increased export earnings is the expansion in exports of soybeans. Large-scale industrial development programmes designed to repay foreign debt. such as the Grande Carajás Programme. reinforces inequality in an unethical manner (Giddens 2000): ‘Business ethics exalts the will to power and egoism. increased land clearing for highway construction. In the 1990s. both poverty and environmental destruction ‘are directly linked to the ongoing debt crisis and the neoliberal “structural adjustment” programs’ (Keen and Haynes 2000: 581). Appendix C demonstrates the direction of soya on the global market: Western Europe imports the majority of soybean products from Brazil. it is apparent that ‘the ideology of development pretends to be a self-evident truth. which is used as food protein for livestock in Europe. modern agriculture is the most wide-spread form of Amazonian ‘colonization’ in Brazil. the debt service outweighs received ‘development’ and ‘aid’ funding (Poppema 2004). Too bad for the losers!’ (Latouche 1997: 139). recreating the so-called ‘hamburger connection’ of the 1980s’ cattle-ranching (Redclift and Goodman 1991: 52). The modern commercial agricultural sector. there was no consideration for the environment. presented the ‘Enterprise for the Americas Initiative’ as a solution to the debt burden. agriculture. see also Treece 1993: 62. although this supported the interest of the neoliberals. some would argue. in part due to new production in Amazonia. Free trade was solely designed in economic terms. Although debt-for-nature programmes. This ‘free’ market system. is widely seen as a leading cause of deforestation in Amazonia. particularly the European Community. It is in fact the ‘modern food system’ and the mass consumption of the wealthy elite. Brazil’s foreign debt. which receive funding from OECD countries. and scorns the weak and the losers. President Bush Sr.When the Ill is ‘Pimped’ as the Cure leading to global instability and conflict (George 1997: 207). It falls back glibly into Social Darwinism when it is caught red-handed. Brazilian agriculture contributed substantially to national economic growth and servicing of the national debt through the expansion of exports of processed goods in demand by international markets. which were designed to protect the forest. logging. and so the ill is prescribed as the cure. have been keen to make loans for infrastructure projects in Amazonia (Perz 2002: 47). Thus. mining and oil and gas extraction (Cleary 1991: 121-128. Recently. Therefore. despite the international criticism Brazil was receiving for the destruction of Amazonia. in the form of non-traditional products such as the soybean. This is one reason why multilateral banks. and Hall 1989). which furthered Brazil’s dependence on foreign investors (Cleary 1991: 134). by implementing a free market system (O’Brien 1991: 35). were also popular during this time. which is considered one of Suzanne Nievaart -620/09/2006 . In 1990. therefore. Appendix B shows the growth of soy planted area in Brazil from 1995 to 2003.

as the prices they received for their products did not or barely covered the cost of their inputs.S. such as the soybean production in Argentina and Brazil.. as a ‘comprehensive remedy’ intended to alleviate poverty and hunger and to increase technological and economic progress (Roberts and Thanos 2003: 69).When the Ill is ‘Pimped’ as the Cure the technology sectors. and the farmers were now charged for new seeds. see also Roberts and Thanos 2003: 60). The ‘Green Revolution’ was a development programme ‘exported as part of U. based on the modern grains-livestock complex. during the 50s. this appealed to the rural poor. increasing real wages and levels of personal consumption. prior to the Green Revolution. these products were subsidized. however. yet drained the rural economy of Brazil (Roberts and Thanos 2003: 69 and de Souza Silva 1991: 87). ‘agricultural machines. The same phenomenon had already occurred in the United States. but the following years the multinationals demanded a share of the profits. fertilizers. Due to North American and European protectionism. in the 1940s and 1950s.S.S. irrigation installations and agricultural equipment’ (de Souza Silva 1991: 87). as the increased demand for products made there boosted the U. seeds. forcing them into their corporate crop rotation cycle (Roberts and Thanos 2003: 70. and 70s. Reis and Blanco 1997).). ‘The Green Revolution was seen as the quickest means of generating the capital necessary to drive modernization’ and to feed the ever-growing and hungry populations of the ‘Third World’ (Roberts and Thanos 2003: 69). is only enjoyed by the wealthy elite. and so it fell short of delivering encompassing relief to poverty and famine in developing nations’ (Roberts and Thanos 2003: 69). 60s. Farmers must import agricultural inputs. It was chiefly a package of genetically modified seeds. or intended for export. in the core industrial countries’ (Redclift and Goodman 1991: 49).S. pesticides. As small farmers became dependent on the agricultural inputs. Of course. leaving them indebted (de Souza Silva 1991: 86. is an unequal exchange on the global market. and Stiglitz 2002: 32). farmers in Brazil could not compete. and the farmers were promised ‘high yields’ and a greater income for the cash crops destined for export. during the ‘so-called ‘Fordist’ regime of post-war accumulation. It was first introduced in India in 1967. ‘It also reinforced Suzanne Nievaart -720/09/2006 . Reis and Blanco 1997. countries in Africa and Latin America soon followed. and machinery from corporations and receive very little in return for their agricultural products (Roberts and Thanos 2003: 70. and due to its ‘success’. This ‘Fordist’ diet. aid projects’. as they had patented the seeds. The cash crops were also destined for the modern food system that was designed in the U. the Green Revolution principally created markets for the U. their own food production was sidelined. Thus. Initially. creating a double dependence on imports (Ibid. The Green Revolution ‘was not introduced into a social vacuum. agroindustry. which was a photocopy of this large-scale industrial agriculture meant to support the growing fast-food market (Schlosser 2001: 117-119).

multinationals such as Monsanto/Cargill have not only financed the clearing of the forest for agricultural land. Monsanto has even created a hybrid seed that will resist its own pesticide. promoting sales in both of its products (Roberts and Thanos 2003: 71). Roundup Ready was finally approved by the Brazilian Government in 2005. such as moving to the cities where they end up in the misery of the favelas. why have we remained committed to a pesticide-intensive development ideology?’ (Ibid. Fearnside et al 2004. as well as large-scale development strategies. Angelsen and Kaimowitz 1999. After a seven year lobby by Monsanto (2005). such as Monsanto/Cargill. in order to sell their fertilizers. under a new agreement (Baker and Small 2005). financed the clearing of the forests. causes of deforestation coincide: Primarily. which led to Suzanne Nievaart -820/09/2006 . Roberts and Thanos poignantly ask: ‘If the percentage of crops lost to pests has remained invariable over the last sixty years. See Appendix D for photographs illustrating soybean cultivation and pesticide use in Brazil. ‘pests continue to destroy around 37 percent of the world’s agricultural products. Roundup Ready soybeans were planted in Brazil in the period 2002-2003. Perz 2002. therefore Monsanto will receive one percent of the sales earned on Roundup Ready soy crop being harvested and two percent of the sales of the fall crop. and Schaeffer and Rodrigues 2005). before the onset of the Green Revolution. ‘The ultimate causes are usually the same – the greed of outsiders and. or moving into the rainforest.When the Ill is ‘Pimped’ as the Cure and worsened the economic and social cleavages that have divided… people for centuries… leaving the poor to slip into marginality or wage laborer status’ (Roberts and Thanos 2003:69). Multinational companies. while a moratorium was in effect (Altieri and Pengue 2006). In 1940. pests caused the loss of 35-40 percent of all global agricultural production’ (Roberts and Thanos 2003: 70). railway lines. and roads to bring inputs and take away produce. land conflicts and violence. Furthermore. which in turn lead to more displacement and migration. There is growing concern and mounting evidence of the dangers of pesticide use for both humans and the environment. named Roundup. Monsanto owns the patents of these soy seeds.). by producers in Brazil. Other crucial factors in deforestation are signalled as the opening of the forest by road construction starting in the 1960s. The ‘poor’ resort to coping strategies to survive. Thus. it is due to migration to Amazonia form the poverty-stricken poor Northeast and South in a government displacement program. to much lesser extent if at all. These seeds are called the ‘Roundup Ready’ variety. the needs of locals’ (Sponsel 1995: 265). In numerous studies of the Brazilian Amazon. which in turn. reinforcing processes of inclusion and exclusion historically found in Brazilian society. Green Revolution agrochemical inputs and technologies have had devastating consequences for the environment. they have also financed the construction of waterways. pesticides and other agrochemical products. Ironically. allows outsiders to blame them for ‘slash-and-burn’ deforestation (Fearnside 1988. Furthermore.

