Category Archives: Food/Nutrition

Four Words Gates and His Pals Despise: Democracy and Minimum Support Price

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and an assortment of high-profile figures and policy makers are pushing for unregulated gene-editing technologies, the rollout of bio-synthetic food created in laboratories, the expanded use of patented seeds and the roll back of subsidies and support for farmers in places like India.

These neoliberal evangelists despise democracy and believe that state machinery and public money should only facilitate the ambitions of their unaccountable mega-corporations.

Corporations are jumping on the ‘sustainability’ bandwagon by undermining traditional agriculture and genuine sustainable agrifood systems and packaging this corporate takeover of food as some kind of humanitarian endeavour.

The watchdog organisation Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) notes that the European Commission has committed to a fundamental shift away from industrial agriculture. With a 50 percent pesticide reduction target and a 25 percent organic agriculture goal by 2030, CEO argues that business as usual is no longer an option. In effect, this creates an existential crisis for corporate seed suppliers and pesticide manufacturers like Bayer, BASF, Corteva (DowDupont) and Syngenta (ChemChina).

However, these corporations are fighting back on various fronts, not least by waging an ongoing battle to get their new generation of genetic engineering techniques excluded from European regulations. They do not want plants, animals and micro-organisms created with gene-editing techniques like CRISPR-Cas to be subject to safety checks, monitoring or consumer labelling. This is concerning given the real dangers that these techniques pose.

For example, a new paper published in the journal Environmental Sciences Europe, authored by Dr Katharina Kawall, indicates the negative effects on ecosystems that can result from the release of gene-edited plants. These unintended effects come from the intended changes induced by genome editing, which can affect various metabolic processes in the plants.

The new paper adds to a growing body of peer-reviewed research that calls into question industry claims about the ‘precision’, safety and benefits of gene-edited organisms.

Recent research by the Greens and the European Free Alliance in the European Parliament indicates that 86 percent of Europeans who have heard of genetically engineered (GE) food want products containing GE organisms to be labelled as such. Some 68 per cent of respondents that have heard of new genetic engineering methods demand that food produced with these techniques, such as CRISPR, to be labelled as GE. Only three percent agreed with the industry’s proposal to exempt these products from safety testing and labelling.

Regardless, with the help of 1.3 million euros from the Gates Foundation, the industry is paving the way for deregulation by widespread lobbying of policy makers and promoting these technologies on the basis of them protecting the climate and ‘sustainability’. Through greenwashing, the industry hopes its ‘save-the-planet’ products can dodge regulation and gain public acceptance in an era of ‘climate emergency’.

Not for the first time, the lobbying that the Gates Foundation is engaging in displays complete contempt for democratic processes or public opinion. In 2018, The European Court of Justice ruled that new genetic engineering technologies should be regulated. As described by Marie Astier and Magali Reinert in the French publication Reporterre, Gates is very much at the centre of trying to bypass this ruling.

Of course, it is not just the European agrifood sector that is being targeted by Bill Gates and global agrifood players. India has very much been in the news in recent months due to the ongoing mass protest involving farmers who want three recent farm acts repealed.

Environmentalist Vandana Shiva has described on numerous occasions how the Gates Foundation through its ‘Ag One’ initiative is pushing for one type of agriculture for the whole world. A top-down approach regardless of what farmers or the public need or want. The strategy includes digital farming, in which farmers are monitored and mined for their agricultural data, which is then repackaged and sold back to them.

Along with Bill Gates, this is very much the agrifood model that Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Bayer, Syngenta, Corteva and Cargill have in mind. The tech giants recent entry into the sector will increasingly lead to a mutually beneficial integration between the companies that supply products to farmers (pesticides, seeds, fertilisers, tractors, drones, etc) and those that control the flow of data (on soil, weather, pests, weeds, land use, consumer preferences, etc) and have access to digital (cloud) infrastructure. A system based on corporate concentration and centralisation.

Those farmers who remain in the system will become passive recipients of corporate directives and products on farms owned by the Gates Foundation (now one of the largest owners of farmland in the US), agribusiness and financial institutions/speculators.

The three pieces of farm legislation in India (passed by parliament but on hold) are essential for laying the foundation for this model of agriculture. The legislation is The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act.

The foreign and home-grown (Mukesh Ambani and Gautam Adani) billionaires who have pushed for these laws require a system of contract farming dominated by their big tech, big agribusiness and big retail interests. Smallholder peasant agriculture is regarded as an impediment to what they require:  industrial-scale farms where driver-less tractors, drones and genetically engineered seeds are the norm and all data pertaining to land, water, weather, seeds and soils is controlled by them.

It is unfortunate that prominent journalists and media outlets in India are celebrating the legislation and have attempted to unjustifiably discredit farmers who are protesting. It is also worrying that key figures like Dr Ramesh Chand, a member of NITI (National Institute for Transforming India) Ayog, recently stated that the legislation is necessary.

When these figures attack farmers or promote the farm acts, what they are really doing is cheerleading for the destruction of local markets and independent small-scale enterprises, whether farmers, hawkers, food processers or mom and pop corner stores. And by implication, they are helping to ensure that India is surrendering control over its food.

They are doing the bidding of the Gates Foundation and the global agrifood corporations which also want India to eradicate its buffer food stocks. Some of the very corporations which will then control stocks that India would purchase with foreign exchange holdings. At that stage, any notion of sovereign statehood would be bankrupt as India’s food needs would be dependent on attracting foreign exchange reserves via foreign direct investment or borrowing.

This would represent the ultimate betrayal of India’s farmers and democracy as well as the final surrender of food security and food sovereignty to unaccountable global traders and corporations.

The farm legislation is regressive and will eventually lead to the country relying on outside forces to feed its population. This in an increasingly volatile world prone to conflict, public health scares, unregulated land and commodity speculation and price shocks.

MSP, malnutrition and helping farmers

Consider that India has achieved self-sufficiency in food grains and has ensured that, in theory at least, there is enough food available to feed its entire population. Yet hunger and malnutrition are still major issues.

Initial results from the National Family Health Survey round 5 (NFHS-5) released in January indicate a stagnation or deterioration in most factors related to the nutrition status of the Indian population. These findings have not accounted for the effects of the COVID-19 lockdown, which could see severe long-term adverse impacts on poverty, health and nutrition.

The survey findings suggest that people’s ability to access good quality diets has been impacted by the economic slowdown in recent years and a subsequent deterioration in poverty and consumption. Such a conclusion might not be too far off the mark given the findings of the consumption expenditure survey of the National Statistical Office (2017-18).

In a December 2019 article, economist S Subramanian writes:

Employing the modest Rangarajan Committee poverty line… we find that the… proportion of the population in poverty, has climbed up from 31% to 35%, thus inverting a long trend of declining poverty ratios. If the poverty line is raised by 20% to a less modest but still modest level, then we find… [poverty]… rises precipitously from 42% to 52%.

Supporters of the farm legislation are fond of saying the impact will be higher income for farmers and greater efficiency in food distribution. They fail to acknowledge that the neoliberal policies they have backed over the years have driven many farmers out of agriculture, into debt or to the edge of bankruptcy. They are now pushing for more of the same under the banner of helping farmers.

These policies mainly stem from India’s foreign exchange crisis in the 1990s. In return for up to more than $120 billion in World Bank loans at the time, India was directed to dismantle its state-owned seed supply system, reduce subsidies, run down public agriculture institutions and offer incentives for the growing of cash crops to earn foreign exchange.

The plan involves shifting at least 400 million from the countryside into cities. We have seen the running down of the sector for decades, spiralling input costs, withdrawal of government assistance and the impacts of cheap, subsidised imports which depress farmers’ incomes. The result is an acute agrarian crisis.

Through the new farm laws, the Modi government is now trying to accelerate the planned depopulation of the countryside by drastically reducing the role of the public sector in agriculture to that of a facilitator of private capital.

There is a solution to poverty, hunger and rural distress. But it is being side-lined in favour of a corporate agenda.

The Research Unit for Political Economy (RUPE) notes that minimum support prices (MSP) via government procurement of essential crops and commodities should be extended to the likes of maize, cotton, oil seed and pulses. At the moment, only farmers in certain states who produce rice and wheat are the main beneficiaries of government procurement at MSP.

RUPE says that since per capita protein consumption in India is abysmally low and has fallen further during the liberalisation era, the provision of pulses in the public distribution system (PDS) is long overdue and desperately needed. RUPE argues that the ‘excess’ stocks of food grain with the Food Corporation of India are merely the result of the failure or refusal of the government to distribute grain to the people.

(For those not familiar with the PDS: central government via the Food Corporation of India (FCI) is responsible for buying food grains from farmers at MSP at state-run market yards or mandis. It then allocates the grains to each state. State governments then deliver to the ration shops.)

If public procurement of a wider range of crops at the MSP were to occur – and MSP were guaranteed for rice and wheat across all states – it would help address hunger and malnutritional as well as farmer distress.

Instead of rolling back the role of the public sector and surrendering the system to foreign corporations, there is a need to further expand official procurement and public distribution. This would occur by extending procurement to additional states and expanding the range of commodities under the PDS.

Of course, some will raise a red flag here and say this would cost too much. But as RUPE notes, it would cost around 20 per cent of the current handouts (‘incentives’) received by corporations and their super-rich owners which do not benefit the bulk of the wider population in any way.

Furthermore, if policy makers were really serious about ‘sustainability’ and boosting the rural economy, they would reject the fake high-tech corporate controlled ‘sustainability’ agenda and a reliance on rigged and unstable global markets. They would embrace an approach to agriculture based on agroecological principles, short supply chains and local markets. If the last 12 months have shown anything, it is that decentralised regional and local community-owned food systems are now needed more than ever.

But a solution that would genuinely serve to help address rural distress and malnutrition does not suit the agenda of the Gates Foundation and its corporate entourage.

The post Four Words Gates and His Pals Despise: Democracy and Minimum Support Price first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Two Degrees of Separation

Zoom Lockup!

There’s this Zoom thing coming round the corner, once again — Earth Day 2021. The people on the Pacific Coast, Oregon, Central Coast with no industries, winds whipping up air vortices, and air as clean as what it might be in the middle of the ocean, and yet, we have the old white folk planning for some more Zoom Doom fun.

And not only is this a Zoom Doom “same old usual suspects yakking fest,” but, in fact, some local yokel and state yokel politicians get to bullshit their way through five minutes of nonsense.

The rules of Zoom like the rules of Earth Day 2021 are make nice, no contrarians, and alas, no one arguing. No criticism. Keep it upbeat and positive. Yep, we got Biden back in office — [Biden Backs Revival of His Brainchild: Plan Colombia 2.0 Set to Begin Next Month — Colombia is set to return to a massive aerial campaign of spraying Monsanto’s glyphosate across the country, a plan Biden once fought hard with his Republican colleagues to enact.]

That’s it, really, in the fake world of Google, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Clubhouse, Slack, and Zoom. There are a thousand major software peddlers readying the schmucks for a digital world of work, world of schooling, world of public engagement (disengagement), world of commerce,  world of culture, the world of arts, music, literature, world of medicine and health care.

Earth Day 2021 . . . 2022 . . .  2030!

On the one measly day of the year for celebrating ecosystems, waves, wind, soil, beach, harbor seals, eagles, gulls, cormorants, firs, pines and grasses, the decision to take this one indoors is emblematic of the colonized minds of the, shall I say, liberal class (sic). Neoliberal or demented Democratic minds.

No use asking me to make an alternative earth day for Lincoln County, some gathering on the beach or along a river (we have limitless beaches and thousands of creeks and rivers). In a rural community, in a community based on retirement, and then making dollars from travelers clogging Highway 101, clogging hotels, restaurants, rest stops, you can’t expect any solidarity. The fact that this school system and those white collar jobs are now Zoom Rooms/Jobs, brought to us in the privacy of their closets or garages or fancy offices, that baseline has shifted big time since the lock down of a year ago.

Talk about disruptive and destructive and killer technological shifts. No plan? Right!

Earth Day is Indigenous People’s Year

Yet, on a day of earth benediction, the day of bringing some socialist political zest to the table, a day when Native Americans and First Nations should be front and center, when consumerism-commercialism should be immolated in a symbolic burning of the sales receipts around a big fire, instead we have the Visual Display Terminal (as in terminal disease terminal) as our entry point and end point. One face to the crowd on the 14 inch screen, then our three minutes of Andy Warhol fame, and then, please move on. I am not on it this year, for sure, and last year I dragged myself to the thing.

Again, no expletives, no anti-Americanism, no antiwar, anti-patriotism or anti-politician rhetoric or song or poem. Keep it quaint, upbeat, positive.

I’ve been in this rodeo before — and I polemicized it too, here, at Dissident Voice:  “Zooming Newport’s Climate Awareness Earth Day 2020/April 21st, 2020“.

It is, of course, deja vu, and that’s how the lords of capital want it — triangulation, and fear and, well, push those outliers out. I have found in the past year, more of the jobs, gigs, people I interface/associate with, and other movements I have been a part of have turned into an “us (them) against them (me)” sick Nazi-like defamation of truth. Any critique of the one-party duopoly, any criticism of Harris or Biden, any criticism of the reality of this hegemon, USA, sick before Trump, sick during Trump, sick after Trump, and you not only get ostracized, but penalized. Stitched on Scarlet Letter A for ‘anarchist,’ red being the underpinning of what it means to be a ‘communist-socialist.’

