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The poverty of ‘economic growth’ | Environment

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There is a village in the rainforests of Southeast Asia that I have visited on and off for over 40 years, doing long-term anthropological research. As the decades have ticked by, I have witnessed a process of extraordinary economic growth that has completely reshaped the village.

On the face of it, that might sound like a good thing. After all, we’re told that growth is good. We’re told that more income lifts people out of poverty and improves their lives. This narrative is drilled into us by development institutions like the World Bank, and echoed by media outlets around the world. But what I have witnessed calls this simplistic story into question.

The village is in Sarawak, which is on the Malaysian side of the island of Borneo, the third-largest island in world, larger than France or Texas. When I first visited Sarawak in the 1970s, the Indigenous communities living there had virtually no money, but they lived well. Now they have money, and can barely feed themselves. They have been impoverished even as incomes rise. It is a story of brutal destitution that is completely obscured by the GDP growth statistics.

In the 1970s, Borneo had the most extensive rainforests outside Brazil and central Africa, brimming with life and biodiversity. People who lived in communities in and around the forests had little money, but they controlled their own abundant food supply. They grew their own local varieties of rice, supplemented with game from the surrounding rainforest and fish from the river. They had a balanced diet, and were impressively fit and healthy.

The village I regularly visited comprised about 350 people all living under one roof, in a traditional longhouse that was typical of central Borneo at the time. An open verandah ran along the side of the house facing the river, while the other side consisted of a row of family apartments. Their farms were some hours away by canoe, along small streams that led into the hills. During the season of cutting and planting, and again during the harvest, everyone was busy at the farms and the longhouse was empty. At other times, it was bustling and full of life. There was a powerful sense of shared history and tradition, including elaborate seasonal festivals and feasts. No one went hungry in the longhouse.

Starting in the 1980s, everything changed. Borneo’s forests were destroyed at a rate unprecedented in human history. Ruthless timber barons, fuelled by capital from West Malaysia, Hong Kong and Japan, and aided and abetted by crooked politicians who sold off timber licenses to the highest bidder, tore through the forests of Sarawak and stashed their fortunes in luxury apartments in London.

Indigenous communities resisted the destruction of the rainforest, but they were brutally suppressed. In addition to the police and army, the timber companies hired goons to intimidate anyone trying to obstruct the roads. I heard rumours of violence, but very little news got out because the government tightly controlled the access of outsiders, especially foreign journalists. It’s disturbing to think how easily and thoroughly this news blackout worked.

After the forest was cut, something happened that had never happened before: the forest floor dried out. Then it caught fire. The government blamed slash-and-burn agriculturalists, but that was absurd. In all the hundreds of years that this technique had been used in Borneo, the forest had never burned before. Now every year during the dry season from March till October thick clouds of smoke spread downwind as far as Thailand. It is devastating to watch. And the contribution to global warming is incalculable.

What the fires accomplished was that they cleared the land for plantation agriculture. Malaysia and Indonesia between them account for 85 percent of the world’s production of palm oil, which is used in cosmetics and processed foods. The great majority of that product is grown on the ashes of the Borneo rainforest, and the very same companies that did the cutting now own the largest palm oil estates.

With the forests gone and the rivers polluted, the only way for the longhouse people I knew in Sarawak to make a living is by working for meagre wages on the palm oil plantations.

A whole generation of young men had grown accustomed to life in the lumber camps. After the timber was worked out in one area, they moved on with the camps – if given the chance. The ones that weren’t hung around in the longhouse, idle and disoriented. Many went off to the cities on the coast, where they live in squatter settlements and comprise a new lumpen proletariat.

For the longhouse people, food sovereignty and economic independence has been traded for a cash dependency that they cannot now escape. Their resource base has been destroyed, the farming skills of their grandparents are forgotten, and their invaluable stocks of seed rice – every family once had its own unique varieties – have long since been consumed. The longhouse has turned into a labour barracks, built at no expense to the employers.

