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New Internationalist 322 [image, unknown] [image, unknown] [image, unknown] April 2000


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Whose planet?
Economics is dirt simple. It is about where we’re allowed to live, work and play and what resources we’re allowed to make use of or possess. Or to put it even more simply – it’s about just exactly whose planet we are living on. Since all of life is nothing but using the planet, and there can be no life without a planet to use, when we are dispossessed of our own we are obliged to use someone else’s on their terms, or die.

Cover of the NI issue 320. Black or White, North or South, developed, under-developed – 95 per cent of us are still serfs in the same boat, paying or working for the right to use the other five-per-cent’s planet to live on. There are three thousand years of history proving this and three thousand years of radical thought you could have drawn on to tackle this most basic issue of human existence: who should own this planet and with it the right to life? Who gave that right to those who own it now? How can we end this sophisticated slavery?

In your issue on redesigning the global economy (NI 320) you freely give space to speculators like Soros, establishment toadies like Keynes and even one-world fascists like Jane D’Arista, yet you don’t list a single website, or mention a single campaign, essay or concept to do with planet-owning or its consequences and solutions. (See www.geocities.com/RainForest/3046 .)

I fully expect the mainline press to be economical with the truth. But the NI? Who butters your bread?

Steve Wall
Mauchline, Scotland

Tobin tax
We are delighted by the attention you pay in your January issue (The Global Economy NI 320) to the Tobin Tax. We see the Tobin Tax as part of the answer to; first, taming speculative excesses which threaten a nation’s sovereignty; and second, providing revenue for urgent global and national priorities that would otherwise go unaddressed.

We would like to make one small correction to your poster. Our website in the US is www.tobintax.org  (not .com).

Ruthanne Cecil
Tobin Tax Initiative, Arcata,
California, US

M Harrison’s letter (NI 318) makes a succinct statement in the case against meat. Thank goodness that meat consumption is declining in ‘Western’ societies. Sadly in the developing world the trend is the other way. The production and consumption of pulses has reduced dramatically over the last 40 years, giving way to increased consumption of meat, milk and eggs.

In Europe the governments have paid colossal subsidies to the meat industry for 60 years
Governments and aid agencies foster the ‘meat culture’ which threatens the ecology of those countries, the health of the people and ultimately the survival of the entire planet. In Europe the governments have paid colossal subsidies to the meat industry for 60 years. On a recent visit to one African country I was horrified to discover that its government had just given a huge tract of land to its Beef Producers Association ‘for the development of modern commercial ranching’.

HIPPO (Help International Plant Protein Organization) is working to reverse the trend.
For more information contact:
The Old Vicarage, Llangynog,
Carmarthen SA33 5BS, Wales.
E-mail: [email protected] .
Tel/Fax: +44 (0)1267 241547.

Neville Fowler
Carmarthen, Wales

Stop the bombing
Permit me a little space for my view on your issue on Iraq (NI 316). I used to respect President Clinton, but all that vanished after reading about his involvement in destroying Iraq under the pretence of being a saviour, thus killing both old and young innocent people.

I want to say categorically that America and Britain should desist from these actions and stop the sanctions imposed on Iraq if they want to avoid the wrath of God over them. To be a superpower is not counted by the number of people you have killed or the number of countries you have destroyed. Stop the bombings now!

Osinubi Babafemi
Ibadan, Nigeria

PS I think you should try and involve Nigeria more in your magazine so that your subscribers here have a fair share.

War on Want
In 1951 the publisher Victor Gollancz wrote a letter to Britain’s Guardian newspaper asking for support for his proposal that ‘swords should be turned into ploughshares’. He received 4,500 replies and the organization War on Want was born.

In preparation for the fiftieth anniversary War on Want has commissioned a history of the organization and we would like as many people as possible to contribute to the creation of this history. If you have copies of old publications or documents, or have worked for War on Want as a staff member or volunteer, or have been assisted by funds provided by War on Want, we would like to hear from you.

Please call: +44 0207 620111
or e-mail: Rob Cartridge on [email protected]  
or write to him at: 37-39 Great Guildford St, London SE1 0ES.

Catherine Matheson
Director, War on Want,
London, England

True to the soul
I was struck by the irony of your photo (Weather NI 319) of the Greenpeace inflatable chasing an errant whaler or oil-fired ship, displaying the banner ‘Stop Oil. Go Solar. Save the Climate’.

Their Hypalon oil-based synthetic inflatable was powered by a lusty Mercury outboard which was copiously guzzling our precious fossil fuel – as was their ‘prey’.

Their oil-base synthetic lifejackets were filled with close-cell oil-based Styrofoam and their sign may be printed on polyester cloth (again made from oil) – or was hemp or cotton used?

Wee pebbles well-aimed can still topple and tame Goliaths

Rather than fight fire with fire, and speed with speed, maybe it’s better to press home their worthwhile causes with wind, sun-power, photos and global information – ‘and to thine own soul be true’.

What happened to the poignant old days when sailing vessels and minuscule paddlers on surfboards took on the leviathans of nuclear, chemical and biological pollution? Twenty sailing vessels can intercept and surround a motor vessel to make a point. Wee pebbles well-aimed can still topple and tame Goliaths.

