GE Ca in FRE OR m si E GE pa de MO ign NB ne IO ws T a • F nd LA e SH ve GO nts RD ON

th

NewInternationalist
The people, the ideas, the action in the fight for global justice l www.newint.org

ea ct

Crisis! Crisis! Food...
Money...
Manifesto for a

What next?
fairer future

UK £ 3 . 2 5 I REL AND €5.00 AUS TR AL I A $8.50 (i nc GS T ) NEW ZEAL AND/AOTEAROA $7.50 C A NADA & US $ 5 . 9 5

NI 418 DECEMBER 2 0 0 8

ion

new Internationalist
DECEMBER Issue 418
Told ye so! There, I said it – but for those of us long sceptical
of corporate power and the money machine, it’s hard to resist the temptation. As stock markets tumble, banks plead for public bailout and predictions of a gloomy future cloud the neoliberal sky, we’re no longer prophets in the wilderness. And as usual, the real losers will not be those ‘who can’t afford to fail’ but those for whom failure has been preordained from birth. This issue deals with the series of crises that have hit so hard this year. The first part concentrates on the hunger crisis provoked by escalating food prices. This is followed by a special section dealing with the debt and credit situation that has plunged the world into the most serious economic downturn since the ‘Dirty Thirties’. In both parts we take an initial stab at what alternatives based on a fairer future might look like, and how to seize this vital moment. Over the years, the NI has spilt a lot of ink drawing out the common strands of experience (and often exploitation) that link people in the Global North to those in the Global South. But reality is now providing much more graphic lessons. During the 1980s almost every country in the South experienced a

Contents
wrenching debt crisis as they tried to pay off usurious loans from big international banks recycling petrodollars. With the current ‘First World’ debt crisis, the shoe is on the other foot. Homes are being repossessed and job losses are starting to mount across the North. And who is responsible? Those same pesky financial wheelerdealers. So far the North has not experienced the widespread hunger and malnutrition that haunts a billion people – and counting – in the South. But we are facing some pretty hard times. What better point to start making the links of our common humanity, so that we can begin to control capital rather than the other way round. For, in the end, ‘told ye so’ will not build a fairer world.

Richard Swift for the New Internationalist Co-operative

Food crisis
4

B O R I S H E G E R / R E P O R T D I G I TA L

Year of living dangerously

14 Meat’s too expensive Chris Brazier makes the case for a green and fair diet. 16 FOOD CRIsIs – THe FaCTs 18 Peak soil David R Montgomery on the one thing we can’t afford to run out of.
I L L U S T R AT I O N : D O M I N I C B U G AT T O

Richard Swift on the hard edge of hunger in a year of perpetual crisis. Action – a new diet for the world food system. Agribusiness and industrial farming: 10; farmers and the famished: nil. A report from the campaign group GRAIN.

7

Profits in hungry times

20 selling out the farm Ray Burley is caught in the cost/price squeeze. 21 Fusion time A new way not only to cook but to organize the whole food economy – Wayne Roberts stirs the pot.
Q I L A I S H E N / PA N O S

10 Food last! Across the world, popular protest has demanded adequate food and fair prices. Stephanie Boyd reports from Cuzco in Peru. 12 We care too... ag-Inc advertorial The NI gives big agribusiness its say.

RegulaR FeaTuRes
2 Letters Giving motorists a bad press; recycling shit; animal testing. PLUS: Letter from Cairo – in the damp, dark winter, Maria Golia finds cold comfort in a pharmacy queue. 32 Southern Exposure Photographer Ernesto Fernandez recalls the dawn of a new age as Cuba celebrates the 50th anniversary of its revolution. 33 Making Waves More than just a boardgame, according to its makers, Andy Sheerin and Andy Tompkins, the War on Terror challenges the terrorism taboo. 34 Mixed Media Three outstanding films, including the 5-star Baader Meinhof Complex; haunting music from Armenia and Greece; Mark Thomas belches out the Coca-Cola devil while John le Carré’s latest novel skewers the deserving. 36 Big Bad World Polyp on female beauty and male laughter. PLUS: NI Prize Crossword

Financial crisis
23 The road to meltdown How did we get here? David Ransom takes a global – and historical – look. 25 Clean start – creating a fair
21

on specific areas and propose practical action for change. 30 an historic opportunity

for transformation

global economy

Out of the ashes of the crash, how are we to create a fairer future? New Internationalist asks leading experts from around the world to focus
Front cover and magazine design: Andrew Kokotka.

Late-night meetings between Asian and European social movements produced the beginnings of a manifesto for change – the 'Beijing Declaration'.

All monetary values are expressed in US dollars unless otherwise noted.

Letters

The New Internationalist welcomes your letters. But please keep them short. They may be edited for purposes of space or clarity. Letters should be sent to letters@newint.org or to your local NI office. Please remember to include a town and country for your address.
The views expressed on the letters page are not necessarily those of the New Internationalist.

Letter from Cairo
Lingering trash
One thing is very clear from Drowning in plastic (NI 415) – to make ephemeral consumer goods and packaging intended only to be thrown away, out of materials that last almost forever is completely crazy!
Susan Francis Malvern, England

a rain-lashed day and you’ll see what I mean. Transporting oneself by bicycle in most British towns and cities is dangerous and in the open countryside even more so. There needs to be a sea change in attitudes towards pedal power before more people will be tempted to leave the car for shorter journeys, and this can only be initiated by governments.
W K Pryde Newport-on-Tay, Scotland

No surprise

Scots have long understood that it was Kilpatrick Macmillan who was father of the modern bicycle and not Ernest Michaux as claimed in ‘Pedal power’ (Special Feature, Through Afghan eyes, NI 417). His invention dates to 1839 and was made of wood, which is interesting considering your piece on bamboo cycles. As a cyclist and motorist I really do feel that motorists get a bad press and some of the old, trite criticism comes out in this article. The car is here to stay and we all need to get real about that. The internal combustion engine needs to be ditched but please don’t knock the car and the motorist. It is simply not possible for us all to take to bicycles for all of our journeys; and they do not always get us ‘quickly from A to B’, for it depends on how far B is from A and how hilly the land in between, to say nothing of the fitness of the cyclist. Try pedalling across some of our hillier cities in heavy traffic on

Cars vs bikes

I was not surprised to see your article on ‘Death camps in Kosovo’ (Currents, NI 417) after reading Graham Hancock’s book Lords of Poverty in which he exposes the extremely high salaries, overgenerous perks, officials’ jet-setting lifestyles, incompetent bureaucracy and misuse of funds in the UN organization.
Charles Healey Marlborough, England

doctor who had been living in this impoverished Central American country for several years. He had been doing both clinical work and also training Nicaraguans in the field of medical practice. I was very moved by this young man’s story. Here I was, only committing myself to a mere two months of coffee picking and a few other menial jobs requiring volunteers, while he was supporting for several years his Latin brothers and sisters who were attempting to fight off the intrusions of a US-backed military attempting to overthrow a democratically elected government.
Rev Freddie Miller Walcha, Australia

example. Animal testing is merely a rubber-stamping exercise for the chemical industry to get their products on the market. It provides them with protection from litigation, but gives us no protection from their dangerous chemicals.
Joanne Moodie Southampton, England

Manners and the man
Queuing at the pharmacy becomes torture for Maria Golia. airo wasn’t made for winter, and despite its overall decrepitude, looks better beneath a blazing sun. Dark days reveal its weaknesses, the shadows of dirt, neglect and want. The worst is when it rains, which isn’t often but comes in winter, sometimes in torrents, for which nothing and no-one is prepared. Pond-sized puddles fill the sewer-less streets. Rare is the roof that doesn’t leak and the taxi with working windshield wipers. I reprimanded a cabbie and received a justifiably dirty look. Who needs windshield wipers in the desert, lady? A man has to eat, doesn’t he? As for the rain, it carries the murk of a grubby atmosphere, splotching clothing with indelible grey marks and leaving a residual grit where it touches the skin. Whereas heat makes Northern types irritable, in Cairo it’s the cold and damp that gets on people’s nerves. I was at the pharmacy, one of those highceilinged old ones with burnished wood cabinets and flasks on the shelves, when I was drawn into an excruciating altercation. The man in front of me at the cashier was clearly a worker coming off a night shift; he looked tired, had no jacket. Over one arm he carried a clean set of clothes wrapped in plastic; one hand held a 50-pound note and the other his desired purchases: two sachets of shampoo, a packet of moist towelettes and a plastic razor, totalling around 18 Egyptian pounds ($3.30). The cashier asked for change but he didn’t have any – no-one ever does, especially cashiers. I’ve observed this particular cashier for some time. Wry, tough, middle-aged, thick bodied, close-cropped curling grey-black hair, efficient, smart-seeming – and of remarkably indeterminate gender. I’m not sure why I assumed that s/he was an open and strong-minded individual, but I tend to idealize Egyptians, and this time I was wrong. The worker produced no change, just stood there waiting for the situation to resolve itself, and the cashier started barking at him, mocking the paucity of his purchases and insisting he provide change, even though the 50 pounds in his hand probably represented the whole of his fortune. The man took the upbraiding, whether zen or exhausted or so accustomed to mistreatment that being gratuitously insulted in public by someone who was meant to serve him was no big deal. Without apparent anger

C

Toxic disregard

Nuclear clarity

Cuban commitment

Katherine Edyvane’s Essay on Cuban medical superpower (Tax Justice, NI 416) has touched me greatly. Several years ago, at age 59, I decided to join a Canadian brigade of coffee harvesters in the highlands of Nicaragua during the time of the Contra attacks on a struggling Sandinista Government, while enduring a US boycott. The problem of getting from A to B was never easy, due to the scarcity of petrol. Hitchhiking was therefore condoned and one was rarely left standing too long on the side of the road. On one occasion I was picked up by a large open truck with one lonely individual on the back leaning against the cab. We quickly struck up a conversation and I soon learned I was chatting with a Cuban medical

Re: Joe Hanania’s letter in NI 416. The United States did not test an atomic device in secret a ‘full year’ before the atomic strike against Hiroshima. The ‘Trinity’ test was staged on 16 July 1945 and the Hiroshima attack occurred on 6 August of that year. The test was also of an entirely different type of device than that employed against

Whilst ‘This Toxic Life’ (Keynote, Drowning in plastic, NI 415) is informative and shocking, I was dismayed at the disregard for animal experimentation issues. The so-called ‘safety testing’ of chemicals involves the incarceration, force-feeding, injecting, burning and poisoning to death of hundreds of millions of animals annually. An estimated eight million additional animals will be killed because of EU REACH legislation, making this the biggest animal testing programme ever. In addition to the appalling cruelty involved, animal-based toxicity testing cannot protect us from the harmful effects of

Animal testing is merely a rubber-stamping exercise for the chemical industry...
Hiroshima. The latter, though less efficient than the Trinity/ Nagasaki device, was considered by Manhattan Project scientists unlikely to fail and thus was not tested before operational use. I feel that global nuclear proliferation is an issue of particular seriousness and, where possible, steps should be taken to prevent inaccuracies about the history of nuclear weapons from entering the public consciousness, as it adds confusion to an already complex issue.
Zeb Leonard Ballarat, Australia

chemicals because animal tests are fundamentally flawed due to species differences. Animal experiments cannot predict how a chemical will behave as it mixes with the soil, water, plants, microbes and animals; let alone how it will affect human beings in generations to come. By choosing the ‘right’ species, animal testers can provide ‘evidence’ that any substance is safe – beagle experiments were used to argue that smoking does not cause lung cancer, for

Your edition on Toilets (NI 414) was a good one, but one-sided. Largely missing was the vital importance of retrieval and reuse of human excrement. Every ounce of living material removed from an area of land, for animal or human food (or for building or fuel) results in a depletion of soil nutrients which, if not replaced, will in time render the land barren. Consider the observation on page 35 that Dhaka’s 12.6 million people produce about 3,200 tons of solid waste sewage daily. In the course of a year, this leads to roughly the following amounts of soil nutrients being taken from productive land in Bangladesh and dumped into the sea: 10,512 tons nitrogen; 4,672 tons phosphorus; 701 tons potassium; 3,504 tons calcium; 584 tons magnesium; 584 tons sulphur; 3,738 tons iron; 48 tons manganese; 164 tons zinc; 117 tons copper; 23 tons boron; 3.5 tons molybdenum. Note that urine, also high in nutrients, is not considered here. Bringing in fertilizers to replace this loss is not a long-term solution, even if the people can afford it. Only nitrogen-based fertilizer can be manufactured without recourse to mining; all other nutrients must be mined, and in many cases the deposits will be exhausted in a few centuries. If we do not begin to focus much more seriously on returning all human excrement, and all other waste organic matter, to the soils from which they originated, the eventual outcome will be malnutrition and outright starvation, regardless of a nation’s wealth, even if we were not in the grip of global warming and an increasing population.
Leon Holman Hedley, Canada

Useful shit

or impatience, he simply set the merchandise on the counter in front of the cashier, made eye-contact with him/her, and turned to leave. At this point, I rallied and told the cashier to stop shouting (though s/he already had) and tried to get the man to come back. I would pay for his things, I told the cashier and by god would have whatever change I had coming to me. How dare s/he treat a customer, especially a decent working man, this way? Everyone in the pharmacy was now giving me that special look reserved for people who lose it in public. It’s part feigned apathy (since getting involved too soon might spoil the show), part horrortinged mirth, part rapid assessment, as the tail end of this look is a flick-of-theeye interaction with the others who are watching. How far, everyone is thinking, will this particular nut go? In my broken yet elegiac Arabic I proceeded to tell whoever was listening that I’d frequented this pharmacy of late because of its beauty and old world graciousness. I see now, I told them, that it was only the décor, and that the people working here were too modern for manners and kindness. I couldn’t recall the Arabic word for ‘disappointed’ and ‘tortured’ came out instead. ‘I am very tortured,’ I told them, and I’ll be damned if I wasn’t crying. The cashier spluttered. The man paused for a moment at the door, not because of me, but because of the rain. He put his plastic bundle on his head and moved on. Following his example, I placed my unpurchased merchandise on the counter and loped confusedly out after him, thinking there must be something I could or should have done. He probably turned somewhere because I lost him, but the look he gave the cashier as he handed back his things stayed with me. I think it was humility; a compliance born more of pity than rancour, reflecting not weakness but clarity, a look so rare it nearly defies definition. But I tend to idealize Egyptians and, again, I may be wrong.
Maria Golia also writes for The Middle East, reviews for the Times Literary Supplement and is the author of the non-fiction Cairo, City of Sand (Reaktion Books, 2004).

Correction In our Tax Justice edition, the image on page four comes from Monrovia, Liberia and not from Freetown as we stated.

2

N e w I N t e r N at I o N a l I s t

DeCeMBer 2008

www.newint.org

www.newint.org

N e w I N t e r N at I o N a l I s t

DeCeMBer 2008

3

I L LU ST R AT I ON

BY

SA R A H

J OH N

Food crisis

kEYNOTE

Year of living dangerously
The global food crisis threatens to spread in the wake of economic chaos. Richard Swift sees both peril and promise in the future.
2008 – what a year! First the price of petroleum
doubled, then a global food crisis, now a complete financial meltdown. People can be forgiven for wondering ‘what next?’ The runaway cost of basic foodstuffs hit hard earlier in the year. The Western media played it as an unfortunate, but far away, tragedy. Most people in the industrial world barely noticed as the prices on the supermarket shelves edged up. But for those in the Global South living on $2 or less a day – about one in three of us – it was catastrophic. Figures vary, but most estimates, including that of the Food and Agriculture Organization, hold that the runaway price spiral of basic foodstuffs (rice, grain, corn) pushed another 100 million people into situations of lifethreatening malnutrition. This is on top of perhaps 900 million people already in this position. That’s a billion people without the means to survive. How many actually died? Or are dying? No-one really knows. The global financial crisis is a much bigger media story. The nightly TV news, most of the main sections of the newspapers, rumours and analysis whizzing around the internet – it was as if people could think of little else. Everyone was worried. Some you could sympathize with – pensioners worried about their future, mortgage holders about their homes, workers about their jobs. It was rather more difficult to muster up any sympathy for the bankers and politicians who had presided over and benefited from this bubble economy built on mystification and dubious credit. Yet, to my knowledge, few people have as yet died as a result of this crisis. So why the difference in coverage? As the late Chicago folksinger Steve Goodman put it: ‘It ain’t hard to get along with somebody else’s trouble.’ Ultimately, the sharp end of any kind of economic crisis is hunger. That’s the way it was in the ‘Dirty Thirties’, and that may well be where we are heading today. Still, for the better-off, hardship now amounts just to cutting back on discretionary spending – delaying a big purchase such as a car or vacation. Even the most vulnerable in the industrial North can fall back on (admittedly poorly funded) government programmes of income support. Real hardship is involved, but rarely does it mean immediate life-threatening hunger. This is not the case in the slums of Monrovia or Managua, where a couple of cents on the market price means there is no dinner. Rural areas too are hit hard. In countries like Bangladesh or Mozambique or Haiti, hard times and escalating food prices can lead to a life-threatening situation almost immediately. Chronic malnutrition worsens. The body weight of newborns drops perilously; mothers lack the capacity for proper breastfeeding. The death rate of under-fives shoots up. This year’s food crisis will result in eight million more stunted children in India alone. Whether in Central America or West Africa, the pre-harvest ‘hungry season’ becomes a fearful, desperate time. The old die younger. So do the young. Vulnerability
/ PA N O S

suicide watch for a farmer in india’s Maharashtra state: the escalating food prices of 2008 have done little to ease the distress of the world’s small farmers.

