issue 155 | January 1986
You rightly point out in the November issue that traditional socialism has been no more aware of environmental issues than has the capitalist West. But Christopher Plant's article was little more than a catalogue of the damage done to the ecosystem in the Soviet bloc. It failed to answer the real questions.
How do those of us who are socialists integrate the green vision into our politics? Does it necessarily alter the way we challenge economic exploitation? Calling for 'an alternative society that incorporates an understanding of how to live with nature' is all very well, but it smacks of empty rhetoric to me. After all, no-one would disagree, but it doesn't take us anywhere.
Is the 'green' lobby only made up of well-meaning liberals who attack individual environmental outrages without tackling the system that produces those outrages?
D P Leighton
While I welcomed the thorough-going critique of socialism in your November issue I was dismayed to find that the 'guide to the left' used individuals to exemplify mass political movements.
Of course I recognise that these individuals are generally well known, and certainly their faces made the pages visually arresting. But it seemed a shame that the NI should fall into the trap of portraying history through individuals. By the way, who is Emma Goldman?
Ed. note: Lithuanian-born anarchist Emma Goldman (1869 - 1940) settled in the US and founded the radical journal Mother Earth.
When I opened the October issue I discovered that it was based almost entirely on Debbie Taylor's arrogant assumption that she knows the most intimate thoughts of rural Thai villagers. If you genuinely believe that this is what your readers want to know, then why on earth not ask a Thai person to tell them directly.
Ed. note: The stories were based on real events related to me in long interviews during my month-long stay in two Thai villages. (Debbie Taylor).
Your magazine on Feeding the World (NI 151) did not mention organic agriculture which is based on the cyclical relationships between people, plants, animals, the air and the soil.
Low soil fertility is not irredeemable. Drought need not be a killer. Soil can actually become more fertile and less liable to dry out or erode.
Organic farming methods are sustainable and have self-sufficiency as their ideal within a garden, a farm or a country. Reliance on fertilisers and pesticides only leads to a deterioration of the soil and the whole ecological system.
If anyone wants more information on this please write to me at the address below.
Fran Ellery (Letters, NI 152) misuses the word 'normal'. It means, in the context in which she applies it, usual' or 'typical'. So heterosexual behaviour is in general (i.e. in most populations and in most instances) normal, whilst lesbianism is not.
It seems to me that in a world sadly lacking in real affection, any expression of love freely entered into, which hurts no party, be it between individuals of opposite or the same sex - should be respected.
Of course there are individual acts of heterosexual intercourse which are oppressive, but to regard all such acts similarly is perverse for large numbers of women choose heterosexuality and regard it as pleasurable.
Feminism's pinched white face
I was disappointed in the August issue (NI 150). Even as a white North American woman, I am deeply aware that our struggle for justice and equality as women is a global struggle with very different aspects in different cultures and economies. That NI should present the women's movement - after Nairobi - as a white middle-class movement, ignoring our global concerns and struggles with every aspect of patriarchal oppression, expressed in the ideology of domination/submission, from militarisation to clitoridectomy to aid programs which ignore women's work as farmers - is, to say the least, depressing.
I thought I could count on NI, at least, to show that the movement for global justice which is feminism has more faces than the pinched white one you have shown.
War and peace
I was interested to read Bernie Harder's comments on 'militarist' language (Letters, NI 152). If Mr Harder believes either that by discouraging militarist language one discourages militarism, or that by using militarist language one commits oneself to supporting militarism, I can only describe his view as naive.
What is most alarming is his apparent inability to differentiate between militarism - either in words or in deeds - used in support of injustice and oppression, and militarism used in the struggle against them (e.g. 'the fight for world development'). Of course war is unpleasant; but if peace were always preferable, then events such as the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua would never have happened. It is sometimes only through some form of violence (frequently 'militarist' in its application) that a peace acceptable to the people may be established.
Peter F Dawson
Far from the Rainbow Warrior being a warlike figure, as stated by Bernie Harder (Letters, NI 152) there is a legend of a tribe of American Indians, which says that he will come again to renew the earth.
My husband and I were key volunteers (not briefing leaders) for five years - we became briefing leaders later with the inception of the Briefing Program.
Our first contact with EST (Erhard Seminar Training) was when we did the training, after which we took graduate seminars. We now reject the EST philosophy of total responsibility which Erhard defined as not merely responsibility for one's own actions, words and feelings, but includes everything that happens to one and even what people to do each other.
What we object to in The Hunger Project is the side which is not publicly presented: its philosophy, and the emotional and psychological manipulation of volunteers to produce their intended results.
The Canadian Advertising Standards Council proclaims that it will investigate instances of false or misleading advertising reported to it.
But on closer inspection it seems to me that the ASC's true function is to shelter the advertisers from the indignant public they prey upon. Here's an example. In recent advertisements, Belvedere cigarettes were portrayed as a source of harmless fun and innocent pleasure. In replying to criticisms of these ads, the ASC said '... it had no right to preclude Belvedere from portraying its product as it did'.
This seems odd for an organisation which is supposed to be policing the industry. Perhaps the ASC should be cited for misleading advertising about itself.
J K Pask
Getting it right
OXFAM-America (USA), Community Aid Abroad (Australia), OXFAM-Belgium, OXFAM-Canada, OXFAM-Quebec and OXFAM-UK. There is no OXFAM organization based in New Zealand.
Currently I am researching the use of 'alternative/green/community' currencies around the globe and would welcome any information on such arrangements from your readers.
If people write to me about any experiments or operating community currency systems, past or present, I will acknowledge their letters and any significant contributions will be mentioned in my thesis. Please write to the address below.
I was partly amused and partly distressed to see the serious misrepresentation of Australia's rainforest distribution in your October Update section.
The isolated blob on your map, near the middle of the continent is the Simpson Desert - an area of blowing sandhills and minimal rainfall: scarcely rainforest climate.
In reality Australia's rainforests would be represented by a string of beads along the east coast, so small as to be barely printable on the scale of your map. Included would be a dot to indicate the ralnforest in Tasmania.
And what about New Zealand. Don't they have any? I welcome publicity about the decline of rainforests but please use a more accurate map.
Ed. note The map shown was supplied to us by Friends of the Earth, we have passed on the reader's comments to them.