Friday, 30 January 2009

The Market Floor

Our recent economic crisis has been a huge blow to all world economies. The poor are those who are generally hit by how the market has slowed down. As first world leaders rely on how the markets predict spending/public patterns in buying. We need first world governments to introduce a market which is not based on speculation, as public spending pattens vary, but rather a more coherent approach to how markets are governed is needed.
Markets can either generate wealth and transform lives , or they can marginalise the poor and increase inequality and degrade the natural world on which we are very much dependant on.
Small food producers, farmers can only have an influence on the way they operate if they use their power to increase productivity and sales, which would enable them to set better prices and to allow their workers to be paid a better wage. This is only made easier for those who have a major infulence on how they want to govern their large business, such as large land owners, intensive farmers and large food producers.
Markets are governed by too many intensive rules and regulations, contracts, credit, bargening and far too much competition, this causes developing world farmers and British farmers to look for a way to get out of farming, as they are finding farming isn't lucrative enough for them to continue with, as they are not being supported by their government to make farming worth while. British farmers seem to get a raw deal as British produce is deamed expensive and therefore sourced from countries who are selling there food much cheaper such as Eastern Europe, which makes it attractive for buyers. Countries such as Africa and India they can't afford to sell their goods at low prices as farming is a major part of their life structure and selling food at a low price is not an option. Even the cost of food for some being sold at a high price increases their already poverty stricken lives and this cause unnessesary demonstrations and rioting., which should not be something one ought to be doing to have a meal on one's table.
Farming is no longer seen as an industry to pass on through the family line as most farmers are abandoning farming, as their children don't see farming or producing food as an exciting or interesting way to make a living. Most people are heading to cities which are often over crowed to look for work which is generally hard to find, this adds to our already poverty stricken world and causing farms to be left abandoned or sold and this will then cause a huge short fall in food production and will then allow big businesses to produce our food, which would allow a huge drop in standards in the way our food is produced.
The way in which the market is set should not be allowed to dictate farmers/food producers lives, especially for those living in poorer countreis or small scale farmers in Britain. Instead the market should help influence and support those who are very much in need, by helping them store any grain/ crop which can be used in a leaner season and enable them to be more in control of what they are growing/producing.
Instead markets should be used for sustainable growth to help enhance rural communities, promoting tourism, small scale farming which would work towards building any one particular local economy, which is the driving force towards a global ecconomy.
If our global ecconomy is to survive governments need to get rid of the old school gentlemans agreement approach to our ecconomy and perhaps set a fixed price for 5 years to allow our global economy a chance to recover and livelyhoods to be saved.

Speaker Event

So far the Kyoto Protocol has arguably done very little to tackle climate change on a global scale, but is there another way? Oliver Tickell believes there is. The journalist, environmentalist and author of “Kyoto2: How to Manage the Global Greenhouse” is coming to Birmingham to discuss the Kyoto2 Initiative which proposses a new framework for a global climate treaty.

Jointly organised by Birmingham Friends of the Earth and Aston University, the event will be taking place on:

Tuesday 17th February
Aston University Business School Conference Centre

Climate change guru George Monbiot describes Kyoto2 as “The most intelligent treatment of the politics and economics of climate change I have ever read. Brilliant, clear and unanswerable."

You can find out more about Kyoto2 and Oliver Tickell at

Help to spread the word by joining the Facebook event page here

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Lets hope its wind that gets the turbine moving and not hot air! - by Mary Horesh

I would like to congratulate Tesco for taking the first step to reduce their carbon footprint and install a wind turbine at the New Oscott superstore. An unusual step for a Local Shops campaigner! But I really do wonder if this is green washing at work or a real move to tackle climate change.

I would be interested in how much the other Tesco sites turbines actually contribute to the stores electricity? In an article I read in the Sutton Observer (21st October) the turbine is able to power 4 houses for a year, but no comparison was given for the contribution to the supermarket. I was unable to find any information in the documents provided. I wonder if that figure would be so impressive and would really illustrate how power hungry supermarkets really are.

On Tesco’s website they make some interesting claims like aiming to halve energy use by 2008- only got a few weeks to do it, and “Our UK stores use 50% less energy than they did in 2000”, which makes the cynic in me question, if its that easy to cut back, then they must be a very wasteful corporation.

However, putting my positive head on, I hope that installing the wind turbine is the first of many measures to reduce their carbon footprint at New Oscott site and that this is not just a very visible “token” to sustainability. I would hope that as condition of their application going through, that the store has to take further initiatives- visible and less visible.