Take the money and run — that’s the motto, and so, before introducing a short animated video about climate heating and those two degrees Celsius, we have a bit of Haeder banter.

Particles in the Atmosphere and Ozone

Don’t let them fool you that 100 or so rocket launches a year (thus far on average, about to go to 200 and then 500) don’t emit much pollution and carbon dioxide in the scheme of things. How much embedded energy to mine that crap, all those wires, metals, plastics, strategic shit, and the electricity, and the transportation? All those human lifetimes expended for Whitey on the Moon, as opposed to stopping the eviscerations of the planet. Right, that isn’t doled out as carbon dioxide emissions. Off-shored, out-sourced, embedded pollution. Forget about the destabilization of those countries where this shit is illegally mined and stolen. Again, science is broken when the capitalists hire scientists to help them steal, pollute, harvest, ruin, destroy, butcher.

See the source image

With that, how can we not rethink a 51-year-old poem, wisdom in a jazz bottle, Gil Scott Heron and Whitey on the Moon. The point of the song-poem runs deeper now than what Gil was alluding to then, because, if you think about cooptation, think about how many other cultures and nationalities are racing for the moon, for the red planet, the song’s updated title might be “Capitalists on the Moon.”

There’s no getting around the fact China and USA are capitalist, and the Fourth Industrial Revolution (devolution) is about mastering control of the entire populations of those countries (and that is now Canada, India, EU, Japan, Australia, et al), outside the super-class of folk in the capital dictatorships.

What China or USA or UK or Japan or Musk or DoD or any of them want on the moon or mars, well, it’s not for the good of mankind, womankind, children-kind.

The inverse is the actual affect — more 5 and 6 G, more wasted and polluting energy. More rockets and blasting satellites and millions of human lifetimes spent on this project, and the outcome/outflow are less solutions for the commons here on terra firma. There will be no reversing ocean acidification or ocean inundation or blasting heat waves, or deluges or dwindling snow-pack, or melting ice with these money-drenched projects of megalomania in space.

The fact is, food can be grown agro-dynamically. People can live off a much much smaller energy footprint. Industries can be owned by the people for real durable goods that last, hmm, half a lifetime or more? Public trains and trolleys and light-rail, that’s not what the Musk-DoD-China projects are about.  Fisheries can’t be restored, Fukushima isotopes can’t be corralled in, human global health and universal “correct” education can never be the end product of these space flights. They are a complete and utter contradiction.

We know it, and they know it, and we the people have been bamboozled into disbelieving what we see-hear-touch right in front of us. They (masters of finance) are in it for more money, power, wealth, control.

You can have atom splitters, neutrino collectors, sunspot probes, but, again, don’t try to pull the bullshit capitalist-militarist wool over my eyes: none of that stops the toll of poverty-hunger-war physically weathering billions of people’s lives to the point of lifespans cut down by 10 years or more compared to the stem-cell sucking, human growth hormone eating great white hopes in the Lizard Clan.

Water on mars? Asteroids with ancient ice? Club Meds in orbit?  You know, none of that is for humanity.

[Drifting plumes created by the Space Shuttle Atlantis]

Alumina and black carbon from rockets can stick around in the stratosphere for three to five years. As these materials collect high above the Earth, they can have interesting effects on the air. Black carbon forms a thin layer that intercepts and absorbs the sunlight that hits Earth. “It would act as a thin, black umbrella,” says Martin Ross, a senior project engineer at the Aerospace Corporation who studies the effects of rockets on the atmosphere. That may help keep the lower atmosphere cool, but the intercepted energy from the Sun doesn’t just go away; it gets deposited into the stratosphere, warming it up. This warming ultimately causes chemical reactions that could lead to the depletion of the ozone layer.

The reflective alumina particles can also affect the ozone but in a different way. Whereas the soot acts like a black umbrella, the alumina acts like a white one, reflecting sunlight back into space. However, chemical reactions occur on the surface of these white particles, which, in turn, destroy the ozone layer, Ross says.

Diet for Parasites of Capitalism — 8 by 10 condo on Devils Island

It’s sort of like the anti-diabetes diet — cut down on white food (rice, bread, pasta, potatoes), walk more, drink water, take a few natural herbs, suck on cinnamon, get flavonoids, pig out on leafy vegetables, stop the EMF’s in  your sleeping space, stop the anxiety of TV-Movies-Facebook. Or, what about the real process of land reclamation? It takes removing the trash, the toxins, and then rebuilding the soil, replanting with native plants, readjusting the land to its natural eco-state.

Simple solutions. And, it’s never going to be rocket science that helps the planet, people or others in the animal and plant kingdoms.

Don’t be fooled by Netflix, the Dystopia Stories, the Bizarre Bumbling Cop-Spy-Soldier-Super Hero soap operas. None of that is reality, and, the shortcuts that capitalism has exacted on Mother Earth, well, after more than 300 years of the trillions of lies, here we are, Whitey on the Moon, 51 years after Gil Scott Heron sang it” !!

We have a poem here
It’s called “Whitey on the Moon”
And, uh, it was inspired, it was inspired
By some whiteys on the moon
So I wanna give credit where credit is due

A rat done bit my sister Nell
With whitey on the moon
Her face and arms began to swell
And whitey’s on the moon

I can’t pay no doctor bills
But whitey’s on the moon
Ten years from now, I’ll be paying still
While whitey’s on the moon

You know, the man just upped my rent last night
‘Cause whitey’s on the moon
No hot water, no toilets, no lights
But whitey’s on the moon

I wonder why he’s uppin’ me
‘Cause whitey’s on the moon?
Well I was already given him fifty a week
And now whitey’s on the moon

Taxes takin’ my whole damn check
The junkies make me a nervous wreck
The price of food is goin’ up
And as if all that crap wasn’t enough

A rat done bit my sister Nell
With whitey on the moon
Her face and arms began to swell
And whitey’s on the moon

With all that money I made last year
For whitey on the moon
How come I ain’t got no money here
Hmm, whitey’s on the moon

You know I just about had my fill
Of whitey on the moon
I think I’ll send these doctor bills
Airmail special (to whitey on the moon)

To whitey on the moon
Thank you

Old whitey now ready to build millions of carbon dioxide sucking machines. Old whitey ready for terra-forming on Mars. Old whitey looking to mess with the water cycle, the cloud systems, the first 15 meters of biological life on the oceans with iron shavings. Old whitey and his and her geoengineering.

Whitey is way beyond just blasting to the moon. Old whitey is messing with DNA, genetically engineering not just crops. Welcome the GMO human, a la vaccines.

It’s not such a far cry from Zoom Earth Day to Genetically Modified Humanity.

The Future of Food (2004) is an older documentary, but shit-dog, says it all, says it all:

Again, this is not some super complicated Jungian and Freudian hierarchy of needs intellectual jujitsu. Food, water, shelter, home, hearth, community, safety. Yes, art and communal education. Intergenerational and multi-diverse communities. Again, it is about eating and living, music and art, forests and savannas, mountains and valleys, rivers and wetlands, reefs and mangroves, and, well, you get the picture.

It’s not about 5 or 6 G, or about Whitey on the Moon. Many of us know that, inherently. And, many of us who are devoted followers of democracy on top and socialism as the under girder, we also are in “their house,” that is, as the African slave on Turtle Island stated, “It’s the slave master’s house I’m working in, and not one second of a day do I believe I am in my house, that any aspect of this house negro status puts me in any better position than the field slave who slaves under a hot sun, battles cottonmouths, the toil of an ox.”

The Future of Food is really the future is food!!

The reality is back to those global average rise in temperature, that so-called two degrees Celsius.

Global heating affects ecosystems that provide food.

Oceans  provide people with about 20 percent of their dietary protein. Ocean acidification caused by climate change makes it difficult  for thousands of species, including oysters, crabs and corals, to form protective shells, which in turn disrupts the food web.

On land, an increase of 3.6 degrees F (2 degrees C) would double our water deficit leading a drop in wheat and maize harvests.

Thermometer on beach

Pat DeLaquil contacted me. I included him in on another piece in DV “Plastic Meets the Road and Capitalism’s Role in Climate Change” with the subtitle, Earth Day & Capitalism Like Vinegar and Oil?

Here’s what Pat stated a year ago —

What drives capitalism to extremes? Two things: this hyper-individualism of the Ayn Rand economic school which purports everyone is unique and must fight for himself or herself to acquire as much as possible. And, two, patriarchy which indoctrinates young children into believing this hierarchy of male control. This belief that males are not caring about social issues, the environment, and females are not supposed to speak their minds when confronted with this apparent destructive system.

He reached out to me just recently:

Public awareness of the climate crisis is growing but support for mitigation efforts is still insufficient to reach the goal of limiting warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial.  This is partially due to the fact that some aspects of the science, which are truly alarming for those who are able to understand them, are confusing and mysterious to many others.   Humans all over the planet conduct their daily lives in temperatures that range from -50°F to over 100°F.  So they are understandably confused when scientists describe the dire consequences of a further increase in Earth’s annual average temperature of only 1.8°F (1°C).  The Metro Climate Action Team made this short video to help build understanding of why so little means so much!

I sent Pat a quick email with some softball questions. What follows it the Q & A to: ‘Just a short response for each one. Thanks, Paul!’

Paul Haeder: What was your role in producing this animated film?

Pat DeLaquil: I came up with the concept and bounced the idea around with several MCAT members using clip art.  Then we developed a script with where several of us contributed to editing and refining the message.  Once we were happy with the storyboard and script, I placed the task on a platform called Upwork, and found an artist that did motion graphics, which are much cheaper than real animation.  The entire process took well over 6 months.

PH: Who is the intended audience for this and how does that audience access this?

PDL: We believe we have several target audiences among people who accept that climate change is happening, but don’t realize how bad the crisis can quickly get and why strong action is needed now.  We believe this group broadly includes people with children and grandparents, as well as civic groups and the faith community.

PH: Explain your background in research climate change — two sentences.

PDL: I have been a leader in the commercialization of clean and renewable energy technologies for over 40 years, and for the last 20 years I have run a small business that develops and uses models to perform policy analyses on behalf of donors, governments and the private sector to identify optimal pathways for achieving economic development and environmental goals.   I have lead the formation of two clean energy start-up companies and earlier lead the development of two key solar energy development projects: PV for Utility Scale Applications (PV-USA)  and the 10 MW Solar Two Power Tower Project.

I have a Ph.D. in Nuclear Engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a B.Sc. in Marine Engineering from the US Merchant Marine Academy, and have authored of over 90 papers, reports, and articles on solar and renewable energy including chapters in two books on renewable energy technology.

PH: Three reasons you believe people in the USA still have difficulty understanding global warming, ocean warming, ice and glacial melting.

PDL: It’s very much like the responses we’ve seen to the pandemic.  Disinformation and deliberate politicization of the issue are strategies used by the right (dominated by fossil fuel interests and their fellow corporate oligarchs).  The second reason is that most people are busy with life – just making end meet between jobs, kids and – even before the pandemic, so it’s easy to ignore or deny the severity of the issue or just hope someone does something.  Third, some people in industries that rely of fossil fuels feel threatened that all this is just a plot to take away their lifestyles.

PH: What do you hope this short animated flick will do to move policy makers, capitalists, businesses and national governments to work on the very difficult issue of ocean level rise, inundation, extreme weather events, crop failures, unlivable conditions in many many tropical or subtropical urban spaces.

PDL: We really hope that this video will motivate people, who are not yet active, to become more engaged in pushing their elected officials to act quickly to combat climate change.

And so another earth day, couched on Zoom (how much energy does a Google search use, how much energy for Facebook servers, how much energy for Bezos and his Global Cloud Server monopoly?).

Pat’s sincere about this short animated PSA, and he wants to do the right thing. Of course, earth day should be indigenous people’s day, farmer-land steward day, animal and ocean day. But we will continue to get “Whitey on Mars” day coming out of the voice boxes of the  masters for this co-opted Bono-DiCaprio Earth Day– financial masters. That Fourth Industrial revolution, that globalized capital blitzkrieg, the eugenics of Gates and the GMO Generals, and  that digital dashboard, the compliancy demanded of the majority of people on earth, all for Whitey on the Moon . . . or Mars.

See the source image

The post Two Degrees of Separation first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Farmers’ Protest in India: Price of Failure Will Be immense

Globally, there is an ongoing trend of a handful of big companies determining what food is grown, how it is grown, what is in it and who sells it. This model involves highly processed food adulterated with chemical inputs ending up in large near-monopoly supermarket chains or fast-food outlets that rely on industrial-scale farming.

While the brands lining the shelves of giant retail outlets seem vast, a handful of food companies own these brands which, in turn, rely on a relatively narrow range of produce for ingredients. At the same time, this illusion of choice often comes at the expense of food security in poorer countries that were compelled to restructure their agriculture to facilitate agro-exports courtesy of the World Bank, IMF, the WTO and global agribusiness interests.

