issue 179 - January 1988
The filth of Cracow
Poland maintains its lead as the most polluted country in the world. Gross environmental destruction is likely as emissions from heavy industry - including sulphur dioxide, hydrocarbons and heavy metals - violate all international safety standards and poison the air and water. The cities of Cracow, Gdansk and Legnica and surrounding farmlands have been declared 'catastrophe zones' by a University of Cracow study. In these areas the growing of foodstuffs is forbidden. In fact a quarter of the country's food is unfit for human consumption.
Heavy industry dumps 7,000 tons of salts daily into the region's Vistula River. The nearby Huta Lenina steelworks discharges 26,000 tons of sulphur dioxide annually. Under such pollution 50 per cent of Cracow's trees are dead and up to 60 per cent of its population suffer lung ailments.
The country's proud state symbol of the eagle looks like an endangered species, in more ways than one.
From World Press Review. Vol 34/ No.11
Vital statistics, Brazil-style
Facts to conjure with: Brazil is by far the wealthiest country in the Third World, with an annual gross national product twice that of Saudi Arabia and four times that of South Africa. It is the world's top exporter of coffee, orange juice and Soya beans; the number one sugar producer, the second largest producer of beef and cocoa and the third largest grower of corn. It is also a major producer of iron ore, aluminium, steel, cars and weaponry.
Yet amidst this great wealth, two out of every three Brazilians go hungry. An estimated 1,000 children die from hunger-related causes every day. Government estimates are of 36 million 'needy' children, seven million of whom are orphans. Nearly half of schoolchildren never get beyond first grade.
A major cause of this impoverishment is the landlessness created when ownership of land is concentrated in giant farms and plantations. A mere one per cent of landowners control 48 per cent of the arable land. And in the past 20 years more than 24 million small farmers have been pushed off their plots.
From Food First News, Vol.9. No. 30. 1987
Proud to come out
Although they make up only 1.42 per cent of the 16 million Australians counted in last year's census, the Aborigines are far from dying out as predicted 50 years ago.
The numbers declaring themselves Aboriginal - 227,645 (of which perhaps 10 per cent are indigenous Melanesians in the Torres Strait area) was a 42.4 per cent increase on the figure of the previous census in 1981. This isn't because of an astonishingly high birth rate, nor just because the official definition of an Aborigine has been broadened to include anyone with Aboriginal blood who identifies with the Aboriginal people. Rather, that more Australians are proud or confident enough to come out as Aborigines - particularly those who previously passed as non-Aboriginal because of shame and discrimination.
From Far Eastern Economic Review, Vol. 138, No. 44. 1987
The Chandigarh Nonsense Club in India celebrated Women's Day (8th March) last year by presenting a satire on the sad state of the country's obsession with dowries, reports a correspondent in Manushi. They mounted a sales counter where a variety of bridegrooms were put on sale. An Indian Administrative Service officer was offered at the discount price of Rs.420,000 ($37,000) as against the prevailing rate of Rs.600,000. Similar 20 per cent discounts were available on all grooms. A doctor was priced at Rs.355,000 ($27,000), an engineer at Rs.280,000 ($22,000) and a clerk at Rs.7,000 ($550).
Assurances were made that the grooms were 'genuine and guaranteed' and that payment could be made in instalments. A brass band played as the 'grooms', attired in ceremonial clothes, walked around the showroom. It seems their promenades failed to impress and the women demanded bigger discounts.
Through such ridicule young women are encouraged to reject men whose families demand huge dowries, effectively putting their sons up for matrimonial sale.
From Manushi, No. 41. 1987
A clear link has been established between the abuse of children, subsequent adult aggressiveness/ criminality and cruelty to animals, by researchers in the US. A study carried out by the World Society for the Protection of Animals found that three quarters of the aggressive criminals who were interviewed were abused and beaten as children (compared to only 10 per cent of non-criminals). Many of these turned their aggression and hatred of parents on to animals. One said, 'I beat animals to get back for the beatings I got'.
The researchers interviewed 152 criminals and non-criminals in Kansas and Connecticut The sample revealed 373 acts of harm, violence or cruelty towards animals. Sixty per cent said they committed cruelty... generally 'minor cruelty' like pulling wings off bugs. A quarter of the aggressive criminals admitted to five or more cruelties.
Action against pets, wildlife and farm animals included crushing, burning, drowning, beating, mutilating and often straightforward torture. In one case a man put his girlfriend's cat in a microwave oven.
Generally the motivation for such cruelty ranged from wishing to shock people, to satisfy a prejudice against a particular species or as a displacement of hostility from a person against whom the subject has a grudge. And so the links are made.
From Agscene. Newsletter of Compassion in World Farming. No.89, 1987
Only the style will change, we have been assured, after last September's bloodless coup in Burundi. Out was Colonel Jean-Baptiste Bagaza, in came Major Pierre Buyoya. Both come from the minority elite Tutsi tribe; both need the tribe's support
Since 1966 the Tutsis have dominated positions of power in Burundi, excluding the 85 per cent of the people who come from the Hutu tribe. In 1972 the Hutu rebelled, killing 2,000 Tutsi. In retaliation the Tutsidominated army massacred 150,000 Hutus in one of independent Africa's bloodiest episodes.
The ousted President Bagaza's administration had cracked down on the Catholic Church; outlawed midweek services, closed down Church schools, nationalized seminaries and expelled hundreds of foreign priests. Behind this lay a concern that the Catholic Church was giving too much support to the Hutus. The newly-installed President Buyoya, who describes himself as a Catholic, has released two priests from prison and announced the restoration of relations with the Church as a priority.
However creating the conditions for majority rule, including a voice for the Hutu, might be going too far.
From Agence France Press/South, No. 85. 1987
'There was never any word as to who the enemy was.'
Lieutenant William Calley, at the court martial
for the My Lai Massacre, in Vietnam in 1971.
'The metaphor of eating the seed corn for the next years planting is duplicated time after time throughout the Third World. There can be no clearer demonstration that those who are working for a better environment must simultaneously devote themselves to working for social justice.'
Jonathan Porritt, Friends of the Earth
Help us produce more like this
Patreon is a platform that enables us to offer more to our readership. With a new podcast, eBooks, tote bags and magazine subscriptions on offer, as well as early access to video and articles, we’re very excited about our Patreon! If you’re not on board yet then check it out here.