Food – A Saner Way
Food is a rigHt Food must be treated like other human rights. it can no longer be used as a source of speculation for profit or as a political and economic weapon. in emergency situations it should be made immediately available to those in peril. its distribution should be taken out of the market entirely if the market cannot provide it at a reasonable cost. Food is essential to life, and productive food-growing land should not be devoted to biofuels, extractive industries or urban sprawl just because they make more money.

Here are a few guidelines for an alternative food future.
eCo-agriCulture agriculture needs to be significantly de-industrialized. The current high-tech approach is squandering soil fertility and a scarce water supply, turning what should be renewable resources into nonrenewable ones. We cannot replace the building blocks of life with nitrogen fertilizers, toxic agro-chemicals and manipulated seeds for long. This approach gobbles up a third of the world’s scarce fossil fuels, making it a major source of climate deterioration. instead of following the dictates of corporate high-tech, agricultural science needs to focus on approaches which support small farmers, the soil and other resources on which agriculture depends. We cannot afford another ‘green revolution’ based on the centralization and privatization of the very basis of life. FarMer-Centred agriCulture driving farmers off the land is no way to produce food. in the south it is far better to have someone producing food than eking out an existence in an urban slum. The diseconomies of scale which accompany large corporate farms are neither economic nor ecological. it is by now a commonplace that small-scale intensive agriculture (long practised in places like Japan) makes more efficient use of land and often produces higher yields. a farmer working on a smallscale holding is much more likely to have an intimate, caring knowledge of their land than the poorly paid agricultural workers of an absentee landlord. optimal farm size will vary depending on crops and ecosystem, but we can no longer afford the large-scale monocultures of recent times. HealtHy diets Fast-food restaurants, instant meals, factory farms, junk food – all have come to make up an industrial diet associated with a number of dietary diseases. We need to rethink this diet, place meat – which gobbles up so much of the world’s grain supply – more at the periphery and be willing to pay farmers to grow good organic produce. We need more choice in our diets: monoculture is endangering biodiversity by reducing the varieties of fruit, vegetables, grain and meat we eat to a few standard varieties. Here we can learn from the south, with its wider range of edible goods, many of which are still taken from the wild.
DECEMBER 2008

Two sides of the same coin
But aren’t these crises two sides of the same coin? In both cases the public world has become dependent on private corporate interests to provide the essentials of life, and agriculture in the South has either collapsed or been deformed on the promise that cheap food from the industrial North would feed all. In the credit crisis, stagnating real incomes have been supplemented by a huge boom in personal credit, in the belief that the stockand real-estate markets could be the basis of economic security. Relying either on big agribusiness corporations and global food traders or investment banks and realestate speculators is proving a very slippery slope indeed. In both cases, short-sighted profit-seeking has outstripped stable and sustainable development. The view that ‘you can rely on us’ is proving as empty as an African rice bowl or a vacated Las Vegas condo.

Food sovereignty The global food system must be regeared so each country prioritizes its own agricultural potential rather than relying on trade controlled by global corporations. For many years southern agriculture has been starved of resources, outreach services and appropriate research. The World Bank has led the rest of the development funders in abandoning the farmer in the south over the last two decades. While international trade in (fair trade) foodstuffs should continue, it must take a backseat to a more self-reliant approach. More emphasis on local and regional markets will make domestic consumers less subject to the manipulation of grain and rice prices on the Chicago Futures exchange.

4

GMB AKASH

N E W I N T E R N AT I O N A L I S T

DECEMBER 2008

www.newint.org

www.newint.org

N E W I N T E R N AT I O N A L I S T

5

Food crisis

kEYNOTE

Food crisis
infrastructure, technology and now seeds – the basis of high-tech farming. They have managed to convince governments and the international development community that this ‘progressive’ high-tech approach is the only way forward. But, as this magazine spells out, they are following a path fraught with ecological and economic pitfalls. And there is big money at stake: these companies have made staggering profits out of the world food crisis. Small farmers, on the other hand, barely get by. The second market is that of those who need to eat. This is controlled by a series of intermediaries – processors (like kraft Foods or Nestlé), wholesalers (like Cargill or Tyson Foods) and retailers (Walmart, Tesco or Carrefour). These companies make their money by adding on to the low price paid to farmers. They are now spreading from the industrial North into the South. They too have made out like bandits during the world food crisis, posting record profits. Despite the usual ‘there-is-no-alternative’ proclamations, there are saner ways to provide food (see Food – a Saner Way pages 4/5). It is to the muchabused small farmer we must look for a fair and sustainable food economy. Otherwise the future will continue to be marred by corporate price blackmail and junk food.

AGRIBUSINESS

to disease rises dramatically. Every resource is geared to basic survival. Forget the future. Be it Indonesia or Brazil, children (particularly girls) get pulled out of school by desperate parents who can no longer afford the fees, or who need the extra labour. Our vaunted high-tech agriculture fails to provide for those who need it most. Further proof, if any were needed, that turning the provision of food over to transnational agribusiness, traders and speculators is a very bad idea indeed.

Crisis and opportunity
The insecurity and hardship that accompanies these crises is palpable. But where there is crisis there is also opportunity. In ordinary times it is more difficult to put forward a sane alternative to the dictates of transnational business because it is delivering the goods, even if in a partial and perverted fashion. But in a period like this, it is clear that ‘the emperor has no clothes’ and there is a void that needs filling. Our industrial food system is made up of two overlapping markets. One is the large, if shrinking, group of farmers (mostly in the South where a majority of people still survive in this way). This market is catered to by agrochemical and fertilizer giants such as Monsanto, Syngenta AG and the Potash Company of Canada. They provide a range of agrochemicals,

Profits in hungry times
B O R I S H E G E R / R E P O R T D I G I TA L

ACTION

International

GRAIN – excellent analysis of global food issues. www.grain.org Via Campesina – international organization of small farmers and peasants. www.viacampesina.org Pesticide Action Network www.pan-international.org

Australia

Seed Savers’ Network – maintaining seed biodiversity. www.seedsavers.net Anti-GM Foods www.truefood.org.au/index2.html

Canada

Forbes Wild Foods – Jonathan Forbes puts biodiversity on the menu. www.wildfoods.ca Stop Centre – combining healthy food and social action. www.thestop.org National Farmers’ Union – Canadian farmer organization. www.nfu.ca

United States

The Food Security Learning Center of World Hunger Year – World Hunger Year (WHY) www.worldhungeryear.org The Community Food Security Coalition www.foodsecurity.org Food First – advocacy and analysis of the international and US scene . www.foodfirst.org

Britain

Practical Farm Ideas www.farmideas.co.uk

India
Corporate Watch – analysis of agribusiness and other food corporations. www.corporatewatch.org.uk Soil Association – organics and fertility. www.soilassociation.org

The Honeybee Network – alternative technologies to improve rural life. www.sristi.org/hb_magazine/index.html

Focus on Trade E-newsletter (food trade analysis) from the Center for the Global South. www.focusweb.org World Food Programme – official UN organization. www.wfp.org/english

New Zealand/Aotearoa

Rodale Institute – sustainable agriculture around the world. www.newfarm.rodaleinstitute.org Center for Concern – Agribusiness Accountability Project www.coc.org/cap Organic Consumers’ Association www.organicconsumers.org

Green Party – currently running a ‘food revolution’ campaign. www.greens.org.nz/food The Safe Food Campaign – against pesticides and GM foods. www.safefood.org.nz

world’s most vulnerable people to the edge. The most recent headlines come from Ethiopia but it was Haiti earlier this year that provided a quick snapshot of the dynamics of starvation. Runaway prices for basic staples like rice have driven its people to desperate measures. Some have even tried to stave off hunger by eating mud patties mixed with oil and sugar. Others have turned to protest. When commodity prices peaked earlier this year, food riots broke out across the country. They drew the world’s attention and even forced the Prime Minister to resign, but this has made little difference to government policy. Several months later, the riots are starting again. Like so many other countries, Haiti was force-fed a diet of structural adjustment programmes that opened it up to cheap, subsidized imports from richer countries. In the early 1980s Haiti was self-sufficient in rice, its main staple crop. But conditions on foreign loans, particularly a 1994 package from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), forced it to open its markets to cheap, subsidized rice from the US and local production was practically wiped out. Since 2007, rice prices have risen by 50 per cent, and the average Haitian can no longer afford their basic foodstuff. Honduras, another country that was nearly selfsufficient in rice before World Bank intervention, now imports over 80 per cent of its rice needs. Senegal and

The costs of high-tech agriculture
The ongoing food crisis has been compounded by the way most rice is now farmed. In the 1960s, a ‘green revolution’ model of rice production, based on largescale use of a few high-yielding varieties, pesticides and chemical fertilizers, was pushed around the world by international donors and research institutes. The push continues today, especially in Africa, through the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) and Bill Gates’ Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). As a result, most of the world’s rice production is now dependent on petroleum-based inputs – and their costs have spiked
N E W I N T E R N AT I O N A L I S T DECEMBER 2008

6

N E W I N T E R N AT I O N A L I S T D E C E M B E R 2 0 0 8

www.newint.org

www.newint.org

7

B O R I S H E G E R / R E P O R T D I G I TA L

The seeds of a movement to change the way we produce and consume food are already in place. in almost every community one can find farmers’ markets, fair trade shops, food co-operatives, direct buying schemes, organic food stores, urban gardens, poor people’s protest and self-help organizations, farmers’ and peasants’ unions, and increasingly local food security organizations, sometimes embedded in local government. together they are reshaping the food system from the bottom up. in addition there are also some important national and international organizations which provide the analytic tools and resources for the movement. Here are a few of the most useful.

There is always money to be made out of human misery. The campaigning group GRAIN traces the corporate manipulation behind the global food crisis.
Farmers try to scratch out a living in ethiopia’s remote south Wollo province – no corporate saviours here.

The current hunger crisis is forcing millions of the

other West African rice-consuming countries have also seen drastic decreases in domestic rice production following their adoption of structural adjustment programmes. Côte d’Ivoire was a net exporter of rice in the 1970s, but following trade liberalization now imports more than half the rice it consumes. The World Bank’s heavy-handed advice to the Philippines was to back off from its targets for rice self-sufficiency because the world market would take care of its needs. But with the onset of this year’s food crisis, cheaper imports dried up, leaving the Government in a desperate situation – its domestic supply of subsidized rice was nearly exhausted, but it was unable to afford to import because prices demanded by foreign traders were out of reach.

Food crisis

AGRIBUSINESS

alongside the rising costs of energy. The high cost of pesticides and fertilizers has robbed farmers of any benefits they might have seen from higher rice prices. It has also held back increases in production. So, as urban consumers in Haiti protest against high prices, rice farmers in the department of Artibonite, one of Haiti’s few remaining areas of rice production, have taken to the streets to protest against the cost of fertilizer, which, they say, makes it impossible for them to continue farming. In July, GRAIN met farmers from the Red River Delta of northern Vietnam. They say that the rising cost of fertilizers and pesticides has swallowed up the meagre price increases they are getting for their harvests. According to one leader of a co-operative in Thai Binh province, rice farmers in this part of Vietnam now only make about $6 per season. IMF-enforced trade policies combined with ‘green revolution’ agricultural practices have set the stage for agribusiness to reap immense profits, especially in times of crisis. Both the traders – with their near-monopoly of the global trade in agricultural commodities – and the handful of companies that control the global fertilizer, seed and pesticide markets are now effectively in a position to hold the world to ransom. While the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that 50 million more people are now going hungry because of the rise in food prices this year, big agribusiness is making spectacular profits.

e oubl ofits! D e pr t h b le u Doe pr ice! th

TIl fer

Izer

programme’s $792 million budget to subsidizing the purchase of fertilizers, seeds and pesticides. Given the radical investment and fiscal deregulation that accompany GOANA, many of the foreign-owned companies supplying these products will profit from the scheme. Farmers’ groups in Mali are attacking their Government’s response to the food crisis, called the Rice Initiative, because it focuses on input subsidies. They say that the initiative will put all the benefits into the pockets of the fertilizer and seed dealers.

Corporate land grab

A bloody killing
At the height of the food crisis, Cargill, the world’s largest grain trader, was making $471,000 in profit every hour from its grain trading operations. Its fertilizer subsidiary, Mosaic, more than doubled its profits last year. Canada’s Potash Corp, the world’s largest potash producer, made more than $1 billion profit in 2007, an increase of 70 per cent on the previous year. And Bunge, another top global grain trader and fertilizer company, announced profits in excess of $1 billion for the first and second financial quarters of 2008, a growth rate of 471 per cent. With governments panicking about food supplies and desperate to boost their harvests, corporations such as these can essentially charge AGRIbuSINeSS whatever they want. In April 2008, the joint offshore trading arm for

Mosaic and Potash hiked the price of potash fertilizer by 40 per cent for Southeast Asian buyers and by 85 per cent for those from Latin America. India was forced to pay 130 per cent more than last year; China 227 per cent more. Speculators are also cashing in on the food crisis and they are often blamed for the sharp increases in the global price of rice and other commodities. At Thailand’s Agricultural Futures Exchange, the average number of contracts being traded each day has trebled in one year, thanks to speculation on rice, and hedge funds and other speculators now represent up to half of the daily contracts being traded. Such speculation has helped send the price of rice soaring, yet few rice farmers are seeing any benefits. Thai farmers say that whereas last year they were getting $308 per tonne of rice delivered to the mills, this year they were receiving just $296, despite the fact that the price of rice to consumers had trebled.

