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It is not kind but cruel to understate the ecological constraints on development as you did recently in the issue on eco-socialism (NI 307). A brutal fact of life is that the world contains only 10.2 billion hectares of ecologically productive land ie arable, pasture, forest and energy land (land needed for absorbing CO2 or for producing energy from renewable sources). After setting aside a not-very-generous 12 per cent for the exclusive use of other species that leaves nine billion hectares for humans.
The minimum amount required to provide one person with a satisfactory standard of living is at least three hectares, ie half the current appropriation in Australia and North America. Such a hypothetical modest footprint involves reduced per capita consumption in rich countries and greatly increased per capita consumption in poor countries and huge reductions in population everywhere, eg a two-thirds reduction in the UK population.
Divide and rule
I was disappointed by your recent coverage of Dorje Shugden (NI 305) and subsequent letter from Dan Coote (NI 307). Reports from my family in Tibet tell me that the Chinese are giving money to Tibetans to erect temples to Dorje Shugden (having spent years destroying our temples) and are actively encouraging this practice. It is the old policy of divide and rule, and a trick that you are guilty of falling for and assisting. Red China may have many good points, but their illegal invasion of my country and their brutish treatment of my people is not one of them.
Like any emerging democracy the Tibetan Government in exile is having teething problems, which I would not describe as a crisis. However, the Dalai Lama, who does not claim to be the political leader of the Tibetans, has worked consistently to try to create harmony between the different schools of Tibetan Buddhism. His discouragement of the Dorje Shugden practice, far from being a curtailment of freedom, is an attempt to iron out traditional divisions for the good of his people.
I write to protest against the lingering heterosexism evident in the review of the British film, Get Real (NI 307). Having established the films plot (Steven and Linda are both looking for boyfriends), Stevens motives are immediately qualified: he is a well-adjusted young man who has known he was gay since he was 11. Though apparently sympathetic to a queer perspective, this comment leaves the reader steeped in heterosexist presumption: gay desire requires explanation, whereas straight desire is a given. As long as homosexuality is approached in these terms, surely the institutionalization of heterosexuality can only continue unabated.
Money and war
Another issue which was overlooked was that one of the major reasons for having such a system was, and still is, to finance wars. In 1609 the Dutch had just signed a truce suspending hostilities in the 80 Years War with Spain. The financiers who created the Bank of Amsterdam did so on the understanding that they would lend money to the Dutch Government to continue its war with Spain. In fact the Bank issued notes four times in excess of its asset base.
Throughout history this policy has continued to operate and has contributed to the prolonging of wars. It has also generated massive debt and a parasitic absorption of wealth in the hands of the few at the expense of the majority. Furthermore, steady inflation reduces the value of peoples money so that their accumulated wealth is greatly eroded.
Not just a good thing
Your issue on the money economy (NI 306) dealt with a complex and mystifying topic in a way that clarified, without ever suggesting, that the issues were straightforward. It was particularly heartening to see you highlighting the development of local economies as a way forward. My one criticism would be of your implication that economies, whether local, national, or global, are an end in themselves. They should be a means to the end of meeting human needs and assessed on their ability to do so.
My own view is that we need to start by recognizing that individuals seek to realize themselves and that this can best be achieved through a network of reciprocal relationships that allow everyone involved to explore and express themselves in ways that are acknowledged and valued by all. That is one definition of a community. A local economy (such as a LETS system) is then a means to that end, to be judged as such, and not something to be established because it is seen as a good thing or because the alternative is even worse.
Uses of cocoa
I would like to point out the many uses of cocoa that you didnt mention in your magazine (NI 304), for example, that the cocoa root is used as a chewing stick to cure catarrh, and that its leaves were used for family planning.
A M Kwabena
In your letter section of the October issue (NI 306) a Canadian reader enquired whether Green and Blacks Maya Gold Chocolate was available in Canada. The editor replied that it is not but in fact I have found the exclusive Canadian distributor.
