Category Archives: Food/Nutrition

A World Without Hunger

Ang Kiukok (Philippines), Harvest, 2004.

On 1 October, the International Peoples’ Assembly (IPA), a network of over 200 social and political movements, had its public launch. The IPA owes its origin to a meeting held in Brazil in 2015 where movement leaders gathered to talk about the perilous situation facing the world. At this meeting – called the Dilemmas of Humanity – the idea was born to create the IPA and three partner processes: a media network (Peoples Dispatch), a network of political schools (the International Collective of Political Education), and a research institute (Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research). Over the course of the next few months, I will be writing more about the history of the IPA and its general orientation. For now, we welcome its launch.

Each year on 16 October, the United Nations commemorates World Food Day. This year, the IPA, Peoples Dispatch, the International Collective of Political Education, and Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research will conduct a political campaign to end hunger. Leading up to this day, Peoples Dispatch has already produced a series of stories in collaboration with six media platforms that uncover hunger in the world today and people’s resistance to it; meanwhile, the International Collective of Political Education is running a series of seminars called Environmental Crisis and Capitalism that explores elements of unsustainable food production.

There is nothing more obscene than the existence of hunger, the terrible indignity of working hard but being without the means for sustenance. To that end, we have drafted Red Alert no. 12, ‘A World Without Hunger’, to sharpen our thinking about hunger and food and to sharpen our campaigns to end hunger.

In a world of plenty, why does hunger persist?

Hunger is intolerable.

World hunger, which had declined from 2005 to 2014, has begun to rise since then; world hunger is now at 2010 levels. The major exception to this trend has been China, which eradicated extreme poverty in 2020. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)’s 2021 report, The State of Food Insecurity and Nutrition in the World, notes that ‘nearly one in three people in the world (2.37 billion) did not have access to adequate food in 2020 – an increase of almost 320 million people in just one year’. The UN’s World Food Programme projects that the number of those who are hungry could nearly double before the COVID-19 pandemic is contained ‘unless swift action is taken’.

Scientists inform us that there is no shortage of food for the population: in fact, the overall supply of calories per capita has increased across the world. People are hungry not because there are too many of us, but because peasant subsistence producers all over the world are being forced off their land by agribusiness and pushed into city slums, where access to food is dependent on monetary income. As a result, billions of people do not have the means to buy food.

All historical research shows that famines are not primarily caused by a lack of food supply, but by the lack of the means to access food. As the FAO wrote in 2014, ‘current food production and distribution systems are failing to feed the world. While agriculture produces enough food for 12 to 14 billion, some 850 million – or one in eight of the world population – live with chronic hunger’. This failure can be measured, in part, by the fact that one third of all food produced is either lost during processing and transportation or it is wasted. It is not overpopulation that causes hunger as is often argued, but rather inequality and a profit-driven, agribusiness-dominated food system in which the basic material need for food for hundreds of millions of people – at minimum – is sacrificed to quench the hunger for profit of the few.

Quamrul Hassan (Bangladesh), Three Women, 1955.

What is food sovereignty?

In 1996, two necessary phrases, food security and food sovereignty, entered common currency.

The idea of food security, developed out of anti-colonial and socialist struggles and formally established at the FAO’s World Food Conference (1974), is closely linked to the idea of national food self-sufficiency. In 1996, as part of the Rome Declaration, the concept of food security was broadened to bring into focus the importance of economic access to food, and governments committed themselves to guaranteeing food to all people through income and food distribution policies.

In the early 1990s, the idea of food sovereignty was shaped by La Via Campesina, an international network that today includes 200 million peasants from 81 countries, to insist not only that governments deliver food, but also that people be empowered to produce basic foodstuffs. Food sovereignty was defined around the creation of an agricultural and food system that would secure ‘the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through sustainable methods and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems’.