In Mexico, transnational food retail and processing companies have taken over food distribution channels, replacing local foods with cheap processed items, often with the direct support of the government. Free trade and investment agreements have been critical to this process and the consequences for public health have been catastrophic.

Mexico’s National Institute for Public Health released the results of a national survey of food security and nutrition in 2012. Between 1988 and 2012, the proportion of overweight women between the ages of 20 and 49 increased from 25 to 35 per cent and the number of obese women in this age group increased from 9 to 37 per cent. Some 29 per cent of Mexican children between the ages of 5 and 11 were found to be overweight, as were 35 per cent of the youngsters between 11 and 19, while one in ten school age children experienced anaemia.

Former Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier De Schutter, concludes that trade policies had favoured a greater reliance on heavily processed and refined foods with a long shelf life rather than on the consumption of fresh and more perishable foods, particularly fruit and vegetables. He added that the overweight and obesity emergency that Mexico faces could have been avoided.

In 2015, the non-profit organisation GRAIN reported that the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) led to the direct investment in food processing and a change in Mexico’s retail structure (towards supermarkets and convenience stores) as well as the emergence of global agribusiness and transnational food companies in the country.

NAFTA eliminated rules preventing foreign investors from owning more than 49 per cent of a company. It also prohibited minimum amounts of domestic content in production and increased rights for foreign investors to retain profits and returns from initial investments. By 1999, US companies had invested 5.3 billion dollars in Mexico’s food processing industry, a 25-fold increase in just 12 years.

US food corporations began to colonise the dominant food distribution networks of small-scale vendors, known as tiendas (corner shops). This helped spread nutritionally poor food as they allowed these corporations to sell and promote their foods to poorer populations in small towns and communities. By 2012, retail chains had displaced tiendas as Mexico’s main source of food sales.

In Mexico, the loss of food sovereignty induced catastrophic changes to the nation’s diet and many small-scale farmers lost their livelihoods, which was accelerated by the dumping of surplus commodities (produced at below the cost of production due to subsidies) from the US. NAFTA rapidly drove millions of Mexican farmers, ranchers and small business people into bankruptcy, leading to the flight of millions of immigrant workers.

Warning for India

What happened in Mexico should serve as a warning as Indian farmers continue their protest against three recent farm bills that are designed to fully corporatize the agrifood sector through contract farming, the massive roll-back of public sector support systems, a reliance on imports (boosted by a future US trade deal) and the acceleration of large-scale (online) retail.

If you want to know the eventual fate of India’s local markets and small retailers, look no further than what US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in 2019. He stated that Amazon had “destroyed the retail industry across the United States.”

And if you want to know the eventual fate of India’s farmers, look no further than the 1990s when the IMF and World Bank advised India to shift hundreds of millions out of agriculture in return for up to more than $120 billion in loans at the time.

India was directed to dismantle its state-owned seed supply system, reduce subsidies, run down public agriculture institutions and offer incentives for the growing of cash crops for export to earn foreign exchange. Part of the strategy would also involve changing land laws so that land could be sold and amalgamated for industrial-scale farming.

The plan was for foreign corporations to capture the sector, with the aforementioned policies having effectively weakened or displaced independent cultivators.

To date, this process has been slow but the recent legislation could finally deliver a knock-out blow to tens of millions of farmers and give what the likes of Amazon, Walmart, Facebook, Cargill, Archer Daniels Midlands, Louis Dreyfus, Bunge and the global agritech, seed and agrochemical corporations have wanted all along. It will also serve the retail/agribusiness/logistics interests of India’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani, and its sixth richest, Gautam Adani.

During their ongoing protests, farmers have been teargassed, smeared and beaten. Journalist Satya Sagar notes that government advisors fear that seeming to appear weak with the agitating farmers would not sit well with foreign agrifood investors and could stop the flow of big money into the sector – and the economy as a whole.

And it is indeed ‘big’ money. Facebook invested 5.5 billion dollars last year in Mukesh Ambani’s Jio Platforms (e-commerce retail). Google has also invested 4.5 billion dollars. Currently, Amazon and Flipkart (Walmart has an 81% stake) together control over 60% of the country’s overall e-commerce market. These and other international investors have a great deal to lose if the recent farm legislation is repealed. So does the Indian government.

Since the 1990s, when India opened up to neoliberal economics, the country has become increasingly dependent on inflows of foreign capital. Policies are being governed by the drive to attract and retain foreign investment and maintain ‘market confidence’ by ceding to the demands of international capital. ‘Foreign direct investment’ has thus become the holy grail of the Modi-led administration.

Little wonder the government needs to be seen as acting ‘tough’ on protesting farmers because now, more than ever, attracting and retaining foreign reserves will be required to purchase food on the international market once India surrenders responsibility for its food policy to private players by eliminating its buffer stocks.

The plan to radically restructure agrifood in the country is being sold to the public under the guise of ‘modernising’ the sector. And this is to be carried out by self-proclaimed ‘wealth creators’ like Zuckerberg, Bezos and Ambani who are highly experienced at creating wealth – for themselves.

According to the recent Oxfam report ‘The Inequality Virus’, Mukesh Ambani doubled his wealth between March and October 2020. The coronavirus-related lockdown in India resulted in the country’s billionaires increasing their wealth by around 35 per cent, while 170,000 people lost their jobs every hour in April 2020 alone.

Prior to the lockdown, Oxfam reported that 73 per cent of the wealth generated in 2017 went to the richest 1 per cent, while 670 million Indians, the poorest half of the population, saw only a 1 per cent increase in their wealth.

Moreover, the fortunes of India’s billionaires increased by almost 10 times over a decade and their total wealth was higher than the entire Union budget of India for the fiscal year 2018-19.

It is clear who these ‘wealth creators’ create wealth for. On the People’s Review site, Tanmoy Ibrahim writes a piece on India’s billionaire class, with a strong focus on Ambani and Adani. By outlining the nature of crony capitalism in India, it is clear that Modi’s ‘wealth creators’ are given carte blanche to plunder the public purse, people and the environment, while real wealth creators – not least the farmers – are fighting for existence.

The current struggle should not be regarded as a battle between the government and farmers. If what happened in Mexico is anything to go by, the outcome will adversely affect the entire nation in terms of the further deterioration of public health and the loss of livelihoods.

Consider that rates of obesity in India have already tripled in the last two decades and the nation is fast becoming the diabetes and heart disease capital of the world. According to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4), between 2005 and 2015 the number of obese people doubled, even though one in five children in the 5-9 year age group were found to be stunted.

This will be just part of the cost of handing over the sector to billionaire (comprador) capitalists Mukesh Ambani and Gautum Adani and Jeff Bezos (world’s richest person), Mark Zukerberg (world’s fourth richest person), the Cargill business family (14 billionaires) and the Walmart business family (richest in the US).

These individuals are poised to siphon off the wealth of India’s agrifood sector while denying the livelihoods of many millions of small-scale farmers and local mom and pop retailers while undermining the health of the nation.

The post Farmers’ Protest in India: Price of Failure Will Be immense first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Viral Inequality and the Farmers’ Struggle in India  

According to a new report by Oxfam, ‘The Inequality Virus’, the wealth of the world’s billionaires increased by $3.9tn (trillion) between 18 March and 31 December 2020. Their total wealth now stands at $11.95tn. The world’s 10 richest billionaires have collectively seen their wealth increase by $540bn over this period. In September 2020, Jeff Bezos could have paid all 876,000 Amazon employees a $105,000 bonus and still be as wealthy as he was before COVID.

At the same time, hundreds of millions of people will lose (have lost) their jobs and face destitution and hunger. It is estimated that the total number of people living in poverty could have increased by between 200 million and 500 million in 2020. The number of people living in poverty might not return even to its pre-crisis level for over a decade.

Mukesh Ambani, India’s richest man and head of Reliance Industries, which specialises in petrol, retail and telecommunications, doubled his wealth between March and October 2020. He now has $78.3bn. The average increase in Ambani’s wealth in just over four days represented more than the combined annual wages of all of Reliance Industries’ 195,000 employees.

The Oxfam report states that lockdown in India resulted in the country’s billionaires increasing their wealth by around 35 per cent. At the same time, 84 per cent of households suffered varying degrees of income loss. Some 170,000 people lost their jobs every hour in April 2020 alone.

The authors also noted that income increases for India’s top 100 billionaires since March 2020 was enough to give each of the 138 million poorest people a cheque for 94,045 rupees.

The report went on to state:

… it would take an unskilled worker 10,000 years to make what Ambani made in an hour during the pandemic… and three years to make what Ambani made in a second.

During lockdown and after, hundreds of thousands of migrant workers in the cities (who had no option but to escape the country’s avoidable but deepening agrarian crisis) were left without jobs, money, food or shelter.

It is clear that COVID has been used as cover for consolidating the power of the unimaginably rich. But plans for boosting their power and wealth will not stop there. One of the most lucrative sectors for these people is agrifood.

More than 60 per cent of India’s almost 1.4 billion population rely (directly or indirectly) on agriculture for their livelihood. Aside from foreign interests, Mukesh Ambani and fellow billionaire Gautam Adani (India’s second richest person with major agribusiness interests) are set to benefit most from the recently passed farm bills that will lead to the wholesale corporatisation of the agrifood sector.

Corporate consolidation

A recent article on the grain.org website, ‘Digital control: how big tech moves into food and farming (and what it means)’, describes how Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Facebook and others are closing in on the global agrifood sector while the likes of Bayer, Syngenta, Corteva and Cargill are cementing their stranglehold.

The tech giants entry into the sector will increasingly lead to a mutually beneficial integration between the companies that supply products to farmers (pesticides, seeds, fertilisers, tractors, drones, etc) and those that control the flow of data and have access to digital (cloud) infrastructure and food consumers. This system is based on corporate centralisation and concentration (monopolisation).

Grain notes that in India global corporations are also colonising the retail space through e-commerce. Walmart entered into India in 2016 by a US$3.3 billion take-over of the online retail start-up Jet.com which, in 2018, was followed by a US$16 billion take-over of India’s largest online retail platform Flipkart. Today, Walmart and Amazon now control almost two thirds of India’s digital retail sector.

Amazon and Walmart are using predatory pricing, deep discounts and other unfair business practices to lure customers towards their online platforms. According to Grain, when the two companies generated sales of over US$3 billion in just six days during a Diwali festival sales blitz, India’s small retailers called out in desperation for a boycott of online shopping.

In 2020, Facebook and the US-based private equity concern KKR committed over US$7 billion to Reliance Jio, the digital store of one of India’s biggest retail chains. Customers will soon be able to shop at Reliance Jio through Facebook’s chat application, WhatsApp.

The plan for retail is clear: the eradication of millions of small traders and retailers and neighbourhood mom and pop shops. It is similar in agriculture.

The aim is to buy up rural land, amalgamate it and roll out a system of chemically-drenched farmerless farms owned or controlled by financial speculators, the high-tech giants and traditional agribusiness concerns. The end-game is a system of contract farming that serves the interests of big tech, big agribusiness and big retail. Smallholder peasant agriculture is regarded as an impediment to be replaced by large industrial-scale farms.

This model will be based on driverless tractors, drones, genetically engineered/lab-produced food and all data pertaining to land, water, weather, seeds and soils patented and often pirated from peasant farmers.

Farmers possess centuries of accumulated knowledge that once gone will never be got back. Corporatisation of the sector has already destroyed or undermined functioning agrarian ecosystems that draw on centuries of traditional knowledge and are increasingly recognised as valid approaches to secure food security.

And what of the hundreds of millions to be displaced in order to fill the pockets of the billionaire owners of these corporations? Driven to cities to face a future of joblessness: mere ‘collateral damage’ resulting from a short-sighted system of dispossessive predatory capitalism that destroys the link between humans, ecology and nature to boost the bottom line of the immensely rich.

Imperial intent

India’s agrifood sector has been on the radar of global corporations for decades. With deep market penetration and near saturation having been achieved by agribusiness in the US and elsewhere, India represents an opportunity for expansion and maintaining business viability and all-important profit growth. And by teaming up with the high-tech players in Silicon Valley, multi-billion dollar data management markets are being created. From data and knowledge to land, weather and seeds, capitalism is compelled to eventually commodify (patent and own) all aspects of life and nature.

Foreign agricapital is applying enormous pressure on India to scrap its meagre (in comparison to the richer nations) agricultural subsidies. The public distribution system and publicly held buffer stocks constitute an obstacle to the profit-driven requirements of global agribusiness interests.

Such interests require India to become dependent on imports (alleviating the overproduction problem of Western agricapital – the vast stocks of grains that it already dumps on the Global South) and to restructure its own agriculture for growing crops (fruit, vegetables) that consumers in the richer countries demand. Instead of holding physical buffer stocks for its own use, India would hold foreign exchange reserves and purchase food stocks from global traders.

Successive administrations have made the country dependent on volatile flows of foreign capital via foreign direct investment (and loans). The fear of capital flight is ever present. Policies are often governed by the drive to attract and retain these inflows. This financialisation of agriculture serves to undermine the nation’s food security, placing it at the mercy of unforeseen global events (conflict, oil prices, public health crises) international commodity speculators and unstable foreign investment.

