Food – Who Pays the Price? (October 2008) raises important questions about who produces the food we eat and how. Urbanization, climate change, changing diets in emerging economies and the impact of supermarkets are putting new pressures on the land and changing the face of farming. Meanwhile small farmers around the world are leaving the land in increasing numbers.
A 60-minutes video documentary of an action research programme on drinking water and public health in Bangladesh, in collaboration with the Arsenic Mitigation and Research Foundation (see also an earlier documentary The Largest Mass Poisoning in History (AMRF) and a shorter 8-minutes version Arsenic Mitigation and Social Mobilisation in Bangladesh (AMRF))
Some questions that came up while watching this: Could open source hardware help achieve a greater global distribution of the means of production, for example in agriculture? Or is it going to lead to further mechanisation for the benefit of the owners of the technology, with further displacement of landless labourers? It will all depend on how they are implemented. Here are some other thoughts on an older, but in my view stronger concept, appropriate technology: Tools of Change (Amulya Reddy) and Appropriate Technology (Ernst Friedrich Schumacher).
Apple’s iPhone is a model of American ingenuity, but most of its components are manufactured somewhere else. The decline of manufacturing can lead to the loss of other kinds of jobs, a factor in the American economy right now. Click here for the full NYT article. For some of the other social and environmental costs associated with apple, see Apple’s iCoal (Greenpeace), La mort programmée de nos appareils (Cash investigation) and Apple, la tyrannie du cool (Kourtchine & Bergère).
2012 PopTech talk by social critic John Thackara, where he argues that the current human paradigm of endless growth is obviously unsustainable, so we should consider the brilliance of the Brazilian Jequitiba tree, which soaks up four tons of water a day. “I am a proper tree hugger, as well as a lichen hugger.”
Tired of seeing broken hand pumps and taps litter Africa, Asia, and Latin America, Breslin sees these as signs of the critical need to assess water projects for their real impact. Sustainability is not about the quantity of water pumps installed. He proposes devices that will be able to send information to investors that a water supply has broken down.
However, this does not change the system of dependency on external assistance. Another strategy, would be to implement the supporting local organisation structures or institutions at the community level that will ‘own’ the technology, and control its operation and maintenance. This is an argument for ‘water sovereignty’ (see our argument in The Largest Mass Poisoning in History (AMRF), and see a similar argument for ‘food sovereignty’ in India in A new future for small farmers (Paul Enkelaar, Jan Paul Smit and Manuel Reichert)).
In Bangladesh, millions of rural poor are currently drinking water that is contaminated with high levels of arsenic. Although the problem was described as the worst mass poisoning in history, little has been achieved to resolve it. Among the few projects that are being implemented, even fewer have managed to reach the poor and to implement water supplies and health support systems that last. The Arsenic Mitigation and Research Foundation sees the challenge as one of implementation and governance. It has worked for over 10 years to suggest viable long-term strategies and discourage damaging development programs and policies.
Reading Marx’s Capital Vol I (13 video lectures)
Reading Marx’s Capital Vol II (12 video lectures)
A 9 hours symposium on the Limits to Growth study. The Club of Rome and the Smithsonian Institution hosted a symposium on March 1, 2012 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the launching of Limits to Growth, the first report to the Club of Rome published in 1972. The symposium focused on the lessons of Limits to Growth, and the difficult challenges of preserving biodiversity, adjusting to a changing climate, and solving the societal issues now facing the planet. The symposium ended with a panel discussion among the speakers on future steps for building a sustainable planet.