Over a decade later, La Via Campesina, the World March of Women, and various environmental groups held the International Forum for Food Sovereignty in Nyéléni (Mali) in 2007. At the forum, they elaborated six core components of food sovereignty:

  1. To centre the needs of people rather than the needs of capital.
  2. To value food producers, namely by creating policies that value peasants and enrich their livelihoods.
  3. To strengthen food system by ensuring that local, regional, and national networks collaborate with and value those who produce food and those who consume food. This would strengthen the involvement of food producers and consumers in creating and reproducing food systems and ensure that poor quality and unhealthy foods do not overwhelm the attempt to create just food markets.
  4. To localise the control of food production; in other words, to give those who produce food the right to define how to organise the land and resources.
  5. To build knowledge and skills, which insists on taking local knowledge about food production seriously and further developing it scientifically.
  6. To work in harmony with nature by minimising harm to ecosystems through agricultural practices that are not destructive to the natural world.

Asger Jorn (Denmark), Landscape in Finkidong, 1945.

The idea of the ‘local’ requires a sharp assessment of the hierarchies of class, ethnicity, and gender; there is no ‘local community’ or ‘local economy’ that is not torn apart by the exploitation and violence of these hierarchies. Equally, local knowledge must be seen alongside the advances of modern science, whose breakthroughs in the field of agriculture should not be discounted. What unites the platform of food sovereignty is the sharp line it creates to distinguish itself from the capitalist form of food production.

Liberalised trade and speculation in the production and distribution of food create serious distortions. Trade liberalisation not only poses the threat of cheaper imports, which depresses crop prices, but also brings with it more volatile prices through the entry of international prices into domestic markets. Such liberalisation also threatens to change cropping patterns in developing countries to suit the demands of richer states, thus undermining food sovereignty. In 2010, the UN’s former special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Olivier De Schutter, cautioned about the way that hedge funds, pensions funds, and investment banks had come to overpower agriculture with speculation through commodity derivatives. These financial methods, he wrote, were ‘generally unconcerned with agricultural market fundamentals’. Financial speculation in agriculture is one illustration of the disregard that money has for a balanced food production system that could benefit both producers and consumers. It encourages money power to distort the food production system.

Fernando Llort (El Salvador), Alegría eterna (‘Eternal Happiness’), 1976.

The concept of food sovereignty is an argument against this kind of distortion, which is rooted in land grabs by agribusiness corporations. Since the beginning of this century, agribusiness corporations such as Unilever and Monsanto have promoted the great global enclosure of our times, sparking the biggest mass movement of populations in history and, in so doing, destroying the relation between people and land.

Two United Nations resolutions – one to declare the right to water (2010) and the other to affirm peasants’ rights (2018) – will help us shape a new agricultural system that centres the rights of the producers (including access to land) and respect for nature and that treats water as a commons and not as a commodity.

Mohammed Wasia Charinda (Tanzania), Village River, 2007.

How do we create a just food production and distribution system?

Peasant and farmer organisations have developed sufficient knowledge of the failures of the capitalist form of food production. Their punctual demands assert a different form, one that insists on greater democratic participation in the construction and reproduction of food systems, a participation which includes the intervention of governments rather than aid agencies or the private sector. From their many demands, we have distilled the following points:

  1. Give economic power to the people by:
    1. Implementing agrarian reform for peasants and farmers so that they have access to land and resources to farm the land.
    2. Developing appropriate forms of production that encourage – among other things – some form of collective action to take advantage of economies of scale.
    3. Instituting local self-government in rural areas, where peasants wield the political power necessary to shape policies that benefit their lives and that shield the ecosystem.
    4. Strengthening systems of social welfare so that peasants are protected in adverse times (bad weather, poor harvests, etc.).
    5. Building public distribution systems, with particular focus on eliminating hunger.
    6. Ensuring that healthy food is made available to public schools and crèches.
  1. Develop and implement measures to ensure that agriculture is remunerative by:
    1. Preventing the dumping of cheapened foodstuffs from agricultural systems in the Global North that benefit from massive subsidies.
    2. Expanding access of rural producers to affordable bank credit and providing relief from informal lenders.
    3. Creating a policy to ensure floor prices for farm produce.
    4. Developing publicly funded, sustainable irrigation systems, transportation systems, storage facilities, and related infrastructure.
    5. Enhancing the cooperative sector’s food production and encouraging popular participation in food production and distribution systems.
    6. Building the scientific and technical capacity for sustainable and ecological agriculture.
    7. Removing patents on seeds and promoting legal frameworks to protect native seeds from being commodified by agribusinesses.
    8. Providing modern farm inputs at affordable prices.
  1. Design a democratic international trade system by:
    1. Democratising the World Trade Organisation, which would include:
      1. Greater national participation of the Global South countries in shaping the rules for deliberation, greater openness of the process of negotiations (including the publication of reports and negotiation of texts), and greater participation of peasant organisations in the process of rulemaking.
      2. Greater transparency in trade dispute mechanisms. This includes the timely announcement of any disputes and of the form of arbitration as well as the public announcements of judicial settlements.
    2. Decreasing reliance upon powerful Global North platforms for designing policy and settling claims; this includes the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and the World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes. These bodies are controlled by the Global North, and they operate almost entirely in the interest of the multinational corporations domiciled in the Global North.