Current agricultural ‘reforms’ are part of a broader process of imperialism’s increasing capture of the Indian economy, which has led to its recolonization by foreign corporations as a result of neoliberalisation which began in 1991. By reducing public sector buffer stocks and introducing corporate-dictated contract farming and full-scale neoliberal marketisation for the sale and procurement of produce, India will be sacrificing its farmers and its own food security for the benefit of a handful of unscrupulous billionaires.

As independent cultivators are bankrupted, the aim is that land will eventually be amalgamated to facilitate large-scale industrial cultivation. Indeed, a recent piece on the Research Unit for Political Economy site, ‘The Kisans Are Right: Their Land Is At Stake‘, describes how the Indian government is ascertaining which land is owned by whom with the ultimate aim of making it easier to eventually sell it off (to foreign investors and agribusiness). Other developments are also part of the plan (such as the Karnataka Land Reform Act), which will make it easier for business to purchase agricultural land.

India could eventually see institutional investors with no connection to farming (pension funds, sovereign wealth funds, endowment funds and investments from governments, banks, insurance companies and high net worth individuals) purchasing land. This is an increasing trend globally and, again, India represents a huge potential market. The funds have no connection to farming, have no interest in food security and are involved just to make profit from land.

The recent farm bills – if not repealed – will impose the neoliberal shock therapy of dispossession and dependency, finally clearing the way to restructure the agri-food sector. The massive inequalities and injustices that have resulted from the COVID-related lockdowns are a mere taste of what is to come.

The hundreds of thousands of farmers who have been on the streets protesting against these bills are at the vanguard of the pushback – they cannot afford to fail. There is too much at stake.

The post Viral Inequality and the Farmers’ Struggle in India   first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Farmers’ Protests Reflect Existential Crisis of Indian Agriculture    

With over 800 million people, rural India is arguably the most interesting and complex place on the planet but is plagued by farmer suicides, child malnourishment, growing unemployment, increased informalisation, indebtedness and an overall collapse of agriculture.

Given that India is still an agrarian-based society, renowned journalist P Sainath says what is taking place can be described as a crisis of civilisation proportions and can be explained in just five words: hijack of agriculture by corporations. He notes the process by which it is being done in five words too: predatory commercialisation of the countryside. And another five words to describe the outcome: biggest displacement in our history.

In late November 2018, a charter was released by the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (an umbrella group of around 250 farmers’ organisations) to coincide with the massive, well-publicised farmers’ march that was then taking place in Delhi.

The charter stated:

Farmers are not just a residue from our past; farmers, agriculture and village India are integral to the future of India and the world; as bearers of historic knowledge, skills and culture; as agents of food safety, security and sovereignty; and as guardians of biodiversity and ecological sustainability.

The farmers stated that they were alarmed at the economic, ecological, social and existential crisis of Indian agriculture as well as the persistent state neglect of the sector and discrimination against farming communities.

They were also concerned about the deepening penetration of large, predatory and profit hungry corporations, farmers’ suicide across the country and the unbearable burden of indebtedness and the widening disparities between farmers and other sectors.

The charter called on the Indian parliament to immediately hold a special session to pass and enact two bills that were of, by and for the farmers of India.

If passed by parliament, among other things, the Farmers’ Freedom from Indebtedness Bill 2018 would have provided for the complete loan waiver for all farmers and agricultural workers.

The second bill, The Farmers’ Right to Guaranteed Remunerative Minimum Support Prices for Agricultural Commodities Bill 2018, would have seen the government take measures to bring down the input cost of farming through specific regulation of the prices of seeds, agriculture machinery and equipment, diesel, fertilisers and insecticides, while making purchase of farm produce below the minimum support price (MSP) both illegal and punishable.

The charter also called for a special discussion on the universalisation of the public distribution system, the withdrawal of pesticides that have been banned elsewhere and the non-approval of genetically engineered seeds without a comprehensive need and impact assessment.

Other demands included no foreign direct investment in agriculture and food processing, the protection of farmers from corporate plunder in the name of contract farming, investment in farmers’ collectives to create farmer producer organisations and peasant cooperatives and the promotion of agroecology based on suitable cropping patterns and local seed diversity revival.

Now in 2020, rather than responding to these requirements, we see the Indian government’s promotion and facilitation of – by way of recent legislation – the corporatisation of agriculture and the dismantling of the public distribution system (and the MSP) as well as the laying of groundwork for contract farming.

This legislation comprises three acts: The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act 2020, Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act 2020 and Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act 2020

Although the two aforementioned bills from 2018 have now lapsed, farmers are demanding that the new pro-corporate (anti-farmer) farms laws are replaced with a legal framework that guarantees the MSP to farmers.

According to an article by the Research Unit for Political Economy (RUPE), it is clear that the existence of MSPs, the Food Corporation of India, the public distribution system and publicly held buffer stocks constitute an obstacle to the profit-driven requirements of global agribusiness interests who have sat with government agencies and set out their wish-lists.

RUPE notes that India accounts for 15 per cent of world consumption of cereals. India’s buffer stocks are equivalent to 15-25 per cent of world stocks and 40 per cent of world trade in rice and wheat. Any large reduction in these stocks will almost certainly affect world prices: farmers would be hit by depressed prices; later, once India became dependent on imports, prices could rise on the international market and Indian consumers would be hit.

At the same time, the richer countries are applying enormous pressure on India to scrap its meagre agricultural subsidies; yet their own subsidies are vast multiples of India’s. The end result could be India becoming dependent on imports and the restructure of its own agriculture to crops destined for export.

RUPE concludes:

Vast buffer stocks would still exist; but instead of India holding these stocks, they would be held by multinational trading firms, and India would bid for them with borrowed funds.

Instead of holding physical buffer stocks, India would hold foreign exchange reserves.

Successive administrations have made the country dependent on volatile flows of foreign capital and India’s foreign exchange reserves have been built up by borrowing and foreign investments. The fear of capital flight is ever present. Policies are often governed by the drive to attract and retain these inflows and maintain market confidence by ceding to the demands of international capital.

This throttling of democracy and the ‘financialisation’ of agriculture would seriously undermine the nation’s food security and leave almost 1.4 billion people at the mercy of international speculators and foreign investment.

But agricapital’s free-for-all bonanza and the planned displacement of tens of millions of cultivators mirrors what has been happening across the world for many decades: the consolidation of a global food regime based on agro-export mono-cropping (often with non-food commodities taking up prime agricultural land) linked to sovereign debt repayment and foreign exchange inflows and earnings and World Bank/IMF ‘structural adjustment’ directives.

The outcomes have included a displacement of a food-producing peasantry, the dominance of Western agri-food oligopolies and the transformation of countries from food self-sufficiency to food deficiency. Little wonder then that among the owners of global agribusiness family firm Cargill 14 are now billionaires – the very company that profited from running down India’s edible oils sector in the 1990s.

It is not that India needs these people. It is already the world’s largest producer of milk, pulses and millets and the second-largest producer of rice, wheat, sugarcane, groundnuts, vegetables, fruit and cotton. This is despite India’s farmers already reeling from the effects of 30 years of neoliberal policies, decades of public underinvestment/disinvestment and a deliberate strategy to displace them at the behest of the World Bank and predatory global agri-food corporations.

If unrepealed, the recent legislation represents the ultimate betrayal of India’s farmers and democracy as well as the final surrender of food security and food sovereignty to unaccountable corporations. This legislation is wholly regressive and will eventually lead to the country relying on outside forces  to feed its population – and a possible return to hand-to-mouth imports, especially in an increasingly volatile world prone to conflict, public health scares, unregulated land and commodity speculation and price shocks.

A shift towards food sovereignty – encompassing local people’s right to healthy and culturally appropriate food and their ability to define and control their own food and agriculture systems – is key to achieving genuine independence, national sovereignty, food security and facilitating farmers’ demands.

The post Farmers’ Protests Reflect Existential Crisis of Indian Agriculture     first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Reimagining the World: Agroecology and Post-COVID Plunder

Contingent on World Bank aid to be given to poorer countries in the wake of coronavirus lockdowns, agrifood conglomerates will aim to further expand their influence. These firms have been integral to the consolidation of a global food regime that has emerged in recent decades based on chemical- and proprietary-input-dependent agriculture which incurs massive externalised social, environmental and health costs.

Reliance on commodity monocropping for global markets, long supply chains and dependency on external inputs for cultivation make the food system vulnerable to shocks, whether resulting from public health scares, oil price spikes (the global food system is fossil-fuel dependent) or conflict and war. An increasing number of countries are recognising the need to respond by becoming more food self-sufficient, preferably by securing control over their own food and reducing supply chain lengths.

The various coronavirus lockdowns have disrupted many transport and production activities, exposing the weaknesses of the food system. If the current situation tells us anything, it is that structural solutions are needed to transform food production, not further strengthen the status quo.

Agroecology

During the Disappearing World Forum in 2013, author Arundhati Roy was asked by an audience member, what is the alternative to the mainstream development narrative?

She responded by saying:

You can ask the question of alternatives in two ways. One way is a genuine way and the other is a sort of aggressive way. And the genuine way would take into account that today we are where we are because there has been a series of decisions taken about everything; whether it’s about hybrid seeds, whether it’s about big dams. Whatever it’s about, every time there’s a decision that has been taken, there’s always been an alternative… There was an alternative to every way you chose to develop. When you have a system that’s been created with a layer – with thousands of decisions – and you want me now to tell you an alternative in one sentence, it isn’t possible.

In a world where the ‘good life’ is associated with GDP growth, endless consumption and increasing urbanisation, there is a price to be paid in terms of environmental destruction, devastating resource conflicts, population displacements, a destructive arrogance that sees humans apart from and above nature and the degradation of our most fundamental need – food and our ability to produce it.

The solution cannot be expressed in one sentence, but a vital – perhaps central – component of ‘the alternative’ involves prioritising an agrarian-centric development paradigm based on a wide-ranging shift to agroecology. The agroecological paradigm is not just about growing food; it involves reimagining our relationship with nature and with each other and the type of actions and activities that give meaning to life.

In 2014, UN special rapporteur Olivier De Schutter’s report concluded that by applying agroecological principles to democratically controlled agricultural systems we can help to put an end to food crises and poverty challenges. He argued that agroecological approaches could tackle food needs in critical regions and could double food production in 10 years.

The 2009 IAASTD peer-reviewed report, produced by 400 scientists and supported by 60 countries, recommended agroecology to maintain and increase the productivity of global agriculture. And the recent UN FAO High Level Panel of Experts concluded that agroecology provides greatly improved food security and nutritional, gender, environmental and yield benefits compared to industrial agriculture.

Agroecology is based on traditional knowledge and modern agricultural research, utilising elements of contemporary ecology, soil biology and the biological control of pests. This system employs sound ecological management by using on-farm solutions to manage pests and disease without the use of agrochemicals and corporate seeds. It outperforms the prevailing industrial food system in terms of diversity of food output, nutrition per acre, soil health, water table stability and climate resilience.

Academic Raj Patel outlines some of the basic practices of agroecology by saying that nitrogen-fixing beans are grown instead of using inorganic fertilizer, flowers are used to attract beneficial insects to manage pests and weeds are crowded out with more intensive planting. The result is a sophisticated polyculture: many crops are produced simultaneously, instead of just one.

Much has been written about agroecology, its successes and the challenges it faces, not least in the 2017 book Fertile Ground: Scaling agroecology from the ground up, published by Food First. Agroecology can offer concrete, practical solutions to many of the world’s problems. It challenges – and offers alternatives to – the prevailing moribund doctrinaire economics of a neoliberalism that drives a failing system of industrial agriculture.

By creating securely paid labour-intensive agricultural work in both richer and poorer countries, it can address the interrelated links between labour offshoring by rich countries and the removal of rural populations elsewhere who end up in sweat shops to carry out offshored jobs: the two-pronged process of neoliberal, globalised capitalism that has hollowed out the economies of the US and UK and which is displacing existing indigenous food production systems and undermining the rural infrastructure in places like India.

Agroecology is based on food sovereignty, which encompasses the right to healthy and culturally appropriate food and the right of people to define their own food and agriculture systems. ‘Culturally appropriate’ is a nod to the foods people have traditionally produced and eaten as well as the associated socially embedded practices which underpin community and a sense of communality. But it goes beyond that.

Modern food system

People have a deep microbiological connection to soils, food processing practices and fermentation processes which affect the gut microbiome – up to six pounds of bacteria, viruses and microbes akin to human soil. And as with actual soil, the microbiome can become degraded according to what we ingest (or fail to ingest). Many nerve endings from major organs are located in the gut and the microbiome effectively nourishes them. There is ongoing research taking place into how the microbiome is disrupted by the modern globalised food production/processing system and the chemical bombardment it is subjected to.

Capitalism colonises (and degrades) all aspects of life but is colonising the very essence of our being – even on a physiological level. With their agrochemicals and food additives, powerful companies are attacking this ‘soil’ and with it the human body. As soon as agri-food corporations undermined the capacity for eating locally grown, traditionally processed food, cultivated in healthy soils and began imposing long-line supply chains and food subjected to chemical-laden cultivation and processing activities, we not only lost our cultural connections to food production and the seasons, but we also lost our deep-rooted microbiological connection with our localities. Corporate chemicals and seeds and global food chains dominated by the likes of Monsanto (now Bayer), Nestle and Cargill took over.