In the name of the corporations
Despite much high-level talk about the food crisis, including a ministerial summit organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the UN to deal specifically with the matter, nothing concrete has been done. Instead, the current situation is being seized upon as an opportunity to advance corporate control. Most national programmes in developing countries that have sprung up to deal with the food crisis amount to little more than subsidy schemes for seed and fertilizer companies. The Philippine Government’s central response to the food crisis has been a $1 billion rice self-sufficiency programme that will dedicate a substantial part of the funds to the production and distribution to farmers of subsidized hybrid seeds. But the farmers cannot save seeds from rice hybrids and will therefore be forced to purchase seeds from the company every year. One of the companies supplying seeds for the programme is SL Agritech, a Filipino firm with connections to a Chinese company that has already cornered much of the hybrid rice seed market. Monsanto from the US and Bayer from Germany are also involved. Farmers’ groups and NGOs are alarmed that the programme will merely amount to subsidizing big seed companies – and that it will entrench the Philippines among the world’s biggest rice importers. Senegal’s response to the crisis, dubbed the Big Agricultural Offensive for Food and Abundance (GOANA), will dedicate over two-thirds of the

$471,000
profit/hour

But the corporate rush into rice goes well beyond seeds and fertilizers. Lured by the rise in global prices, companies are quickly moving in to set up ‘vertically integrated’ systems of rice production and trade, often with the backing of governments. In West Africa, for example, the Dubai-based Stallion Group has started a regional rice farming project valued at about $1.2 billion, in conjunction with Nigeria’s Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources. The company plans to reach annual rice production of 2.25 million tonnes in Nigeria and 500,000 tonnes in Ghana, and will also be investing in farm machinery, milling capacity and a 700,000-tonnes-per-year fertilizer plant. Two of Asia’s biggest food corporations, Sime Darby of Malaysia and Charoen Pokphand of Thailand, are moving into rice production under the banner of their home country’s response to the global food crisis. They are starting their programmes with the production and commercialization of their own hybrid seeds and the implementation What is needed is a real shift in power. The policymakers, of large-scale contract production scientists and investors who have led us into the current mess schemes. Similarly, the San Miguel cannot be relied upon to get us out of it Corporation, the largest food corporation in the Philippines, and the (in themselves a very good idea) are often Singapore-based kuok Group, the world’s largest palm just repeats of failed ‘green revolution’ oil conglomerate, have announced joint plans for a $1 strategies. billion food production project. It has the support of the The only credible way forward is to Government and the military and will involve a million rebuild from the bottom up. The power hectares of public land in the Philippines. structure must be inverted. Small Several cash-rich governments, like China and farmers, still responsible for most of the Saudi Arabia, concerned about their long-term food food produced, should be the ones setting security, are working with their business sectors and agricultural policy, not the World Trade Organization, newly created investment vehicles to outsource rice the IMF, the World Bank or government bureaucracies. production to other countries. The Government of Laos Peasant organizations and their allies have clear, viable is considering a proposal from a Chinese company for a ideas about how to organize production and services and land concession which would cover 600,000 hectares of how to run markets and even regional and international prime irrigated rice land. Chinese companies also have trade. Labour unions and the urban poor also have a key a number of rice ventures in Africa, from Mozambique role to play in defining food policy. to Cameroon. kuwait has leased rice fields in Cambodia Those of us outside governments and the corporate for export production and is negotiating similar deals sector need to come together as never before. We must with Laos and Burma, while the United Arab Emirates build new solidarities and fronts of action both to is leading negotiations between its companies and address the immediate problems of the food crisis and Pakistan for 600,000 hectares of rice and wheat land. to define long-term solutions. If we don’t work together Bahrain too says it has signed long-term rice production to facilitate a power shift that puts the needs of the rural and supply deals with Thailand and the Philippines. and urban poor first, all we can expect is more ‘business as usual’.

hungry, short-term fixes will not be enough. Now is the time to break with the past and to mobilize around a new, creative vision. We need a profound change to pull us out of this and the unending series of other crises (climate change, environmental destruction, poverty, conflicts over land and water, migration) that neoliberal globalization has generated. What is needed is a real shift in power. The policymakers, scientists and investors who have led us into the current mess cannot be relied upon to get us out of it. They have created a profound double vacuum: a policy void and a market sham. The policy void is palpable. Instead of generating bright ideas to build a more sustainable and equitable food system, they only provide knee-jerk responses that amount to more of the same. More trade liberalization. More fertilizers. More genetically modified organisms and hybrid seeds. And more debt to make it all possible. Rewriting the rules of the finance system or clamping down on speculators remain taboo topics. Even the food self-sufficiency policies being adopted in some developing countries

P r ic e t r e ble d tod ay

S PeCI A l Price

Shut down the system

How then to solve the global food crisis? With governments and agribusiness working together in profit-making schemes which ignore the plight of the

GRAIN is a small international NGO which promotes the sustainable management and use of agricultural biodiversity based on people’s control over genetic resources and local knowledge. www.grain.org
N E W I N T E R N AT I O N A L I S T DECEMBER 2008

8

N E W I N T E R N AT I O N A L I S T

DECEMBER 2008

9

Food last!
Hungry Peruvians are taking to the streets while the Government and foreign corporations feast on the spoils from the country’s natural resources. Stephanie boyd reports from Cuzco.
With cries of ‘Down with the cost of living!’, thousands
of angry marchers filed past crowds of startled tourists in Cuzco’s main square. Over 500 years ago the last Inca ruler, Tupac Amaru, was decapitated in this plaza by Spanish conquerors, and 200 years later his greatgrandson was executed in the same square for leading an indigenous uprising. Now their descendants are rebelling against a new form of colonialism. Their enemy – the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) has chosen Cuzco for its annual meeting. The nationwide strike – one of a dozen held during the past year – was called by Peru’s largest labour organization, the General Workers’ Union. Strike leaders blame rising food prices on the Peruvian Government’s neoliberal economic model, and on recent free trade agreements with the US and Canada. They accuse the Government of providing a banquet of opportunities for foreign corporations at the expense of its own citizens, many of whom can’t afford a basic meal. Peasant farmers joined forces with urban merchants, labourers, students, teachers and other professionals, but onlookers were most intrigued by a thin young man, dressed as Uncle Sam, riding a fat white horse. ‘He’s President Bush riding Peru’s “Crazy Horse” (a popular nickname for Peruvian President Alan Garcia),’ the man guiding the horse explained. Like the Spanish conquerors of old, APEC’s powerhouse nations such as the US, Canada and Australia want easy access to Peru’s gold, silver and other natural resources. The Spanish used religious doctrine to justify their exploitation: indigenous people needed the saving grace of Christianity. But in today’s enlightened world, transnational corporations have exchanged the bible for the doctrine of neoliberal development, and bloody conquest for free trade agreements. They say they are ‘helping’ the ‘poor natives’ to develop and modernize.
indigenous protestors rally against aPeC and high food prices in the ancient Peruvian capital of Cuzco.

Food crisis

PROTEST

Daily bread
But after nearly 20 years of neoliberal reforms, an increasing number of citizens in Peru –and indeed throughout the region – have seen little by way of results. A recent study by the Inter-American Development Bank found that food inflation is skyrocketing throughout Latin America. And as usual it is the poor who are hit hardest. The study found that in Peru, food price inflation stands at 12 per cent, the food share of the Peruvian consumer price index is ‘one of the highest in the world’ according to the country’s Central Bank. Citizens living below the poverty line now spend 60 per cent of their income on their daily bread. Natalia Vargas, a young woman who joined the march in Cuzco, supports her four children by selling vegetables in the city’s San Pedro market. She says prices have nearly doubled in the past month but salaries have remained the same, so people aren’t buying as much food. ‘The money that we earn isn’t enough,’ she says. ‘We have to sell our vegetables almost at cost and there’s hardly anything left over.’ And Peru is not alone. From tortilla marches in Mexico to protest the high cost of corn, to violent food riots in Haiti, which is dependent on food imports, to a farmers’ strike in Argentina against taxes on farm exports, Latin America

Puma laura nemeso complains that the price he gets for his potatoes barely allows for survival.

Javier kapsoli, President of the APEC meeting in Cuzco, told us not to worry about the global food crisis, In their luxurious hotel accommodation beyond the maintaining that Peru’s Government is developing police barricades, APEC delegates heralded recent several proposals to address the issue. free trade agreements between Peru and the US and ‘Could you give us some examples?’ interrupted a Canada as the beginning of a brave new world. Out pushy foreign reporter. on the streets, however, protesters like agronomist He looked at me in confusion. Hector Chipana pointed out that the agreements expose ‘Yes, some concrete plans,’ shouted out an eager local Peruvian farmers to massive dumping of subsidized reporter. The 20-odd journalists in the room snapped to farm goods. The US Farm Bureau Federation estimates attention: finally a topic that didn’t require knowledge of that free trade will boost US farm exports to Peru by global interest rate fluctuations and bond market prices. more than $700 million a year. We held our breath as Javier shuffled his papers and Chipana is President of Cuzco’s Agrarian Federation, squirmed uncomfortably. which provides technical support to farmers. He says ‘The truth is, there aren’t many new proposals,’ he cheap US food imports would worsen – rather than admitted. ‘We talked about the usual solutions used alleviate – the food crisis by putting local farmers out in the West, such as subsidies and support for the lessof business and making Peru reliant on food imports. fortunate sectors.’ Instead of courting foreign governments, Chipana Not one to admit defeat, however, Javier quickly believes Peru should provide credit and support for its launched into a glowing report on Peru’s economy. In own farmers in order to stimulate the local market. 2007 Peru’s economy grew 8.3 per cent – the country’s Human rights groups caution that 97 additional largest increase in 13 years. This is credited mainly to laws have been drafted to support Peru’s free trade the growth in investment, which rose by 25.5 per cent agreements and that these pose a direct threat to the (most of it mining). In fact, a glance at the APEC press country’s marginalized groups. The Government’s kit made it seem as though Peru was doing as well as actions are part of an aggressive, covert policy to convert Canada. Of course, the authors forgot to mention that arable land and nature reserves into concessions for oil, little glitch of income distribution: the economy may be mining and gas. According to Peruvian Government ‘booming’, but 40 per cent of the country’s population statistics, there are 589 mining operations already in can barely afford to eat. production, which together have been granted more Instead of addressing the root causes of the than 10 per cent of the country’s land area. The thirst food crisis, the Government’s response has been to for precious metals and energy threatens one of our criminalize social protest and repress the poor. Amidst most basic needs: the cultivation of food. the wave of strikes and protests, Garcia enacted a law Even biofuels, the allowing him to turn the military From tortilla marches in Mexico, to violent celebrated new ‘green’ loose against the civilian population energy alternative, are should there be ‘suspicion or danger’ food riots in Haiti, to a farmers’ strike having a negative effect of violence or terrorism. Previously, in Argentina, latin America is becoming on the food situation. the military was only allowed to Biofuels use the intervene during a state of emergency. immersed in a virtual war over food energy from organic In effect, the Government has crops like sugar cane and corn to produce ethanol, an declared open season on civil protest. Four protesters alternative to fossil-based fuels. But international aid died during a nationwide strike against rising food agencies like Oxfam say biofuels are contributing to the prices in February. Witnesses said that two of them world’s soaring food prices by taking arable land away were shot by police officers, but the Government denied from food production. Bolivia’s President Evo Morales responsibility and instead enacted a law giving police made a dramatic speech in April to the UN, stating that officers impunity to shoot protesters. While Peru’s poor supporters of biofuels were putting luxury cars ahead are fighting for their daily bread in the streets, Alan of human lives. But not surprisingly, Brazil’s President Garcia, whose party was founded on socialist principles, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has championed the biofuel has sold his leftist roots to corporate interests. The paycause – his country is the world’s largest producer of off is clearly visible in Crazy Horse’s expanding waistethanol made from sugar cane, and he claims that the line and extra chins. industry provides a profitable energy crop for developing nations. Critics, on the other hand, say Brazil’s Amazon stephanie Boyd is a freelance journalist and documentary filmmaker who (which absorbs large amounts of carbon) is being cleared has been living and working in Peru for the past 11 years.

is becoming immersed in a virtual war over food. Puma Laura Nemeso, a farmer from Cuzco’s Paucartambo region, travelled for three hours by bus to attend the APEC protest. He says that although food prices are continually going up, peasant farmers aren’t receiving any more money for their crops. The young farmer smiled with pride as he told me that Peru is the birthplace of the potato, and home to more than a thousand indigenous varieties. But the price of potatoes is so low – 11.5 kilograms sell for 2 soles, or 75 US cents – that Puma Laura’s entire crop for this year is worth only 100 soles (less than $40).

at an alarming rate to make way for biofuel production. Between August 2007 and August 2008 around 8,200 square kilometres of Brazilian jungle was razed, representing an increase of 64 per cent in the rate of deforestation. While critics have succeeded in pointing out the villains in Latin America’s food wars, solutions have remained elusive. Programmes to support small farmers and open up new markets, for example, are glaringly absent from most government agendas.

Plans? What plans?

brave new world

10

B O T H P H O T O S : M I G u E L A R A O z C A R TA G E N A

N E W I N T E R N AT I O N A L I S T

DECEMBER 2008

N E W I N T E R N AT I O N A L I S T

DECEMBER 2008

11

‘A D V E R T O R I A L’

‘A D V E R T O R I A L’

We Care Too...
A Modest Proposal from

Ag-Inc

In the interests of fairness we can no longer keep silent. Hence this advertorial, to put us on the record. Corporations like us here at Ag-Inc have been unfairly blamed for being unfeeling in the face of world hunger and escalating food prices. Our leftist critics have got it exactly the wrong way round. We are not the problem, we are the answer! Here are a few of the principles on which we can base a realistic solution to world hunger.
I L L u S T R AT I O N : D O M I N I C B u G AT T O

Better living through chemistry
When the Green Revolution happened in the 1970s there was much scepticism. But yields increased dramatically and countries like India escaped widespread hunger for the first time. Small, inefficient farmers gave way to fewer, more efficient farmers who could afford the chemicals and irrigation our Green Revolution package demanded. Sure, the revolution ran out of steam eventually, but that simply means we must invest in new waves of technology, fertilizers and pesticides.

Science will find a way
The eco-critics would have it that depending on fossil fuels to grow food is not sustainable, using up soil and water is not sustainable, transporting food around the world is not sustainable. But Ag-Inc knows its history – scientific research and development is the only way to deal with such problems. The genetic engineering of plants and seeds will allow us to cut down on agrochemicals, biofuels will reduce dependency on fossil fuels. Who knows, some day Ag-Inc may be able to provide you with all the nourishment you need in a little blue pill.

No way forward but the market
There is a lot of alarm today about escalating food prices. There has been unfair finger-pointing at the futures market in food commodities. OK, so it has jumped from $5 to $175 billion a year in the last seven years. But what we are seeing is a period of market adjustment to shake out inefficiencies – higher prices today will result in more crops in the field tomorrow. Small, inefficient farmers simply need to find other ways of making a livelihood. Any attempt to tinker with the market will be counterproductive in the end. If there is a market for growing palm, soy and grain as biofuels, then so be it. Land must be allotted for that purpose. The only hope for the poor is to bring them into the market, maybe at first as micro-traders or casual labour. Survival depends on the ability to participate in the market.

we can’t provide what these niche markets want – you want fair trade, we’ll give ye fair trade. But to deliver food in the quantity needed to feed the hungry, we just can’t be so picky. There is no alternative to industrial methods for producing large quantities of food. After all, if our food is so unhealthy, how come life expectancy is the longest in human history?

Population control, not price control
Companies like Ag-Inc are unfairly blamed because poor people don’t get enough to eat. Our critics then propose various schemes to regulate, control, find alternatives to, even nationalize big agribusiness. But is this fair? We can only respond when there are profitable investment opportunities to take. Otherwise those who hold Ag-Inc stock would simply put their money elsewhere. Isn’t the problem really that there are just too damn many of these poor people? Some firm family planning measures are the way to address the global food shortage. Try as we might, we just can’t find a way to make a decent profit from all these poor people.

Get big or get out
The peasant smallholder, the family farm, the corner food store, the little market stall, the organic this or that – it’s all history. Nostalgia for the small is a roadblock in the way of progress – a throwback to another era. We have developed an efficient food system based on bigger is better: you can depend on Cargill and ADM for your wheat and soy; Walmart and Tesco will provide the groceries, McDonald’s and Pizza Hut, the fast cheap meals. Whether you are in Caracas or Manila, your chicken and pork chops are likely to come from Tyson Foods. And of course the Ag-Inc team will continue to be a major player. Big companies are cheap and dependable providers of your groceries, and that’s not going to change – get used to it!

Trade, trade, trade
The way forward in the food economy is to have an international regime of ‘comparative advantage’. A rational division of food production allows the most efficient producers in a particular place to do what they do best: US (grains and meat), Brazil (soy), Thailand and Vietnam (rice), France (wine and dairy products), New Zealand (lamb). Worries about food dependency are overblown and currently fashionable notions of ‘food sovereignty’ are simply a pipedream. If you think food price inflation is bad now, wait until inefficient producers in the Sahel try growing bananas. Expensive ‘food miles’ will just have to be added on to prices in supermarket aisles.

Quantity not quality
There is a growing dissatisfaction with the quality of industrial food. But at a time when some 2.6 billion people around the world lack adequate food, this is all a bit precious. Those movements for organic, slow, vegan and free-range are all very well. But the hungry of the world can’t be so particular. Not that

Ag-Inc
N e w I N t e r N at I o N a l I s t DeCeMBer 2008

12

N e w I N t e r N at I o N a l I s t

DeCeMBer 2008

www.newint.org

www.newint.org

13

Food crisis

M E AT

Meat’s too expensive
Chris brazier believes that having flesh at the centre of our diets is both unjust and unsustainable.
to find myself in passionate discussions about food issues all the time. The situation seemed so urgent. There were so many reasons to be vegetarian that I felt (and still feel) that the burden of justification should be turned around – not ‘why are you vegetarian?’ but rather ‘why on earth do you eat meat?’ There were reasons of dietary health – avoiding fat and cholesterol – and distaste for the idea of feeding on the flesh of another sentient being. But those rarely cut any ice with committed meat-eaters. There was also my abhorrence of the treatment of animals in factory farming. However, if I chose the ground on which to do battle, I tended to talk about the misuse of food resources in a world where people still went hungry – the enormous amounts of grain and pulses fed to cattle to produce a much smaller amount of beef. I saw eschewing meat as ‘a conscientious objection to a system with waste at one end and starvation at the other’.1

When I first became a vegetarian 30 years ago I used

Why on earth do you eat meat?