    Rabee Baghshani (Iran), Concert, 2016.

    These proposals are echoed in the IPA’s political platform; please make sure to follow their various social media platforms on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, where more information about the activities around the campaign to end hunger will be announced.

    The post A World Without Hunger first appeared on Dissident Voice.

So You Go Deaf at a Protest: *MIC/MICC* at the Helm

*Military Industrial Complex, or Lawrence Wilkerson’s, Military Industrial Congressional Complex*

You get a story on the supposed Havana Syndrome, and then you also get the concept of mass psychogenic illness (you know, it’s all in your head, buster, those heart palpitations, the sweats, the throbbing veins, after getting mRNA “vaccinated”) explained, and, well, no huge outrage on these weapons of mass destruction created by USA, Israel, UK, France other shit-holes. None. Yes, of course, China and Russia, they have their directed energy weapons, their lasers, their rail guns.

As a collective, we just take it up the rear end daily, a thousand times, with these illustrations of the perversion of the inventors (scientists) and the CEOs and their armies of Eichmanns and then their armies of wrench turners and computer motherboard makers to help build these tools of oppression and murder. .

Get this one here:

The United Kingdom deployed an American-made Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD), in essence, a sound cannon, during the London 2012 Olympics. Products like LRAD represent a shift from military to domestic usage of directed energy weapons, Dawson noted, explaining:

DEW manufacturers seem to be developing more hand-held versions of what was industrial-scale military weaponry. So they are transitioning from something that was the size of a truck used in Afghanistan or Iraq and turning it into something more like a taser that can be held by a police officer. In fact, the Taser Corporation, as well as other manufacturers of crowd-control weaponry, are listed in the WikiLeaks files as being manufacturers of directed energy weapons.”

LRADs are used at airports to deter wildlife from runways. But they are also commonly used by law enforcement against protestors, such as at Occupy Oakland, the George Floyd protests, and at the 2017 Women’s March.

 EU police officer deploys an LRAD

[An EU police officer deploys an LRAD near a popular refugee crossing point on the Greek – Turkish border, May 21, 2021. Giannis Papanikos | AP]

LRAD focuses a piercing and unbearable noise at those at whom it is pointed, leaving targets dizzy and suffering headaches. It is undoubtedly effective, but also poses a risk to human health. The National Institutes of Health advises that permanent hearing loss can begin when exposed to sounds of more than 85 dB. Yet police LRADs are capable of producing sounds of higher than 150 dB. There are serious concerns that the LRAD will be used liberally and illegally to disperse peaceful demonstrations. This is already happening: in 2017, the city of New York was forced to pay $748,000 to Black Lives Matter protestors targeted with LRAD. The NYPD suspended its use.

So, look at the thug, with earplugs and fake mask on, while using a weapon turned on refugees. Now if this is not a picture of the Great White Sadistic Race, then, I can’t begin to help you, kind reader.

Our tax dollars at this murderous work —

Read Alan MacLeod’s piece here — Havana Syndrome, Directed Energy Weapons, and the New Cold War

It’s the supplements, stupid!

So, from illegal and unethical and monstrous weapons against we the people, to the power of the Food and Drug Administration’s prostitutes in the employ of Big Pharma and Big Med:

Yep, emergency use authorization to approve the universal jabbing of hundreds of bottles of boosters on the wall, that FDA is something else —

Resveratrol, a plant-derived polyphenol found in grapes, could be eliminated in supplement form like pyridoxamine (B6) was a number of years ago due to an FDA back-channel that lets Big Pharma turn supplements into drugs. If Big Pharma asks the FDA to remove resveratrol, the agency’s job of eliminating these supplements is made much easier if it gets the “mandatory filing” requirement that it wants. We need to fight for major changes in the law and to block this “mandatory list” from ever passing to protect our access to important supplements.