Write to: Sprout Master, RR#3, Box 43, Site W, Elmvale, ON LOL 1PO.
Tel: (705) 322 2222.
In addition to many organic foods and seeds, they carry the Green and Blacks organic chocolate and hot chocolate.
Ancaster, Ontario, Canada
Concerning migrants to Aotearoa/New Zealand (NI 305) I found your article highlighted very well the way our Government admits immigrants and then dumps them.
Why hasnt our Government followed up what has happened to individual immigrants? The policy-makers need to know how factors like ages, number of generations in a family unit and country of origin affect how immigrants fare: for example we locals understand some accents in English better than others and I would expect that students would be able to integrate better than qualified professionals with young families.
These people are new members of our national family; it is our responsibility to ensure that they have real opportunity to lead fulfilled lives.
Christchurch, Aotearoa/New Zealand
In Diamond Dogs of War (Mining NI 299) Roger Moody stated that Herb Howe, Professor of African Politics at Georgetown University, had been paid by Executive Outcomes to visit Sierra Leone. We now recognize that the suggestion that Professor Howe had been paid by Executive Outcomes to visit Sierra Leone is without foundation. We are happy to set the record straight.
|The views expressed in these letters are not necessarily those of the New Internationalist|
The saddam-clinton show was on again. Even in a remote town in South India the jokes were circulating. Poor Saddam! This time hes been bombed by a female. That Monica lady must be some woman. Shes finished off two presidents.
I felt bemused. There was a surreal quality to the TV coverage. The focus was on the impeachment. The bombing of Iraq you couldnt call such a one-sided affair a war was a backdrop. Appropriate no doubt. Members of the American Congress, gentlemen and gentleladies all, Republican and Democrat, reaffirmed their support of the bombing in the midst of arguing about impeachment. I thought it was unbelievable. Or is there something wrong with me?
It was obvious to all of us that this was a war game of the worst kind. The semantics were trotted out. Our objective is to diminish Saddams arsenal. Its a realistic objective. But everyone knows that Saddam will come out laughing and still be around when Clintons gone.
They pretend theyre doing the world a favour. But not one American politician came out against the injustice of the war or the cruelty of the sanctions. It was, after all, Thatchers Britain and Reagans US who piously refused to order sanctions against apartheid South Africa because they couldnt bear to hurt ordinary, innocent South Africans. Neither Desert Storm nor Desert Fox has caused Saddam any personal or political discomfort. Its the Iraqi people who continue to suffer. Few people have read about their plight. Even fewer care.
While I watched the news an image of Jassim (Endpiece, NI November 1998) kept coming back to me. Felicity Arbuthnots haunting piece, about the 13-year-old child poet dying of a leukaemia caused by the radioactive residue of the 1991 war, should be read by more people. Creating cancer in children and poisoning the earth for generations of unborn children should be treated as war crimes. And the victors as much as the vanquished should be held responsible for their actions, punished when they perpetrate evil in the name of peace.
Britain was mentioned only in passing people everywhere dismissed Tony Blair as Clintons lackey. I watched Blair pounding the desk in front of him to make a futile point which not even the most foolish human being could possibly believe. And yet he, too, was allowed to get away with it. There was so little protest, so little response. I remember a time in the 1970s when ordinary Labour Party supporters in Britain had a strong sense of justice. Not merely when it came to their domestic issues. Television had politicized everyone. Brought the world into everyones sitting room. And people protested against injustice. Against stupid wars. Now everyone sits there looking helpless.
God hasnt been on our side for a long while. Isnt it time we took to the streets again? Where are the students? The Church groups? The Liberation people? The activists? Even the Red-turned-Pink people?
By the time you read this itll be a month since the bombs fell on Iraqi children. But therell be other senseless attacks. As we approach the millennium lets build something better. For the children of Iraq. For the children of the world.
Or at least lets scream together.
Mari Marcel Thekaekara lives and works in the Nilgris, Southern India.
This replaces the usual Letter from Mongolia which will be back next month.
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