Distasteful and unnatural
In more recent years, whether because I have become more mellow (or more cowardly) with age, I have rarely ended up in such arguments. I have retained my convictions and my diet and have raised children for whom vegetarianism seems to be a fundamental part of their identity. I had expected at least one of them to experiment during adolescence but instead they still perceive eating meat as both distasteful and unnatural. Parenthood tends to focus you inward more, and to put you less in the paths of strangers to whom an ‘abnormal’ diet would need explaining. Friends and family already know where I am coming from. Extraordinarily, given the shocked disbelief when I first made my stand all those years ago, my extended family now splits pretty much down the middle (turkeyeaters were actually a minority last Christmas). Less surprisingly, the New Internationalist co-operative also now splits down the middle. When I first joined in 1984 I was profoundly shocked to find I was the lone vegetarian.

On the other hand, many friends who once seemed just as committed have reverted to eating meat, while in society as a whole vegetarians and vegans remain a small minority. In Britain a November 2007 survey by the Department of Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs showed two per cent to be vegan, three per cent vegetarian and a further five per cent restricting themselves to fish or chicken. In other Western countries vegetarians and vegans are an even smaller minority.

Turning-point
But a sea-change is now taking place. A turningpoint came when it became evident that the livestock industry, in addition to all its other failings, was a major contributor to climate change. Over the last year, a crisis in the existing world food and farming model has erupted – refocusing attention on precisely those arguments about misuse of resources that fuelled my original concern. The 2006 report of the UN Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO), ‘Livestock’s Long Shadow’, helped bring the global warming effect of the meat and dairy industries to public notice. Written by agricultural economist Dr Henning Steinfeld, the report caused consternation in the livestock industry and cost the FAO some of its funding. More recently, in September 2008, Dr Rajendra Pachauri, the Chair

In 2006, farmers produced 276 million tons of meat, of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, added his own fuel to five times as much as in the 1950s. In the West, meat consumption has continued to increase, while those this particular fire with a presentation developing countries that have prospered over the period in London. Though he was making a have immediately tended to mark their new prosperity personal case rather than representing by eating more meat – a trend that is obviously likely to his organization, there were inevitably continue. newspaper headlines along the lines of ‘UN chief says eat less meat to stop Meat consumption per head (kg per annum) global warming’.2 His presentation encompassed 40 years ago now the latest statistics, gathered from a US 89 124 range of different sources, not only Spain 22 119 on greenhouse-gas emissions from Europe 56 89 the livestock industry but on the Brazil 39 68 wasteful inefficiency of a food and China 4 54 farming model based on meat and Japan 8 42 dairy produce. Among the key facts he included were: • Livestock production accounts To feed the projected extra demand, there would need for 80 per cent of greenhouse gas to be a further doubling of meat and dairy production emissions from agriculture and for by 2050, involving a doubling in the number of farm 18 per cent of all greenhouse gas animals from the current 60 billion to 120 billion. Yet emissions from human activities – 70 per cent of all agricultural land and 30 per cent of including 37 per cent of the methane the world’s surface land area is already given over to (23 times the global warming potential livestock. of CO2 over 100 years), and 65 per unsustainable cent of the nitrous oxide (265 times 2 These global eating trends are clearly unsustainable, the global warming potential of CO over 100 years). whether in terms of producing (and sharing) enough • Producing one kilogram of beef food to feed a still-growing world population or of leads to the emission of greenhouse reducing greenhouse gas emissions. People who have up gases with a warming potential equivalent to 36.4 to now dismissed vegetarianism and veganism as mere kilograms of CO2 – equivalent to the amount emitted ‘lifestyle choices’ may over the next few years be forced by the average European car every 250 kilometres. to think again. Governments will surely be required to The production of that one kilo of beef consumes 169 intervene to reduce (or at least limit the growth in) the megajoules of energy – enough to light a 100-watt bulb consumption of meat and dairy products. A good start for 20 days. would be eliminating the • On top of this, meat requires vast government subsidies The burden of justification should be turned from which the meat and refrigerated transportation and storage, extensive packaging and around – not ‘why are you vegetarian?’ but dairy industries currently cooking at high temperatures benefit. rather ‘why on earth do you eat meat?’ for long periods. A high At an individual level, proportion of meat (bones and altering our diet may be as fat, as well as past-sell-by-date products) is wasted and much of a necessity in the years to come as insulating finds its way into landfills or incinerators. our homes or reducing our air travel. For those not • A farmer can feed up to 30 people throughout the prepared to give it up altogether, perhaps more attention year on one hectare with vegetables, fruits, cereals and could be paid to meat’s origin – to eating only animals vegetable fats. If the same area is used for the production that have grazed areas unsuitable for arable farming. Or of meat, milk or eggs, the number of persons fed varies perhaps meat might return to being something saved for from 5 to 10. special occasions, for high days and holidays – as it was • A third of the world’s cereal harvest and over 90 per for earlier generations, and still is in most parts of the cent of soya is used for animal feed, despite inherent Majority World. inefficiencies. Yet it takes more than 10 kilograms of I felt the situation was urgent 30 years ago, but it is grain to produce 1 kilo of beef, 4-5.5 kilos to produce 1 much more so now. The politics of food have always kilo of pork and 2.1-3.3 kilos of grain to produce 1 kilo been emotive but the stakes just got much, much higher. of poultry meat. Chris Brazier is a New Internationalist Co-Editor. • A vegan living for 70 years will pump an average of 100 tons less CO2-equivalent into the atmosphere than 1 Chris Brazier, keynote article on ‘How to Feed the World’, ni 151, someone eating meat and dairy products. September 1985. 2 The Observer, 7 September 2008. The food crisis detailed in the rest of this issue only All statistics in this article are drawn from Dr Rajendra Pachauri, ‘The makes these statistics more telling. The era of cheap, impact of meat production and consumption on climate change’, Compassion mass-produced food – dependent on the consumption of enormous amounts of energy and responsible for huge in World Farming’s Peter Roberts Memorial Lecture, 8 September 2008. greenhouse-gas emissions – is surely coming to an end. Yet meat eating worldwide continues to rise.
ANDREW KOKOTK A

14

N E W I N T E R N AT I O N A L I S T

DECEMBER 2008

www.newint.org

www.newint.org

N E W I N T E R N AT I O N A L I S T

DECEMBER 2008

15

food c ris i s the facts
The increase in global food prices may have temporarily stalled but food is expected to remain at record price levels for the foreseeable future. Industrial agriculture’s chickens have come home to roost. But the price is being paid not by agribusiness and food retailers but by small farmers whose income remains low, and by the millions being pushed into malnutrition.

Russia

Who wins?
Big companies: • The share price of two of the world’s
biggest agribusinesses – Monsanto and Syngenta AG – almost doubled between June 2007 and June 2008.1

Who loses?
Hungry People: • 2.6 billion people around the world

collapse of the global food system10 not afford food. A hundred million additional people were pushed into a situation of ‘food peril’.3
Unrest/protests Export ban/restrictions

Belarus Croatia Serbia Pakistan Egypt Uzbekistan China Bangladesh Cambodia Ethiopia Cameroon Tanzania Sri Lanka Indonesia

live on $2 a day or less and spend 60 to 80 per cent of their income on food.8 are food importers and 80 per cent of the estimated 845 million hungry people are small farmers.2

• Today, 70 per cent of poor countries

Profit increase for some of the world’s largest grain traders and fertilizer corporations2 2,340 (36%) 2,200 Company Profits 2007 (67%) in US$ million with
increase from 2006 as a percentage in brackets

• Small farmers have seen few benefits from runaway food prices. In Spain the farmers’ union estimates that consumer prices are 600 per cent higher than the prices farmers receive. 9 • Slightly over a billion people
in the world are overweight while slightly under a billion suffer from malnutrition.7

Haiti

Mauritania Senegal Burkina Faso Ivory Coast

Niger Sudan

Yemen

India

• The Food and Agriculture

Peru Bolivia Mozambique

Organization estimates that the increase in food prices in 2007/08 meant 100 million more people could

grain
traders
764 (30%)

Argentina

1,100 1,116 1,100 (72%) (44%) (95%)

fertilizer
corporations

What’s happened to agriculture?
• The majority of people in

food productivity has continued to increase but at a much diminished rate11 Wheat 10.5% Rice 4.2% 2.1%
61 04 19 20

S) ta s ( h Ya Ca Co ra na rp (N d a or ) w ay Si ) no ch (C e hi m na )

S)

S)

food price take-off
rise in food prices 2005-20083
230 1999-2000 – 100

(U

(U

ill

M

a

(U

Corn 3.0% 1.6%
61 04 19 20

Africa and Asia still survive by what they can earn working as farmers. research funds to 16 research institutes (mostly in the South) has been steadily declining since 1996.12

rg

A

Ca

nA Co

gr

D

Po

1.2%
61 04 19 20

speculators cash in
Betting on the future price of rice forces up the real price4
$25

• The value of agricultural

200

170

The FAO Food Price Index shows that global food prices have roughly doubled in eight years.

$20

rice futures
per 100 pounds

140

$15
Q I L A I S H E N / PA N O S

• More than half of global agro-exports come from the US, Brazil, Argentina, Canada, Australia and France. Together these 3.7 countries represent 3.0 just 2% of world 1.2 farmers.13

World population growth is outstripping the volume of food we produce11 8.8
6.1 6.9 7.7 8.3

9.2

4.5

5.3

number of people (billions) projected

number of people Population (billions)
2.0 2.1

and productivity

1.5

total cereal produced (billion tonnes)

1960 1970 1980 1990 2000 2010 2020 2030 2040 2050 110
20 05 20 06 20 07 20 08

$10

• In 2008 total world stocks of all

grains were at their lowest for 30 years.

2007

2008

1 Globe and Mail, 28 June 2008 2 www.grain.org 3 www.fao.org/worldfoodsituation 4 Toronto Star, 24 April 2008 5 The Guardian, 4 July 2008 6 The Guardian, 15 April 2008 7 101 Facts You Should Know About Food, Icon Books 2007 8 ‘The Food Crisis’, Ian Angus www.socialistproject.ca 9 www. viacampesina.org 10 Der Spiegel, 14 April 2008 11 The Atlas of Food, Earthscan 2008 12 www.scidev.net 13 ‘The not-so-sudden world food crisis’ www.canadiandimension.org 14 www.chathamhouse.org

1
16

Why did food prices rise?
the Us Government
estimates that shifting agricultural land to biofuels increased world food prices 3 per cent, but a World Bank study holds the figure is as much as 75%.5

2

Less than half the world’s grain production is actually eaten by people – the rest ends up as animal feed and biofuels. In 2007 the global grain harvest was 2.1 billion tons. But only 1.01 billion tons will go to feed people. Some 760 million tons – or 14 times the global food deficit – will be fed to animals.6

3

although estimates vary, up to 50% of the recent rise in food prices can be traced to the increased demand for a more meat-centred Western diet from the growing middle classes of India and China. Beef consumption in China has increased by 240% in the last decade.7

speculative pressure

4

– investment funds now control 50 to 60% of the wheat traded on the world’s biggest commodity markets. Speculative money in commodity futures like rice and grain has risen from $5 billion in 2000 to $175 billion in 2007.2

climate change – and

agricultural inputs

5

the severe weather it brings about – is estimated to have increased the number of undernourished people by between 40 and 170 million. A multi-year drought has cut Australian grain production by 60% and wiped out the rice harvest completely.14

6

(particularly petroleum-based ones) have gone up in line with the skyrocketing cost of a barrel of oil. The increases in the price of potash used in fertilizer (40% in SE Asia, 85% in Latin America, 130% in India and 227% in China) are particularly crippling.2

N E W I N T E R N AT I O N A L I S T D E C E M B E R 2 0 0 8

www.newint.org

www.newint.org

N E W I N T E R N AT I O N A L I S T D E C E M B E R 2 0 0 8

17

Food crisis

SOIL DEPLETION

In a world plagued with worries about depleting resources, having enough dirt to go round seems like the least of our problems. David Montgomery dissents.

18

N e w I N t e r N at I o N a l I s t

DeCeMBer 2008

www.newint.org

www.newint.org

N e w I N t e r N at I o N a l I s t

DeCeMBer 2008

19

COuRTNEY MILNE

a saskatchewan dust storm blows away the future.

resource, yet in the long run it is soil which is the more important. Even so, people’s eyes tend to glaze over when talk turns to soil conservation, maybe because it’s so much easier to see the immediate relevance of rising gas prices and climate change in these days of peak oil. So while public attitudes on climate change have shifted dramatically over the past few years, a crisis in global agriculture remains hidden: we are, and have long been, using up the supply of topsoil we rely on to grow our food. Those of us living in modern cities can easily forget that without fertile soil we could not survive. Yet modern agricultural techniques are eroding the very soil on which food production depends. This ongoing soil loss means we face the problem of feeding a growing population from a shrinking land base. This should be troubling because even a casual reading of history shows that, under the right circumstances, climatic extremes, political turmoil or resource abuse can bring down a society. And in the century ahead we face all three, as shifting climate patterns and depleted oil supplies coincide with progressive loss of farmland. We have, in effect, been ‘mining’ soil for much of human history. Indeed, the decline in fertility and loss of agricultural lands through wind and water erosion is a problem as old as agriculture itself. Civilizations from Babylon to Easter Island have proven only as durable as the fertility of their land. The Roman Empire left Eastern Mediterranean agriculture in a state from which it has yet to recover. But the problem of soil loss is not just ancient history. Exacerbated by modern industrial farming, global agricultural soil loss of about a millimetre per year outpaces soil formation by at least tenfold. Over the past century, the effects of long-term soil erosion were masked by bringing new land under cultivation and by developing fertilizers, pesticides and crop varieties to compensate for declining soil productivity. However, such ‘agrotech’ fixes become progressively more difficult to maintain because crop yields decline exponentially as soil thins. While fertilizers can temporarily offset the effects of soil erosion, the long-term productivity of the land cannot be maintained in the face of the reduced organic

Oil is what most of us think of as a strategic

Small and soil friendly
In contrast to the amount of arable land, which has varied widely through time and across civilizations, the amount of land needed to feed a person has systematically declined. Hunting and gathering societies used from 20 to 100 hectares per person; our current use of 1.5 billion hectares of cultivated land to feed roughly 6 billion people equates to about 0.25 hectares of cropland per person. And by 2050 the amount of available cropland is projected to drop to less than 0.1 hectare per person. So, simply keeping up will require major increases in crop yields. Before 1950, increases in global food production came by either enlarging the area under cultivation or improved husbandry. Since 1950 most of the increase has come from mechanization and intensified use of chemical fertilizers. The ‘green revolution’ doubled food production and averted a food crisis through increased use of chemical fertilizers, massive investments in irrigation infrastructure in developing nations and the introduction of high-yield varieties of wheat and rice capable of producing two or three harvests a year. Subsequently, however, growth in crop yields has slowed and achieving further substantial increases through conventional means seems unlikely – since crops don’t take up half the nitrogen in the fertilizers farmers apply today, adding even more won’t help. Perhaps genetic engineering could substantially increase crop yields – but only at the risk of releasing super-competitive species into agricultural and natural environments, with unknowable consequences. So far, the promise of greatly increased crop yields from genetic engineering remains unfulfilled. And it could prove catastrophic, should genetically modified genes

ANDREW KOKOTK A

Peak soil

matter and thinning of soil that characterize industrial agriculture. Replacing soil fertility with chemical fertilizers and genetically engineered crops can boost productivity in the short run, but a world stripped of its soil cannot, in the end, feed itself. Feeding a doubled human population without further increasing crop yields would require doubling the area presently under cultivation. Such vast tracts of land could only be found in tropical forests and subtropical grasslands – like the Amazon and the Sahel. Experience shows that farming such marginal lands produces an initial return, but the land quickly becomes degraded and has to be abandoned – if the population has somewhere to go. With the land best suited for agriculture already under cultivation, expansion into marginal areas is not a long-term strategy.

