“There are two worlds, the one in which people are convinced they live, and the one that is considerably more dramatic, the one that is real”

Monday, November 30, 2015

The World's On Fire - And Something New Needs To Be Done

As we all know, the rain forests of Indonesia are burning. Corporations are laying waste to its jungle and they invite the peasant to do the same.[i] The common people of Indonesia find themselves trapped. They’ve been convinced the jungle is a blockage on the path toward wealth. They’ve been convinced by necessity that thousands of acres of oil palm, sugar cane, rubber and cattle is the way to money and the way to self-determination. 

It’s no surprise. Indonesians endured hundreds of years of colonial abuse – Europe’s wealth was built on it. Today they, like us, want a good life. She and he want to have a daughter at college, a house with a fan, drinking water on tap – simple little things we in the West often don’t even think of.

I understand their position, the need to look after their own at whatever cost, but I can’t accept it. We can’t allow the Indonesian rainforest to disappear, along with its unique and boundless wildlife.

We as the people of the West have some responsibility.

It took us 500 years to destroy 99% of the once-great forest that was Europe. We leapt over the great pond and whacked 95% of North America’s one billion acres of towering primeval forests by 1998.[ii]
Science brought the message that we were committing suicide and we cried ‘forgive us, we didn’t know.’ For a while. But nothing changed and consumerism including the sweatshops that imprison much of the Indonesian people to provide us with cheap clothing continued.

In our apathy we decided and have decided that this life of greed is grand, and that the sacrifice of forests far away, which unsophisticated people cut for less than a dollar a day, is worth it. We ridiculously told ourselves that the atmospheres are different, that our air is ours and South East Asia’s is not. We instructed the giant corporations to do what they must to feed our appetite, all the while thinking ‘my smart grandchildren will fix things, anyway.’

And now we sit in a pickle. The lungs of our earth are disappearing. What solution? A petition rises in my mind:

We the ordinary people of the West go down on bended knees and apologise for what we have done to you. We beg of you to stop the burning, the chopping, the destruction to manufacture unnecessaries, to stop planting stuff we don’t need (and waste anyway) and stop the digging and sifting for oil.

In return we promise that we will immediately make sure the IOI and Nike-like companies of the world start paying a fair price for what you produce for us, and we promise to pay every one of your citizens a monthly cash amount that will at the very least be enough to allow something of a life for them and their families.How much do you need? Does Indonesian Rupiah 6,500,000 (US$480) per month sound okay?[iii] All we ask in return is that you look after the jungle as you do your own children.

We appreciate it will not be an easy task to ban the corporates and business units that are in themselves more powerful than your own government but we, the overwhelmingly concerned public of our one world, will help. If they break the rules we’ll boycott them, their products, their executives and their families, just as we have successfully boycotted public enemies in the past.

We’ll do all of that because we know the jungles of the world are our unpaid, previously unappreciated oxygen factories. We need them to stay alive, never mind live.

An idealistic picture, but it’s not farfetched. American and European agriculture exists only because of the exceedingly generous government subsidies paid to their farmers.[iv] Since WWI the Americans have been subsidising farmers both to produce and not to produce depending on where the political parties and economists wanted the price of farm goods to be. The same applied at the formation of the EU.
Just as some in the world – South Africa, China, Germany and even the USA (to name a few)[v] - have woken up to managing their game parks for our endangered animals, why can’t our rain forests be afforded the same protection? We know now that to prevent human extinction from reaching a point of no return within the next 300 years we need to plant 10 billion acres with 200 trees per acre, at minimum within 30 years.[vi]

The world's on fire and something needs to be done, something new. And of course, it isn’t just Indonesia that we need desperately to put on our payroll.

[i] http://m.greenpeace.org/international/en/high/press/releases/Palm-oil-giants-fuelling-forest-fires-in-Borneo/
[ii] http://saveamericasforests.org/resources/Destruction.htm
[iii] http://knoema.com/WBPS2015Jan/poverty-and-inequality-statistics-january-2015?country=1000680-indonesia
[iv] The American farmer has been subsidised circa WWI. It has become such an incredible source of money for nothing for the already rich-few of farmers, insurance companies and other support services. When Obama suggested trimming wastage they found they were ‘no match for the farm and insurance lobbies, which spent at least $52 million influencing lawmakers in the 2012 election cycle’ not just to keep the same, but add money-for-jam and now (at the time of writing) ‘Congress is poised to funnel billions of dollars more …’ $52 million was spent buying votes. That’s South African R 680,388,800.00. A few months ago it was disclosed that between 2007 and 2013 €11.7 billion has been distributed to Irish farmers under the Common Agricultural Policy. The big picture is more extravagant: European farmers are given €50bn every year as subsidies; some is given not to farm, thus – correctly - supporting prices and cutting wastage[iv], and some is awarded to (dangerously) farm marginal areas more. The common linkage is ‘the more you own (in the case of British royalty, stole) the more you receive.’
[v] The debate is on right now about turning over American parks t business. Here’s one reference … indefinitelywild.gizmodo.com/national-park-vs-national-forest-your-pub...
[vi] http://www.tenbillionacres.org/