Resveratrol has been available as a supplement for years. But we know from FDA documents that the agency rejected a “new supplement” notification for resveratrol, stating that resveratrol doesn’t meet the legal definition of a supplement because a drug company started investigating it as a drug in 2001, and the agency has no evidence that resveratrol was sold as a supplement before that date. This means that the drug company could, at any time, petition the FDA to remove resveratrol supplements from the market. This is what happened to pyridoxamine, a form of B6, and it still isn’t available as a supplement even though no drug ever came to market; it could also happen to CBD and l-glutamine.

So, imagine, all those supplements, all those proven natural elements to keep us out of the medical system. Out of the death chambers of doctors’ offices and mass murder hospitals. You know, this FDA and CDC and NIH group of liars, or in some camps, poison delivery villains:

Rumble — Expert Testimony provided by Dr. Christina Parks, Ph.D, to the Michigan House of Representatives in hearing on HB 4471. This is an unedited screen recording. This science of viruses, what they can and cannot do, and that is a huge discussion point, though I see this doctor talking to glazed eyes in the Michigan House — Eight minutes to get illuminated so please, watch. This absurdity, using boosters of those mRNA jabs to stop the Delta Variant? Makes zero sense. Listen, watch, and enlighten yourself.

If there are no national leaders, folks with bully pulpits, with media stages, to really drill down on the absurdity of this country, these trillions lost/stolen of our tax dollars, then the cascading number of stories will continue to come out with no umph, no fanfare, no repercussions.

The Pentagon doesn’t care that it snuffed out innocent lives in an airstrike; it does that all the time and its officials would do it a lot more if that’s what it took to secure their futures as lobbyists, consultants, board members and executives for defense industry corporations after they retire from the military. And the mass media don’t care either; they only cared about this one particular highly politicized airstrike during a withdrawal from a military engagement the mass media vehemently opposed.

“Pentagon acknowledges Aug. 29 drone strike in Afghanistan was a tragic mistake that killed 10 civilians.” Can you believe that headline? Not “admits” but “acknowledges”. Not “killed children while targeting an aid worker based on flimsy evidence” but “was a tragic mistake”. How many times did New York Times editors rewrite this? Imagine if this had been a Russian airstrike.

It’s the CIA (and assassinations) Stupid! 

And so, we get back to the USA, CIA, all those nefarious mutants from the UK, Israel, et al. I was almost five when Dag Hammarskjoild was murdered (1961). This documentary goes around the evidence, gets into the ugly reality of MI6 and CIA and apartheid whites wanting to eradicate the Blacks in, well, Black Africa. Lo and behold, the documentary that looks into the UN chief’s murder exposes another reality — a clandestine group using fake medical doctors and fake clinics to inoculate Blacks (poor, of course) with HIV, to help spread the deadly virus.

Former President Harry Truman told reporters two days after Dag Hammarskjöld’s death on Sept. 18, 1961 that the U.N. secretary-general  “was on the point of getting something done when they killed him. Notice that I said ‘when they killed him.’”

The mystery of the second U.N. secretary-general’s death festered until the 2011 book Who Killed Hammarskjöld? by British researcher Susan Williams, who uncovered new evidence that pointed to the likelihood that U.S., British and South African intelligence had a hand in his death in a plane crash in Northern Rhodesia, today’s Zambia. He was on his way to negotiate a cease-fire in Katanga’s separatist war from the Congo.

Williams’ findings led to an independent commission that called on the U.N. to reopen its 1962 probe in the killing, which ended with an open verdict. “The possibility … the plane was … forced into descent by some form of hostile action is supported by sufficient evidence to merit further inquiry,” the commission concluded.

All roads lead to hell, when it comes to USA, Israel, UK, EU and Canada. Exterminate all the Brutes!

“I wanted to push the boundaries of conventional documentary filmmaking and find a freedom to tell this story by any means necessary.” Director Raoul Peck sits down to discuss the creative intentions behind documentary series Exterminate All the Brutes.