acts as mulch, helping to retain moisture and retard that convey sterility cross to nonerosion by as much as 90 per cent. With no-till practices proprietary crops. Does it even currently being used on less than 10 per cent of global make sense to design crops that can’t cropland, there is tremendous potential to expand them, reproduce? and to research how to couple them better with organic So how do we move to sustainable methods. agriculture and still feed the world? Industrial agriculture will never provide a way out of The answer lies in better adapting what hunger for the third of humanity that lives on less than we do to where we do it. To do this two dollars a day. More innovative thinking is necessary, we need to restructure agricultural and on a global scale. If we are to feed those too poor to subsidies to favour small-scale organic buy food, the naïve idea that all we need to do is produce farms, encourage soil-friendly farming cheap food must go. While food was still cheap there methods such as no-tilling (see below) for larger were still far too many hungry people on the planet. A industrial farms, and develop urban agriculture. different approach – one that might actually work – Public dialogue and media portrayals of organic would be to promote the prosperity of small farms in farming tend to the simplistic, pitting those who the Global South so that subsistence farmers can feed consider modern industrial farming unsustainable themselves, generate an income and become stewards against those who argue that organic methods are of the land. To do this they need access to enough unethical when hunger plagues so many people. land to grow a marketable surplus, and an agricultural Representatives of agribusiness like to question the support system that builds relevance of organic Among soil scientists, concern over the world’s on indigenous agricultural agriculture in feeding a knowledge and provides 10-billion-person planet fast-depleting soil is almost universal appropriate tools. and instead promote Finally, as oil and the cost of shipping food around agrochemicals and genetically modified crops as keys to the world become more expensive, it will become food security. Yet many studies over the past decades increasingly attractive to take food production to have shown that crop yields under organic methods the people – into the cities. With 800 million people are comparable to those achieved through conventional already involved, urban farming is not restricted to methods. Indeed, some of the highest crop yields come developing countries; by the late 1990s two-thirds of from small-scale, labour-intensive organic farms. Moscow’s families were engaged in urban agriculture. Many currently profitable industrial farming City agriculturalist Will Allen has been pioneering methods would become uneconomic if their true costs urban farming in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, as a way to were incorporated into market pricing. Direct financial subsidies and failure to include the costs of depleting soil provide healthy, affordable diets to low-income urban populations. He has come to realize that urban farms fertility encourage practices that degrade the land. In not only deliver fresh produce to city dwellers at a lower the US, for example, the top 10 per cent of agricultural cost of transportation, but that they typically use far producers now receive 66 per cent of the more than $10 less water, fertilizer and oil, and can reduce urban waste billion handed out in annual subsidies, and they use it to support large farms growing single crops, particularly disposal problems and costs. Among soil scientists, concern over the world’s fastwheat, corn and cotton. We need to curb the $300 depleting soil is almost universal. Unfortunately, saving billion in global agricultural subsidies – more than six times the world’s annual development assistance budget dirt just isn’t a very sexy issue. However, time grows short and industrial agriculture is proving an expensive – that encourage unsustainable industrial farming. and increasingly risky dead end. We are left with a Shifting public support to make organic agriculture fundamental challenge: how do we merge traditional more competitive is part of the answer. agricultural knowledge with modern understanding No-till alternative of soil ecology to promote and sustain intensive No-till agriculture also warrants greater public support, agriculture? Herein lies our real hope for feeding a as it can effectively maintain crop yields and slow down hungry world. soil loss, even on large, mechanized farms. Instead of david r Montgomery is the author of Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations and using a plough to turn the soil and open the ground, professor of geomorphology at the University of Washington. no-till farmers push seeds into the ground through the organic matter left over from prior crops, minimizing direct disturbance of the soil. Although adoption of no-till methods is often accompanied by increased herbicide use, crop residue left at the ground surface

Food crisis

FA R M I N G

Food crisis
the farm, in order to earn extra money. The land was a slice of Ontario paradise, gently rolling with abundant woods and wetlands. It was as close to pristine as a place could be in industrialized North America. The farm was based primarily on growing grass to feed livestock. Grass agriculture was efficient, reducing the dependence on expensive inputs like fertilizer, pesticides and energy, as well as being more environmentally sustainable.

A LT E R N AT I V E S

Selling out the farm

Storm clouds
Our problems began on 20 May 2003, when a case of BSE or Mad Cow Disease was discovered in western Canada. Borders in the US and around the world were slammed shut. Before BSE was discovered, 75 per cent of Canada’s beef stock went to the US as either processed meat or live animals. A glimmer of hope came in September when the US announced it would permit the import of processed boxed beef from animals less than 30 months old. The US transnationals that control 70 per cent of the processing industry cleaned up – they were able to buy Canadian beef for a pittance and then process and ship it to the US, where it sold at inflated prices. As a result, the profits of the Canadian subsidiaries of Cargill and Tyson Foods increased by 280 per cent. By fall, calf prices had risen slightly but were still barely half those of the previous year. We, like many farmers, decided to keep stock that we would normally have sold. This meant not only a loss of income, but also the added expense of feeding the cattle through the winter. The crisis was not resolved and we continued to haemorrhage money. Four years later the market had still not recovered. Over this period other economic factors came into play. The price of commodities like grains, oilseeds and other livestock fell. By trying to farm we were subsidizing corporate agribusiness and consumers by producing food at a loss. It was time to sell. But a farm developed over two decades is a complex organism and it took a year to sell the cattle, the sheep, the machinery and the farm. ‘What have you lost?’ people ask. ‘How do you feel?’ Twenty years is barely a heartbeat in history. Yet over that time an entrepreneur built a nine-square-kilometre water plant next to our farm. Pig factories soiled the air. Tractor-trailer tankers of city sewage sludge were parked in neighbours’ fields. Giant wind turbines, to feed the urban need for air conditioning, sprouted like burdocks. Depressed land prices allowed wealthy stockbrokers and lawyers to build monster ski chalets and horse palaces. What is lost? First, a dream. Second, a steward of the land. Third, a bond with a culture and a community. Fourth, an engine of the rural economy. Fifth, a sustainable and safe source of food. How do we feel? Relieved. In the end some Mennonite farmers bought us out. The land was not suited for stockbrokers. Too close to the water factory.
ray Burley used to farm in the Blue Ridge Mountain region of Southwestern Ontario.

Ray burley’s story is all too familiar to Canadian farmers.
‘Why do they bury dead farmers only two feet deep?’
asks the farmer. ‘So they can still get their hand out…’ It is gallows humour, the kind of canary-in-thecoalmine commentary used by race comedians. Many farmers tell the story because they want to pre-empt what they believe the rest of society is already thinking. It is also has the echo of the bittersweet hopelessness of bluegrass music. ‘Carry me away’ is not an expression of religious zeal. It is a plea to be relieved of suffering. After 20 years of farming, my wife and I made the decision to quit. We were forced out because in the world of corporate monopoly of processors and supermarkets, there is virtually no price competition for the food we produced. At the same time the costs of farm inputs – things like fuel, machinery and fertilizer – were rising precipitously. These sectors too are controlled by giant agribusiness corporations that reap usurious profits. For us, the arrival of Mad Cow Disease was the tipping point, but in truth our enterprise would probably have perished anyway. No matter how powerful a person’s ability to rationalize, there is a sense of failure and loss in being forced to abandon a fulfilling undertaking. To farm is to enter into a union with nature that is as foreign to most urbanites as the surface of the Moon. There is a close association with the tenacity and cycle of life, with the weather and the seasons. Each season is a preparation for another: planting in spring to harvest in the fall, haying in summer to feed in winter, breeding in one season to calve or lamb in another. The years flow together in an indefatigable, bucolic continuum. We bought our farm in 1988 and, starting with just three cows, built a herd of 80 beef cows and a flock of 45 ewes over the next decade. We were part of a rural community that was generous with advice and help. As on most family farms, my wife and I also worked away from

Fusion time
MIKE BLAKE / REuTERS

With industrial agriculture getting a failing grade for its inability to feed the hungry and its high ecological costs, Wayne Roberts thinks we need to mix and match to restore a sustainable and fair food system.

I’ve got to thinking that Fusion may be just the answer

perspectives. Before the era of cheap fossil fuels that to the world’s power shortage problem. Calm down could be used for fertilizer, mixed farming of diverse – I’m not thinking about nuclear fusion for electrical crops was the norm. Earlier this year I volunteered power! I’m thinking about Fusion foods, which offer at one such postcard-perfect mixed farm, owned by new ways of combining a wide range of ingredients, Allister and Margaret Veinot, on Canada’s Prince and the possibilities of growing people-power in an Edward Island. I was amazed at how lightly mixed emerging food system. farmers step on the earth. The sheep feed mainly Upscale chefs have created some confusion about on pasture, the greenest crop that can be grown on Fusion by using the word to brand their out-of-the-box marginal land that’s too poorly drained to be planted and expensive approach to mixing ingredients from with crops for human consumption. A local beekeeper many lands and cultures. Food history shows that pays rent of two buckets of honey a year in return for Fusion cooking came out of the cultural inventions and permission to store a hundred hives on the pasture. sharing that happened whenever ordinary people from Blueberry pickers pay to pick in two hectares of forest different places met, when working as sailors and migrant on the farm. The manure from the sheep is composted labourers, or thrown together in servitude. What else in the vegetable garden and greenhouse that supply is Creole cuisine, concocted from the cooking pots of a nearby farmers’ market. Culls and weeds from the African slaves and indigenous peoples of the Caribbean garden provide nutrient variety in the pasture-based during the 1500s, but Fusion? diet of the sheep and other livestock. By Fusion-style In today’s world, Fusion also appears Fusion perspectives on food may be just the first popular expression on menus for personal, political and food change. Fusion savours the collapse of the new energy released by this wider range of options of the bipolar world of the Cold War, when the US and the Soviet Union presented the mixing and matching, the Veinots, the island’s first world with two offers that couldn’t be refused. This was certified organic farmers, run a zero-waste operation followed by the downfall of the ‘new world order’ that that requires few energy inputs from afar – the multiUS governments and the World Trade Organization polar opposite to the monoculture standard in overtried to impose after the Soviet Union disintegrated. specialized and industrialized agriculture. China, India, Brazil, Venezuela and a revitalized Likewise, to manage pests without toxic pesticides, Europe are only the first to step away from the demands sustainable farmers learn to get by with a little help of a unipolar world and announce that multipolar is the from companion plants. Companion planting is about new normal. putting odd couples together in a garden or farm so A multipolar world opens up new ways of seeing that each overcomes the weakness of the other by options in many areas of life. Fusion perspectives on warding off pests or enriching the soil. Horseradish food may be just the first popular expression of the new protects potatoes from potato beetle, while onions energy released by this wider range of options. protect asparagus from slugs, and alfalfa draws down Sustainable agriculture fits well with Fusion nitrogen and breaks up hard soil for other types of
N E W I N T E R N AT I O N A L I S T DECEMBER 2008

20

N E W I N T E R N AT I O N A L I S T

DECEMBER 2008

www.newint.org

www.newint.org

21

Food crisis

A LT E R N AT I V E S

vegetable. Plants from very different families and countries join a farm orchestra that creates a whole with more vitality than the sum of its unfused parts.

No more either/or

In a multi-polar world, ‘either/or’ no more describes the range of choices than ‘my way or the highway’. I believe this mix of disparate partners, increasingly the norm in food-based non governmental organizations (NGOs), is a precondition for a more democratic, egalitarian, sustainable and healthy food system. There are no simple formulas or silver bullets for food problems. No remedy can be designed that doesn’t incorporate personal responsibility, for example. At some point, people who eat too many unhealthy foods causing degenerative diseases have to make the up close and personal commitment to cut the crap. Likewise, any remedy requires collaboration among many actors – individual eaters, farmers and fishers, processors, distributors, retailers, workplaces, childcare centres, public-sector purchasers, government agriculture departments… and on and on. This patchwork of freeflowing and networked collaboration and partnership could be called Fusion – an option for an engaged democracy that governments seem reluctant to embrace. Just as good gardens flourish with There is no good reason for a polarized debate about farming for unexpected companion plants, and tasty meals engage a range of complementary taste fuel, fabric and fibre as well as food, when all can flourish together buds, food politics embraces differences that might appear as contradictions. Two equally in farms that produce renewable materials for many purposes powerful forces supported Cuba’s surprising success in overcoming hunger in the ‘special period’, be eaten by humans, or that the sheer amount of when it went cold turkey to end its addiction to Soviet grains eaten by livestock makes meat as harmful to supplies and markets. One force was unquestionably global warming as Hummers – can identify points the power of its public institutions to govern education, of agreement in a Fusion framework. If livestock eat health and other determinants of well-being. Equally pasture grasses, the food many animals evolved on, important was the second force: a glasnost of personal the animals are healthier, provide leaner and more and informal initiatives, often nurtured by NGOs, nutritious meat, and feed on a farm crop that’s raised which were responsible for the unprecedented expansion with a light touch with minimal fuel inputs and a of self-managed food gardens in Havana and other cities tolerance for biodiversity. A parting of the ways is not – the key to Cuba’s ability to produce and distribute how to imagine the eclectic future of sustainability, adequate food for all. Seemingly far apart on the which is why dialogue is the kissing cousin of fusion. political spectrum, public power and the power of one As essential as food and agriculture are to the come together in the new Fusion scene. individual and collective well-being of all people, they have not been the subject of general or comprehensive Fusion trumps conflict social movements in the way that other issues – I believe many of the heated conflicts currently think national independence, gender equality, union bedevilling the relationships between people working on organization, public health, the right to vote or universal various aspects of food issues will assume their proper education, for example – have been. I think this delay (minimal) proportions once Fusion perspectives become in the development of unified food movements results the norm. There are many reasons to oppose biofuels from the unyielding resistance that the complexity of made from corn or palm oil, for example, and just as food, farming and fishing have always offered to the many reasons to support biofuels from crops that store simple algorithms that make industrial production carbon underground while protecting animal habitat and centralized politics possible. Until more diversityabove ground. A recent Canadian experiment conducted tolerant ways of mixing it up became more acceptable, by the NGO Resource Efficient Agricultural Production there was little space for unifying movements that has established that switchgrass – with deep roots that embraced the panorama of food issues. But the time for heal damaged lands and rebuild carbon stores, while a more sophisticated food politics is long past due. The providing nesting ground for birds during early summer kind of imagination that has made the world ripe for – can be cut and pelleted for fuel that heats greenhouses Fusion-style cooking in the kitchen, can also make it at an efficiency rate 570 per cent higher than corn ethanol ripe for a Fusion-style cooking up of a political storm. or soy diesel fuel. There is no good reason for a polarized Wayne roberts manages the Toronto Food Policy Council and is the author debate about farming for fuel, fabric and fibre as well as food, when all can flourish together in farms that produce of the No Nonsense Guide to Food, published by New Internationalist. To order visit your local online shop www.newint.org/shop/ renewable materials for many purposes.