corporatists maintain that their Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are the solution to poverty and hunger. The soils that have been diverted to soybean for exports would previously support a sustainable form of diversified agriculture of beans. The history of development and thus deforestation in Amazonia lies precisely in the fact that ‘for several centuries Amazonia was more linked to the world market than to the heartland of the countries to which it belonged’ (Pansters 1992: 7). as they do not allow for diversity on Suzanne Nievaart -920/09/2006 . whereby the cure of ‘development’ became the ill(Ibid. which would mean that the entire population should technically have had more than enough to eat. This is the political nature of the economic coin: on one side is wealth. which is poverty. Soybean production not only contributes to displacement among small farmers and agricultural workers. since traditionally farmers are producers of primary needs. but their food security is also at stake. homogenous. wherein the ill is sold as the cure. as illustrated in Appendix E. fruits and vegetables.). Griffin et al. maize. Shiva 1993 and 1995). the surplus was exported and hunger was widespread among the rural poor. Top-down. yet the number and proportion of poverty increased simultaneously.). As Brazil’s GDP increased. but in reality. universalistic development schemes proved inadequate. In Brazil. mining. deforestation increased. They promise farmers increasing yields. agricultural production more than doubled. increasing more rapidly than the population. not the other way around. and they promise that ‘conservation tillage’ methods actually benefit the environment (Ibid. Appendix A indicates the increase of deforestation along the major highways in Amazonia. between 1960 and 1990. 2005). and now the farmers often buy their food from the supermarket. see also Redclift and Goodman 1991). and the capitalist ‘world system’ (Shiva 1993: 72. This is an ironic ‘dualism’ (Hall 1989: 240). which imports it from São Paolo (Lutzenberger 1993: 88. in turn. a result of the ‘ideology of development’. ranching and other environmentally destructive practices. which are exported to the city. indicating a concentration of the GDP into the hands of a few wealthy and powerful elite (Barradough and Gimme 1995: 53). which does not benefit them economically nor the forest ecologically. which increase the classic causes of deforestation in Amazonia (Altieri and Pengue 2006. There is also a large discussion concerning genetically modified seeds. which cannot exist without the other side. and Wallerstein 1974). and are actually sustainable (Monsanto 2006. they promise consumers increasing quality and quantity of agricultural products. Environmental activists and scientists warn against the inevitability of biodiversity destruction by biotechnology. This is. implying a direct correlation between this exportoriented ideology of development and environmental destruction.When the Ill is ‘Pimped’ as the Cure private investment in logging. improved protection from insects and disease. see also Altieri and Pengue 2006). Meanwhile. Yet. the ‘average’ per capita income increased. as well as the plight of the poor due to patenting (Bickel and Dros 2003.

which inherently produces private wealth and public poverty. ‘Every act of development involves. and land in Amazonia has historically been a reason for strife and conflict. an act of destruction’ (Appell in Sponsel 1995: 269). In each moment of exchange. such as São Paulo. according to Frank. Development as the Ill and the Cure? By imposing such a huge transfer of resources from Latin America to the West. and migration for seasonal employment has increased as a result. are dependant on the metropoles.When the Ill is ‘Pimped’ as the Cure the ground (Escobar 1995). leaving those producing that wealth in poverty. The capitalist development discourse is a hegemonic. which has often led to violence and impoverishment (Redclift and Goodman 1991: 53-54). the creditors had accelerated the destruction of Latin’ America’s environment. and created the conditions for social and economic collapse rather than sustainable development (O’Brien 1991: 36). the clearest case of ‘the development of underdevelopment’ or the development of poverty: the metropoles develop while the satellites ‘underdevelop’ and their poverty increases. socially and environmentally. The satellites. whereby they become doubly dependent on the metropoles for survival. of necessity. as the satellites are depleted.10 20/09/2006 . originating in colonization. Small farmers and rural workers have continually been displaced to make way for ‘development’ projects. yet it is sold as the solution. replicating its projects throughout the world. It has an exploitative power relationship and class structure. ideological paradigm. The history of Brazil is. Such a resource that is appropriated by the metropoles is land. in this case Amazonia. whereas the satellites are economically subordinated to provide the wealthy elite in the metropoles with raw materials and labour in order to produce the export products for the luxurious metropoles. and by insisting that Latin America should increase exports come hell or high water to pay the interest on the debt. Neo-Marxist Frank (1972) proposed that the ‘underdevelopment’ of the satellites is part of the same historical process of economic development in the metropoles: the development of capitalism itself. I will now turn to an analysis and critique of the capitalist discourse of development to explain the ideological and historical context of this case study. replicated in imperialism and is being reinforced by free trade and the global world market today (Shanin 1997). economically. Wallerstein (1974) echoes Frank’s thesis in his ‘modern world system’ (capitalism) and replaces the names of metropoles and satellites with the names ‘core’ and periphery. Development itself is the problem. It is hegemonic in its prescriptions. which results in wealth flowing in one direction. for trade and manufactured goods. Wallerstein sees capitalism as an ideology. Frank demonstrated that when the ties Suzanne Nievaart . and its modernisation assumptions rest on a scientific-rational ideology inherited from enlightenment thinking (Shiva 1993). the wealthy metropoles gain more wealth. pushed the poor into even greater poverty.

Frank’s hypotheses and the ‘dependentistas’ theories were very progressive for their time. which Johnson (1972) noted was apparent in the 1950s. They rejected Rostow’s ideal-typical ‘stages’ of development as a-historical.. The capitalist system itself. Frank showed. mainly foreign landowners. which induced the soybean production in Amazonia. repatriated for the foreign markets of the metropoles. replaces the dominance of European colonial power through the ‘monopoly’ of capital (Rist 1997: 111). in order to repay the loans. post-development critics are quick to point out that the dependencia school does not ‘challenge the basic presuppositions’ of development itself. export production is increased.S. the satellites develop more. for which more loans are needed. the promotion of an exportoriented economy instead of self-sustenance. new loans were taken out. has meant uneven development throughout history. However. ‘which comes down to the idea that growth is necessary to gain access to the Western mode of consumption’ (Rist 1997: 121). and continues today (Khor 1996. this system of power relations is a modern version of imperialism. This is a virtual repetition of the style of free trade that was introduced at the beginning of the nineteenth century. These are the results of transactions framed by uneven power structures (Goldsmith 1996[1]). and so continues the vicious cycle (Hertz 2004 and Morris 1996). Rist Suzanne Nievaart . however. when the latifundia replicated the capitalist colonial formation of the rural class structure and mode of production in Latin America: a few large. This outcome was due to unsurpassable foreign competition. did not quite materialize in the way he had hoped. In order to produce for export. Since the 1980s. the ill repeatedly peddled as the cure. As foreign debt is added to the mix. This is a process that continues today with the soybean cultivation in Brazil.11 20/09/2006 . wherefore inequality between the satellites and metropoles are the necessary foundations of this system. victimizing the poor and further depleting Amazonian rainforest. and many exploited labourers producing monoculture exports. Although Frank and Wallerstein have been criticized by ‘post-development’ theorists in the 1990s as unable to deliver actual solutions to the problems they posed. This revolution. and today’s myth of the ‘trickle down’ effect (Latouche 1997).S. And. Reagan and Thatcher style free trade and neoliberal policies took the upper hand. The emergence of giant corporations from the U. It is mainly U. The Marxist theorist Frank therefore proposed a socialist revolution for Latin America. foreign debt was accumulated. which is opposite to the common hypotheses of development at the time. and progressive income inequality.-based multinational corporations that receive the largest profits.When the Ill is ‘Pimped’ as the Cure to the metropoles are weak. Reis and Blanco 1997) as a form of ‘corporate colonialism’ (Goldsmith 1996[2]). In order to service this debt. such as ‘Monsanto’s system of total control on food’ (RFSTE 2004). reinforcing the metropole-satellite exploitation (Stiglitz 2002: 13). which was a model on which most of his peers based their development theories. reinforcing their hegemony in the world market.