The astonishing thing is that all this is smugly reported as development, as “growth”, but this glossy narrative hides a much darker reality. The World Bank reports that poverty has been reduced. But rising incomes don’t come anywhere close to compensating for the livelihoods that the longhouse people have lost. Nothing can compensate for the loss of food sovereignty and economic independence, and of course the loss of the rainforest. The whole narrative of poverty reduction is a charade.

All of this makes me wonder about economic development elsewhere. Media outlets love to report how growth in China has lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty. But the reality is more complex. The sociologist Sarah Swider has described what she calls the “new precariat” of China. Migrants moving into the cities from rural areas have very limited choices. Workers are housed in overcrowded dormitories. They work long hours and have very little contact with the outside world. Others survive as day labourers in informal street markets, and they are powerless against any abuse. Migrant workers have no rights because their legal residence is back in the countryside.

GDP figures tell us nothing about the costs of growth. And, as in Borneo, the real beneficiaries of China’s growth have been the corporations and elites who leech the labour of the new precariat.

Simplistic stories of GDP growth blind us to the extraordinary social and ecological destruction that growth so often entails. We urgently need to abandon this metric and pay attention instead to what is happening in the real world – who is winning and who is losing, what is gained and what is lost. Too much is being destroyed, too fast.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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Climate colonialism and the EU’s Green Deal | Climate Change

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Since the beginning of the year, the Amazon Rainforest, our largest tropical forest full of ecosystems essential to global climate regulation networks, has had 430,000 acres (174,000 hectares) cleared and burned to supply the logging industry and clear land for livestock breeding. Between August 2019 and July 2020, another 2.7 million acres (1.1 million hectares) were destroyed. Much of the wood and meat produced in Brazil from this deforestation ends up in Global North markets.

In Southeast Asia, deforestation linked to the palm oil industry also continues. Between 2018 and 2020, almost 500,000 acres (202,000 hectares) of rainforest were cleared in just three countries: Indonesia, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea, leading to Indigenous communities losing their land. The demand for palm oil from top food brands in the Global North remains high, despite their commitments to reduce use.

Meanwhile, the push for greener sources of energy, particularly in the Global North, is driving the demand for metals like nickel, cobalt and lithium. Labourers in mining communities working to extract these metals face dangerous and degrading working conditions.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the use of child labour in cobalt mines is widespread, putting the lives of children at risk, damaging their health and depriving them of education. In Bolivia, Chile and Argentina, lithium mining uses large quantities of water, accelerating desertification and polluting underground waters and rivers, putting the health of local communities at risk.

According to data gathered by London-based NGO Business and Human Rights Resource Centre, there have been 304 complaints of human rights violations by 115 companies mining these minerals.

Although the end of colonialism was declared decades ago, its last effects in the form of these extractive industries are clear. The system of Indigenous land takeovers, resource extraction, labour exploitation and wealth transfer set up by European colonialists continues to operate and dispossess people in the Global South.

It is against the backdrop of this neo-colonial reality that the European Union announced its Green Deal at the end of 2019.

Underpinned by an apolitical narrative that humans have already changed the Earth’s climate and degraded the majority of its ecosystems, so action needs to be taken, the Green Deal completely ignores the fact that the Global North was the main driver of climate change and environmental degradation across the world.

European governments and corporations not only damaged and destroyed the environment on the continent and exploited local marginalised communities, but have been engaged in the same exact behaviour and worse, on all other continents.

The natural world in Africa, Asia and Latin America has been destroyed through the capitalist economic systems deployed by the Global North which normalised, expanded and strengthened hyper-extraction through overproduction and over-consumption.

The European Green Deal does not outline how it will reconcile and repair the losses and damages EU countries have caused to ecosystems and communities outside of Europe. Nor does it acknowledge how these damages force people in the Global South to migrate to Europe’s shores, where they experience pushbacks, must less offer a solution.

The European Green Deal also ignores the environmental impact of Europe’s drive for renewable energy and electric mobility on other parts of the world, where resources for this economic shift will have to be extracted. It also does not pay attention to how climate change and environmental degradation have disproportionately affected its own marginalised communities and the poor and destitute in the Global South.

