Challenge Corporate Power, Embrace True Democracy
Editor’s note: the following remarks were made this September at a conference on “Confronting the Global Triple Crisis — Climate Change, Peak Oil, Global Resource Depletion & Extinction,” in Washington DC. For more information, visit the International Forum on Globalization’s website.
Before I came here I was very fortunate to join the group of scientists and religious leaders who made a trip to the Arctic to witness the melting of the icecaps. An entire way of life is being destroyed. You’ve seen the polar bears losing their ecological space, but the highest mobility in that part of the world is the dog sledge. And they can’t use it. They’re locked into their villages because the ice is now too thin to travel on it. But it’s still there and therefore not good enough for them to use boats.
The same melting is making the Himalayan glaciers in my region, the Ganges glacier, recede by 30 meters a year. In twenty years time, the Himalayan glaciers will have reduced from 500,000 square kilometers to 100,000 square kilometers. And given our rainfall patterns, in the hot summer season when we have a drought, it’s only the melting of the glaciers that brings us water. So we’re talking about one-fifth of humanity, twenty to thirty years from now, having no water in the grand rivers around which the grand civilizations of Asia have been built.
And where did this start? All this feels so timeless, but it started with humanity getting at the fossil fuel, which was never supposed to be touched… But that model carries on. And globalization now is industrializing every activity of every human being’s life across the planet. For me, globalization is really expanding the use of fossil fuel.
And so while on the one hand, when we talk climate change, we’re talking about reducing emissions, the entire economic model is based on increasing emissions. It is based on increasing emissions by destroying small-scale peasant farming and introducing large-scale industrial agriculture. It’s increasing emissions by making every one of us dependent on our everyday needs to come from China.
Everything today is being made where it can be made most cheaply, which means where sources can be exploited the fastest and workers can be exploited the highest. And at one level, that’s what’s being reflected in China’s double-digit growth and India’s nine percent growth. It’s basically converting our resources into commodities, to be sold around the world.
But that conversion requires the wastage of human beings on a scale we’ve never seen. In India right now, the relocation of industry for example; industry like steel that’s shutting down in Europe and America, is relocating to India. Automobile companies that are shutting down in the West are moving to India; they’re talking about making 50 million cars in India annually. Only four percent of India will ever own them. The rest will either be exported or that four percent will have eight cars rather than two. Already my landlord has five in a family of three. Those cars need minerals, they need steel, they need iron ore mining, they need aluminum, they need bauxite mining. And every inch of the land in India is today serving a global, fossil fuel economy that’s on fast forward.
It needs land; land grab is the biggest resource crisis. Land you can’t create, you can only exhaust. But peasants are saying we will not move. That’s what they said in Nandigram, 25 were shot dead and they refuse to move. In Dhandri, where women were raped and attacked and refused to move. In place after place, the tribals, the peasants in India are saying this our land, this is our mother, and this is where we will be. And when the money for compensation becomes bigger and bigger– I love this action– the Nandigram peasants sent a letter to the chief ministers to say, “How much is your mother for sale. How much will you take for her? Because this land is our mother.”
And the globalization of agriculture has really become genocidal. It’s hugely responsible for increasing greenhouse gases, whether it’s from the nitrogen fertilizers of the fossil fuel in the mechanical energy that’s used, or in the long distance transport and food miles. But on the ground it’s killing people. Long before it will kill us through climate change, it’s killing people, physically killing people.
150,000 farmers have been pushed to end their lives in India because of Monsanto seed monopolies. Monsanto was collecting 2,400 rupees as royalty for a kilogram of Bt cotton seed that they were selling for 3,200 rupees. They’re in the courts right now; we’ve challenged them, we’ve joined one of the state governments. They’re saying we have a right to this monopoly and we’re saying our country has never given you this right. They assume they got it in the United States and therefore they have it everywhere, whether the law allows it or not.
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