Illich (1997) compares economic development to Coca-Cola. has been widely criticized as a patriarchal form of (neo)colonialism. As a concept. to colonisation. Both these ‘alternatives’ merely promoted more development assistance. as the poverty of the Other two-thirds of the world’s population posed a threat to the security of the wealthy (Sachs 1996). as a ‘package deal’ consumption form of education that is exported from the metropoles to the satellites as if that were the key to prosperity and happiness. Shiva 1993). as the idea of fulfilling essential human needs of food. Around the same time. Escobar 1995. Suzanne Nievaart . and echoes through the still-pervasive temple of economic ‘growth’ (Castles 2000 and Shanin 1997). from the Industrial Revolution. Sachs refutes the idea that the metropole-satellite division of the world ‘can be overcome by accelerating the course along the racetrack of ‘development’ (1997: 296). Yet.When the Ill is ‘Pimped’ as the Cure suggests the center-periphery theory is ‘just another variant of the dichotomy of tradition and modernity’ (Ibid. domination. The 1975 UN Report What Now proposed ‘Another Development’ in response to criticism of the universalistic. which we can still see today. to modernization. which is suggested by the dependentistas’ ideas of ‘underdevelopment’: the ‘development of the satellites was being ‘blocked’ (Rist 1997: 120). power. However. ‘development’ further deepened poverty and social unrest. in the reactionary terrorism against super-powers the United States and the United Kingdom. This approach looks beyond the economic dimension and linear thought. the World Bank continued to support large-scale development projects of outside interference instead of the local. Burgess 1996. and Stiglitz 2002: 34). the ‘basic needs approach’ was launched by the World Bank’s president Robert McNamara in 1972 (Rist 1997: 160). grassroots level (Rist 1997 163-164). turning global poverty into a ‘problem’ and the focus of attention: a ‘project’ for the wealthy to solve. imperialism. and control (Rahnema 1997. Development. and the ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach of the 1960s (Rist 1997: 155. Post-development theorists thus look to “think outside the box” of the ideology of progress in order to find an alternative approach to poverty. to urbanization. Goldsmith 1996[2]. clothing and shelter was certainly not new in development projects. it is derived from the history of the teleological belief in and idea of progress.). The most important exclusion. intervention. racism. not by new knowledge but by the systematic inclusion of new objects under its domain. Truman’s post World War II speech is signalled throughout the literature as a turning point for ‘progress’ to become ‘development’. By 1955 a discourse had emerged which was characterized not by a unified object but by the formation of a vast number of objects and strategies. however. photocopy type of development models. as an ideology and paradigm. Again. was and continues to be what development was supposed to be all about: people (Escobar 2002: 86).12 20/09/2006 . the ill is promoted as the cure. when it is.

which raises its GDP significantly. the discussion bypasses the interests of local people (Mowforth and Munt 2003: 275). although uncovered as a myth and a paradox by the post-development theorists that began with Illich as early as the late 1960s (Rahnema 1997: xiv). Since there has not been a paradigm shift. which is in fact what reinforces poverty in the satellites (Poppema 2004). However. the definitions of ‘sustainability’ and ‘sustainable development’ are highly contested. Brazil is the second largest exporter of soya. the ‘limits to growth’ are still not taken seriously (Tellegen 2006). Today. They criticise the idea of development but fail to stop talking about the world as divided by these two categories: the developed and the underdeveloped. the UN launched the fashionable ‘Human Development Index’.When the Ill is ‘Pimped’ as the Cure like Coca-Cola. but nonetheless continuing in the logic of modernity. because this period proved to be a failure for economic development. This also rings true for soya: it deprives Brazilians of their food security yet fattens the bellies of the wealthy in Western Europe.as promoters of ‘alternative’ development would assume . as the Brundtland definition was initially vague and open to interpretation. Thus. which adds a ‘humanitarian gloss’ to the ethnocentrism of the all-important growth of the GDP as a sign of progress and economic development (Latouche 1997). there is no paradigm shift . ‘The development myth all sell or promote images of ‘a better future’ for our children. by Suzanne Nievaart . the dichotomy remains. Although they may be given different names. This issue pertains to the food security that is lost for the Brazilians due to the soybean cultivation. and implies that those that are to be ‘developed’ are inferior to those that are already ‘developed’. In reaction to the ‘lost decade’.they are still working within the same economic model (Nederveen Pieterse 1998). truly all marketing. This reinstates the ‘famous trickle down effect’. post-development theorists do not truly present an alternative paradigm. More noticeable is the way in which much. I will demonstrate that sustainable development is therefore a reiteration of the development discourse. health and infrastructure of the 1980s (Escobar 2002). in order to maintain the marketability and attractiveness of this commodity. while in fact their operations are doing these people and their children out of their very livelihoods’ (Burgess 1996: 138). and therefore commodified within the different development discourses. The concentration of wealth in the metropoles is today still not addressed as the biggest problem. Yet. In the next section. despite the Club of Rome report in 1975. with no actual nutritional value.13 20/09/2006 . if not all. The 1980s were coined the ‘lost decade’. The Sustainability of Poverty It is also clear that the drive ‘towards environmentally sustainable development’ is a commercial necessity. Even the UN’s ‘Millennium Development Goals’ still promote the same package deals of education. yet it is reiterated by those promoting the concepts of ‘social development’ and ‘sustainable development’ today.

‘Pimping poverty’ in development programs. is poverty packaged and sold as hype. acts as an intermediary on behalf of the poor…Poverty pimps gain a higher quality of existence from exploiting the poverty of others’ (Loughner 2005). Their applications are either a form of ‘green-washing’ or enable the continuation of the ‘free-trade’ approach to capitalist development. Nowadays. the Club of Rome’s publication. In this way poverty is presented as a fashion craze. As a result.14 20/09/2006 . like many quick-fix pharmaceutical drugs. such as the debt-for-nature swaps applied to Amazonia. promising those that join the bandwagon some quick and easy feel-good values. and not curing what causes the illness to begin with: development itself. For example. which are discussed in the literature. whereby the ill is prescribed as the cure. ‘sustainable development’ was proposed as an answer to the accelerating environmental movements of the 1960s and 1970s. the creation of this system reinforces the metropole-satellite exploitation. assuming the poor have the same opportunities for economic gain or environmental preservation as the wealthy elites. Gasper 1996). This may be a result of individualization trends that Marx (1932) signalled as ‘alienation’ due to the capitalist division of labour. instead of looking at the behaviour in their own daily lives as a contribution to the solution. they have become ‘buzzwords’ and have lost their original meaning that was intended by the WCED. there is even talk of “pimping” poverty. Therefore. or in cancelling debt such as the Live8 campaign. with all its pop-star sex appeal (Plug 2006). which recognized the environmental Suzanne Nievaart .povertyfighters. Friedman’s (2005) ‘level playing field’ theory is based on the equality of all people. to its own benefit. using MTVjargon to make poverty “sexy” (Plug 2006). neoliberal leaders have taken these terms and applied them to the advantage of their own agendas. adding yet another dimension to the term ‘pimping’.com). Named ‘the greening of capitalism’ (Smith 2002: 173). Using the term ‘pimp’ in this context adds another dimension to the already known concept of the controversial ‘poverty pimps’ posing as aid workers. There is ‘considerable confusion surrounding what is to be sustained’ (Redclift 2005: 214). thus the neoliberals are ‘pimping’ the ill as if it were the cure. the ‘fight’ has lost its momentum. However. so that people would prefer to make a difference without it being too complicated: sending a text message via mobile phone or wearing a white plastic bracelet (Plug 2006). ‘The term “poverty pimp” is defined as a derogatory label for an individual or group which. and only seems to be increasing. they are ‘fighting’ the symptoms of a sick system. so that young people become involved to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (Ad hoc 2005). see also www. such as demonstrated by Frank (1972). Because poverty as a ‘problem’ has existed for so long (since Truman). so that the ‘war on poverty’ is ultimately a paradox (Loungani 2003.When the Ill is ‘Pimped’ as the Cure its promoters (Mowforth and Munt 2003. Sustainable development marketers thus encourage people to ‘fight’ poverty. in the intention to popularize development. Limits to Growth.