Aside from affecting the functioning of major organs, neurotransmitters in the gut affect our moods and thinking. Alterations in the composition of the gut microbiome have been implicated in a wide range of neurological and psychiatric conditions, including autism, chronic pain, depression and Parkinson’s Disease. In addition, increasing levels of obesity are associated with low bacterial richness in the gut. Indeed, it has been noted that tribes not exposed to the modern food system have richer microbiomes.

To ensure genuine food security and good health, humanity must transition to a notion of food sovereignty based on optimal self-sufficiency, agroecological principles and local ownership and stewardship of common resources – land, water, soil, seeds, etc.

However, what we are seeing is a trend towards genetically engineered and biosynthetic lab-based food controlled by corporations. The billionaire class who are pushing this agenda think they can own nature and all humans and can control both. As part of an economic, cultural and social ‘great reset’, they seek to impose their cold dystopian vision that wants to eradicate thousands of years of culture, tradition and farming practices virtually overnight.

Consider that many of the ancient rituals and celebrations of our forebears were built around stories and myths that helped them come to terms with some of the most basic issues of existence, from death to rebirth and fertility. These culturally embedded beliefs and practices served to sanctify their practical relationship with nature and its role in sustaining human life.

As agriculture became key to human survival, the planting and harvesting of crops and other seasonal activities associated with food production were central to these customs. Freyfaxi marks the beginning of the harvest in Norse paganism, for example, while Lammas or Lughnasadh is the celebration of the first harvest/grain harvest in Paganism.

Humans celebrated nature and the life it gave birth to. Ancient beliefs and rituals were imbued with hope and renewal and people had a necessary and immediate relationship with the sun, seeds, animals, wind, fire, soil and rain and the changing seasons that nourished and brought life. In addition to our physiological connection, our cultural and social relationships with agrarian production and associated deities had a sound practical base.

We need look no further than India to appreciate the important relationship between culture, agriculture and ecology, not least the vital importance of the monsoon and seasonal planting and harvesting. Rural-based beliefs and rituals steeped in nature persist, even among urban Indians. These are bound to traditional knowledge systems where livelihoods, the seasons, food, cooking, processing, seed exchange, healthcare and the passing on of knowledge are all inter-related and form the essence of cultural diversity within India itself.

Although the industrial age resulted in a diminution of the connection between food and the natural environment as people moved to cities, traditional ‘food cultures’ – the practices, attitudes and beliefs surrounding the production, distribution and consumption of food – still thrive and highlight our ongoing connection to agriculture and nature.

If we go back to the 1950s, it is interesting to note Union Carbide’s corporate narrative based on a series of images that depicted the company as a ‘hand of god’ coming out of the sky to ‘solve’ some of the issues facing humanity. One of the most famous images is of the hand pouring the firm’s agrochemicals on Indian soils as if traditional farming practices were somehow ‘backward’.

Despite well-publicised claims to the contrary, this chemical-driven approach did not lead to higher food production according to the paper “New Histories of the Green Revolution” written by Prof Glenn Stone. However, it has had long-term devastating ecological, social and economic consequences as we saw in Vandana Shiva’s book The Violence of the Green Revolution and Bhaskar Save’s now famous and highly insightful open letter to Indian officials.

In the book Food and Cultural Studies’ (Bob Ashley et al), we see how, some years ago, a Coca Cola TV ad campaign sold its product to an audience which associated modernity with a sugary drink and depicted ancient Aboriginal beliefs as harmful, ignorant and outdated. Coke and not rain became the giver of life to the parched. This type of ideology forms part of a wider strategy to discredit traditional cultures and portray them as being deficient and in need of assistance from ‘god-like’ corporations.

Post-COVID plunder

What we are seeing in 2020, is an acceleration of such processes. In terms of food and agriculture, traditional farming in places like India will be under increasing pressure from the big-tech giants and agribusiness to open up to lab-grown food, GMOs, genetically engineered soil microbes, data harvesting tools and drones and other ‘disruptive’ technologies.

This vision includes farmerless farms being manned by driverless machines, monitored by drones and doused with chemicals to produce commodity crops from patented GM seeds for industrial ‘biomatter’ to be processed and constituted into something resembling food. What will happen to the farmers?

Post-COVID, the World Bank talks about helping countries get back on track in return for structural reforms. Are tens of millions of smallholder farmers to be enticed from their land in return for individual debt relief and universal basic income? The displacement of these farmers and the subsequent destruction of rural communities and their cultures was something the Gates Foundation once called for and cynically termed “land mobility”.

Cut through the euphemisms and it is clear that Bill Gates – and the other incredibly rich individuals behind the great reset with their ‘white saviour’ mindset – is an old-fashioned colonialist who supports the time-honoured dispossessive strategies of imperialism, whether this involves mining, appropriating and commodifying farmer knowledge, accelerating the transfer of research and seeds to corporations or facilitating intellectual property piracy and seed monopolies created through IP laws and seed regulations.

In India – still an agrarian-based society – will the land of these already (prior to COVID) heavily indebted farmers then be handed over to the tech giants, the financial institutions and global agribusiness to churn out their high-tech industrial sludge?

With the link completely severed between food production, nature and culturally embedded beliefs that give meaning and expression to life, we will be left with the individual, isolated human who exists on lab-based food, who is reliant on income from the state and who is stripped of satisfying productive endeavour and genuine self-fulfilment.

Technocratic meddling has already destroyed or undermined cultural diversity, meaningful social connections and agrarian ecosystems that draw on centuries of traditional knowledge and are increasingly recognised as valid approaches to secure food security, as outlined, for example, in the 2017 article “Food Security and Traditional Knowledge in India” in the Journal of South Asian Studies.

Such a pity that prominent commentators like George Monbiot, who writes for the UK’s Guardian newspaper, seems fully on board with this ‘great reset’. In his 2020 article ‘Lab-grown food will soon destroy farming – and save the planet’, he sees farmerless farms and ‘fake’ food produced in giant industrial factories from microbes as a good thing.

But Vandana Shiva says:

The notion that high-tech ‘farm free’ lab food will save the planet is simply a continuation of the same mechanistic mindset which has brought us to where we are today – the idea that we are separate from and outside of nature… it is the basis of industrial agriculture which has destroyed the planet, farmers livelihoods and our health.

She adds:

Turning ‘water into food’ is an echo from the times of the second world war, when it was claimed that fossil-fuel-based chemical fertilisers would produce ‘Bread from Air’. Instead we have dead zones in the ocean, greenhouse gases – including nitrous oxide which is 300 times more damaging to the environment than CO2 – and desertified soils and land. We are part of nature, not separate from and outside of nature. Food is what connects us to the earth, its diverse beings, including the forests around us — through the trillions of microorganisms that are in our gut microbiome and which keep our bodies healthy, both inside and out.

As an environmentalist, Monbiot supports lab-based food because he only sees a distorted method of industrial farming; he is blind to agroecological methods which do not have the disastrous environmental consequences of chemical-dependent industrial agriculture. Monbiot’s ‘solution’ is to replace one model of corporate controlled farming with another, thereby robbing us of our connection to the land, to each other and making us wholly dependent on profiteering, unscrupulous interests that have no time for concepts like food democracy or food sovereignty.

Moreover, certain lab-engineered ‘food’ will require biomatter in the form of commodity crops. This in itself raises issues related to the colonisation of land in faraway countries and the implications for food security there. We may look no further to see the adverse health, social and environmental impacts of pesticide-dependent GMO seed monocropping in Argentina as it produces soy for the global market, not least for animal feed in Europe.

Instead of pandering to the needs of corporations, prominent commentators would do better by getting behind initiatives like the anti-imperialist Declaration of the International Forum for Agroecology, produced by Nyeleni in 2015. It argues for building grass-root local food systems that create new rural-urban links, based on genuine agroecological food production. It adds that agroecology requires local producers and communities to challenge and transform structures of power in society, not least by putting the control of seeds, biodiversity, land and territories, waters, knowledge, culture and the commons in the hands of those who feed the world.

It would mean that what ends up in our food and how it is grown is determined by the public good and not powerful private interests driven by patents, control and commercial gain and the compulsion to subjugate farmers, consumers and entire regions to their global supply chains and questionable products (whether unhealthy food or proprietary pesticides and seeds). For consumers, the public good includes more diverse diets leading to better nutrition and enhanced immunity when faced with any future pandemic.

Across the world, decentralised and local community-owned food systems based on short(er) food supply chains that can cope with future shocks are now needed more than ever. But there are major obstacles given the power of agrifood concerns whose business models are based on industrial farming and global chains with all the devastating consequences this entails.

Following the devastation caused by coronavirus-related lockdowns, World Bank Group President David Malpass has stated that poorer countries will be ‘helped’ to get back on their feet – on the condition that further neoliberal reforms and the undermining of public services are implemented and become further embedded.

He says that countries will need to implement structural reforms to help shorten the time to recovery and create confidence that the recovery can be strong:

For those countries that have excessive regulations, subsidies, licensing regimes, trade protection or litigiousness as obstacles, we will work with them to foster markets, choice and faster growth prospects during the recovery.

For agriculture, this means the further opening of markets to benefit the richer nations. What journalists like George Monbiot fail to acknowledge is that emerging technology in agriculture (AI drones, gene-edited crops, synthetic food, etc) is first and foremost an instrument of corporate power. Indeed, agriculture has for a long time been central to US foreign policy to boost the bottom line of its agribusiness interests and their control over the global food chain.

In the words of economics professor Michael Hudson:

It is by agriculture and control of the food supply that American diplomacy has been able to control most of the Third World. The World Bank’s geopolitical lending strategy has been to turn countries into food deficit areas by convincing them to grow cash crops – plantation export crops – not to feed themselves with their own food crops.

It is naïve to suggest that in the brave new world of farmerless farms and lab-based food, things would be different. In the face of economic crisis and stagnation at home, exacerbated by COVID lockdowns and restrictions, whether through new technologies or older Green Revolution methods, Western agricapital will seek to further entrench its position across the globe.

The post Reimagining the World: Agroecology and Post-COVID Plunder first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Agroecology and Post-COVID Plunder

Contingent on World Bank aid to be given to poorer countries in the wake of coronavirus lockdowns, agrifood conglomerates will aim to further expand their influence. These firms have been integral to the consolidation of a global food regime that has emerged in recent decades based on chemical- and proprietary-input-dependent agriculture which incurs massive externalised social, environmental and health costs.

Reliance on commodity monocropping for global markets, long supply chains and dependency on external inputs for cultivation make the food system vulnerable to shocks, whether resulting from public health scares, oil price spikes (the global food system is fossil-fuel dependent) or conflict and war. An increasing number of countries are recognising the need to respond by becoming more food self-sufficient, preferably by securing control over their own food and reducing supply chain lengths.

The various coronavirus lockdowns have disrupted many transport and production activities, exposing the weaknesses of the food system. If the current situation tells us anything, it is that structural solutions are needed to transform food production, not further strengthen the status quo.

Agroecology

In 2014, UN special rapporteur Olivier De Schutter’s report concluded that by applying agroecological principles to democratically controlled agricultural systems we can help to put an end to food crises and poverty challenges. He argued that agroecological approaches could tackle food needs in critical regions and could double food production in 10 years.

The 2009 IAASTD peer-reviewed report, produced by 400 scientists and supported by 60 countries, recommended agroecology to maintain and increase the productivity of global agriculture. And the recent UN FAO High Level Panel of Experts concluded that agroecology provides greatly improved food security and nutritional, gender, environmental and yield benefits compared to industrial agriculture.

Agroecology is based on traditional knowledge and modern agricultural research, utilising elements of contemporary ecology, soil biology and the biological control of pests. This system employs sound ecological management by using on-farm solutions to manage pests and disease without the use of agrochemicals and corporate seeds. It outperforms the prevailing industrial food system in terms of diversity of food output, nutrition per acre, soil health, water table stability and climate resilience.

Academic Raj Patel outlines some of the basic practices of agroecology by saying that nitrogen-fixing beans are grown instead of using inorganic fertilizer, flowers are used to attract beneficial insects to manage pests and weeds are crowded out with more intensive planting. The result is a sophisticated polyculture: many crops are produced simultaneously, instead of just one.

Much has been written about agroecology, its successes and the challenges it faces, not least in the 2017 book Fertile Ground: Scaling agroecology from the ground up, published by Food First. Agroecology can offer concrete, practical solutions to many of the world’s problems. It challenges – and offers alternatives to – the prevailing moribund doctrinaire economics of a neoliberalism that drives a failing system of industrial agriculture.

By creating securely paid labour-intensive agricultural work in both richer and poorer countries, it can address the interrelated links between labour offshoring by rich countries and the removal of rural populations elsewhere who end up in sweat shops to carry out offshored jobs: the two-pronged process of neoliberal, globalised capitalism that has hollowed out the economies of the US and UK and which is displacing existing indigenous food production systems and undermining the rural infrastructure in places like India.

Agroecology is based on the principle of food sovereignty, which encompasses the right to healthy and culturally appropriate food and the right of people to define their own food and agriculture systems. ‘Culturally appropriate’ is a nod to the foods people have traditionally produced and eaten as well as the associated socially embedded practices which underpin community and a sense of communality. But it goes beyond that.