The hot debate about local and long-distance foods will also cool down once the Fusion-loving complexity of food is understood. There is little need for a sharp split when most studies agree that long-distance transportation of food accounts for less than 15 per cent of the total energy consumed in food production. Some foods – grains and coffee spring to mind – can be carted long distances at a slow pace that requires little energy or pollution. The heavy-duty and polluting energy in food comes from artificial fertilizers, processing, packaging, refrigeration, and above all, corporate and personal waste. That allows responsible governments, retailers and eaters some leeway to find a variety of ways to reduce the energy required to produce food, and a way out of creating unnecessary divisions based on unnecessary conflicts. Fair trade coffee, shipped as dried beans to be roasted and packaged in reusable or compostable packages close to the customer, with the waste heat from the roasting being used to warm greenhouses that grow winter vegetables – as is done by the Saltspring Coffee Company on Canada’s west coast – is about as ‘go local’ as Fusion trade can get. What’s the point of angst or arguing? In much the same way, needless conflicts between vegetarians and carnivores – many argue that meat requires far too much grain that could otherwise

Financial crisis

The road to meltdown
David Ransom takes a global look at a financial crisis still largely couched in parochial terms.
‘You mean, we’re giving the banks all this money just so
they can lend it back to us with interest?’ Well, yes, that is precisely what the bank bailout currently means – and an incredulous ‘vox pop’ interviewee on a radio station in Britain had got it in one. So had a woman in the US who pointed to one of the empty ‘foreclosed’ homes in her street and said: ‘It’s not as if there’s
N E W I N T E R N AT I O N A L I S T

anything wrong with the house.’ Common sense is uncommon among the lightfingered people who have had their hands on the tiller of the ship of state, the luxury yacht of globalization. What the rich world faces is, in truth, nothing much more complicated than a good, old-fashioned debt crisis – even if ‘credit crunch’ sounds nicer. Either way, it’s
DECEMBER 2008

22

N E W I N T E R N AT I O N A L I S T

DECEMBER 2008

www.newint.org

www.newint.org

23

NICHOLAS ROBERTS / AFP / GETTY IMAGES

Financial crisis
a matter of living beyond one’s means, of not paying At much the same time, corporate globalization debts where they are due. This has been possible only twigged that cheap commodities could be matched because the debts are owed, for the most part, by the with cheap, unorganized labour in places like China, rich and powerful in the Minority World to the poor Indonesia or Mexico, to produce cheap consumer and vulnerable in the Majority World – and to that goods. Together, these two cheap things from the ultimate creditor of everything, nature itself. Majority World removed the threat of price inflation In fact, it all began with what looks like a gift from in the Minority World. This gave birth not just to a nature – oil. The price quadrupled during the first globalized consumer culture but to low interest rates ‘oil shock’ in the early 1970s. This generated vast and cheap money. quantities of windfall cash for the oil-rich OPEC With this money a veritable orchestra of financial countries (or rather, their rulers). The cash had to instruments began to ‘leverage’ – acquire with go somewhere. So a new sort of footloose currency, borrowed money – everything within reach. It sometimes styled ‘petrodollars’, began to circulate. levitated into a world of make-believe riches based This evaded the rules that had governed international on (insider) information and (private) services finance since the Bretton Woods conference in which made nothing but money itself. The crude 1944 – which was aimed, if a little uncertainly, at reality of inflated prices for ‘assets’ like homes, preventing a repetition of the Great Depression of the together with trade or budget deficits and personal 1930s and the bloodshed that followed. debt – particularly in the US and Britain – was Incubated by petrodollars, Masters of the Universe casually discounted. Confidence, or blind faith, was duly hatched on Wall Street and in the City of everything. London. A receptive President Nixon had been But the growing scarcity of oil in particular and prevailed upon to begin financial deregulation in 1972 finite resources in general grew along with their – by some counts there have been 42 financial crises consumption, so that their cheapness could no longer worldwide in the 36 years since. be assured. Supercharged by speculation, the price of Much of the cash went wherever it seemed most oil, food and commodities on world markets eventually likely to make the fastest and fattest returns. At the began to soar – a warning of what was to come. time, since the rich world was staggering under the Countries with trade and budget surpluses impact of the oil shock, that pointed to a motley (notably China and, once again, OPEC) had by now crew of corporations, despots, oligarchs, kleptocrats accumulated vast ‘Sovereign Wealth Funds’. For a and chancers operating in former All the signs are that the meltdown has a long way to go yet. Many colonies and across the Third World. They duly squandered the money on millions of lives will be ruined, starting with the most vulnerable, themselves, recycling it once more into the numbered bank accounts and tax most of whom live in the Majority World havens thoughtfully provided by the Masters of the Universe. The cancerous reproduction while they had little option but to feed the debts of of candyfloss, globalized finance had begun. the Minority World – again, that cash had to go Before long, however, the problem of ‘servicing’ somewhere. these debts, or paying them back, threatened to result Then, in August 2007, the default line was crossed. in defaults on a massive scale and, what was worse, Sovereign Wealth Funds would not, understandably sink the financial institutions that were responsible. enough, lend to bankrupt private financial institutions So a ‘Third World Debt Crisis’ was concocted. This, in the rich world. So, once again, private liabilities the first of such crises, established the principle that had to be offloaded, via governments, on to the public. liabilities incurred for private gain must, in the name Any thought of ‘structural adjustment’ here was, of saving the system from itself, be offloaded via however, dismissed as the economic madness it always governments on to the public at large. was. Huge sums of funny money were spirited from Politically, this meant subjecting these regions to nowhere. Quite how these governments can themselves whatever form of repression came most readily to hand. remain solvent no-one yet wants to say. Economically, it meant ‘structural adjustment’, first Whatever else, neoliberalism lies in ruins. A cobbled together in response to the crisis in Mexico in financial cartel that was too big to fail has failed all 1982. This imposed the privatization of everything, the same. Moral hazard now defines a system of the cutting of public expenditure and the charging of private finance that cannot function without public fees for public services, including healthcare and (in funds, obtained by what amounts to blackmail on an flagrant breach of the Universal Declaration of Human industrial scale. Rights) elementary education. All the signs are that the meltdown has a long way To pay back their oppressors’ debts, and to earn to go yet. Many millions of lives will be ruined, starting the foreign currency that was demanded in payment, with the most vulnerable, most of whom live in the the people of these countries were also required Majority World. Good can come out of it only if the to adopt ‘export-oriented growth’; to ship out, all historic debt to these people, and to nature, is repaid. at the same time, whatever natural resources they And that can happen only when the realization dawns possessed, including food in hungry countries and that ‘regulation’ and ‘nationalization’ are not technical raw materials like timber, copper and, of course, oil. fixes but acts of democratic control. The victory of Environmental destruction escalated apace, while the Barack Obama in the US presidential elections is a resulting glut of commodities on world markets made step forward. But the hardest part is still to come. them incredibly cheap.

Financial crisis

Clean start a – creating
TRADE

S P Vs h o r t h e d g e ta x s have selling funds ns CREDIT w or l d w to DEFAUL b a nk shorth ing dge S W OP S sel l f e IMF und s f r ee CDO s w or l d t r a de
BP R IME SU

fair economy
With capitalism crashing about our ears, now is the time to make a fairer future. We have asked writers, thinkers and activists from around the world to look at the opportunities presented by the current crises and to propose strategies for radical change.

BP R IME SU T OX I C w t o L C DEB T A S INO PITAT C A GH CAPITALI I SM FL SECURITIZ ATION TIVES RIVA DE CAT FAT
credit bubble was necessary in order to make up for the shortfall in workers’ earnings. Part of the solution must be to rebalance the global economy by raising wages and removing the root cause of the debt pandemic. Third, new models have been developed based on principles of food sovereignty, which puts the rights of local populations before the profit motives of agribusiness; and on sustainable development, which builds for the future, while safeguarding the jobs of today. At the government level the Bolivarian Alternative, ALBA, has paved the way for a new generation of trade agreements based on co-operation, not competition. These are all positive alternatives to set alongside the
N E W I N T E R N AT I O N A L I S T DECEMBER 2008

b a nk

First and foremost, the crisis has debunked the theory that deregulation of markets will bring greater prosperity. The ‘light touch’ approach is now universally recognized as one of the main causes of the current crisis. Yet the World Trade Organization (WTO) continues to push for the further deregulation of financial markets. It must be stopped. The same applies to even more extreme free trade agreements which the EU, US and others are seeking to negotiate with individual developing countries. Second, we must point to the underlying imbalance in the global economy. Workers have been denied their fair share in the spoils of globalization. The

24

N E W I N T E R N AT I O N A L I S T

DECEMBER 2008

www.newint.org

www.newint.org

25

Financial crisis
negative model which has dominated for so long. There are strong forces lined up in opposition. Corporate lobbyists have reinvented themselves as champions of regulation in order to preserve the system. Already there are new calls to revive the stalled Doha round of WTO negotiations. Politicians are still queuing up to defend the principles of free trade. Only by deepening the analysis and presenting the positive alternatives can we show people that another world is not just possible, but needed now more than ever. John Hilary Executive Director of War on Want. in a nutsHell: exit free trade; enter trade justice

decarbonized social economy housing trade justice transparency multipolar greater world social green jobs equality new green deal progressive taxes
MILITARY SPENDING

HOUSING

A MULTIPOLAR WORLD

Just a few days before Congress passed the $700 billion Wall Street bailout bill, it passed another massive spending bill with almost no-one paying attention. It was the Defense Bill: $613 billion for the ‘regular’ military budget, above and beyond this year’s $182 billion in direct costs for the actual wars the Pentagon is fighting today. When we hear about the consequences of the Wall Street bailout, we hear a lot about inevitable cuts in other budget items. But the military budget is somehow never on the list of those Only by deepening the analysis and presenting the positive alternatives can we show items that could be cut. War production doesn’t create real people that another world is not just possible, but needed now more than ever economic health – what do all those fancy missile systems, US economy slow, and instead develop internal demand space weapons, battleships, even tanks and Humvees, produce other than a lot of dead Iraqis and Afghans? to compensate for falling demand in the North. What better way to ‘bail out’ our battered economy If they did, it would be a sure sign of the weakening than to provide real jobs to soldiers drafted by lack of of the globalization consensus. But to do so they would opportunities and to redirect the hundreds of billions of have to curb soaring income inequality, especially top war spending into green jobs, rebuilding our crumbling incomes relative to the median, and redistribute income infrastructure, training new teachers and building new downwards. So deeply has the globalization consensus schools? eclipsed concern about income inequality worldwide And what better place to find the funds to do that that it hardly features on the public policy agenda except than to end the wars – now – and slash the military as ‘poverty reduction’. budget? robert Wade Professor of Economics at the London School of Economics. Phyllis Bennis analyst, activist, Middle East specialist. See http://www.ips-dc.org/articles/811

For those who look forward to a new world order in which the US and the G7 have less power to set the agenda on their own (even while the US remains the ‘indispensable nation’), the crisis has a silver lining. The fact that it is the first crisis in history where hopes are pinned on growth in developing countries to rescue the world economy, and the first time that troubled banks in the US and Europe have been rescued by capital injections from developing countries, should jolt the US and the G7 out of complacency about their own leadership and about the truth of market fundamentalism. The crisis may be a stealthy bridge-building event towards incorporating China and several other ‘emerging market’ states as equal partners, towards a new approach to the role of political authorities in governing the market, and even towards loosening the grip of finance and the military on the US Government. But the immediate sharp question is whether developing countries will try to break away from their commitment to export-led growth as their exports to the

The need to improve housing for low-income households lies behind recent events. In the case of sub-prime mortgages, families took on debts in the hope of securing a better future. But shelter for low-income families is unlikely to be provided through the market alone. Although rich Northern institutions seem to be short of strategies, the South has a wealth of experiences on which to draw. Some of the lowest-income urban citizens – pavement dwellers on the streets of Mumbai – have spawned a financial process that has proved to be significantly more robust in addressing the needs of the poor. Shack/Slum Dwellers International is a network of women-led saving schemes which is active in over 20 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Much of their work focuses on shelter because this is a priority for the members. The network uses both financial and political strategies. Local groups are skilled in managing savings and loan finance. These local groups work within federations of homeless and landless people. Together they have developed a financial strategy that works for, rather than against, the urban poor. Their model has been tested, securing tenure for over 150,000 lowincome families. What’s so good about it? First, people’s own finance establishes strong and regular savings groups in lowincome neighbourhoods. Daily savings collections secure money when it is available and build up relations of trust between neighbours. Second, the federations are able to negotiate with government and financial institutions. Community networks manage the loan process to ensure that vulnerabilities are not increased. Third, state subsidies ensure that everyone, even those with the lowest incomes, can secure housing improvements. State finance and other contributions, such as free or low-cost land, are blended with people’s own money to improve affordability and inclusion. Fourth, there are no short cuts. Families have to see for themselves what they can afford to repay. Members have learnt by experience that they cannot rely on others to manage the finance for them. At least 900 million people in Southern towns and cities are in housing need. Faced with market and state failure, the urban poor are designing their own programmes and negotiating their own finance. diana Mitlin Senior Researcher, Human Settlements, International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED). in a nutsHell: learn from the global south about how to create and finance housing

Provide interest-free or cheap loans to small farmers. Subsidize agricultural production so that everyone can afford to eat. If the West can subsidize its farmers, so must we! Stop capital flight – enact strict exchange controls, and bring an end to speculation. Close all taxfree havens and impose progressive taxes. Prevent repatriation of profits by multinationals – insist that they re-invest in local production. Invest in ensuring that everyone can be productive and self-respecting citizens through making health, education and social welfare universally accessible. Renationalize the service industries – water, energy, transport, communications – all of which were sold for a song under the rule of neoliberalism. Impose tariffs on imported goods. Refuse to pay odious debts. Such policies will happen only if there is sufficient mobilization by social movements to demand that our governments make them a reality. That is not going to be easy, since it has been our own élites that have benefited from neoliberal policies. Debates and discussions about alternatives need to be stimulated at every level; in the home, on the farms, in the market place, at schools and in every workplace. Firoze Manji Editor of the Africa-focused Pambazuka News and Executive Director of Fahamu – Networks for Social Justice. in a nutsHell: Bring an end to speculation; nationalize public services; subsidize agriculture; mobilize civil society

A GREEN NEW DEAL

DEVELOPMENT

in a nutsHell: out with Western domination and the ‘globalization consensus’; in with a multipolar world and greater social equality

in a nutsHell: slash military budgets; increase social and environmental spending

This is an opportunity for the South to proclaim the death knell of neoliberalism. Nationalize the banks, but don’t limit it to the failing ones. Open the books to public inspection – let citizens decide how profits can be used for the greater good.

European politicians, thrown by the urgent need to nationalize banks and ditch free market fetishism, must now turn their attention to tackling unemployment and business closures in the real economy. Already it has been proposed at the European Summit that, in the aftermath of the credit crunch, it will be too expensive to reduce carbon emissions substantially at the same time. Yet it would be foolish to use the economic slowdown as an excuse to water down commitments to tackling climate change, since this can be the very route to providing the huge number of jobs and business opportunities now required for a steady-state economy. Back in the 1930s, President Roosevelt’s New Deal helped the world emerge from economic depression through a massive public works programme. We now urgently need to update that programme and introduce a Green New Deal. It would re-regulate the national and international finance systems, encourage fair and green taxation, close down tax havens and generate a transformational economic programme to decarbonize our economy. At the same time, it would provide secure investments for pensions and savings, using that capital to kick-start a massive public and private works programme to cut energy use. At its core would be an innovative and exciting 21st century project to make buildings truly energy
N E W I N T E R N AT I O N A L I S T DECEMBER 2008

26

N E W I N T E R N AT I O N A L I S T

DECEMBER 2008

www.newint.org

www.newint.org

27

Financial crisis
efficient, with the aim of making every building a generator of power. It would slash fossil fuel use and spark a revolution in renewable energies and energy efficiency, creating many thousands of green-collar jobs in the process. European leaders must recognize that the Green New Deal is a route map for tackling the triple crunch of the credit crunch, an encroaching peak in oil production, and climate change. It should be put at the heart of their efforts to deal with the economic crisis in order to transform today’s reality of energy insecurity, rising joblessness and economic decline into a more secure future for all. Caroline lucas A Green Member of the European Parliament, she is also a member of the Green New Deal Group. in a nutsHell: introduce a new green deal to kick-start the economy, create employment and tackle climate change this bailout is that everyone can see that you can find billions for the banks in half an hour, but that you don’t get anything in return. With the banks now being nationalized or renationalized, you could direct investments towards all kinds of things, much in the way Franklin Roosevelt did during the Depression. It’s time for an ‘Ecological keynesianism’ – a massive public spending plan towards ecologically sound projects and technologies that will ultimately reorient our economies towards more progressive aims. And of course it’s deliverable: we have most of the technology we need already. Some green technologies are very expensive, but if you mass-produce them the costs go down considerably and almost right away. What the economist John Maynard keynes dreamed of was a trade organization with a financing arm which would have prevented us from getting into huge deficits on one side, and huge surpluses on another. I don’t say it would have prevented the financial crisis, but certainly if we had had different organizations emerging from the Havana Charter in 1947, the whole trading and financial systems would have been infinitely different. susan george is Chair of the Board of the Transnational Institute. Her latest books are Hijacking America: How the religious and secular right changed what Americans think, and We, the peoples of Europe. in a nutsHell: Push for international taxation; direct the lending of nationalized banks; a massive public spending plan This is a big mistake. Developing countries should be talking about forming regional funds and strengthening regional relations rather than reinvigorating these Jurassic institutions. Walden Bello Focus on the Global South, Thailand. in a nutsHell: deglobalize; strengthen regional south-south relations; put greenspan et al on trial such shocks reverberate much more widely. But there’s also the fact that India has a fairly robust economy; that while the current 7.5 per cent growth may slow down, it will still be growth; that many banks in India were nationalized three decades ago (a move that saw much opposition then, but is seen quite differently now); and that most poor people, more specifically poor women, have their savings in nationalized banks – many through micro-credit groups. Not so for women at the upper end of the scale, or closer to its middle. For them, the financial crisis has had a deep and profound impact – share prices have dropped, hard earned savings invested in the market have all but disappeared, and although there is a sense that things may start to improve, that doesn’t take away from the shock of losing perhaps the only security you have in a country where economic security for women is both precious and rare. A less obvious, but much more serious implication is what this will mean for women’s equality. One of the already unreached Millennium Development Goals, equality, according to a recent World Bank and OECD study, needs an investment of roughly $13 billion a year to be achievable. It’s no secret that in times of financial belt-tightening, the first things to suffer are what are seen as ‘social’ issues (under which rubric things such as health, education, and certainly equality usually come). Not only is it very likely that the $13 billion will not now be so easily forthcoming, but governments too will in all probability use the excuse of the financial crisis to make cutbacks. So while kiran may not feel the impact in the way that Seema might, what is certain is that, somewhere along the way, any improvements that have taken place in the conditions of their lives are likely to be under threat. And this is why it is so important for governments to focus not only on money, but also on those absolutely basic, but difficult-to-grasp things that underlie its movement across the world: the status and well-being of people, particularly those on the margins of society.