How generous it is that the “beneficiaries” (Rahnema in Escobar 2002: 79) of these development projects may take part. most sustainable development approaches continue to employ patriarchal. Shiva 1995. yet they do have their own agency. they fail to address the power inequities that reproduce poverty and all its facets. Thus. for the survival of future generations. After years of squatting and protests. The main contradiction in the report is that ‘the growth policy supposed to reduce poverty and stabilize the ecosystem hardly differs at all from the policy which historically opened the gulf between rich and poor and placed the environment in danger’ (Rist. Although the report names poverty as the cause and effect of global environmental problems (WCED 1987:3). 1997:181). Burgess 1996. Our Common Future. The report signalled the link between poverty and environmental degradation.When the Ill is ‘Pimped’ as the Cure problems of development. ‘Participation’ is a case in point. such as a minimal priority to the environment or to sustainability. that they were even asked. under the banner of ‘sustainable growth’ (Daly 1996). Suzanne Nievaart . as if they are otherwise ‘passive victims’ of oppression (Scott 1997). technocratic and ethnocentric ‘top-down’ approaches of social planning (Escobar 1995 and 2002). it has been easy for developmentalists to use it as a crutch to increase economic development programs similar to the past fifty years. Daly 1996. 1997:181). The famous Brundtland Report. The essentialist Brundtland definition of ‘sustainable development’ allows for neoliberals to blame the poor for environmental destruction. there is no reference to a solution that addresses both problems simultaneously. In the MST movement in Brazil the landless poor squat unused agricultural land of large estates. and paradoxically made Amazonia a site for both increased GDP and environmental concern. yet most environmentalists and postdevelopmentalists see development as the ill rather than the cure for both poverty and the environment (Sachs 1996. among others). Thus. 1997 and 1999. ‘the collision between ‘development’ and ‘environment’ led to theories on sustainable development’ (Holland 2002: 185).15 20/09/2006 . ‘the report and the commission hardly presented anything that would encourage the industrial countries to make basic changes in their consumption pattern’ (Rist. The poor are definitely victims of the system. According to Rist. even while introducing terms such as ‘participation’ and the ‘basic needs’ approach. Rist 1997. and in turn. civil society’s pressure on governments and businesses to pay attention to environmental issues in resource-rich satellites which have been exhaustively exploited since Truman’s call for economic ‘development’ of these ‘underdeveloped’ areas in 1946 (Tellegen 2006 and Sachs 1996). the government courts often rule in their favour so they are given legal ownership of the land. Since this report. called for the global need to ‘develop’ sustainably. which now provides many with self-sustenance (Hammond 1999). and a maximum profit for capitalists in the metropoles (Castles 2000).

so that the report remains vague and indefinite such as its policy recommendations and empirical evidence to support its base. whereby the economic vision excludes the majority of the world’s population. Furthermore. poverty and development policy. yet both are confronted by each other’s argumentation. while Sachs (1999) and others plead to leave the economic model of development behind us.When the Ill is ‘Pimped’ as the Cure ‘Needs’ . even though this group constitutes about 80% of all people (Sachs 1999: 30). The concept of sustainable development itself is thus such a paradox. but most of its promoters tend to prioritize the economic dimension. in order to achieve sustainability. as future generations will certainly not have the same needs as we have today (Redclift 2005: 213). Furthermore.16 20/09/2006 . where the ill of development is ‘pimped’ as the cure of sustainability. agriculture. the Brundtland definition still emphasizes the need for development. the ‘needs’ themselves change. The ‘poor’ are made into a problem. Monsanto. Similarly. and the ‘basic needs’ approach to development . Both environmentalists and developmentalists have their views represented and justified by the report. Whose ‘needs’ are they. contributing to processes of inclusion and exclusion (Redclift 2005: 215. Additionally.). ‘sustainable development’ remains an oxymoron (Redclift 2005). This most likely reflects the different interests of those in the WCED. Our Common Future is full of paradoxes. and Beckerman 1999: 83). people often ‘define their ‘needs’ in ways that effectively exclude other peoples’ livelihoods’.is another term that is very suspicious. the UN Development Program (UNDP) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) are ‘green-washing’ their image by promoting their projects as contributing to ‘sustainable development’ or ‘corporate social responsibility’. it ‘has passed into the everyday language of the politicians. Therefore. This is representative of the reality of diverging interests. as they are not participating in the formal world economy. there is a clear segregation between the environment and trade. leaving Amazonia up for grabs. Wealth creation itself reinforces poverty and exploitation. This is both its strength and its weakness. and therefore Redclift sees a syllogism emerge: ‘sustainable development is necessary for all of us. needs are culturally defined. but it may be defined differently in terms of each and every culture’ (Ibid. Its policy recommendations aim to please all parties. Moser 1995 and Sachs 1997). and is consequently in danger of losing any real meaning’ (O’Brien 1991: 24). Most of all. Since the concept of sustainability entered the political arena in 1987. and who decides what their needs are? (Rahnema in Escobar 2002: 79. in order not to imply or favour any one party in the process. Although every technocrat from the World Bank to the IMF. connecting sustainability to development requires a compromise between ecology and economy. In freeSuzanne Nievaart . therefore each new page of the report contradicts the preceding page and vice versa. which implies that economic growth shall continue to increase in the future.assumed in the Brundtland definition.

and participants of the forum are looking to reverse this phenomenon (Klein 2002: 199). Protests from the grass-roots. Blaming the poor for environmental destruction is an oversimplification: the poor are in their position due to a complex web of broader socio-economic and political circumstances. and the ‘undemocratic manner in which the agreements were created. The forum was initiated by various local NGOs and calls for a ‘radical form of local participatory democracy’ (Klein 2002: 202). the ‘free’ market as it Suzanne Nievaart . Blaming the Victim ‘As a matter of fact. which took place in Porto Alegre in 2001. as they are each presented in separate ‘Goals’. modernization.17 - 20/09/2006 . and passed’ (Nader and Wallach 1996: 92. free trade. nor are environmental matters included in the text of the agreements’ (Goldsmith 1996 [1]: 90). through industrialization. the UN’s Millennium Development Goals are not indicative of an acknowledgement that poverty. as I will discuss next. capitalism. it is the poor who suffer the most from the consequences of environmental degradation’ (Dahles & Keune 2002: 20). Therefore. I am looking to move the sustainable development discourse away from ‘blaming the victim’. post-war development. deeply rooted in a history of inequality. Therefore. with separate solutions to fix them (UN 2000). However. The forum is now an annual event and continues to grow and multiply into regional forums throughout the world (FSM 2006). This is most likely a result of the power of multinational corporations in such negotiations as NAFTA and GATT. racism and power relations beginning in colonialism. There are trends in Brazil showing that its society is indeed changing. the Brundtland definition of sustainable development is usually interpreted as: the poor all need to do and be the same as the rich. oppression. Multinationals have certainly succeeded in the WTO.When the Ill is ‘Pimped’ as the Cure trade negotiations ‘the environment is not a subject for negotiation. neoliberalism and multinational corporate domination. At the forum. development and the environment are inextricably linked. an amalgamation of ‘post-sustainability’ (Redclift 2005: 219) discourses. sold. are successful in the MST movement (Landless Peoples Movement) and the first World Social Forum. Similarly. the oil crisis which spurred on the debt crisis. there is an ‘alternative’ movement. which in turn spurred on the SAPs. Furthermore. globalization was defined as ‘a mass transfer of wealth and knowledge from public to private’. as separate problems. which started around the time of Chico Mendes in the 1980s. see also Chomsky 1999: 90). yet this is ecologically unsustainable. as their soya is now a major global commodity. in which this thesis is also situated: ‘There is a huge number of people in the world – probably the vast majority – that is strongly opposed to the economic and social policies being carried out on a global scale’ (Chomsky 1999: 92).

who work at and around the sugarcane plantations. The case study presented in this thesis is an example of the same phenomenon which Scheper-Hughes analyzed. in order to reveal the broader postcolonial capitalist system as the cause of poverty. the poor are blamed for their own poverty and every other problem that results from poverty. The postcolonial power structures with a history of slavery keep this group repressed and in a vicious circle of poverty and illness. Angelsen and Kaimowitz 1999. The poverty produced by this industry in the Northeast resulted in the migration to Amazonia. which starts at the government level and is filtered down to the poor themselves (Rocco 2006 and Deák 2001). Anthropologist Scheper-Hughes (1992) shows that the wealthy elite in Northeast Brazil look down on the poverty and disease of the population’s poorest citizens. Therefore. such as environmental destruction. wherein the victims receive the blame for the position in which they find themselves. replaces the previous success of the sugar cane plantations. and Schaeffer and Rodrigues 2005). cause environmental problems. Thus. and invisibility of the poor in Northeast Brazil. instead of the poor being the actual victims. repression. The agribusiness of soybean production. they are doubly dependant on the higher classes to provide them with food. as it is Brazil’s current leading export product. elsewhere in Brazil. Due to their lack of formal education. Fearnside et al 2004. The history of slavery on the plantations in Brazil during colonization set the tone for this inequality and discrimination (Scheper-Hughes 1992). forcing them to move into the rainforest for their livelihood. She pleads for an alternative view of poverty. powerlessness.When the Ill is ‘Pimped’ as the Cure appears today has produced severe consequences: deepening poverty. they are seen as ‘ignorant’ and this ignorance is seen as the reason that they pollute and destroy – not because of their poverty. one that steers clear of ‘blaming the victim’. ‘The roots of such extreme differences both in income and the quality of the environment go back to the origins of São Paulo and Brazilian society itself’ (Deák 2001: 1). They are also suffering due to the environmental consequences of the sugarcane plantations: this monoculture makes it impossible to grow any other crops. The underlying implication of the concept of ‘sustainable development’ is often that poverty. the finger is pointed at the ‘underdeveloped’ populations as soon as the sustainability issue surfaces. and thus poor people. ‘Can we at least stop calling it “free”?’ (Klein 2002: 71). and thus contributing to unsustainable practices (Perz 2002. In the development discourse of the past 20 years. Scheper-Hughes demonstrates the macro socio-economic context that determines the poverty.18 20/09/2006 . She demonstrates the result of the expression ‘blaming the victim’. inequality and environmental depletion. and break through the ‘culture of silence’. This is literally ‘blaming Suzanne Nievaart . It is a repetition of the same system. This blame is derived from an attitude of superiority prevalent in Brazil. and those same ‘peasants’ have in turn been displaced by the soybean production.