Check out more on Dag over at Consortium News —

Oh, the truths of the day, around 6 million people dead because of the War on Terror. Six million!

New Byline Times report which found that

“at least 5.8 to 6 million people are likely to have died overall due to the War on Terror – a staggering number which is still probably very conservative.”

Image

 

The post So You Go Deaf at a Protest: *MIC/MICC* at the Helm first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Complacency Rules: Consumerism and the Environment

The 16 Year Old, middle class, privileged, argues that meat and other animal produce are essential for his health, his ability to play sport, and the development of his adolescent brain; besides, one person becoming vegetarian/vegan, won’t make any difference to the environmental crisis.

The total failure to respond in any meaningful way to the environmental emergency rests firmly within the boundaries of such complacency. It can be found in all areas, from politicians and corporate board rooms to small businesses, NGO’s and community groups, education institutions, homes, and, apparently, some teenagers.

Complacency and the refusal to change individual behavior and collective ways of living are stoking the underlying cause of the crisis Consumerism. Irresponsible Compulsive Consumption, as habitually practiced by populations in the rich nations, principally and excessively by the wealthy, but to a lesser degree throughout all sections of society.

Consumerism is the bedrock of the prevailing socio-economic system and materialistic way of life. Sold duplicitously as the Path to Happiness and Contentment it has poisoned the planet and created unhealthy societies of divided, insecure individuals. Inherent within the Ideology of Division is a methodology and set of values that encourage selfishness, greed and complacency. Sufficiency, cooperation and social responsibility, all essential if the environmental crisis is to be met, whilst routinely spouted by politicians and the like are thin on the ground or, more often than not, totally absent.

The environment cannot wait

Governments and businesses are completely invested in maintaining high levels of consumption; their profitability and continued existence depend on it. Indeed, far from prioritizing the environment and working to change societal behavior and deter individuals from spending, huge resources are expended to persuade and encourage consumption; to expand market share, develop new products and increase profits for shareholders.

It is this poisonous Ideology of Profit, which, in direct contrast to the needs of the environment for simplicity of living, collectivity and sharing, perpetuates, not just rampant consumerism, but widespread apathy and inaction. Governments talk a concerned environmental talk, but policies are determined by economic growth and voters’ concerns rather than CO2 emissions, pollution, or bio-diversity. And most companies, particularly big ones, routinely demonstrate that they don’t give a damn about the environment, unless by doing so sales increase and their annual dividends rise.

The environment cannot wait until governments and business judge that going “green” is more profitable or popular than the destructive status quo, before they act in a responsible manner. It is their insatiable thirst for power and profit, and their deep attachment to the Ideology of Greed – because, while the majority suffer, it has served them very well, that allows collective complacency to persist, and complacency (not money) is the root of all evil.

The final leg in the trinity of environmental neglect is formed by Ignorance or Misinformation. Ignorance of how individual choices impact on the natural environment; Ignorance of the depth and scale of the crisis and Ignorance of the impact of diet on the planet. Such ignorance and lack of awareness exist due to decades of government negligence in countries everywhere (some more, some less). This could be changed with a UN coordinated public awareness campaign; a global project designed to make plain the relationship between consumer-based lifestyles (including animal agriculture) and environmental destruction/climate change.

Unmitigated mess

While it is true that only governments and business can make the needed large scale changes (fossil fuels to renewables, electrification of transportation networks,  green production methods etc), individuals can make a valuable impact, and when individuals act collectively large-scale change can be accomplished.

Ultimately ‘we’ are the problem. It is our obsessive ignorant behavior, our complacency, greed and selfishness that has poisoned the planet. And it is up to all of us to act in the most comprehensive way possible to begin to clean up the unmitigated mess we have caused. We are all only ‘one person’, but every day we have a choice, every time we eat, or shop, or travel: Are our actions, our choices and decisions responsible or harmful, is the way we individually live detrimental to the planet or not?