EQUALITY

FINANCE

The crisis presents an opportunity for reorienting economies away from global markets and global commodity chains and towards local and regional markets and production. Globalization’s final indictment is the synchronized downturn now facing the world, because so many economies have become integrated and dependent on one another. We are, hopefully, going to enter the age of deglobalization. Many people will have to suffer for the sins of neoliberalism and the Many people will have to suffer for the élite; millions throughout the world will lose their jobs and livelihoods sins of neoliberalism and the élite; millions throughout the world will lose their jobs and livelihoods. We must have something like the – to encourage taxes beyond national borders, on International Criminal Court to try people, like Alan currency transactions, purchases of stocks, bonds and other financial instruments. Transnational corporations Greenspan, whose actions create widespread misery and chaos. A petty swindler goes to jail for years, but ought to have to pay taxes on earnings in each an intellectual swindler remains scot-free. jurisdiction, so that it can be seen what they pay where. The International Monetary Fund and World That should be the beginning of what we call a Unitary Profits Tax. If transnational corporations sold half their Bank have been thoroughly discredited by the central role they played in promoting neoliberalism and goods in France, then they should have to pay half their tax in France. That’s the idea of the Unitary Profits Tax. globalization. But now in panic, some countries, like Pakistan and Ukraine, are going to the Fund. The US I think we would have to think seriously about the and some European countries are now talking about South – that’s the point of the New Internationalist a ‘Bretton Woods II’ that would place the Fund and – because remittances are probably going to dry up the World Bank at the centre of efforts to deal with quite a lot. Immigrants will be the first people hit. We the financial crisis as dispensers of emergency capital have to make a big investment in the environment, to to developing countries. Even otherwise progressive fund a conversion – a rapid and profound conversion people like the economist Dani Rodrik are talking away from fossil fuels. And the banks have to be made about placing the IMF at the centre of the firefighting. to contribute. The thing that is so disgraceful about

Everyone now agrees on control. Everyone agrees on the need for regulation. Who does it, and how, is something progressive people should get involved in, because that is going to be the debate. At present, all regulation stops at national borders. So I think this is also an opportunity to push for international taxation and regulation, such as by closing tax havens and taxing financial transactions and currency speculation. Tax havens, if regulated – and by that I mean closed down – would give governments upwards of an extra $250 billion to play with. So they can’t use the excuse that there aren’t enough funds to invest in social security or give allocations to poor people or educate children or keep the health system ticking over during this financial crisis. The money is there. Then it could be an opportunity – but this would take much more effort on the part of progressive people

To kiran, who makes her living as a sweeper in a small town in the northern Indian state of Punjab, the current financial crisis means little. Life will still remain precarious, her regular income paltry, and someone or the other in the family – usually her – will always be partially hungry. But for her daughter, Seema, even though she’s probably never heard of the Lehman brothers or American banks, there’s the very real threat of losing her job in a business processing centre if the parent company decides to cut back on its outsourcing. She doesn’t know if this will happen, but she’s heard it might, and she may then find it difficult to locate another job. In some ways, the panic about the financial meltdown is very, very far away from the lives of poor women in India. It’s true that the danger signals are there for all to see: increasingly, as our economies are linked to the US,

GLOBALIZATION

renewable unitary Tax energies Profits urvashi Butalia nationalized is a Delhi-based writer and feminist publisher. banks in a nutsHell: don’t cut aid; focus on people massive public spending Campaigns, contacts and resources people’s participation micro-credit groups deglobalization
www.newint.org
N E W I N T E R N AT I O N A L I S T

Bretton Woods Project www. brettonwoodsproject.org Focus on the global south www.focusweb.org The transnational institute www.tni.org Halifax initiative Coalition www.halifaxinitiative.org Jubilee debt Campaign www.jubileedebtcampaign.org.uk Third World network www.twnside.org.sg The Corner House www.thecornerhouse.org.uk iFi Watch www.ifiwatchnet.org War on Want www.waronwant.org eurodad www.eurodad.org Choike www.choike.org tax Justice network www.taxjustice.net new economics Foundation www.neweconomics.org attac http://attac.se/kampanjer/3503/the-time-has-comelets-shut-down-the-financial-casino
DECEMBER 2008

28

N E W I N T E R N AT I O N A L I S T

DECEMBER 2008

www.newint.org

29

An historic opportuni ty for transformation
t the recentasia-europe People’s Forum meeting in Beijing, the transnational institute and Focus on the global south convened informal nightly meetings to take stock of the unfolding global economic crisis. Participants discussed the opportunity it presented social movements to put into the public domain some of the inspiring and feasible alternatives many had been working on for decades. This – the ‘Beijing declaration’ – is what came out of those meetings of individuals, social ements and ngos from asia and europe. it’s a start – a contribution around which to formulate proposals and to create a basis for a radically different kind of political and economic order. The alternatives listed below are practical and feasible and they put the well-being of people and the planet at their centre.

T H E B E I J I N G D E C L A R AT I O N

a

PUBLIC SPENDING AND INVESTMENT
• Radically reduce military spending • Redirect government spending from bailing out bankers to guaranteeing basic incomes and social security, and providing universally accessible basic social services such as housing, water, electricity, health, education, childcare, and access to the internet and other public communications facilities • Use citizen funds (see above) to support very poor communities • Ensure that people at risk of losing their homes due to defaults on mortgages caused by the crisis are offered renegotiated terms of payment • Stop privatizations of public services • Establish public enterprises under the control of parliaments, local communities and/or workers to increase employment • Improve the performance of public enterprises through democratizing management – encourage public service managers, staff, unions and consumer organizations to collaborate to this end • Introduce participatory budgeting over public finances at all feasible levels • Invest massively in improved energy efficiency, low carbon emitting public transport, renewable energy and environmental repair • Control or subsidize the prices of basic commodities

ENVIRONMENT

FINANCE

TAXATION

• Close all tax havens • End tax breaks for fossil fuel and nuclear energy companies • Apply stringent progressive tax systems • Introduce a global taxation system to prevent transfer pricing and tax evasion • Introduce a levy on nationalized bank profits with which to establish citizen investment funds (see below) • Impose stringent progressive carbon taxes on those with the biggest carbon footprints • Adopt controls, such as Tobin taxes, on the movements of speculative capital • Reintroduce tariffs and duties on imports of luxury goods and other goods already produced locally as a means of increasing the state’s fiscal base, as well as a means to support local production and thereby reduce carbon emissions globally

JAMES ENDICOTT / CORBIS

• Introduce full-scale socialization of banks, not just nationalization of bad assets • Create people-based banking institutions and strengthen existing popular forms of lending based on mutuality and solidarity • Institutionalize full transparency within the financial system through the opening of the books to the public, to be facilitated by citizen and worker organizations • Introduce parliamentary and citizens’ oversight of the existing banking system • Apply social (including labour conditions) and environmental criteria to all lending, including for business purposes • Prioritize lending, at minimum rates of interest, to meet social and environmental needs and to expand the already growing social economy • Overhaul central banks in line with democratically determined social, environmental and expansionary (to counter the recession) objectives, and make them publicly accountable institutions • Safeguard migrant remittances to their families and introduce legislation to restrict charges and taxes on transfers

• Introduce a global system of compensation for countries which do not exploit fossil fuel reserves in the global interests of limiting effects on the climate, such as Ecuador has proposed • Pay reparations to Southern countries for the ecological destruction wrought by the North to assist peoples of the South to deal with climate change and other environmental crises • Strictly implement the ‘precautionary principle’ of the UN Declaration on the Right to Development as a condition for all developmental and environmental projects • End lending for projects under the Kyoto Protocol’s ‘Clean Development Mechanism’ that are environmentally destructive, such as monoculture plantations of eucalyptus, soya and palm oil • Stop the development of carbon trading and other environmentally counter-productive techno-fixes, such as carbon capture and sequestration, agrofuels, nuclear power and ‘clean coal’ technology • Adopt strategies to radically reduce consumption in the rich countries, while promoting sustainable development in poorer countries • Introduce democratic management of all international funding mechanisms for climate change mitigation, with strong participation from Southern countries and civil society

AGRICULTURE AND INDUSTRY

INTERNATIONAL TRADE AND FINANCE
• Introduce a permanent global ban on short-selling of stocks and shares • Ban on trade in derivatives • Ban all speculation on staple food commodities • Cancel the debt of all developing countries – debt is mounting as the crisis causes the value of Southern currencies to fall • Support the United Nations’ call to be involved in discussions about how to resolve the crisis, which is going to have a much bigger impact on Southern economies than is currently being acknowledged • Phase out the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and World Trade Organization • Phase out the US dollar as the international reserve currency • Establish a people’s inquiry into the mechanisms necessary for a just international monetary system • Ensure aid transfers do not fall as a result of the crisis • Abolish tied aid • Abolish neoliberal aid conditionalities • Phase out the paradigm of export-led development, and refocus sustainable development on production for the local and regional market • Introduce incentives for products produced for sale closest to the local market • Cancel all negotiations for bilateral free trade and economic partnership agreements • Promote regional economic co-operation arrangements, such as UNASUR, the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), the Trade Treaty of the Peoples and others, that encourage genuine development and an end to poverty

• Phase out the pernicious paradigm of industry-led development, where the rural sector is squeezed to provide the resources necessary to support industrialization and urbanization • Promote agricultural strategies aimed at achieving food security, food sovereignty and sustainable farming • Promote land reforms and other measures which support small-holder agriculture and sustain peasant and indigenous communities • Stop the spread of socially and environmentally destructive monocultural enterprises • Stop labour law reforms aimed at extending hours of work and making it easier for employers to fire or retrench workers • Secure jobs through outlawing precarious low paid work • Guarantee equal pay for equal work for women – as a basic principle and to help counter the coming recession by increasing workers’ capacity to consume • Protect the rights of migrant workers in the event of job losses, ensuring their safe return to and reintegration into their home countries. For those who cannot return, there should be no forced return, their security should be guaranteed, and they should be provided with employment or a basic minimum income

The authors and signatories of the Beijing declaration say: ‘We have written what we see as a living document to be developed and enriched by us all. a future occasion to come together to work on the actions needed to make these ideas and others a reality will be the World social Forum in Belem, Brazil at the end of January 2009. We have the experience and the ideas – let’s meet the challenge of the present ruling disorder and keep the momentum towards an alternative rolling!’ For more see: http://casinocrash.org

30

N E W I N T E R N AT I O N A L I S T

DECEMBER 2008

www.newint.org

www.newint.org

N E W I N T E R N AT I O N A L I S T

DECEMBER 2008

31

Making Waves Interview about

The Boardgame
Sitting on the couch watching TV, you hear the news that your country is about to invade another. Horror and amazement mixes with frustration as you realize how absolutely powerless you are to stop it. ‘Hang on a minute,’ said Andy Sheerin to Andy Tompkins as they watched the lead-up to the 2003 US invasion of Iraq. ‘Let’s make a game of it.’ And so War on Terror – The Boardgame was born. Holding a mirror to the Middle East, the game is all about empire. You start with an empire, develop it, fight other empires and liberate countries from their clutches. The more oil you have in the boardgame, the more money you make. The more money you make, the more countries you can exploit and control. And if you don’t like the rate at which your empire is expanding, then you can always buy terrorists, or turn terrorist yourself. People love the viciousness of it, say the game’s two inventors. They’ve formed their own company, TerrorBulls. According to Andy Sheerin: ‘Bill Gilman, a liberal leftie in the States, organized a War on Terror tournament. Gilman says: “I’m a big fan of this game as it allows me to feel what George Bush feels in the War on Terror – rewarding short-sighted policies by giving profits for oil and development, even though these aims may help bring an empire down.”’ Spin the ‘axis of evil’ to decide whose empire gets special privileges or terrorist tricks. That player then wears a black balaclava with the word EVIL sewn in red on the forehead. ‘People buy the game just for the balaclava. Not the police from Kent, England, though. [In August this year they confiscated the boardgame from protesters at a climate change camp.] The police said that it could be used to conceal your identity during a criminal act. Our balaclava actually labels the evil-doers. The police should thank us!’ The two Andys – friends from school who had run a website company together – invented and designed the game, and invited Tom Morgan-Jones into their TerrorBull team to help publish and illustrate it. So far over 12,000 games have been sold. While the main market is in North America and Europe, it is now sold in 38 countries globally. There’s even the odd order from Iraq and Afghanistan where some serving soldiers are playing the game, including British battlefield trainer Major Tom Mouat: ‘It is part of my job to be on the look-out for novel, insightful, informed and up-to-date simulations that could help in the training of British soldiers. I have looked at the War on Terror and can safely say that it is pretty useless for any sort of military training. It is, however, a damn good game.’ But its popularity has not hit Britain’s main shopping streets where retailers have refused to take it. Says Andy Tompkins: ‘The big one was Virgin MegaStores. We got on to the right person there straight away. He said: “It sounds brilliant. We’ve got our Christmas-stocking meeting in a couple of days. Can you send us a game and a PowerPoint presentation?” He told us to include a bit about market share, but we didn’t even know what that was. Instead, our PowerPoint presentation had rapid-fire gunshots with Country Joe and the Fish singing [their song lampooning the Vietnam War] “ain’t no time to wonder why. Whoopee! We’re all gonna die”.’ To the TerrorBulls’ great surprise, Virgin MegaStores ordered 5,000 games. ‘They got the first 2,000 and distributed them to 230 stores. But on the first day, a managing director saw it, and cancelled the contract. We had borrowed money to get them made. We were stuck with 3,000 games. We hadn’t been paid for any of it. If it wasn’t for the kindness of an investor, we would have gone bankrupt.’ An eight-month legal tussle followed, which ended with the TerrorBulls being paid in full. And the fate of the 3,000 games? ‘Since Virgin (now operating as Zavvi) had paid for the games we thought it would be a nice gesture to hand them out in front of their flagship store. There was a queue around the corner when we Making a game of it: engaging in the War arrived. As we handed out a on Terror. hundred of them, the crowd cheered: “Thanks Zavvi!”’ The TerrorBulls have three more games in development: ‘You really can use boardgames to explore very complex issues. They are a fertile field for satirical ambitions.’ And good fun. But can they shift political debate and public understanding? Andy Sheerin thinks so: ‘The more important terrorism became, the more taboo it became to talk it about it critically. We wanted to challenge people’s opinion about what terrorism is. As soon as you are able to start talking about what defines terrorism and why terrorists do what they do, then that’s thought-provoking – it reopens the ground for debate. Day to day, many more people are becoming more savvy to the political rhetoric. That gives me hope.’