Rob Buchanan
Keri Keri,
Aotearoa/New Zealand

Lies and fraud
With reference to your issue on propaganda (Mind Games NI 314), in our money- and power-hungry Western world ‘Public Relations’ is a growth industry. A PR expert’s job is to make anybody believe anything, for a price.

Cover of the NI issue 314. US-based Burson-Marsteller, the world’s largest PR firm, has been promoting privatization of Canada’s public healthcare system for wealthy clients who see huge profits here for the taking. The PR firm, Hill and Knowlton, was responsible for the ‘incubator baby’ story fabricated to incite support for the war on Iraq. Another US firm, Ruder Finn, has been working since 1992 for Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and the opposition in Kosovo, to demonize the Serbs. Director James Harff, in a Paris TV interview, claimed that his proudest achievement was ‘to have managed to move the Jewish opinion to our side’. By claiming the existence of concentration camps they equated the Serbs with Nazis and gas chambers. Harff said, regarding the language in the press, ‘The emotional change was so powerful that nobody could go against it.’

According to Richard Gwyn in the Toronto Star and the Ontario TV programme, Diplomatic Immunity, the atrocity stories used by NATO to justify the bombing of Serbia have proven unfounded. The bodies are not there.

Now that this has been established, where are the headlines? Why isn’t fraud, particularly massive fraud, front page news and lead story in all media? Nobody likes to be lied to.

Of course, if I approved of illegal war for perceived economic advantage, it would be business as usual with the hope that few would notice when the truth finally got out.

Are we going to see equal time, space and effort to set the record straight? If not, why not?

Lorna Diggle
London, England

The Lugano Report
An excerpt from Susan George’s new book The Lugano Report appeared in our January/February issue (NI 320). We neglected to mention that it was published by Pluto Press in London, UK. For more information contact Pluto directly at:
345 Archway Rd., London N6A 5AA;
or e-mail: [email protected]

Letter from Lebanon

Pollution solution
Reem Haddad reports on the only village in Lebanon with a machine
which can make compost from organic waste in three days.

Illustration by SARAH JOHN Nobody is happier in the little southern village of Kfar Sir than its one and only police officer.

‘I can take things easy now,’ he tells me as he pulls up a chair and bids me sit down. It is around midday and he is having the sole of one of his shoes repaired at the cobbler’s.

I have driven the two hours from Beirut because I heard that a village in south Lebanon had found a way to solve its waste problem.

Considering that the inhabitants live with the constant threat of Israeli shelling and air raids due to the fighting nearby between Hizbullah guerrillas and the Israeli army, their preoccupation with a composting machine is intriguing.

‘Like all other villages, we used to burn our trash,’ says the friendly police officer, now strolling comfortably in his newly repaired shoes as he leads me to the site of the old trash dump.

‘The smoke was horrible, the smell was disgusting and flies were everywhere,’ he says. ‘I used to get 50 complaints a day and spent all my time soothing people. But I couldn’t do anything about it.’

But now his worries are over. He introduces me to Mohammed Nisr, the mayor of Kfar Sir, who swells with pride on learning that I am in the village to hear about the composting machine.

‘Mayors from all over the country are calling me or are coming to see for themselves what we have done here,’ he says. ‘Everybody is suffering from the waste problem because there is much construction here in Lebanon and we no longer have plots of land far away from people.’

Climbing into my car, the mayor guides me to the composting site. Here, a round drum, about ten metres long, rotates smoothly with conveyor belts on either side. Two workers sift through trash bags and remove nylons, plastics, aluminium, metal and cartons. The rest is duly placed on the input belt and is promptly devoured by the drum.

At the other end, barrels collect the resulting dark-brown organic sludge from the machine. ‘Look at this. It’s fast, clean and has no smell. At least 12 barrels are filled every day,’ explains Nisr, grabbing a sample.

I am curious to meet the ‘brains’ behind this machine and find myself facing an exuberant 30-year-old engineer named Ziad Abi Shaker. While pursuing his higher studies in the US he led a research team who over five years developed ways to convert organic waste into compost in the quickest, most cost-effective and least foul-smelling way.

‘We used a special mixture of enzymes and bacteria which eat into the organic garbage, transforming it into compost,’ he explains to me. ‘We then worked on developing the mechanics: how the drum rotates, how the garbage moves from one compartment to another.’

Back in Lebanon, he met officials from the Young Mens’ Christian Association who were also looking for ways to develop rural areas. And so, with funding from USAID, Kfar Sir became the first village to discover the world of quick composting.

‘This is the only machine outside the US which gives results in three days,’ says Abi Shaker proudly. ‘Others take from 70 to 90.’

Eager to use this healthy compost, the mayor of Kfar Sir has declared about 30,000 metres of municipality land as a natural reserve. ‘This is where it all goes,’ says Nisr as he leads me into the protected area where tree shoots surrounded by compost are planted.

‘This is going to be our park,’ he says, looking lovingly at his treasured trees. ‘Can you imagine people coming from all over to walk among the trees once they’re grown?’

That would be wonderful, I agreed, and leave the kindly mayor daydreaming about making Kfar Sir a small heaven on earth.

Reem Haddad is a reporter for the Daily Star in Beirut.
Her E-mail is [email protected]

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