Diet is one area everyone can look at; reducing the intake of animal produce or, better still, moving to a plant-based diet is the single most important step most individuals can take. In some countries there are encouraging signs that people are waking up to this fact, and the number of vegetarians/vegans, particularly among young people, is growing. And according to the Vegetarian Resource Group (US), providing a varied diet is followed, all their nutritional needs can be adequately met. In fact, various detailed studies show that, vegetarians are at lower risk of a variety of diseases and conditions, including: heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, some forms of cancer, (conversely, The World Health Organization has classified red and processed meats as cancer-causing), and obesity. And according to Walter Willett at Harvard School of Public Health, “There is strong evidence that a plant based diet [vegan] is the optimal diet for living a long and healthy life.”

So, cutting out animal produce is not only good for the environment, it’s good for human health. Despite this, globally only some 8% of people identify as vegan, vegetarian, or something in between. Meaning 92% of the 7.8 billion world population consume meat, fish, poultry and all manner of dairy. The environmental result of this obsession is disastrous and multi-faceted.

Animal agriculture is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), which are the poisons disrupting natural climate rhythms. The  United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization’s (UNFAO) put the figure at 14.5% of total emissions, but estimates vary, some studies suggesting it’s a good deal higher: Greenpeace e.g. say that, “Livestock and animal feed is responsible for approximately 60% of direct global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.”

Whatever the precise number, animal agriculture is clearly a major source, if not the greatest source of emissions (surpassing the transportation industry); it’s also the biggest cause (80%) of deforestation, habitat destruction and species extinction, contributing to soil erosion and water contamination. And it’s driven by the incessant demand for meat, dairy and fish.

A revolution in behavior and values is needed, moving away from excess to sufficiency, from selfishness to group responsibility, from complacency to action. Education and awareness plus a sense of imperative are the keys to igniting such a shift and generating urgent action. Action by government and businesses and action by us, all of us, particularly those of us living in developed nations where the historic burden for the catastrophe rests; action rooted in love, demonstrated as social and environmental responsibility undertaken by each and every one of us.

The post Complacency Rules: Consumerism and the Environment first appeared on Dissident Voice.

One Small Step for Man, One Giant Hot Dog for Mankind


Somewhere in Kansas, there’s a long plodding line. In it, as on any given day, some 5,000 cattle slowly amble forward, each steer or heifer following the one just ahead. For the most part, they’re calm; it’s just another bovine line; cattle get used to them. Abruptly, for a few near the front, the familiarity changes and then it’s not the same old tired line anymore. Alarming sounds and frightening smells suddenly come from beyond a strange, curtain-like barrier. There’s some panic, but before realization has a chance to really set in, each is dangling upside down, hanging from a chain wrapped around at least one rear hoof. There’s no more normalcy, only pain and panic. If lucky, it happens quickly; the last sensation is probably a sharp clap to the skull, and then there are no more realizations to be had anymore. But the line doesn’t stop; it keeps moving forward through several areas where bleeding, skinning, beheading, and evisceration take place. The time elapsed could be measured in minutes: it was a steer slow-stepping in line, now it’s a carcass hanging in a cool room where it will rest in refrigerated purgatory for up to several days. Eventually, upon dispensation, it’s placed at the start of yet another line, a de-assembly line, passing through station after station where the carcass is sliced into smaller and smaller parts. At the line’s end, a truck awaits to transport the blessed parts to their final resting place: the stomachs of sometimes nearly starving, sometimes kind of hungry, and sometimes merely gluttonous human beings.

Somewhere in New York, about 30,000 people follow one another into an old minor league baseball park. Today it’s not for a baseball game; it’s for an annual Fourth of July event. They’ve come to watch human beings eat hot dogs. “Eat” is probably the wrong verb; the action more resembles a process of repetitious insertions. The winner of the 2021 men’s contest will be its oft-repeating champion: Joey Chestnut will insert, bite, and swallow 76 hot dogs in ten minutes (it’s a new world record). Michelle Lesco will win the ladies half of the contest. She won’t set a new record, but will still manage to swallow a respectable 30.75 hot dogs in the allotted ten minutes. All told, 30,000 human beings will watch 30 fellow human beings ingest about 750 hot dogs in twenty minutes. After the contest (or during), some of the less than seasoned contestants will likely puke-up their intake. The polished professionals, the ones who train properly, will keep it all down. After a few hours, the world champion will have a 76-hotdog-inspired bowel movement. Perhaps to assure its audience that they’ve witnessed more than puke and feces in the making, the event’s sponsor (Nathan’s Famous) will announce a donation of 100,000 additional hot dogs to New York City food banks. Somewhere in Kansas, a steer is dangling upside down by its hind hooves to make it all possible.