Southern Exposure
Highlighting the work of artists and photographers from the Majority World
‘José Martí 1958’ Photographer Ernesto Fernandez documented the epic events in revolutionary Cuba during the late 1950s and early 1960s. Of this photo, he says: ‘I was only 18 in 1958, working for a magazine in Havana. As I hadn’t been to college I was only allowed to get one photo piece published each month. It was a terrible time, living under the Batista dictatorship – there was so much we could not publish for fear of reprisals. I was in the plaza that later became Revolution Square when I caught sight

of the huge sculpture of the head of José Martí, our national symbol of independence. The eyes appeared to be blinded so as not to see what was being done to Cuba, so I quickly took two snaps. A soldier spotted me and asked what I was doing. Knowing the political power of the image, I replied that Martí seemed to be well looked after, and ran off. Back at the magazine my boss said there was no way we could publish the image – it was not published until 10 years later.’ In January 1959 Cuban people celebrated the triumph of their revolution after a long struggle. Despite the relentless economic blockade by the United States, the last 50 years have brought incredible achievements for a developing country. To mark the 50th anniversary of the revolution, the best of Cuban arts and culture will be celebrated in Britain throughout 2009: www.Cuba50.org More of Ernesto’s work can be seen at www.capitalculture.eu With thanks to the Cuba Solidarity Campaign www.cuba-solidarity.org.uk

I m a g e s : w w w. w a r o n t e r r o r t h e b o a r d g a m e . c o m

Andy Tompkins and Andy Sheerin spoke with Chris Richards

Available from the NI at: http://shop.newint.org
N e w I N t e r N at I o N a l I s t DeCeMBer 2008

32

N e w I N t e r N at I o N a l I s t

DeCeMBer 2008

33

Mixed Media
mixedmedia @ newint.org
written and produced by Bernd Eichinger, directed by Uli Edel (150 minutes) eichinger’s last film, Downfall, showed Hitler as ruthless – but idealistic. it took flak for humanizing a monster but it made fascism very real, and its emergence believable, a thing of this world, rather than some maniacal ahistorical virus. His latest film, similarly, without posturing, humanizes a ruthless and idealistic political movement. the point of view is objective, narrowed almost exclusively to the experience of the Baader Meinhof leadership. we follow how their ideas shift as the student movement, radicalized by the vietnam war and the US Civil rights movement, encounters the hardline authoritarianism of the west german state. the point is not to win audience sympathy, but understanding. at a key moment, Ulrike Meinhof, until then a sympathetic journalist, flees through an open window after members of the red army Faction. the camera stays fixed on the window, through which they’ve all passed the point of no return. From then, taking up arms, they’re underground, losing touch with the socialist and student movements, more and more isolated, fighting a private war. it’s a stirring film, from the first graphic action scenes, showing police attacking demonstrators, and it never flags, never seems staged. Johanna wokalek is a brilliantly earnest and scary gudrun ensslin, and Bruno ganz’s appearance is a nice homage to the great german cinema of the 1970s. ★★★★★ ML

Gomidas Songs

The Baader Meinhof Complex

by Isabel Bayrakdarian (Nonesuch 075597991055 CD) in the closing years of the ottoman empire, gomidas vartabed, a priest and composer, set out across his native armenia – then a turkish territory – to notate the music of his land. His interest alighted on all musics – sacred songs and liturgies, lullabies and folk songs. gomidas’ work was timely. within decades, millions of armenians would be murdered in a turkish-led genocide. gomidas himself only survived through the intervention of the US ambassador and some turkish friends; in 1919 he left turkey for Paris, where he eventually died in an asylum. it was during the recording of the soundtrack to atom egoyan’s film Ararat that the armenian-Canadian operatic soprano, isabel Bayrakdarian, first came to record some of gomidas’ music. with pianist (and husband) Serouj Kradjian, Bayrakdarian travelled to armenia to record the 20 songs that would make up the selection on Gomidas Songs. accompanied by the Chamber Players of the armenian Philharmonic orchestra, Bayrakdarian conjures up a luminous setting for her music. Kradjian’s arrangements avoid clutter, and a smattering of local instruments allay any anxieties about Bayrakdarian’s classically inspired interpretations. Certainly some of these songs may have once been heard over fields and cradles rather than concert halls, but their translation from private to public music is a beautiful one. ★★★★ Lg www.nonesuch.com by John le Carré (Hodder & Stoughton ISBN 9780340977064) when the Cold war ended, many critics wondered whether its chroniclerin-chief John le Carré had lost his subject matter. in a series of novels, The Constant Gardener, Absolute Friends and The Mission Song, he has confounded the sceptics by focusing his consummate writing skills on laying bare the iniquities of the international politico-corporate structure – from the illegal invasion of iraq to the murderous amorality of Big Pharma. His latest novel could hardly be more topical or timely, dealing as it does with the seamier reaches of international banking and the nether-world inhabited by the fugitive and the stateless. an unlikely trio of characters find themselves thrown together; issa, a Chechen Muslim arrives illegally in Hamburg. there he seeks the aid of annabel, an idealistic human rights lawyer and, with her help, he lays claim to a huge sum deposited with Brue Freres, a private bank run by tommy Brue, an englishman beset with marital and financial complications. issa, annabel and tommy are inexorably drawn into the webs of the competing spy networks of germany, Britain and the US as each attempts to use their ‘assets’ in the deep and morally ambiguous game they are pleased to call the war on terror. A Most Wanted Man is a page-turner in the classic style; the only fault being that the characters are slightly underdrawn and prone to expository soliloquies. nevertheless, this is another splendid example of late-flowering le Carré. Long may he continue to skewer those who claim to be acting in our name and in our best interests. ★★★★ Pw www.hodder.co.uk

Music

Deserted Villages

Ruthless idealism Baader Meinhof style.

Waltz With Bashir

Low key, gripping and unsentimental – latest from the Dardenne brothers.

The Silence of Lorna

written and directed by JeanPierre and Luc Dardenne (105 minutes) Lorna, an albanian working in a Belgian laundry, needs money to open a snack bar. the first step is citizenship, so she marries a very sick heroin addict who no-one expects to live very long. then she plans to marry again, for money. it all goes awry when Lorna can’t be as mercenary as the gangster who’s arranging her second marriage expects. rooted in time, place and social class, as all the dardennes’ films are, this is an unsentimental, low-key and gripping drama that doesn’t let go. ★★★★ ML

Film

the imminent 50th anniversary of the revolution has produced a feast for Cuba buffs and novices alike. there’s the comprehensive and highly accessible Cuban Revolution Reader by Julio garcia Luis, in a new expanded and updated version (Ocean Press, ISBN 978 1920 888 893). Castro: The Declarations of Havana, is presented by tariq ali in verso’s handy pocket book revolutions series (ISBN 13 978 1 84467 156). For graphic novel fans there’s Spain rodriguez’s Che: a graphic biography (Verso, 978 1 84467 168 7). while for film lovers, there’s a dvd release of the 1968 classic Memories of Underdevelopment by Cuban filmmaker tomás gutiérrez alea. Set in the early days of the revolution, this complex film centres on Sergio, a bourgeois intellectual who has chosen to remain on the island while most of his family and friends have left for the US. intriguing, meditative – and shot in full glorious black-and-white, spliced with documentary footage – it supplies food for thought and no easy answers.

CUBAN BIRTHDAY FEAST

by Mark Thomas (Ebury Press, ISBN 9780091922931) there is a company which manufactures and distributes concentrated sugary syrup and the way it conducts its affairs is the subject of Mark thomas’ enormously readable book. as thomas explains, Coca-Cola does relatively little bottling of its product, preferring to outsource this to a vast network of franchisees. of course, Coca-Cola owns or partowns some of these companies and dictates production methods, and marketing, using its vast advertising budget to lodge its ‘brand image’ in the head of just about every individual on the planet. this business model, as well as being highly profitable for Coca-Cola, means that it can – and does – claim that it has no legal or ethical responsibility for its franchisees’ actions even when these result in pollution, illegality, and damage to communities. Mark thomas has clocked up the air-miles to hear the stories of the people Coke’s publicity airbrushes out of its story. He listens to indians, whose aquifers have been severely depleted by the Coke plant’s extraction of millions of litres of water; to Colombian trade unionists threatened by paramilitary death squads. in Mexico City, he tracks down raquel Chavez, a small shopkeeper who successfully challenged Coke’s mafia-like tactics in forcing out rival brands. in el Salvador he obtains evidence of child labour in the fields surrounding the sugar mill, and in turkey he hears how Coke used the police to bust unions. Coca-Cola’s response to thomas was couched in lawyerly evasions and corporate double-speak, graphically illustrating big business’s ability to omit from their actual and When was Gomidas born? moral balance-sheets the environmental and The first two correct answers pulled out of the hat will win a social damage they leave in their wake. read copy of Isabel Bayrakdarian’s this book, and then think about how little not Gomidas Songs (reviewed above). buying and drinking that bottle of Coke would email your answer, with your impact on your life. name and postal address, to: ★★★★ Pw vanessab@newint.org www.rbooks.co.uk

Books
very good

Film

written, produced and directed by Ari Folman (87 minutes) israeli filmmaker ari Folman’s latest is an animated docudrama in which the director and his friends play key roles. one night, in a bar, a friend tells Folman about a recurring dream in which 26 vicious dogs are chasing him. the two decide that the dream is connected to israel’s war with Lebanon – in which they both served in the 1980s. eager to find out about his involvement in a conflict of which he has little recollection, Folman seeks out fellow former recruits and sets their animated testimonies to real audio recordings. what follows is a personal and moving study of selective memory, repressed feelings and the folly of war. this compelling film, with its vivid cartoon format and potent techno-rockclassical soundtrack, gives a fresh approach to understanding the massacres that took place in Beirut in 1982. nothing can prepare you for the shocking coup de théâtre with which the film ends. ★★★★ eS

by George Dalaras (Tropical Music/Universal Music Greece 68 865 CD) Born in Piraeus in 1949, the son of a rembetika musician, george dalaras could not have come from any place closer to the crucible of greek rembetika than this athenian port. and even if the pungent flavours of rembetika – its earliest lyrics dealt with scoring drugs, getting stoned and the inevitable visits to prison – had been toned down by the time that dalaras was old enough to pick up a baglama (a little lute, typical of the genre), there was still plenty of life left in the music. rembetika has had an interesting history in greece: reviled, rediscovered and reinterpreted. dalaras is certainly one of its modern advocates. Deserted Villages is an album that follows in the footsteps of tributes to Mikis theodorakis and an entire album dedicated to the work of an original rembetis, Markos vamvakaris. Made in tandem with the albanian accordionist/composer dasho Kurti, the 11 songs on Deserted Villages offer a broad palate, and not all of it mournful. ‘erima Choria’ (‘deserted villages’) opens the album with wide, lingering accordion glances – one can feel the wind whip around the notes – before dalaras’ lightly toned voice repopulates the village for a short space of time. dances are danced, a church bell tolls, and then the song is consigned to memory as the musicians leap into virtuoso territory – the speed of ‘Fyllo sto nero’ (‘a Leaf on the water’) with guest vocals from valbona Mema; or the slithering lines of ‘Ponos Zontanos’ (‘a Living Pain’). However, it’s Kurti’s take on the traditional tune of ‘deka Cheimones’ (‘ten winters’) that really makes this album: stately, open-hearted and with a vocal line that stretches the chords to their limit, it’s glorious. ★★★ Lg www.tropical-music.com

Music

Film

A Most Wanted Man

Books
Belching Out the Devil

Win a CD!

reviewS editor: Vanessa Baird email: vanessab@newint.org

reviewerS: Louise Gray, Malcolm Lewis, Ed Stocker, Peter Whittaker

Star rating excellent ★★★★★

★★★★

good

★★★

fair

★★

poor

30

N e w I N t e r N at I o N a l I s t

DeCeMBer 2008

www.newint.org

www.newint.org

N e w I N t e r N at I o N a l I s t

DeCeMBer 2008

35

NI Prize Crossword
137 by AXE
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 10 12 13 9 11

26 Returned anagram; no good when one's in 1d islands (7) 27 Balkan country, initially Britishoccupied Serbia, now is Albanian (6)

Down
1 Movement of ice cap, Inca in the main... (7,5) 2 ...Inca's norm is to unsettle islanders (9) 3 America, as in fascist pre-Pueblo culture (7) 5 Decline in American tourist resort is a spectacular thing (7,5) 6 Shikoku port where I am opening up a first class pub (7) 7 A firm lead is given by church in an Argentinian province (5) 10 Write a number sequence for the rises in England (7,5) 11 Dismantle SAS grenade at a Libyan border area (5,4,3) 16 Laurel sounds a bit cheesy, putting it over a troubled region near the 17 (9) 18 Perhaps it's the Jewish character to behead the former prime minister (7) 20 Chesil Beach, for instance, is low among spectacles after the sarcophagus (7) 22 Clean up to a degree an old Asian road (5)

24 Famous Highland Gathering site in the Scottish Grampians (7) 25 Dominant region of Asia Minor before the Roman conquests (6) 26 ------- Trench, the world's deepest (7) 27 Balkan country, popularly, capital Sarajevo (6)

Down
1 Earth's largest body of water (7,5) 2 Inhabitants of one of the Balearic Islands (either spelling) (9) 3 'Basket weaving' pre-Pueblo SW US culture (7) 5 Natural phenomenon, divided by Goat Island into the 'Horseshoe' and the 'American' (7,5) 6 Port of Shikoku, Japan linked by ferry to Honshu (7) 7 Province of N Argentina, capital Resistencia (5) 10 Range of hills forming the 'backbone' of England (7,5) 11 Section of the Sahara Desert straddling the Libyan-Egyptian border (5,4,3) 16 Region incorporating the Zagros and Taurus mountains and five national borders (9) 18 Citizen of a troubled country created in 1948 (7) 20 Bar or spit consisting of sand or shingle which links an island to the mainland (7) 22 Authoritarian Asian country difficult to access by aid workers after the cyclone of May 2008 (5)

14

15

16

17

18

19

20

21

22

23

24

25

STRAIGHT Across
26 27

from Portuguese uplands (7) in 1dCRYPTIC islands (7) 22 Clean up to a degree by church in an 21 Coast from the Dominican Republic to an old Asian Argentinian Across the heart of Bamberg (5) road Balkan country, 1 Many in Pennsylvania doubled up (5) (5) province 23 Guts are needed to shelter medic, and initially with second place in Argentina (6) Britishone a S American (9) occupied Serbia, 10 Write a 4 Against old church's position in number24 Plucking five from gallant ruin, the Asia Minor (7) now is Albanian (6) sequence for the standard of the Jacobites was raised 8 French department involved in England here (7) rises in American-Taliban liaison (6) 25 Ancient Black Sea area's (7,5) 9 Brazilian river island beyond independence Pilate rejected (6) wn

the fruit line... (7) Win a Special Map Set – laminated 12 ...RAF zealot's mistaken for Brazilian Peters’ Map, Peters’ Atlas, Seeing port (9) Through standard of the Maps plus DVD... All correct 13 A pretty dull flower from the to 5 Decline in American Jewish character solutions received by the 25th of the is a Jacobites was raised behead the former tourist resort Pyrenees (5) cover month will be put into a draw – here (7) prime minister (7) spectacular thing Captain to the Emperor king removed, 14 though only the winner will be notified. being African (7) (7,5) Post to: NI Crossword, 55 Rectory Ancient Black Sea 20 Chesil Beach, for 15 L Nasser island, as seen from Road, Oxford, OX4 1BW, England; fax where the nearly-active western bits of area's independence 6 Shikoku port instance, is low to +44 1865 793152; or email a scan to: a Kilimanjaro area (7) spectacles Pilate rejected (6) among I am opening up nicrossword@newint.org 17 after the first class pub (7) The sea is part of Lewis' unique Winner for 135: R S Wilson, history (7) Returned anagram; sarcophagus (7) 19 Wandering Australian and Scot moved Luton, England. no good when one's 7 A firm lead is given

1 The 'prairies' of Argentina (6) 4 One of two Biblical cities, one in Pisidia the other in Syria, sharing the same name (7) 8 French department, capital Aurillac (6) 1 9 One of the world's largest C river islands between two 7 B A Y branches of the Araguaia in Brazil (7) P 10 12 Brazilian port and resort, L E R capital of Ceara state (9) P 13 River of SW France (5) 12 B I A 14 African whose capital city is N'Djamena (7) A 15 Island in L Nasser, new 15 V I K home to the Temples of Philae (7) 20 21 17 Sea, the world's largest N I C body of inland water (7) 19 Mountains of NE Portugal (7) 24 B M A L 21 Coast of the Dominican Republic named for the D fossil resin found there (5) 27 S A B 23 S American whose capital is Bogota (9) N

Last month’s solution
2

U T I D R

3

O T X A C A N S

4

K E R A N T I S H
17 9

5 8

C L I B S

6

H A V A N A H S N A S N N

S W A

G O I A H N Z R T A B R V A
26

11

S H E P A

13

F I

14

R

A S A L A B A D H Y E

N G D A N S K

16

19 22

B K

A M A R G N A A B I A N S

18

B K

O A S S A

23

A A S Y A

I
28

25

M

A P I A

A

S

Movement of ice cap, Inca in the main... (7,5) ...Inca's norm is to unsettle islanders (9) America, as in fascist pre-Pueblo culture (7)

11 Dismantle SAS grenade at a Libyan border area (5,4,3) 16 Laurel sounds a bit cheesy, putting it over a troubled region near the 17 (9)

18 Perhaps it's the

36

N e w I N t e r N at I o N a l I s t

DeCeMBer 2008