Suzanne Nievaart .or mañana attitude . which lead to its misinterpretation and abuse by actors in the neoliberal capitalist world market.19 - 20/09/2006 . which historically meant ‘progress’ and ‘modernization’ in the post-World War II era from which it evolved. This overconsumption is the ill for the environment. Scheper-Hughes poignantly addresses silence on several levels to represent the oppression of the poor and marginalized by the privileged classes.most often include recycling and reusing materials and consuming a bare minimum as opposed to the over-consumption patterns of the elite (Shiva 1995).When the Ill is ‘Pimped’ as the Cure the victim’. The Overpopulation of Overconsumers …only a small portion of the world’s resources serves the basic needs of the poor majority…who sink deeper into the trough of poverty and destitution. which leads to a ‘top-down’ form of environmental management. Secondly. As Scheper-Hughes demonstrated. as will be discussed below. and the poor are pitied and seen as outcasts. living on the fringe of ‘society’ (Rahnema in Escobar 2002: 79). with disastrous consequences for the local peoples. rarely are the poor seen as human beings with the same dignity as everyone else. Simultaneously. The poor most likely live much more sustainably in the periphery than the wealthy in the center. whereas the cure is often marketed as population reduction strategies. many of the development projects that have taken place in the past in Latin America have focused on economic development rather than environmental sustainability. in total disregard of the environment. Generally poverty is defined negatively. such as the culture of sustainability found in the mañana philosophy. Firstly. This is illustrated in the ‘bird’s-eye’ photograph of soybean cultivation in Amazonia on the cover. The local people have been taught to work towards this form of progress. as “awful” or “terrible”. Their survival strategies . such as depleted food security and displacement. she addresses the silence of these elites towards the suffering of the poor: they are necessarily marginalized and kept quiet in order to support their position of power. forming their own social structures and working hard in order to survive. Development implies economic progress. the systematic repression by the state and the elites. as a dysfunction. according to Sachs (1999). the poor are oppressed in a ‘culture of silence’ (Scheper Hughes 1992). which. which results in a silence of the poor. This form of ‘blaming the victim’ is due to the assumptions found in the ‘sustainable development’ discourse. Therefore. whether or not this was culturally valued originally. This view is derived from the concept of ‘development’. is detrimental to sustainability. that is necessary for their survival in such a political and economic climate. which I will discuss now. This is the ultimate environmental and social tragedy of our time (Khor 1996: 54).

poverty as the cause of environmental problems is often linked to the problematic idea of overpopulation. and Latin America would make an environmental impact immeasurably less than a decrease of only five per cent in present consumption levels of the richest countries (Shiva 1993: 268). environmental degradation. so that deterring population growth (which predominantly takes place under the ‘poor’) – by forced ‘family planning’ – is justified as an improvement for the environmental situation (Shiva 1993). as it determines their capacity for survival. Yet it is the wealthy that have the largest footprints.When the Ill is ‘Pimped’ as the Cure Environmental problems are not only blamed on the poor.20 - 20/09/2006 . In global terms…a drastic decrease of population in the poorest areas of Asia. and if the global population were to be 10 billion within the next century. in turn. despite the billions of dollars spent on population control programmes (Shiva 1993: 285). Suzanne Nievaart . ‘Carrying capacity’. such as the rainforest. which is a calculation of the maximum amount of humans possible to be ‘carried’ in a given ecosystem. However. urbanization has been on the increase at nearly the same rate of poverty (Redclift and Goodman 1991:63). and population growth continue unabated. Africa. but also because there are so many poor people. They are at the same time victims of environmental degradation. Appendix F shows that population growth in Amazonia has actually decreased since 1980. without it being depleted. and the majority live in urban areas. Thus. False perceptions lead to false solutions. poverty creation. The population growth argument is also derived from the concept of ‘carrying capacity’. The FAO even concluded that ‘population growth was the cause of deforestation globally’ (Skole and Chomentowski 1994: 3). and are therefore truly responsible for environmental degradation: This focus on numbers disguises people’s unequal access to resources and the unequal environmental burden they place on the earth. The population growth argument is based on Malthusian logic. we would require five earths to provide us with sufficient resources and enough space as a large enough ‘sink’ for our waste (O’Callaghan 1997). As a result. as they are most vulnerable to migration and simultaneously economically dependant on agricultural shifts and changes. is a cousin of the ‘ecological footprint’ concept. as opposed to rural areas. This population-deforestation rhetoric literally points the finger to the poorest populations. and its advocates’ ‘mathematical modelling’ equation of deforestation and population growth in Amazonia (see for example. This concept suggests that if all the world’s people were to live at current North American standards. Pfaff 1997 and Margalis 2004) lead them to ‘argue that deforestation is an inevitable result of growing human populations. the current policy prescriptions avoid the real problem. The focus on population as the cause of environmental destruction is erroneous at two levels: 1) it blames the victims…and 2) by failing to address economic insecurity and by denying rights to survival.

While they are overconsuming. Therefore. as keeping the poor in poverty is only lucrative for them. Suzanne Nievaart . as there is no welfare system to take care of them. due to the neoliberal promises of the ‘level playing field’. or as is happening now in several parts of Asia (Shiva 1993). the poor of the satellites which are producing the food. such as it was in China this past century. Shiva discusses how the poor are blamed for having too many children. she states that the over-consumption of the wealthy populations is truly the biggest factor in environmental destruction. so that they may be fed luxuriously and reap the economic benefits simultaneously. in turn. However. as well as perpetuating poverty (Keen and Haynes 2000: 579-580. trying to seek refuge in Europe. Galeano (1973) ‘blasted’ the idea of population control in Latin America. Giving people rights and access to resources so that they can generate sustainable livelihoods is the only solution to environmental destruction and the population growth that accompanies it (Shiva 1993: 285). seeing such arguments as patronizing and frightening – especially when these arguments come from groups in the nation that acted for so long as Latin America’s colonial power – The United States (Ibid. Furthermore. ‘Many Latin Americans bristle at the idea that their numbers need to be controlled. global overpopulation is only a problem as long as everyone behaves such as the capitalist elites of the metropoles. The same reasoning can be applied to the large amounts of African migrants that are detained at the borders of Spain. for example. Galeano attributes the popularity of population-based arguments to ‘American squeamishness that masses of poor brown people will flow up the isthmus into the United States’ (Ibid. reproduction is often their only guarantee for their old age. in turn. they are gaining wealth in times of food shortage. it is therefore doubly in their interest to control food production. Shiva poses that a sustainable livelihood would provide the alternative security that they need. yet becoming indebted in the process. and the solution lies in the depletion of this behaviour.When the Ill is ‘Pimped’ as the Cure These consumption levels. ‘pointing out that with a few exceptions population densities in Latin America are among the lowest in the world’ (Roberts and Thanos 2003: 77).). which is in the end. are related to the vast amounts of modernized agricultural schemes that are literally ‘eating up’ the Brazilian Amazon. It is.). see also Shiva 1993: 284). The overpopulation of these wealthy capitalist elites is what needs to be stopped. and I fear the way in which such a ‘solution’ would be achieved. I do not think that a depletion in the population growth will necessarily be an improvement for the environment. the sustainability of unsustainability. or the cure becoming the ill. However. Shiva presents an alternative focus: It might then well be more fruitful to directly address the roots of the problem: the exploitative world market system which produces poverty.21 20/09/2006 .