Modern food system

People have a deep microbiological connection to soils, food processing practices and fermentation processes which affect the gut microbiome – up to six pounds of bacteria, viruses and microbes akin to human soil. And as with actual soil, the microbiome can become degraded according to what we ingest (or fail to ingest). Many nerve endings from major organs are located in the gut and the microbiome effectively nourishes them. There is ongoing research taking place into how the microbiome is disrupted by the modern globalised food production/processing system and the chemical bombardment it is subjected to.

Capitalism colonises (and degrades) all aspects of life but is colonising the very essence of our being – even on a physiological level. With their agrochemicals and food additives, powerful companies are attacking this ‘soil’ and with it the human body. As soon as agri-food corporations undermined the capacity for eating locally grown, traditionally processed food, cultivated in healthy soils and began imposing long-line supply chains and food subjected to chemical-laden cultivation and processing activities, we not only lost our cultural connections to food production and the seasons, but we also lost our deep-rooted microbiological connection with our localities. Corporate chemicals and seeds and global food chains dominated by the likes of Monsanto (now Bayer), Nestle and Cargill took over.

Aside from affecting the functioning of major organs, neurotransmitters in the gut affect our moods and thinking. Alterations in the composition of the gut microbiome have been implicated in a wide range of neurological and psychiatric conditions, including autism, chronic pain, depression and Parkinson’s Disease. In addition, increasing levels of obesity are associated with low bacterial richness in the gut. Indeed, it has been noted that tribes not exposed to the modern food system have richer microbiomes.

To ensure genuine food security and good health, humanity must transition to a notion of food sovereignty based on optimal self-sufficiency, agroecological principles and local ownership and stewardship of common resources – land, water, soil, seeds, etc.

However, what we are seeing is a trend towards genetically engineered and biosynthetic lab-based food controlled by corporations. The billionaire class who are pushing this agenda think they can own nature and all humans and can control both. As part of an economic, cultural and social ‘great reset’, they seek to impose their cold dystopian vision that wants to eradicate thousands of years of culture, tradition and farming practices virtually overnight.

Consider that many of the ancient rituals and celebrations of our forebears were built around stories and myths that helped them come to terms with some of the most basic issues of existence, from death to rebirth and fertility. These culturally embedded beliefs and practices served to sanctify their practical relationship with nature and its role in sustaining human life.

As agriculture became key to human survival, the planting and harvesting of crops and other seasonal activities associated with food production were central to these customs. Freyfaxi marks the beginning of the harvest in Norse paganism, for example, while Lammas or Lughnasadh is the celebration of the first harvest/grain harvest in Paganism.

Humans celebrated nature and the life it gave birth to. Ancient beliefs and rituals were imbued with hope and renewal and people had a necessary and immediate relationship with the sun, seeds, animals, wind, fire, soil and rain and the changing seasons that nourished and brought life. In addition to our physiological connection, our cultural and social relationships with agrarian production and associated deities had a sound practical base.

We need look no further than India to appreciate the important relationship between culture, agriculture and ecology, not least the vital importance of the monsoon and seasonal planting and harvesting. Rural-based beliefs and rituals steeped in nature persist, even among urban Indians. These are bound to traditional knowledge systems where livelihoods, the seasons, food, cooking, processing, seed exchange, healthcare and the passing on of knowledge are all inter-related and form the essence of cultural diversity within India itself.

Although the industrial age resulted in a diminution of the connection between food and the natural environment as people moved to cities, traditional ‘food cultures’ – the practices, attitudes and beliefs surrounding the production, distribution and consumption of food – still thrive and highlight our ongoing connection to agriculture and nature.

If we go back to the 1950s, it is interesting to note Union Carbide’s corporate narrative based on a series of images that depicted the company as a ‘hand of god’ coming out of the sky to ‘solve’ some of the issues facing humanity. One of the most famous images is of the hand pouring the firm’s agrochemicals on Indian soils as if traditional farming practices were somehow ‘backward’.

Despite well-publicised claims to the contrary, this chemical-driven approach did not lead to higher food production according to the paper “New Histories of the Green Revolution” written by Prof Glenn Stone. However, it has had long-term devastating ecological, social and economic consequences as we saw in Vandana Shiva’s book The Violence of the Green Revolution and Bhaskar Save’s now famous and highly insightful open letter to Indian officials.

In the book Food and Cultural Studies (Bob Ashley et al), we see how, some years ago, a Coca Cola TV ad campaign sold its product to an audience which associated modernity with a sugary drink and depicted ancient Aboriginal beliefs as harmful, ignorant and outdated. Coke and not rain became the giver of life to the parched. This type of ideology forms part of a wider strategy to discredit traditional cultures and portray them as being deficient and in need of assistance from ‘god-like’ corporations.

Post-COVID plunder

What we are seeing in 2020, is an acceleration of such processes. In terms of food and agriculture, traditional farming in places like India will be under increasing pressure from the big-tech giants and agribusiness to open up to lab-grown food, GMOs, genetically engineered soil microbes, data harvesting tools and drones and other ‘disruptive’ technologies.

This vision includes farmerless farms being manned by driverless machines, monitored by drones and doused with chemicals to produce commodity crops from patented GM seeds for industrial ‘biomatter’ to be processed and constituted into something resembling food. What will happen to the farmers?

Post-COVID, the World Bank talks about helping countries get back on track in return for structural reforms. Are tens of millions of smallholder farmers to be enticed from their land in return for individual debt relief and universal basic income? The displacement of these farmers and the subsequent destruction of rural communities and their cultures was something the Gates Foundation once called for and cynically termed “land mobility”.

Cut through the euphemisms and it is clear that Bill Gates – and the other incredibly rich individuals behind the great reset with their ‘white saviour’ mindset – is an old-fashioned colonialist who supports the time-honoured dispossessive strategies of imperialism, whether this involves mining, appropriating and commodifying farmer knowledge, accelerating the transfer of research and seeds to corporations or facilitating intellectual property piracy and seed monopolies created through IP laws and seed regulations.

In India – still an agrarian-based society – will the land of these already (prior to COVID) heavily indebted farmers then be handed over to the tech giants, the financial institutions and global agribusiness to churn out their high-tech industrial sludge?

With the link completely severed between food production, nature and culturally embedded beliefs that give meaning and expression to life, we will be left with the individual human who exists on lab-based food, who is reliant on income from the state and who is stripped of satisfying productive endeavour and genuine self-fulfilment.

Technocratic meddling has already destroyed or undermined cultural diversity, meaningful social connections and agrarian ecosystems that draw on centuries of traditional knowledge and are increasingly recognised as valid approaches to secure food security, as outlined, for example, in the 2017 article “Food Security and Traditional Knowledge in India” in the Journal of South Asian Studies.

Such a pity that prominent commentators like George Monbiot, who writes for the UK’s Guardian newspaper, seems fully on board with this ‘great reset’. In his 2020 article ‘Lab-grown food will soon destroy farming – and save the planet’, he sees farmerless farms and ‘fake’ food produced in giant industrial factories from microbes as a good thing.

But Vandana Shiva says:

The notion that high-tech ‘farm free’ lab food will save the planet is simply a continuation of the same mechanistic mindset which has brought us to where we are today – the idea that we are separate from and outside of nature… it is the basis of industrial agriculture which has destroyed the planet, farmers livelihoods and our health.

She adds:

Turning ‘water into food’ is an echo from the times of the second world war, when it was claimed that fossil-fuel-based chemical fertilisers would produce ‘Bread from Air’. Instead we have dead zones in the ocean, greenhouse gases – including nitrous oxide which is 300 times more damaging to the environment than CO2 – and desertified soils and land. We are part of nature, not separate from and outside of nature. Food is what connects us to the earth, its diverse beings, including the forests around us — through the trillions of microorganisms that are in our gut microbiome and which keep our bodies healthy, both inside and out.

As an environmentalist, Monbiot supports lab-based food because he only sees a distorted method of industrial farming; he is blind to agroecological methods which do not have the disastrous environmental consequences of chemical-dependent industrial agriculture. Monbiot’s ‘solution’ is to replace one model of corporate controlled farming with another, thereby robbing us of our connection to the land, to each other and making us wholly dependent on profiteering, unscrupulous interests that have no time for concepts like food democracy or food sovereignty.

Moreover, certain lab-engineered ‘food’ will require biomatter in the form of commodity crops. This in itself raises issues related to the colonisation of land in faraway countries and the implications for food security there. We may look no further to see the adverse health, social and environmental impacts of pesticide-dependent GMO seed monocropping in Argentina as it produces soy for the global market, not least for animal feed in Europe.

Instead of pandering to the needs of corporations, prominent commentators would do better by getting behind initiatives like the anti-imperialist Declaration of the International Forum for Agroecology, produced by Nyeleni in 2015. It argues for building grass-root local food systems that create new rural-urban links, based on genuine agroecological food production. It adds that agroecology requires local producers and communities to challenge and transform structures of power in society, not least by putting the control of seeds, biodiversity, land and territories, waters, knowledge, culture and the commons in the hands of those who feed the world.

It would mean that what ends up in our food and how it is grown is determined by the public good and not powerful private interests driven by patents, control and commercial gain and the compulsion to subjugate farmers, consumers and entire regions to their global supply chains and questionable products (whether unhealthy food or proprietary pesticides and seeds). For consumers, the public good includes more diverse diets leading to better nutrition and enhanced immunity when faced with any future pandemic.

Across the world, decentralised, regional and local community-owned food systems based on short(er) food supply chains that can cope with future shocks are now needed more than ever. But there are major obstacles given the power of agrifood concerns whose business models are based on industrial farming and global chains with all the devastating consequences this entails.

Following the devastation caused by coronavirus-related lockdowns, World Bank Group President David Malpass has stated that poorer countries will be ‘helped’ to get back on their feet – on the condition that further neoliberal reforms and the undermining of public services are implemented and become further embedded.

He says that countries will need to implement structural reforms to help shorten the time to recovery and create confidence that the recovery can be strong:

For those countries that have excessive regulations, subsidies, licensing regimes, trade protection or litigiousness as obstacles, we will work with them to foster markets, choice and faster growth prospects during the recovery.

For agriculture, this means the further opening of markets to benefit the richer nations. What journalists like George Monbiot fail to acknowledge is that emerging technology in agriculture (AI drones, gene-edited crops, synthetic food, etc) is first and foremost an instrument of corporate power. Indeed, agriculture has for a long time been central to US foreign policy to boost the bottom line of its agribusiness interests and their control over the global food chain.

In the words of economics professor Michael Hudson:

It is by agriculture and control of the food supply that American diplomacy has been able to control most of the Third World. The World Bank’s geopolitical lending strategy has been to turn countries into food deficit areas by convincing them to grow cash crops – plantation export crops – not to feed themselves with their own food crops.

It is naïve to suggest that in the brave new world of farmerless farms and lab-based food, things would be different. In the face of economic crisis and stagnation at home, exacerbated by COVID lockdowns and restrictions, whether through new technologies or older Green Revolution methods, Western agricapital will seek to further entrench its position across the globe.

The post Agroecology and Post-COVID Plunder first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Dispossession and Imperialism Repackaged as “Feeding the World”

The world is fast losing farms and farmers through the concentration of land into the hands of rich and powerful land speculators and agribusiness corporations. Smallholder farmers are being criminalised and even made to disappear when it comes to the struggle for land. They are constantly exposed to systematic expulsion.

In 2014, the Oakland Institute found that institutional investors, including hedge funds, private equity and pension funds, are eager to capitalise on global farmland as a new and highly desirable asset class. Financial returns are what matter to these entities, not food security.

Consider Ukraine. The organisation Grain found that in 2014 small farmers operated 16% of agricultural land in that country, but provided 55% of agricultural output, including: 97% of potatoes, 97% of honey, 88% of vegetables, 83% of fruits and berries and 80% of milk. It is clear that Ukraine’s small farms were delivering impressive outputs.

Following the toppling of Ukraine’s government in early 2014, the way was paved for foreign investors and Western agribusiness to take a firm hold over the agri-food sector. Reforms mandated by the EU-backed loan to Ukraine in 2014 included agricultural deregulation intended to benefit foreign agribusiness. Natural resource and land policy shifts were being designed to facilitate the foreign corporate takeover of enormous tracts of land.

Frederic Mousseau, policy director at the Oakland Institute, stated at the time that the World Bank and IMF were intent on opening up foreign markets to Western corporations and that the high stakes around the control of Ukraine’s vast agricultural sector, the world’s third largest exporter of corn and fifth largest exporter of wheat, constitute an overlooked critical factor. He added that in recent years, foreign corporations had acquired more than 1.6 million hectares of Ukrainian land.

Western agribusiness has been coveting Ukraine’s agriculture sector for quite some time, long before the coup. That country contains one third of all arable land in Europe. An article by Oriental Review in 2015 noted that since the mid-90s the Ukrainian-Americans at the helm of the US-Ukraine Business Council had been instrumental in encouraging the foreign control of Ukrainian agriculture.