There are many simple measures Tesco and supermarkets can do to improve their footprint such as more efficient lighting, by using more efficient bulbs, use of sun pipes which reduce the need for electric lights. Also open fridges are a huge waste of electricity, so installing ones with doors and covers would reduce it.. There are other major projects like CHP, bio-digesters and other initiatives that could be considered.

We need to make these companies that are “green-washing” their companies to stand up and really show what they are made of. See if the green is just skin deep!

So I would like to see as a condition of this application for a wind turbine that Tesco will do initiatives that have an overall approach at the site, starting on the inside and working out.

GM – NOT the answer (whatever the question) - by Rianne ten Veen

Though in core GM is playing with genes (an ‘environmental’ issue – though NOT part of natural cross-breeding as it crosses the significant line of mixing species!), it not only has environmental impacts, but also health and very worrying social justice impacts.

The economic liberalisation policies of the IMF and the Worldbank have prevented many poor countries from providing significant support for local agricultural production. The WTO’s Agreement on Agriculture and other trade agreements let large agri-businesses compete against small local producers for access to domestic markets, while prohibiting protection of local markets, driving ever more people into poverty (as poor farmers can’t compete with subsidised imports and go bankrupt).

The Third World Network says “[the prevailing approach] is astonishingly aggressive. It is to force developing country markets open to allow European and American companies to come in and take over their markets. This will damage or destroy local economies, and will lead to even more instability, poverty and hunger” (see: here for a short video)

International civil society organisations, farmers and others who see through the do-good PR-washing know that as a result of decades of agricultural liberalisation, the primary problems we are dealing with today are the result of transforming food “… from something that nourishes people and provides them with secure livelihoods into a commodity for speculation and bargaining” (Bello, Walden. How to manufacture a global food crisis: lessons from the World Bank, IMF. The Nation. June 2, 2008).

So while the number of hungry people grows (as is clear from many recent UN appeals!), profits of agri-business have never been higher: three companies (Cargill, Archer Daniel Midlands (ADM) and Bunge) control the vast majority of global grain trading. All three posted profit increases for 2007, at the beginning of the price hikes, at between 36% and 67% above the preceding year. Bunge alone announced profits for the last quarter of 2007, of 77%, or US $245 million, above the same time period the previous year. And Cargill posted profits for the first quarter of 2008 - at exactly the same time as the food crisis went from serious to life-threatening for millions - at 86% above the same time period last year. Large grain trading companies in Asia are forecasting profit increases of up to 237% (!) for 2008. In an unregulated global ‘free’ market these companies have gained enough market share that their actions can set the direction of global prices and send shockwaves through the entire system.

And it is not just the grain traders at the end of the supply chain who are profiting from this situation, but the agri-business multinationals at the start of the chain as well (and, surprise, surprise, often these are the same companies). Cargill’s Mosaic Corporation, one of the world’s largest fertilizer companies, posted profits for their most recent quarter at USD2.1 bn (!), or 68% above the same quarter a year earlier. Profits at Potash Corporation, the world’s largest potash producer for fertilizers, posted a bottom-line gain of 181% for the first quarter of this year, at the height of the food price surge.

And now these profits are not enough, so to add insult to injury, the bio-tech/ agri-business present themselves as ‘solvers of the food problem’… these are profit-driven corporations not charities and in reality often prevent farmers from planting the local native seeds they have been using for generations (and making the seeds of the GM crops they sell infertile to force farmers to keep buying - click here for a video, just 2.5 minutes)

So while the average family in the UK throws away 450 pounds’ worth of food per year, and the above, it’s clear the world does not have a food problem, we have a hunger problem. So solving our greed and international trade injustices are what we need to look at, NOT giving those that already hold so much of our means of survival (food production) even more opportunities to make us dependent on them, and them to make profit…and the poorest losing first (who already regularly can’t afford food and, as farmers, will be made even more dependent on the global market whims of agri-business)!

Instead, we should take the statement by faith based organisations as shared at the June 2008 UN Food and Agricultural Organisation conference to heart and action on: “We advise caution against ‘short-term’ solutions. A clear focus, respecting the integrity of creation, must be kept on eliminating poverty and unjust social structures, the root causes of hunger. ... We support proactive approaches inspired by ‘food sovereignty’ and the ‘primary right to food’.”

This article has gratefully used data from ‘Food System in Crisis’, Development and Peace, June ’08 (click here for the full document)