hunger and poverty worldwide. Considering current trends. the combination of population growth in combination with economic growth is clearly unsustainable. Meanwhile. Therefore. This view. It is the ill and not the cure. They have no other livelihood choices’ (Roberts and Thanos 2003: 67). capitalist form of globalization due to the greed and corruption of a few and the poverty and repression of the many. as they drive to the golf course in their SUVs. indeed. which signals a significant unequal and uneven development (Mowforth and Munt 2003): a ‘global apartheid’ of the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ (Sachs 1999 and Radermacher 2004: 91).When the Ill is ‘Pimped’ as the Cure Looking at current trends on the global level. let us move the focus away from poverty and overpopulation as environmental problems in policy making and development programmes. thus the poor receive the blame for their own predicament. there is a simultaneous increase in malnourishment. and the responses and strategies that emerge from it totally ignore the fact that the greatest pressure on the earth’s resources is not from large numbers Suzanne Nievaart . ‘To realize the goals of sustainable development. however. ‘Poor and marginalized people live where they do because of macro forces in the history. wherefore large amounts of agricultural land are necessary. Considering Shiva (1993) and Sachs (1999). as a neoliberalist. ‘Free-trade’ logic echoes Garrett Hardin’s (1974) ‘life-boat ethics’. the global levels of overweight people are on the rise (Reijnders 2006). free-trade. as the biggest problem for sustainability. let us focus on development itself. in the inefficient and intensive cattle ranching and the production of soybean products for their consumption. and a rise in wealth leads to the consumption of animal products. and a consequential loss in biodiversity and increase in methane emissions which furthers climate change. which is the furthest thing from sustainability.22 20/09/2006 . Economic growth in its current form leads to overconsumption. survival strategies of the poor. soybean production will most likely increase. population growth implies agricultural growth. Ironically. combined (Sachs 1999: 30). while I would question if it is not rather the eight per cent wealthy few that have a much larger ecological ‘footprint’ than all the ‘poor’ around the world. Ironically. is seen as environmentally destructive. Having no alternative is something believers of the ‘level playing field’ do not seem to comprehend. and hence environmental destruction. wherein the poor put ‘an unnecessary burden on the planet’s resources. including squatting land at the peripheries of the forest and using it as a resource for their basic needs. in turn. Instead. The World Bank and IMF’s ‘near mystical’ (Klein 2002: 12) faith in ‘trickle-down’ economies have the tendency to emphasize that the poor are overusing resources. which. and economies of whole regions. it must be liberated from its embeddedness in the ideology and institutional parameters of capitalism’ (Fernando 2003: 590). as ‘eighty percent of industrially processed foods now have soybeans in them’ (Shiva 2000: 28). politics. has negative consequences for agricultural production (Reijnders 2006:4).

which the large numbers of poor people will never benefit from within the current ‘free’ market paradigm. complexities. because their simplicity undermines these elements of local reality. and in order to do this. The world’s ever-consuming elite are producing money that produces ever more money. social and economic dimensions. He concludes that in practice.. Escobar warns that the Brundtland report propagates such strategies: …who is this “we” who knows what is best for the world as a whole? Once again. Scott illustrates that these utopian plans are products of short-term thinking instead of the continuous changes. diversity and variety of ‘real’ life on the ground: ‘Administrative man recognizes that the world he perceives is a drastically simplified model of the buzzing. exclusion and marginalization are well-known phenomena of the world capitalist system today. There has indeed Suzanne Nievaart . manipulation and centralized power. Thus. and diminish their comfortable positions.23 20/09/2006 . politically motivated for control. the dissolution of the world has local effects. The processes of exploitation. Such opportunities could be achieved by moving towards an emancipatory discourse for the poor. produced at will (1995: 193-194).When the Ill is ‘Pimped’ as the Cure of poor people but from a small number of the world’s ever-consuming elite’ (Shiva 1993: 86). yet powerful players at the top. The need to look and operate at the local level to promote the autonomy of the people themselves is signalled throughout the literature. In reality. global inequality and poverty are eradicated in order for sustainability to be achieved. needs and desires of the targeted population.. local populations and organizations are often seen as ‘obstacles’ to progress (Castles 2000). and in practice. we find the familiar figure of the Western scientist turned manager. ‘top-down’ methods often ignore the local circumstances. Providing opportunities to those people they are exploiting would decrease their power. Scott (1998) demonstrates that these concepts are designed to standardize and simplify society in order for it to be ‘legible’. In these schemes.The XIVth Dalai Lama The ideal of sustainable development seemingly faired by all its contesters is a multidimensional concept in which a balance is sought between ecological. these utopian designs are doomed to fail. I will first look at the role of anthropology in the sustainability debate. blooming confusion that constitutes the real world’ (Scott 1998: 45). Whose Future is Sustainable? "Universal responsibility is the key to human survival. wherefore large-scale projects such as soybean cultivation in Amazonia and other oversimplifications do not present local solutions (Grin 2004). which are benefiting from this system." . are not prepared to part with any of their wealth in order to redistribute it among the poor.But can reality be “managed”? The concepts of planning and management embody the belief that social change can be engineered and directed.

and problematize this ethnocentric premise. from inferior to superior. the concept of development. although Fernando warns. NGO’s may abuse this knowledge ‘to legitimize the very practices that they seek to transform’ (2003:54). Mañana. Esteva states that the concept of development itself implies a positive change. from worse to better. for one’s grandchildren. and to gain deeper insight into specific environmental and social problems and their possible solutions. he points out. as a subject of anthropology for a meaningful contribution to the sustainability debate. is irrelevant and a large obstacle for anthropologists whose goal it is to understand societies from within. Therein I will present mañana as such a concept. .24 20/09/2006 . that in practice. and more on the ‘marginalized’ groups. in the form of indigenous movements such as the Zapatistas and the revitalization of local knowledge and culture (Poppema 2004). and this idea is one of sustainability. This is where anthropology comes in. Therefore. The focus of development has often been named ethnocentric because of such measurements (Esteva 1992 and Escobar 1997). for one’s children. is a reminder of what they are not (Esteva 1992). technology. The new focus on sustainability and poverty demands a ‘participatory’ approach to processes of change. and where development research has failed in the past. with individualism. I will explore the concept of time. as well as ‘sustainability’ critically. Escobar (1997) recognized the value of local knowledge in the development of ecological concepts. to be able to recognize their problems. Leaving something for tomorrow. needs and desires. social scientists are called upon to undertake long-term research. To turn this criticism into action. as the application of a ‘universal’ scale to evaluate societies. with less focus on the people in society with positions of power. For twothirds of the world population. mass consumption and wealth at the top of the ladder (Esteva 1992 and Villa 2004). such as the GDP. Mañana “You’d think with all these things that are speeding things up for us and moving us along that we’d get places earlier. I would hope that anthropologists approach ‘development’. is as future-oriented as one can live on a daily basis. This is ideally to give the marginalized a voice.Ellen Degeneres Mañana is a well-know concept throughout Latin America. yet in practice it is often more of the same top-down strategies. I have less time”. In Western Europe we have a lot more trouble living by an abstract notion of ‘future generations’ and we can certainly learn from the Suzanne Nievaart .When the Ill is ‘Pimped’ as the Cure been an increasing emphasis on local processes in the anti-globalisation movement since the 1990s. and therein its polar opposite ‘underdevelopment’. Therefore. or at least on time…but I don’t have any more time. in particular the future. Anthropologists strive to be wary of ethnocentrism.

