Tag Archives: neoliberalism

Sustainable Futures?

images-1Sustainability is a fuzzy concept. First gaining widespread attention in the Brundtland Commission’s report Our Common Future, the terms has become wildly popular: it’s used in nearly 9 million websites.

The term may be a victim of its own success. It is so elastic that all sorts of environmentally destructive behavior can be safely covered under its vague umbrella. The Bruntland Commission famously defined sustainability in the following terms:

Humanity has the ability to make development sustainable—to ensure that it meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

The key term in this definition – needs – is of course highly fungible. One person’s need is another persons rampant luxury.

The term sustainable may, however, still have some traction.  There’s a good history of the term available here, which links it to the fight against fascism and nuclear annihilation in the mid-20th century.

In addition, a group of progressive NGOs just published a document that contains provisions such as the “Polluter Pays” principle that, when applied to entities such as big banks and financial organizations, offers quite a radical redress to the inequities of neoliberal capitalism. Their draft paper, Towards a Framework of Universal Sustainability Goals, offers some food for thought, as well as an interesting snapshot of the limitations of even the most progressive environmental NGO discourse.

Leave a comment

Filed under environment

Women and the Food Crisis

la-paz-by-you-_2-960x654The vast majority of food is grown by women. In the Global South, women are the primary producers of basic grains such as rice, wheat, and corn. Yet women – and their children – are the most likely people to suffer from hunger in the world.

In poor countries around the globe, women have increasingly been entering salaried agricultural work, producing food for export in the agribusiness sector. But women are not offered comparable pay or jobs as their male counterparts in this sector. And of course salaried work imposes a double burden since women must continue to work in non-salaried labor in order to grow food for their families. In Spain, for instance, women workers in agribiz make 30-40% less than men.

The food crisis, in other words, is also a gender crisis. More and more of the aspects of social reproduction that were once controlled by peasants – by peasant women, specifically – are being subsumed by agribiz. As this happens, control over food production is taken out of the hands of producers and submitted to the whims of global capital.

campesinaThe upshot has been a global wave of de-peasantization and migration to megacities, many of which are now directly in harm’s way as a result of climate change.

Esther Vivas offers an excellent discussion of these trends, and of the resistance organized by peasant women through organizations such as La Via Campesina, in her report “Without Women There Is No Food Sovereignty.”

Also worth checking out is my colleague Fred Kaufman’s recent book Bet the Farm: How Food Stopped Being Food. As it’s title suggests, Bet the Farm explores the financialization of food, as well as linked political consequences such as the Arab Spring.

The contradictions in the global food system are set to catalyze dramatic upheavals in the not-too-distant future. Vivas and Kaufman help us understand where these crises are coming from, and how we can challenge them.

Leave a comment

Filed under environment, gender, imperialism

Pan-Arabism, Take Two

Mubarak is gone!

Lost in the incredibly gripping stories emerging from Egypt in recent weeks has been any discussion of links between the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions.  This lack of analysis also marginalizes discussion of which countries – in North Africa and elsewhere – might be next.

Issandr El Amrani’s article goes some way to addressing the linked questions of “why Tunisia – why Egypt?”

We’ll see where the revolutionary baton will be taken up next.  The great danger here is that these uprisings for democracy will go the way of those that came at the end of the Cold War in Latin America, Africa, Eastern Europe and elsewhere: popular revolts will lead to the establishment of formal democracy, but in tandem with augmented neo-liberal economic policies.  If this is the result of the present uprisings, there will truly be reasons for bitterness.

But it’s better not to indulge such gloomy thoughts.  For now, the people of Tunisia and Egypt and their supporters all around the world have just cause for feeling triumphant.

Leave a comment

Filed under democracy

Blood on the floor

Worth watching today are the massive cuts to the public sector being announced by the Tory-Lib Dem coalition government today in the UK.

The chief secretary of the Treasury was photographed holding a briefing paper that acknowledged the loss of nearly 500,000 public sector jobs over the next three years.

University funding is slated to be cut by 80%.

It’s a total bloodbath.

As Joseph Stiglitz explains in an interview today, it also makes absolutely no economic sense.  If you suddenly cut the jobs of a significant amount of the population, they no longer have the income to purchase products, and the economy begins to contract.  Recession turns into depression.

1929 here we come…

Leave a comment

Filed under class war