In November 2013, the Ukrainian Agrarian Confederation drafted a legal amendment that would benefit global agribusiness producers by allowing the widespread use of genetically modified seeds. When GMO crops were legally introduced into the Ukrainian market in 2013, they were planted in up to 70% of all soybean fields, 10-20% of cornfields and over 10% of all sunflower fields, according to various estimates (or 3% of the country’s total farmland).

Interestingly, the investment fund Siguler Guff & Co acquired a 50% stake in the Ukrainian Port of Illichivsk in 2015, which specialises in agricultural exports.

In June 2020, the IMF approved an 18-month $5 billion loan programme with Ukraine. According to the Brettons Wood Project website, the government committed to lifting the 19-year moratorium on the sale of state-owned agricultural lands after sustained pressure from international finance. The World Bank incorporated further measures relating to the sale of public agricultural land as conditions in a $350 million Development Policy Loan (COVID ‘relief package’) to Ukraine approved in late June. This included a required ‘prior action’ to “enable the sale of agricultural land and the use of land as collateral.”

In response, Frederic Mousseau recently stated:

The goal is clearly to favor the interests of private investors and Western agribusinesses… It is wrong and immoral for Western financial institutions to force a country in a dire economic situation amidst an unprecedented pandemic to sell its land.

But morality has little to do with it. The September 2020 report on the grain.org website ‘Barbarians at the barn: private equity sinks its teeth into agriculture’ shows that there is no morality where capitalism’s profit compulsion is concerned.

Private equity funds – pools of money that use pension funds, sovereign wealth funds, endowment funds and investments from governments, banks, insurance companies and high net worth individuals – are being injected into the agriculture sector throughout the world. This money is used to lease or buy up farms on the cheap and aggregate them into large-scale, US-style grain and soybean concerns. The article outlines how offshore tax havens and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has targeted Ukraine.

In addition to various Western governments, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Trust, which manages the foundation’s endowment, is also investing in private equity, taking positions in farm and food businesses around the world.

Grain notes that this forms part of the trend whereby the world of finance – banks, funds, insurance companies and the like – is gaining control over the real economy, including forests, watersheds and rural people’s territories.

Apart from uprooting communities and grabbing resources to entrench an industrial, export-oriented model of agriculture, this process of ‘financialisation’ is shifting power to remote board rooms occupied by people with no connection to farming and who are merely in it to make money. These funds tend to invest for a 10-15 year period, resulting in handsome returns for investors but can leave a trail of long-term environmental and social devastation and serve to undermine local and regional food insecurity.

This financialisation of agriculture perpetuates a model of farming that serves the interests of the agrochemical and seed giants, including one of the world’s biggest companies, Cargill, which is involved in almost every aspect of global agribusiness.

Still run as a privately held company, the 155-year-old enterprise trades in purchasing and distributing various agricultural commodities, raises livestock and produces animal feed as well as food ingredients for application in processed foods and industrial use. Cargill also has a large financial services arm, which manages financial risks in the commodity markets for the company. This includes Black River Asset Management, a hedge fund with about $10 billion of assets and liabilities.

A recent article on the Unearthed website accused Cargill and its 14 billionaire owners of profiting from the use of child labour, rain forest destruction, the devastation of ancestral lands, the spread of pesticide use and pollution, contaminated food, antibiotic resistance and general health and environmental degradation.

As if this is not concerning enough, the UN Food and Agriculture is now teaming up with CropLife, a global trade association representing the interests of companies that produce and promote pesticides, including highly hazardous pesticides (HHPs).

In a 19 November press release issued by PAN (Pesticide Action Network) Asia Pacific, some 350 organisations in 63 countries representing hundreds of thousands of farmers, fisherfolk, agricultural workers and other communities, as well as human rights, faith-based, environmental and economic justice institutions, delivered a letter to FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu urging him to stop recently announced plans to deepen collaboration with CropLife International by entering into a formal partnership.

HHPs are responsible for a wide range of devastating health harms to farmers, agricultural workers and rural families around the world and these chemicals have decimated pollinator populations and are wreaking havoc on biodiversity and fragile ecosystems.

Marcia Ishii, senior scientist at PAN North America, explained the serious implications of the proposed collaboration:

Unfortunately, since Mr. Qu’s arrival at FAO, the institution appears to be opening up to deeper collaboration with pesticide companies, which are likely to exploit such a relationship for bluewashing, influencing policy development and enhancing access to global markets.

She went on to state:

It is no surprise that FAO’s recently appointed Deputy Director General, Beth Bechdol, comes to FAO with a history of close financial ties to Corteva (formerly Dow/DuPont).

The FAO has in recent years shown a commitment to agroecology but, in calling for an independent FAO, Susan Haffmans from PAN Germany, argues:

The FAO should not jeopardize its successes in agroecology nor its integrity by cooperating with precisely that branch of industry which is responsible for the production of highly hazardous pesticides and whose products contribute to poisoning people and their environment worldwide.

The July 2019 UN FAO High Level Panel of Experts concludes that agroecology provides greatly improved food security and nutritional, gender, environmental and yield benefits compared to industrial agriculture.

Agroecological principles represent a shift away from the reductionist yield-output chemical-intensive industrial paradigm, which results in among other things enormous pressures on human health, soil and water resources. Agroecology is based on a more integrated low-input systems approach to food and agriculture that prioritises local food security, local calorific production, cropping patterns and diverse nutrition production per acre, water table stability, climate resilience, good soil structure and the ability to cope with evolving pests and disease pressures.

Such a system is underpinned by a concept of food sovereignty, based on optimal self-sufficiency, the right to culturally appropriate food and local ownership and stewardship of common resources, such as land, water, soil and seeds.

However, this model is a direct challenge to the interests of CropLife members. With the emphasis on localisation and on-farm inputs, agroecology does not require dependency on proprietary chemicals, pirated seeds and knowledge nor long-line global supply chains.

By seeking to develop a formal partnership with the FAO, CropLife aims to further entrench its interests while derailing the FAO’s commitment to agroecology. This much has been apparent in recent times with US Ambassador to the FAO Kip Tom having attacked agroecology –  and like CropLife members – he perpetuates the myth (recently debunked by Dr Jonathan Latham in the new book Rethinking Food and Agriculture of impending disaster if we do not accept the chemical-industrial paradigm.

Whether it involves farmers in India recently taking to the streets to protest against legislation that will throw the sector wide open to foreign agricapital, land acquisitions in Ukraine or struggles for land rights and seed sovereignty (etc) elsewhere, it is clear that a small cabal of unscrupulous global agribusiness giants are driving and benefitting from deregulated capital flows, peasant displacement, land acquisitions and decisions made at international and national levels via the IMF, World Bank and WTO.

The web that global capitalism weaves in a quest to seek out new profits, capture new markets and control common resources (commonwealth) is destroying farmer livelihoods, the environment and health under the bogus claim of ‘feeding the world’.

Those farmers who survive the profiteering strategies of dispossession and imperialism are to become incorporated into a system of contract farming dictated by global agri-food giants tied to an exploitative food regime based on market dependency and corporate control. A regime that places profit ahead of biodiverse food security, healthy diets and the environment.

The post Dispossession and Imperialism Repackaged as "Feeding the World" first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Ways You Can Help Eliminate Global Poverty

Image Source: Pexels

The planet may feel like a smaller place, thanks to the ease of travel and the internet, but the World Health Organization (WHO) reports that “approximately 1.2 billion people in the world live in extreme poverty” and earn less than a single dollar per day.

Poverty affects the health and livelihood of a large number of people worldwide. Thankfully, there are a number of human rights organizations working to end global poverty, some of which the most recognizable include The World Bank, Oxfam International, CARE, and OPAD. Though these four organizations are just a small representation of the many charities and foundations all working towards tackling the global poverty problem, how will ending poverty actually happen? There is no simple answer to the question, although there are some main factors that are a major focus.

Global Water Crisis

Global poverty isn’t only about money. In fact, for many poverty-stricken areas, there’s an overall shortage of resources. Water is one of the most critical. Specifically, “844 million people — approximately 10% of the global population — lack access to basic drinking water.” Water is critical to more than drinking, too — it’s needed for sanitation and to grow food. Companies should invest in developing new water conservation technologies that make it easier and more accessible to reduce the amount of water people and businesses use.

On a smaller scale, being more conscious about environmental issues and our personal water usage around the home could preserve freshwater levels and shift the global collective mindset about how precious water is. Some ways to preserve water include:

  • Replacing water-heavy landscaping such as lawns with drought-tolerant or low-water versions.
  • Installing low-flow valves in household sinks and toilets.
  • Irrigate plants and gardens early in the morning.
  • Recycle grey (used) water by using it to irrigate plants, for example.

Global Food Supply

A bleak statistic highlights how global hunger could be avoided with more efficient food supply and distribution systems. In an article about how to transform global food production, Marlen, a food equipment manufacturer, reports that “30% to 40% of food produced is thrown away as waste.”

While strides were being made in the global food supply chain, the coronavirus dealt the world with a setback. The World Bank highlights how the current food supply is at risk at a national level, as production and distribution in countries across the globe are disrupted due to the shelter in place orders intended to keep citizens safe.

According to the World Bank’s analysis on COVID-19-related food insecurity, the current issue has long-reaching consequences:

Food producers also face large losses on perishable and nutritious food as buyers have become limited and consumption patterns shift. Though food insecurity is by and large not driven by food shortages, disruptions to the supply of agricultural inputs such as fertilizers, seeds, or labor shortages could diminish next season’s crop.

The population most in danger are the 820 million global poor who were already struggling with food shortages before the coronavirus appeared and negatively impacted incomes and food availability.

You can help fight food insecurity that threatens the lives of the most vulnerable by donating to organizations working to provide access to food and agricultural processes. Some organizations working tirelessly to fight against global hunger include:

Many US organizations on a mission to end hunger focus on foreign countries. However, poverty and hunger are also present in the United States. Feeding America reports that “more than 37 million people struggle with hunger in the United States, including more than 11 million children.” Volunteering and donating to local charitable foundations is the best way to help against hunger in your community.

Energy Sustainability

The poorest locations in the world also struggle with the unavailability of energy sources. The World Bank found that roughly 1.1 billion people don’t have access to electricity. In addition, another three billion people cook with highly-polluting fuels, such as dung, wood, kerosene, or charcoal.

In other poverty areas, energy infrastructure is present, but some people may not be able to afford the cost of the utilities. Developed countries such as the U.S. have programs that help low-income individuals pay their utility bills. In addition, public awareness programs promote the importance of energy conservation in the home, such as using insulation and buying energy-efficient appliances.

Supporting clean energy initiatives, such as wind or solar power, not only benefit your bottom dollar in the form of reduced utility bills but helps companies develop more affordable clean-energy technology. As green energy technology becomes more efficient and affordable, it could be used in other areas around the world lacking basic energy infrastructure.

Eliminating Global Poverty

Ending poverty is a big challenge. It requires cooperation from nations, corporations, communities, and individuals. You can take small steps to help in the fight to end poverty by donating to charitable organizations that resonate with you. Turning to a more sustainable lifestyle can also help by easing the load on the world’s natural resources, so others more in need can access them as well.

The post Ways You Can Help Eliminate Global Poverty first appeared on Dissident Voice.

A Million and One Ideas that Would Transform the Globe

Writing is not a searching about in the daily experience for apt similes and pretty thoughts and images… It is not a conscious recording of the day’s experiences ‘freshly and with the appearance of reality’… The writer of imagination would find himself released from observing things for the purpose of writing them down later. He would be there to enjoy, to taste, to engage the free world, not a world which he carries like a bag of food, always fearful lest he drop something or someone get more than he.

— William Carlos Williams,  Spring and All

Ahh, just proposing a few hundred “things” to transform the globe into a world where people control their destinies within groups of people who have their destinies in their best interest is teetering on insanity. It’s not what good people in good capitalist company do, allow, or talk about seriouisly.

No Kid Hungry: How you can help end childhood hunger - Between Us Parents

You see, Capitalism lite or Capitalism hard is the same dog-eat-dog world of fend for yourselves, do or die, sink or swim, err, unless you can form a cabal of elites, with their colonies of soldiers and lawyers and bankers and land dealers to entitle you to a different playing field. Inverted Totalitarianism.

Get a group of like-minded sociopaths, get a group of investors who want to make a quick buck, get millions who consume the lies of the business journals, the lies of the celebrity scum that end up controlling the narrative on everything, from how the local dog catcher should or shouldn’t do their job, all the way to the pigs over in Fukushima now letting (sic) out the isotopes of cancerous love into the Pacific. Imagine, the power of that cabal of industrialists.

It’s the same story told with a different spin, but we know the routine — Hanford, bombs, government contracts, the Tri-Cities (Washington state where the bomb material for incinerating one of the Japanese cities was cooked up) “benefitting” from the construction jobs, the nailing and sawing and framing, all the scientists and the support teams (up to 15,000 back then in the 1944) eating out, and that is the disaster and shock and war lord capitalism’s central feature — colonizing people. That entire nuclear material making house of nuclear cards based on bad scientists coming into town, and then the system of capitalism runs like a smooth Atilla the Hun School of Economics. Farmers out in Eastern Washington, and bam, the big bad bomb making boys with their pencil necks, their big cars, their big booze bills, the cigarettes, the new homes with backyard in ground pools, the ancillary and tertiary junk of the consumer/capitalist kind, colonizing in this dry land. Until the smoothly and finely-tuned and well-greased death machine ends up decades later running amok in the people’s thyroids, in the DNA and RNA of papa and mama, and alas, now Native fishers as young as 24 have thyroids removed, and the warning label now says, cut away all the fatty bellies of salmon — NOT recommended not for human consumption. Read my two-part series here at Dissident Voice.