while interest on interest accumulated over time forces the indebted poor into a downward spiral. or the ‘commodification’ of linear time (Munn 1992: 109. literal and epochal time. reach much further into the future. Furthermore. can actually prevent environmental destruction today and preserve natural resources for tomorrow. representing the turnover time of capital. so that language is a prominent starting point for the anthropology of time (Gell 1992: 30). Much like the growth philosophy. Just as there are different definitions and representations of sustainability. the concept of time is bound up in language (use) and culturally defined and constructed. and perhaps one’s grandchildren. the capitalist system is not sustainable: the accumulation of wealth as quickly as possible by appropriating natural resources and exploiting the poor for their labour does not consider ‘mañana’. it is the cost of labour that is kept to a minimum in the process. however. in the capitalist discourse. see also Meerloo 1970: 31-32) so that there may be more and more production in a shorter period of time to compete with the next capitalist. as forty to sixty years is approximately what most people can fathom (Rademaker 2006). such as Marx demonstrated. The Brundtland definition of sustainable development. by putting something off until tomorrow. and the idea of future generations itself is quite vague as well. is unfortunately vague.When the Ill is ‘Pimped’ as the Cure mañana culture. and therein the capitalist creates his own competition. it generally implies one’s children. Durkheim sees time as one of the ‘universal properties of things…like the solid frame surrounding all thought’ (1915: 9). Concepts of time are seen both as universal and culturally defined. although ‘social time’ can be culturally constructed. The environmental consequences to today’s ‘development’. At the same time. and thus Brundtland’s future generations. there are various time perspectives found in environmental and development projects. making its experience subjective. yet the interpretation of it as a concept can vary culturally. the Suzanne Nievaart . the sustainability debate would no longer be up for discussion. At the ground level. according to a society’s rituals or rhythms. acceleration cancels itself out: ‘one arrives faster and faster at places at which one stays for ever shorter periods of time’ (Sachs 1997: 299). where material goods are produced faster and faster. linear and cyclical time (Munn 1992). universal category of cognition. or derived from ideology.25 20/09/2006 . Kant (1929) saw time and space as pure concepts of understanding. If we were to perpetually live by this notion. Durkheim (1915) and Leach (1961) both believed time to be an objective. Adopting a ‘mañana’ philosophy. Simultaneously. and ultimately. as a result of socialization (Gell 1992: 327). and that time exists for us because we are social beings. Therefore. There is ‘body time’ and clock time. ‘time is money’. as one of the Kantian categories. Time itself is perceived as objective. The concept of time in the sustainable development paradigm is seen as a product in the capitalist system.

The much utilized term ‘future generations’ is one of the ‘fashionable buzz words’ in ‘global conversations’ (Judge 2002: 13). the future has already been ‘determined by the ancestors. And yet today. the ‘transition from Fordism to flexible accumulation’. descendants of the Mayas in Mexico. hurry. This process prevailed in the de-industrialization process. yet simultaneously in the control of fewer. And so we will be the ancestors in the future. It is understood in different cultural contexts as 14 years. There are many ways to comprehend the future: commitments in a schedule. this ‘hurry. resulting in a ‘time-space compression’: The annihilation of space through time has radically changed the commodity mix that enters into daily reproduction. This efficiency in capitalist modernization is representative of space and time being defined and represented by those in power. There is no need for concern with the future because the future will always be the present’ (Gifford 1978: 278). money’ is experienced as ‘the rush to nowhere’ (Neville 2002: 25. (linear) calendars (Judge 2002: 15). and ‘shifts in tempo or spatial ordering can redistribute social power by changing the conditions of monetary gain’.When the Ill is ‘Pimped’ as the Cure inability to keep up with himself. This is illustrated by industrial agriculture in the form of soybean production in Brazil. lived cycles of experience. the ancestors control/are the future. insurance. Although the concept of generation is ‘an essentially biological organization of time’ (Judge 2002: 16). This ‘acceleration of change is used as an excuse to legitimize our blindness to the future or to claim that the future is unthinkable’ (Bindé 2002: 42). or the ‘wheel of life’ for some Eastern religions (Judge 2002: 20). Thus time. future technology. and Swift 2002). otherwise known as ‘Post-Fordism’ (Harvey 1989: 284. Mowforth and Munt 2003). ‘Control over time is not just a strategy of interaction. speed and postmodernity are intertwined in the current capitalist world system. the future is actually the past and present repeating itself. Some see this form of ‘globalization’ as careening out of our control. which links the poor being blamed for deforestation in Amazonia to the steak on the dinner plates of wealthy Western Europeans. Therefore. For the Zinacanteco. for the future is made up of the past and the present. Innumerable local food systems have been reorganized through their incorporation into global commodity exchange (Harvey 1989: 299). wealthy and powerful elite: ‘diminishing spatial barriers give capitalists the power to exploit minute spatial differentiations to good effect’ (Harvey 1989: 294). However. affecting social life (Harvey 1989: 229-232). money. The ‘evolution of the dimension of time in human consciousness’ is a timescape Suzanne Nievaart . in turn. ‘essentially a ‘fiction’ (Needham in Gell 1992: 17). it is culturally constructed. ‘a runaway world’ (Giddens 2000: 2). it is also a medium of hierarchic power and governance’ (Munn 1992: 109). In this system.26 20/09/2006 . 33 years. the past becomes the future in the present belief. future markets.

a generation of 14 years is a very ‘limited timescape’ (Holland 2002: 183). The term ‘timescape’ is ‘a term that emphasizes the rhythmicities. and unsustainability is stealing time from them. have not been trained in this kind of reflection…once they have returned from the field anthropologists often feel pressed to make statements about the future of the people they have studied. including their changes and contingencies’ (Adam 1998 in Persoon and van Est 2000: 21). This scientific-realist paradigm in turn creates a distance between the ‘expert’ researcher and their informants. Therefore. the future of their village. albeit a few rare case studies (see. there were high yield returns to begin with. Persoon and van Est attest that there is a lack of focus on the future. if ever. which produced quick economic growth in the present (which is now the past). That is why these reflections often reveal highly personal opinions and lack empirical evidence (Persoon and van Est 2000: 16).27 20/09/2006 . Sustainability is therefore giving time to the future generations. enlightenment heritage of science. which can be interpreted as posterity: my child’s child’s child’s child (Holland 2002: 182). the future is often absent as a topic for discussion with informants…Anthropologists. and their children’s future (Ibid. moreover. there is a large gap between these plans. However. people always speak of their future. yet in the long run there is widespread debt. An ideal of sustainability is a concern for future generations. and predominance of focus on the past in anthropology. do people live by an active future timescape of more than a generation or two’. An ‘active timescape is projected time that will influence actions… But rarely. refusing to predict an ‘unknown’ future. At the micro level. and thus the discipline’s struggle to prove itself as scientific (Shanin 1997: 65). which is an active future timescape. Yet. (Holland 2002: 182). Simon 2006). which is a reaction to the colonial history of the discipline: Suzanne Nievaart . politicians and academics and is seldom used by the people whose future ‘sustainable development’ plans affect (Simon 2006). and Calvert and Calvert 1999).. timings and tempos of past and present activities and the interactions of organisms and matter. At the macro level. and what actually occurs at the micro level (Ibid. poverty. nor to perceive their informants’ view of the future as empirical fact. I suggest that this is due to the rational. In the example of soybean agriculture in Brazil. often at the macro level. people are most affected by past policies: the generations of today and tomorrow are responsible for repaying the debts incurred by past generations. ‘sustainability’ most often refers to the conservation of natural resources for future generations. Therefore. and environmental depletion for the future. which is already present now (in the present). ‘Sustainability’ seems to be a term (ab)used by NGO’s. which requires a Freirian (1970) ‘dialogical’ relationship or a postmodern ‘collaborative approach’ (Pink 2001) to reflexive ethnographic fieldwork. for example. Thus.).When the Ill is ‘Pimped’ as the Cure (Holland 2002: 181). anthropology to date has worked with a linear perception of time.