I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore; there’s more than the smell of cattle or hot dogs in the air. All around the world, but especially in The United States, millions of people have their eyes trained skyward, and it’s not to see the usual solar eclipse. Bigger things than that are happening up there. Moguls and media say so.

From somewhere in New Mexico, Richard Branson and three fellow crewmembers are leaving the earth to enjoy three minutes of zero-gravity influence at the edge of space. He’s spent 17 years and nearly a billion dollars to experience this lofty moment. It’s not just a one-off undertaking. More than 600 wealthy adventurers have already reserved $250,000 tickets for similar moments on future flights (if you didn’t ante up early, bring $450,000), and government contracts are expected to help fund related endeavors. Still, it’s been a major risk; the investment consumed nearly 20% of his net wealth. He’s now 70 years old and will have only about four and a half billion dollars left to spread out over his remaining lifetime.

Not to be outdone, fellow billionaires Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk are joining Branson in a quest for the great enrichments that await mankind on Earth’s moon, on Mars, and perhaps on planets as far away as Pluto. Bezos is spending even more than Branson to advance his Blue Origin space adventure. It’s an awful lot of money, but then again, he has more to play with — perhaps as much as 214 billion dollars. Elon Musk is right there with the other big boys, perhaps bringing more business savvy and long-term goals (like the colonization of Mars). Beyond Musk’s personal billions, his SpaceX program is supplemented with additional billions provided by outside investors and government contracts. If you add it all up, billions from the big boys and billions from even bigger governments, if you pool it all together; well, let’s just say it’s a big pile of hot dog money.

Somewhere in California, there’s a long line. In it, as on any given day, hundreds of factory workers are assembling Tesla’s. Elsewhere, in warehouses all around the country, workers are scampering up and down aisles to locate and relocate heavy boxes. And in nearly every American neighborhood, truck drivers are coursing the streets and walking up driveways (and perhaps peeing in bottles) to deliver boxes in timely fashion. In each case, employees are earning about 15 bucks an hour to help make the recreational zero-gravity experience of their employers possible. Perhaps to assure grounded earthlings that more is being witnessed than rich people floating in space, media and sponsors (who are likely earning a bit more than 15 bucks an hour) dust off old phrases for renewed contemplation: “another giant leap for mankind,” “just another example of American Exceptionalism,” and so on.

It was governmental effort that first sent men into space and then to the moon’s surface. It was the same kind of national effort that sent rovers to Mars and satellites beyond (like to the gravitational field of Pluto). For the first fifty or sixty years, only governments had access (taxation) to the assets required of space exploration. The scene has changed. Governments have delegated the burden of “taxation” to private enterprise; there’s been some resultant asset relocation taking place in America (and elsewhere). The era of entrepreneurial endeavor is upon us. Corporations (and individuals) with government sized budgets are assuming the reins. Space cowboys are here.

Is it now, or will it ever be worth it? All across America, all around the world, the oft meager wages of a billion-plus people are making the multi-billion-dollar big-boy dream possible. Whether of governmental or entrepreneurial effort, what will the bulk of mankind gain from it? It certainly won’t be the three minutes of zero-gravity adventure alluded to by Virgin Galactic or Blue Origin founders; their mega-dollar amusement park ride is beyond the sensible vacation allocation required of ordinary wage earners. Does it offer more than the joy of watching a 21st century version of yacht-club racing? What’s really in the giant leap for mankind?

Elon Musk has a bigger dream that reaches far beyond sixty miles or the moon. He’d like to permanently colonize Mars with a million people, and he’d like to do it over the course of his remaining lifetime (he’s fifty – do the math). He’s in a hurry for several stated reasons: (1) natural disasters may make the Earth uninhabitable (volcanoes, comets, etc.), (2) humans may make the world uninhabitable (nuclear war, etc.), (3) a population collapse on Earth might be imminent (low birthrates, etc.), and (4) if none of the afore mentioned scenarios play out, Earth will be engulfed by the Sun in about six billion years.