In other words, in the pursuit of making the EU the first climate-neutral region in the world by 2050, Brussels is falling back on its old ways and deploying what we call climate colonialism.

The EU’s apolitical narrative on climate change – ignoring the impact of colonialism and capitalism and heavily influenced by the very corporations who profit from them – could result in climate action that is not only non-impactful but, worse, could be unsustainable and damaging for marginalised communities on the continent as well as the Global South.

It relies on tech solutions and silver-bullet ideas, promising to lead a “green, sustainable” economy with electric vehicles, solar panels, wind turbines and other exciting renewable innovations.

But the question is, who will this be sustainable for?

In order not to fall into climate colonialism, the European Green Deal needs a clear plan to eradicate harmful extractive models, recognise its historical responsibility in the climate crisis, and provide accountability for the damage EU companies cause in the Global South.

Working within the same system that causes injustice will only reproduce injustice. We at Equinox have put forward a number of important recommendations that could help steer the Green Deal away from its capitalistic, colonial foundation and towards new holistic, intersectional approaches that put social and racial justice at its core.

Among these recommendations are a clear commitment to racial justice, integrated policies linking the EU’s Anti-Racist Action Plan to the Green Deal, institutional reform, and a new relationship with civil society.

Only by acknowledging that it is perpetuating colonial capitalism, and committing to ending this approach, can the EU’s Green Deal be truly effective in addressing climate change. For far too long, European governments and companies have wreaked havoc across the world. It is time for justice, accountability and a complete overhaul of economic systems. Our collective survival depends on it.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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Cameroonian Namondo Replaces Rosa Malango As Un Resident Coordinator In Uganda

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The United Nations Secretary General, António Guterres has appointed Susan Ngongi Namondo of Cameroon as the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Uganda, with the host Government’s approval.
Ms Namondo is replacing Rosa Malango of Equatorial Guinea who first came to Uganda in 2016 as United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Representative and Coordinator, and was in 2019 appointed Resident Coordinator reporting to the President and Secretary General of the United Nations.
Malango was recently promoted by Guterres to serve as Director, Economic Affairs for Regional Economic Commission headquartered in Europe.
Mrs Malango first communicated publicly on June 10, 2021 at the commemorations of Heroes Day at Kololo Independence Grounds that the UN Secretary, General Antonio Guterres had promoted her to serve as Director, Economic Affairs for Regional Economic Commission headquartered in Europe.
“It has been an honour for me to serve as United Nations Resident Coordinator in Uganda during the past five years. The UN Secretary General has now promoted me to serve as Director Economic Affairs for the Regional Economic Commission under our headquarters in Europe. I will be coordinating the work of the economic Commission in Africa, Asia, the Americas as well as Europe,” she said.
“Today is my last Heroes Day in my current capacity. But I believe that Uganda has the potential to serve as a beacon of hope, peace and prosperity for the African continent and the world,” she added.
Ms. NGONGI NAMONDO PROFILE
Ms. Ngongi Namondo has over 25 years of experience in development work, including 19 years leading development professionals in the areas of policy formulation and programme planning across four different United Nations agencies at the national, regional and headquarters levels.
Within the Organization, she most recently served as the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Eritrea, after occupying other senior positions with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), including Representative to Ghana and Comoros, and Deputy Representative to Liberia. She also served the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).
Prior to joining the United Nations, Ms. Ngongi Namondo worked with the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI), an international scientific organization, and global non-profits including Caritas Internationalis and Catholic Relief Services.
She holds bachelor’s degrees in political science and in animal science from the University of Maryland, USA as well as master’s degrees in public administration from Columbia University, USA and in animal health from the University of Reading in the United Kingdom.

The post Cameroonian Namondo Replaces Rosa Malango As Un Resident Coordinator In Uganda first appeared on ChimpReports.



Source – chimpreports.com

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Chad’s Football Dream

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Football is a passion in Chad but the national team has yet to qualify for top African and world tournaments.



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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