After reading your series of ‘Global Report’ articles the message we should all heed is the sobering one that we are the experts in consumption.
Fortunately Norway’s Berit Gronvold and her friends are not the only group in Europe deploring the worship of economic growth. There is an ever growing Green (Ecological) Movement in many countries all seeking ways of working together.
Here in Britain the Ecology Party takes an anti-consumption, environmental stance in politics. Not a popular, vote-catching message to date, but it is kept going by the conviction that only an easily identified, independent political party can maintain the necessary moral integrity to resist political expediency.
At our coming conference we are being asked to vote for a Life-Style Motion which would commit all members to follow Berit’s example.
All ideas have a ‘time’. Perhaps we should make it the time for this idea.
The article on Berit Gronvold (N.J. No. 107) brought home the importance of directing our concern at the growing disparities between the poor and the wealthy in our own societies.
But will buying second-hand clothes or eating less make one jot of difference - especially in Norway, which is already so rich? Most people in the West are far removed from her philosophy and will just profit from her restraint. And even if we all consumed less, what would happen to employment?
Licence to steal
If Santos Hernandez and his friends in Honduras are justified in seizing land from someone who has too much of it (N.I. No. 107) what is there to stop me from breaking into the house of anyone that I consider to be wealthier than I am? Ideas of justice and fairness always seem much more clear-cut when one is talking about Third World countries. I also think that applying the same principles here would produce a much more efficient response from the state.
Global report — the film
I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed the TV programme, ‘Global Report and Alternative View of 1981’. While watching it I kept thinking how much the material ‘said’ without ‘saying’ it — if you can understand that. The sequence on Tanzania was brilliant and I wish I could extract that bit and use it before giving lectures.
I know you’ll be getting tons of letters just like this. May I just pass on my admiration and hopes that you will do another for 1982.
Ed. Our thanks to everyone who wrote to us and to the BBC about the programme. UK readers may be interested to know that it will be repeated by the BBC around Easter 1982.
'The Crippled Giants' by Christopher Hird (NI No. 106) showed that co-operatives are both viable and more interesting to work in than traditional businesses.
A new round of development based upon a broadly co-operative third sector would form a sensible and lasting alternative to Keynesianism and monetarism. What is needed is 'an economics of permanence', as Dr Schumacher defined it. There the community finds itself firmly centred amid a sound series of regional organisations and structures which co-ordinate development. If the older pattern of 'growthmanship' is now exhausted, then a new pattern of development is necessary. It will not come from the traditional Keynesian and monetarist paths, but from the developmental tradition, which is concerned with more democratic and humane work.
Co-operatives do not contain the whole of the answer, but they would create a new sector which would significantly influence the pattern of industrial structure in the rest of the economy. If the mid-seventies was the end of an era of growth, the mid-eighties should see the real beginnings of a new era of development - the alternative to 'no alternative' pendulum swingers.
If people were inherently co-operative it would not be necessary to organise them into co-operatives. If they are not, then having them work in co-operatives will not make them any more so.
Lee Van Montague
I cannot agree with R. Rymer’s view on disarmament: that without our support the men who plan to destroy us are powerless.’ (Letters. No. 107)
In the days of mass armies and hordes of munition workers resistance from the workers might have had some relevance. But comparatively few people are engaged in the production of nuclear weapons and they have in any case already produced enough to destroy the world 30 times.
The decision to declare war has always been the prerogative of a few individuals but its continuance usually depended on popular support. Now such will be the completeness of disaster and the speed of the war that there will be no time for us to express our disapproval.
Since Mr Keith Wood wrote to you (NI. No. 107) about the failure of agencies to take up offers of skilled help in disasters, he has been to see us in the Disasters Unit of Oxfam — and is now on our register of skilled people prepared to work at short notice in disaster situations.
Of course there are many skilled people in countries hit by disasters, and in many fields, such as vehicle maintenance, we can usually employ local people, several in fact, for the cost of flying one from Britain.
In some circumstances the skilled people needed are not on hand, so we need to send them from Britain or elsewhere. Most in demand are nurses and doctors, water and sanitation engineers and agriculturists. We are always pleased to hear from people with skills to offer for three to six months. Oxfam pays modest salaries for these assignments, undertakes all the arrangements for visas, briefing and tickets etc. Relief teams in the field are supported by our field offices and the Disasters and Medical Units from Oxford.
Sad to say we often have great difficulty finding suitably experienced people to take on this work when it is needed.
I was impressed by the reputation of Sri Lankan mechanics (N.I. No. 105) that they could within 72 hours produce a functioning car from any given pile of rusting metal and fused parts. I can well believe it But I also believe that we all of us have the ability to do such things given the opportunity.
I doubt, however, that even the people who work on the car production lines in our factories would be able to repair the same model when it breaks down. This is largely because cars are made in such a way as to make repair an awkward business requiring specialised tools.
Might I suggest that our car manufacturers, when looking for design changes for next year, should look beyond remodelling the ash-trays and think of supplying a usable set of spares and instruction and encouragement on how to use them. We might even finish up with fewer piles of rusting metal.
I have always been interested in the Third World since travelling around Latin America after university. So your magazine came as a pleasant surprise when I discovered it.
But I do have one problem: why that tongue-twisting polysyllabic name? It sounds like the house organ of some sect on the fringes of the lunatic left. How about something a little less strident?
Ed. Any suggestions?
1982 has been designated Information Technology Year in Britain. It is vital that Third World countries benefit from automation, telecommunications and reprography in their library and information services. But its application must be at a level and pace appropriate to the situation and stage of development of each country. I am researching into the problems of the 'transfer of technology to libraries in Anglophone Black Africa’ and would be pleased to exchange information and views with anybody who might like to write to me.
Valuable resources of scientific and technical information are being inadequately shared out by the First World, but even more deplorable is the state of information exchange within and between the Third World countries themselves.
Peter A. Moll