Presumably, the dream isn’t anchored to Mars (an exploding sun might be bad news there, also). It will only be the beginning of mankind’s journey to the stars. Someday, humans will be scattered throughout the universe. We’ll jump from star to star, and in a truly cosmic sense, we’ll move onward and outward for all eternity. Well, maybe not all of us; there’s a lot of “us” that won’t be found in “we.”

Musk isn’t the first human (or perhaps non-human) to consider star-jumping. Writers have long mused on the possibility, and some say we’ve already been visited by intelligent beings from other galaxies. We have our movies and the frequent citing of UFOs to bolster the consideration. We imagine the possibility of space visitors all the time. If they’re actually here or on their way, what kind of world would they likely have come from? Would the world they left behind be like our world of 200 competitive and often adversarial nations? Would they have departed from a planet hosting 30 forms of governmental control? Would they have hopped from star to star towing 4,200 spiritual religions? What’s the possibility of a world such as ours, a world so often at war with itself, a world so divided and fractious, to ever reach beyond its own solar system in a meaningful way?

Consider that first step envisioned by Musk: the colonization of Mars (in less than fifty years). Imagine the technologies (and assets) required to not just transport a million people, but to also create a self-sustaining city under protective bubbles on a hostile planet. Beyond thought of the required means and resource allocation, who would be the voyagers? Would the million chosen travelers reflect the demographics of the multi-billion inhabitants of Earth whose labors and lives would be tapped to support the effort? Or, would it be an elite kind of cohesive group that shared similar characteristics and values: race, ethnicity, religion, politics, etc. So, it’s complicated from the get-go. If elite, it wouldn’t be fair. If fair, it would be fractious (and what would be the point of spreading that into space?).

In either case, what of those left behind on a planet feared dying? Is it, “Good luck; stay in touch?” In Musk dreamland, does he or his protégé fly away and escape the pending holocaust with a cadre of enlightened, compliant, and dedicated workers? Does the entrepreneurial self-indulgent spirit so instrumental in the plundering and endangerment of Earth, temporarily resettle on Mars and then somehow assume a utopian kind of sensibility before eventually lifting off again to far distant stars?

It’s an elitist kind of dream, a vision of the ultimate gated community: escape from all the riff-raff and travails of Earth to live in adventurous harmony on another planet with like-minded and deserving constituents. It’s a “giant leap for mankind” that would exclude nearly all of mankind.

They used to be called pipe dreams — the short-lived, but grand visions one entertained when under the influence. They were profound in the evening’s haze, and laughable in the morning sunlight. It was the dope back then; today it’s the money. Money provides influence, and there’s a lot of potent influence wafting through the air, even in the sunlight. Perhaps it’s only the riff-raff, those beyond the cloud of influence, who are shaking their heads.

I’ve a feeling we’re not in Nathan’s Famous anymore — but we are watching a hot dog eating contest. There’s a lot of nourishment being consumed in a short amount of time, nourishment that will provide little sustenance. For the most part it’s wasted; it’s heading to glimmering porta potties in the sky. Amazing feats are being witnessed, but that’s all they are. Today’s “giant leap for mankind” made in space, will have about as much meaning for mankind as did the first: not much. Armstrong made the first such touted leap in 1969; after the moon-dust and hyperbole settled, little changed for mankind on Earth. Man’s small misstep in Vietnam continued as before, and didn’t finally end until six years later. Since the end of that war in 1975, the world has stepped into more than 90 additional armed conflicts that have killed millions. Civil and international wars transpire unabated, and we persist in abusing ourselves and the planet in countless other ways. We are a troubled planet, and we are in need of a giant leap for mankind, but hosting a zero-gravity ride, planting a flag on Neptune, or building a bubble dome on Mars will not provide it. We are a divided planet lacking the sensibility and cohesiveness required of meaningful space travel. Until a giant leap for mankind is made on the surface of Earth, any step taken in space will not be a leap, and it will not be taken for mankind. It will be a small step, a strutting small step taken by a man.

The post One Small Step for Man, One Giant Hot Dog for Mankind first appeared on Dissident Voice.

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

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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.