In the meantime. analyzed. At the same time. 1997: 49). An example is the circular relationships of the Ojibway ‘seven generations’.28 20/09/2006 . This type of empirical data would be beneficial for the sustainability debate. and issues for the local indigenous community in which the anthropologist is privileged to live and work (Sponsel 1995: 276). for it would provide a micro response to the macro assumptions. Yet without knowing their informants’ views of the future. both national and international agencies. the subscription to the idea of progress in the social sciences has contributed to modernization theories. repeated again and again. Anthropologists have no use for such models. which are all future-oriented (Shanin 1997: 68). consideration of the interests. with their multiple aims and internal contradictions. are irrefutably disadvantaged. which I would assume is even less predictable as you cannot control other species as such. strategies of development and programmes of growth. Scott (1998) demonstrates that these schemes have failed. yet ecologists persist in creating similar models of the future concerning ecosystems. reported. ‘development bureaucracies. problems. Yet. Anthropologists have a role in the Suzanne Nievaart . There are scientific models that predict or prescribe the future of a population or society. and after implementation. priorities. which has ‘been developed by adapting traditional ethnographic interview methods to elicit individual informants’ images of alternative futures…The transcripts of EFR interviews are analyzed to discover both what and how the informants think about the future’ (Riner 1991: 307. During the entire research process there is little. echoing the grand utopian schemes of high modernism.When the Ill is ‘Pimped’ as the Cure …most anthropological field research is conceived. past and future: ‘everything that the people did today would have repercussions for tomorrow and for their own survival and the survival of future generations’ and such thought was passed down from their ancestors (Clarkson et al. upheld on the belief that society can be orchestrated by a top-down management plan often designed and written far from the actual location which it concerns. if any. which Leach (1961) demonstrated) will allow for a notion of the future as one of sustainability. see also Razak 2000). have different time perspectives. whose environment it concerns. and it would simultaneously empower those people whose lives the discourse concerns. It is possible to apply Textor’s (1980) ‘ethnographic futures’ research (EFR) method. while reflecting the changes in development discourse…The time perspectives of development bureaucracies are in many ways closely related to the rise and fall of politicians or political parties’ (Persoon and van Est 2000: 20). consideration of the cyclical concept of time (which is common in indigenous belief systems as well as most major religions. and published solely within the framework of academia. These perspectives are organized predominantly around a two to five year project cycle. as the people involved. designed. their ‘forecasting’ is no different from the scientific models themselves (Persoon and van Est 2000: 16).

for their own futures. to empower the ‘poor’ to speak out against their oppressors and reclaim their livelihoods. to wait. Since it dominates corporate slogans and spurs on development schemes. which would move them towards an emancipatory discourse. commonly used in environmental discourse. Conclusion ‘The poor stay poor. ‘Terms like ‘sustainability’ and ‘future generations’. one in which they are in control of their own destinies: ‘societies need to project themselves into the future in order to survive and prosper’ (Bindé 2002: 41). the ‘poor’ cannot afford. may refer to entirely different ideas’ (Persoon and van Est 2000: 18). The world needs to behave sustainably before the numbers can make a difference.When the Ill is ‘Pimped’ as the Cure formulation of this emancipatory discourse.Leonard Cohen A reduction in the world’s population will not necessarily lead to an improvement in the global environment. the rich get rich. it is indeed necessary that anthropologists turn their focus to the future. are uncommon in local usage. not only in the conclusions of their monographs. or see their own ‘good society’ of the future. Even if the numbers of these people were to decrease. If the world is overpopulated with overconsuming high-speed capitalists who do not consider the future of their grandchildren. and the earth cannot afford. we would still exceed the so-called ‘carrying Suzanne Nievaart .29 20/09/2006 . Emic conceptions of sustainability. and promoters of the sustainability debate often sound ‘warning bells about implications for future generations’ (Mahoney 2002: 160). Ecologists are generally preoccupied with the conservation of natural resources and predict doom and gloom for future generations. Allowing the people whose environment it concerns to respond to this discourse will permit ‘future generations (including our later selves in moments to come) to determine their own forms of action’ (Judge 2002: 22). then overpopulation is indeed a problem. This depicts a sense of pessimism about the future. if at all present. everybody knows’ . that’s how it goes. and the EFR method could provide an alternative to the ecological concern for their ‘future generations’. I believe it is one of the only practical results anthropology can bring: to give the ‘poor’ a voice. This may indeed lead to activism at the ground level. It would be interesting to see if the people on the ground are actually concerned with being in a hurry or not. This is a role anthropologists can assume to get involved in the sustainability debate. We cannot afford. or if they feel they have ‘reciprocal obligations’ with future generations (Bindé 2002: 41). and stress that ‘if we do not act ‘in time’…tomorrow is always too late’ (Bindé 2002: 42). it suggests feelings of disempowerment and dependency (Smith 2002: 172). but actually in terms of empirical data. Allowing for this type of solidarity. it would be worth it to find out how the people themselves predict their futures.

Letting go of this ‘free trade’ and neoliberal logic. and given a chance to reclaim their lands. It is actually development itself that is unsustainable. for this has consequences for the environment as well as the poor and oppressed populations worldwide. as well as the capitalist development paradigm. is based on an attitude of superiority. ecological.30 20/09/2006 . Actions are often only undertaken if there is an economic gain or possibility. if the world was to have the same population.When the Ill is ‘Pimped’ as the Cure capacity’. I would prefer to see sustainability based on the assumption that all humans are equal. the actors involved must compromise their own interests on the basis of equality with the other parties involved. This is typical of the economic analysis. the development paradigm. and their research field is in a specific political context. Sustainability must represent an alternative approach altogether. or the ill ‘pimped’ as the cure. their sustenance. not one that takes place within the development paradigm. yet prefer to blame the poor. Suzanne Nievaart . If anthropologists are made to assume a ‘nonpolitical’ point of view. However. they are not reflecting reality. which undeniably results in political empirical data. imperialism and is intertwined with the inequality of capitalism in its current neoliberal form. or the assumption of inferiority. the present development model itself is unsustainable. who are simultaneously ensuring that there is steak on their plate. using the cost/benefit relationship. yet reducing automobile usage has not been addressed effectively to date. To achieve the ideal of balance between the three pillars of sustainable development (economic. where the poor are not to blame. whereas poverty produces environmentally sustainable practices. The importance of Amazonia in terms of carbon sequestration is recognized globally. A compromise in their values. and livelihoods. over-consumption is apparently easy for people to signal as an environmental problem. but of people living according to the sustainable concept of mañana. the wealthy elite are concerned with Amazonia fulfilling the purpose of carbon sequestration. Anthropologists are educated. but for the majority it remains extremely difficult to consequently act accordingly. social). In line with Sachs. as one may not be more valuable than the other. created and formed within a specific political context. wherein social and environmental consequences are not considered. Therefore. Instead of reducing emissions by using less fossil fuels. which resulted from similar phenomena such as colonialism. and therefore sustainability is not possible in the current system. would require a compromise. despite their attempts to de-politicize it in the name of science. This is certainly an alternate reality than the current political system would not allow. As discussed in this thesis. Furthermore. overpopulation would no longer be a problem for the environment. allows for an emancipatory discourse of poverty. It is confronting to realize that the only way to make a true difference in the world is if we change our own behaviour. but where they are recognized as the victims of the global system.

as important actors in our world economy. nor to save the earth’s natural resources by establishing UNESCO sites. even at the risk of being called ‘political’.When the Ill is ‘Pimped’ as the Cure Therefore.31 - 20/09/2006 . It is most likely not a grand gesture of wanting to feed the earth’s poor through genetic engineering. This dual awareness and dialogue with those promoting sustainability will allow the local people whose future it concerns to be active players on the state of their own futures. and ‘pimping’ the ill as the cure. This is indeed. whom are abusing the sustainability debate in order to gain profits. Suzanne Nievaart . if anything. sustainable. an emancipatory discourse for the poor would contribute to breaking ‘the culture of silence’. mañana. Local solutions to local problems. their plans. empowering the poor to take the future of their lives into their own hands in an ethic of self-sufficiency is. For the future. Since little research has been done concerning the future. like Persoon and van Est and Textor himself. I aim to ask my informants about the future. This includes the silence of the academic community towards the poor. and what they want for their children’s lives. nor can one ignore the political context of one’s informants. which will shape the future of their lives as well as the lives of their children and their children’s children. as a fast profit-seeking capitalist would. In this way they may be able to control the changes that their society will undergo. which is something I think anthropologists work at resisting. not just for themselves. the informants can turn their vision for the future into a more tangible form. by those in power. Recording local perspectives of the future will facilitate those involved in the sustainability debate to gain insight into the perspectives of those whose lives it concerns. Furthermore. In a dialogical relationship. The poor. With a concern for their grandchildren and possibly their grandchildren’s grandchildren. but rather to create the potential for change. as opposed to being ‘blamed’ for their own predicament or powerless ‘victims’ of repression and poverty. so that they may be empowered to actively create their futures in the present. but most of all to give them a platform so that they are no longer silenced and invisible. I believe that one cannot ignore one’s own political context as an anthropologist. their hopes. their vision of the future. their dreams. That would be contributing to the superiority of Us versus Them. I would like to see anthropologists consider their informants’ visions for the future. oppressed and marginalized demand a central role in academic discussion. their future.

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Suzanne Nievaart .43 - 20/09/2006 .When the Ill is ‘Pimped’ as the Cure Appendix B Growth of soy planted area in Brazil 1995-2003 Source: Dros 2004: 23 Dros. 2004 Managing the Soy Boom: Two Scenarios of Soy Production Expansion in South America. M. Amsterdam: Aidenvironment.

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