Just the Facts About Hunger in the US & The World | WhyHunger

Capitalism — not for human consumption. That is, all those hyphenated additives and ingredients in baby’s formula, all that stuff sprayed into everything, all those extruded plastics, all those soldered joints, all those capacitors and Prius batteries, the entire thing is not for human consumption.

Now, then,  how can anyone go up against this narrative, or flip the script, or make paradigm shifts and cultural transformations, when the entire mess is defended by the very people, say in Appalachia, where entire mountain peaks are blasted away, trout rivers blackened by the dust, and babies born fifty points or more below the barely average thinking (IQ) capacity of a Trump or Biden evil spawn. Dirt poor, no teeth, USDA Mac’ n’ Cheese food pantry boxes, and, bam, here we are, 2020,   and the dumb as dirt country is being run by thieves, rapists, bombers, land razers, polluters, perverts, sociopaths.

Explore the Issues – FoodBank

Then the compliant ones, all the big burly tough Americans, especially on the GOP and MAGA side, who feign toughness, think they are blustery in their attacks on educators, intellectuals, scientists, youth, raging grannies, women, environmentalists, multi-culturalists, but the bottom line, they are the flag wavers, the slaver statue defenders, the clear cutters, the wolf killers, the church goers, the big truck lovers, lock step on Saturdays for their college football, their Friday night big high school grid iron, their Sunday hour of hate with Jerry Falwell or Billy Graham. Everything about the mythology of America — the white land, everything about the authority of the white patriarch, everything about the Stars and Bars — those are the MAGA/GOP lovers, and they want it their way or the highway. Or the way of the AR-15, and anyone moving in protest shot on sight. Amazingly openly racist, and anything or anyone  that speaks of questioning the Yankee Doodle Dandy and Confederate narrative, the MAGA go ballistic, and their slave patrol cops come in shooting.

This is not to say the other groupings tied to the Democratic party are that much more independent, or fore-thinking. This is the way of capitalism, and the bourgeoise, the professional middle managers, the cultural warriors, all the PC and cancel culture and the co-opting of movement’s, the kids and adults purchasing Che printed on the t-shirt with Pink Floyd emblazoned under him, that is the other side of the capitalist isle. Really, two different breeds, possibly, the products of epigenetics, and both believing in the unholy contract within both the rule of law and the rules of engagement. A contract is a contract, sign on the dotted line for your next lemon.

War, Branding, Amusements, Infantilism, Disneyifcation, Commercials,  Retailopethicus, and the land of milk and honey, through the veins of mother earth, clotted, and the fissures of Turtle Island, radiated, and massive murder and slavery, legitimized. Not much more of that history can be 1619 Project leveled to define this country.

Hunger in America

Until, everyone, on all sides of the political manure pile, are the enemy of transformational living and collectivism.

How many times have I gone up against college presidents who actually come from the ranks of MBA schools, or with degrees in “institutional leadership” (yes, and WTF degree, PhD no less).

Try out the Journal for Higher Education Mangers, running with the AAUA, American Association of University Administrators.  Then, yes, The Journal of Research on the College President. They have their lobbying arm, their professional insiders, their army of propagandists. Always, top down, and nothing to do with teaching and teachers.

10 cities where an appalling number of Americans are starving | Salon.com

Look, more is not better, and bigger is not better, but in capitalism, in supposedly valiant and worthy areas  like education, that is, working with humans to allow themselves to share/advance knowledge and nurturing systems thinking and expanding critical interdisciplinary skills; to learn to work across disciplines, cultures, nations, well, you might think the idea is to work socialistically to bring our societies and our various countries toward some decent survivability and mutual aid across all lines. . .  Each person is an individual in a systems thinking collective. But the reality is that bigger is better in destructive capitalism, schooling or Amazon fulfillment center;  and competition is not just expressed on the basketball courts. Each school, trying to hook the next and the next generation of potential students. More and more Club Med amenities. Working on the Amusing Themselves to Death. A nice tidy $100,000 school loan bill for that undergraduate degree no one in America gives a shit about.

It’s not about intergenerational, multi-dynamic cross-educational pathways to community and collective healing and mutual aid; i.e., emancipation from the consumer path. It’s about the big fish in the ocean eating the most sardines. It is all about free (sic) market hucksterism, and the constant getting one, two, three thousand things over on your fellow citizens. Compatriots for Americans is the opposite of compassion.

Ya think those provosts and institutional leaders and VPs and Human Resources pros give a shit about the actual individual student, or the workers keeping the system, and their big pay checks, going?

Nope. I have worked with colleges where the outliers like me, left of left, are not only denigrated, but marginalized and sacked. I have worked with colleges where exploitation is the maximal form of employment. The student is not always the center of things, and alas, now the student is a customer, or in a time of Plan-Demic, a data donor on a huge Digital Dashboard.

If you want to talk about technocratic and technological fascism, you will not be embraced in neoliberal circles, and lite liberal circles. Not in most departments at the universities. Forget the community colleges, where more and more college across the land have drone technology programs. You know, bomb them back to the stone age from the comfort of your Lazy Boy lumbar supported counsel chair. No matter how much the liberals spew about CSA’s (community supported agriculture) and Farmer’s Markets and the like, they still feel as if technology, Artificial Intelligence, all the apps and tools of the managerial class, the tracking tools, the aggregating tools, all the “so called” medical and banking and taxing tools, well, the show must go on in their Zoom Doom minds. How do you stop it, they might ask. How? And, for the most part, many of them profess that tracking who does and who does not get the vaccinations, who does and who doesn’t agree with the entire narrative, well, that is a-okay to put them on some kind of passport, wristwatch with all the goods on that person.

These are scary times, and desperate times call for desperate/fascistic/ technological neutering measures. That is the narrative of both MAGA/GOP and the Democrats/

Every Dissident Voice and Facebook post, all the entanglements of the process of exploring ideas and expressing opinions, it is like a forever chemical — data, and stories and tweets and postings, they stay in the digital hell of the overlords, ready to be paraded out anytime. I have been told, “You didn’t get the job because they ‘Googled you.'” And those millionaires and billionaires and soon-to-be trillionaires have offered up the backdoor keys to NSA and given all the other alphabet soup agencies of oppression and repression, all the info, as well as given it to any major or minor corporation having the $ to access EVERYTHING. The outfall is, of course, revolt, dissent, dissidence and clarity of dissension will be, well, verboten if one is to survive in this Global Digital and AI/CCTV/Big Brother panopticon — which is now not just an institutional building and a system of control designed by the English philosopher and social theorist Jeremy Bentham in the 18th century. Now, each internet, each bureaucratic, each retail transaction, each consumer moment being observed by a single security guard — the AI God in the Cloud.

The Republicans, the Democrats, the Libertarians, all of them, want that level of control. Even the Chinese, do. This is the value of oppression, economies of scale, the conundrum of each nation out for itself. Each hundred million souls or each half a billion humans must go after the goods, the others be damned.

This is the psychopathic way of “the market,” the bulwark that is the steal jaws of competitive markets, where the commons is always a tragedy, where the Greek Tragedy is played out every nanosecond in the arms of mothers and on the lips of babes, as land is paved over, jawed open, blasted clean, denuded, soil and life and people and animals turned inside out, used in the grand corralling of the minds and bodies. We are the sheep and cattle in the elites sophisticated system of domestication, husbandry, monocropping plants and people.

Social-intellectual-spiritual-dreaming control. Pre-crime is not some Phillip K. Dick fantasy, it is, rather, the reality of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, started decades ago with every transaction, every educational move, every financial move, every medical move, every legal or illegal move monitored, checked, and filed away. AI and Google and the plethora of other evil app providers and software makers, well, they have the web spinning as I write this.

But this screed is not about that so much as it is about my writing. Another novel, started, on a roll, and yet, daily, I am sure, minute by minute somewhere in the recesses of my brain, I wonder “why?” Who the fuck will read this book, and how do I market it, and if I am so radical and communist, in my philosophy, should I be worried about who reads it and how it gets read? The Collector and Story Teller, the working title, very very loosely based on people I meet, including one fellow, who I feature here at Dissident Voice ––  Down and Out in Portland: Retired in Style in Waldport, OR

The problem is I am a novelist without an audience, in this shit-show that was big time publishing in the 1980s through the 2000, when I had an agent looking to score semi-small/median with the NYC/Boston publishing houses, that has shifted big time, until the big bucks are thrown at the putrid people, the Obamas paid in the tens of millions for lies and more lies; all the tell-all crapper books; all those Master of Fine Arts style sessions; and, well, a stack to the moon of how to get rich-how to get laid-how to get self-actualized-how to get one or a million scams  on your neighbor – how to get a million bucks/spirituality/love/instant success/happiness/multiple orgasms without any work.

Publishers Adapt Policies To Help Educators - Flipboard

I get the scam of publishing (one shit-load of rejection slips and letters, even… “well, mighty evocative, mighty powerful, but not our cup of tea,” and I get the competition is ruthless. In fact, you can create great art, and it will, alas, stay locked up in a file case or hung up in papa’s garage next to the Vargas women.

Imagine, Vassar College and Smith College interns, reading piles upon piles of manuscripts (that was in the 1990s-2000s), and if the first two lines, or in rare cases, the first two pages didn’t catch their attention, then, bam, the slush pile. Rejection City.

My New York agent wanted like hell to get my books/novels sold, but he too was up against this pedestrian bullshit East Coast triple bias.

Now, at age 63, what’s the point of lashing out lines and incredible concepts and narratives, when, well, here we are — a nation of triple consumers. Students called consumers, that is, customers. The entire fear city shit of the plan-demic with all those yellow bellies up against the functionally illiterate masses. To mask or not to mask, that is the fucking question? Really! No fucking MAGA or Christian Pervert will read my stuff. Let alone buy it. Cancel culturists won’t buy/read my fiction. Highfaluting “artistic” types won’t. The pile of mush getting churned out on Hulu, Netflix, Amazon, all of that, this is the American gel, the mush and mutilated crap of the elites and the Duck Dynasty folk. Podcast after ever-deadening podcast sucking up more attention spans. The incredible right-wing news (sic) feeds. The incredible unintelligible pop culture, the hate culture, the faux Buddhist shit, the entire mess that is the United States’ has that “artistic” tastes which are more than just banal; they are cancerous.

But here I am, trying to get to the point: In one scene in the fast-paced book, The Collector and the Story Teller, my protagonist, Raymundo Pena, or just Ray, is trying to solve a murder and disappearance of The Collector, Aubrey Searles, and find Aubrey’s disappeared wife, and in that process, he ends up at the food pantry, the food distribution point for the poor and the downtrodden. A very short-lived scene, but real, and telling.

MFA in Creative Writing | | College of Liberal Arts | Oregon State University

Of course, you guessed it, me, the author, having worked in a few places that we call “food pantries,” and now, with the plan-demic, Ray ends up talking to a make-believe few characters working at and utilizing the pantry.

It’s a short chapter, but the reality is this — This country, broken from sea to shining sea, is way bey0nd the massive slippage either of the two prostitute parties will grasp or admit (maybe both of them, and their majority backers, have zero idea how threadbare systems are in the USA for massive poverty and massive slippage of the American people).

Hunger was bad ass before the plan-demic, the entire lockdown, the shuttering of businesses. A mean country, under any bloody Yankee-Confederate flag. Food stamps cut and cut every year. The punishment society ramped up every month, full of token groping rules and laws, making people line up for fucking voting now, for hours, so imagine the shit that poor people and hungry children have to go through for basic assistance (they don’t get it) and then ramp that up and put in poor undocumented people and hungry undocumented children have to do just to get calories.

The 20 Best Graduate Level Creative Writing - College Rank

Now, the local food bank, shortage after shortage. No turkeys, no dry beans, shortage after shortage. Plenty of Mac’n’Cheese cartons given away, and the bread and cookies and cakes, thrown at the pantries. Piles. Mountains of them. Packaged for the next apocalypse, with so many preservative an embalmer would get wet just thinking about that a 20-line ingredient (chemical) list.

Welcome to capitalism, a million choices, but “not really choices.” Which Red Dye No. 5 or Yellow No. 55 Dye do you want in your kids’ cereal puffs? Which inorganic compound do you want sprayed on the baby’s mashed potatoes? Which percentage of sugar-hydrogenated oil-salt lick do you want in the toaster cinnamon buns? How much lead in the pipes and fluoride in the toothpaste? That is America. And we get more hungry every minute. The Hunger of the Elites, hoping for more marks and suckers born every living minute. Hunger. For love. Hunger. For community. Hunger. For justice. Hunger for air. Hunger. For shelter. Hunger. For food.

Hunger Facts | Move For Hunger

The post A Million and One Ideas that Would Transform the Globe first appeared on Dissident Voice.