Dear Mandela

Good news from South Africa today. No, the news isn’t that Nelson Mandela is 93 today. It’s something far more in keeping with Mandela’s spirit and struggle.

The Kennedy 12 – twelve men accused of a range of crimes, including murder – have been acquitted. It’s becoming increasingly clear that they were framed. The government couldn’t stand the idea of poor people in the poorest areas of the city thinking and organizing for themselves, and so they used the party apparatus, the police, thugs and state power to first terrorize a shack settlement, and then to use that terror as an alibi to lock up the innocent. It has taken three years to clear the names of the Kennedy 12. The Unemployed Peoples Movement, Bishop Michael Vorster, Bishop Ruben Philip and Abahlali baseMjondolo themselves have shared the news already.

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Blazing Brazilian Biofuel Beatdown

The Food and Agriculture Organization will have a new director-general, José Graziano da Silva. Among Graziano’s accomplishments is the Zero Hunger programme, which has been partly responsible for getting 40 million people out of hunger. But you don’t get to run an international organisation without the support of your home country, and you don’t get that support in Brazil without deep debts to agribusiness. At his first press conference, Graziano started to pay them off, announcing that biofuels should not be “demonised” for their role in driving up food prices. That this contradicts the latest evidence is only surprising for as long as it takes to remember quite how big Brazil’s biofuel industry is.

Before Graziano’s remarks on biofuels were made public, Joao Pedro Stedile from the Brazilian Landless Rural Workers Movement gave this interview, which gives some helpful context, and puts agrofuels in their place. More below the fold. Continue reading “Blazing Brazilian Biofuel Beatdown”

Sustainable tourism – a rare example

In general, if someone is trying to sell you something worthy, it’s worth substituting the word ‘bollocks’ for the word ‘sustainable’. This is particularly true when it comes to tourism. In South Africa, for instance, sustainable tourism is the experience of driving across land that once used to belong to black people, on which they are now less welcome than the giraffes you’re there to see. When activists try to step out of this kind of ugliness by putting ourselves at the disposal of local social movements when travelling, we invariably cause more harm than good, diverting scarce resources to the tasks of babysitting, and chaperoning while shopping.

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Feminist economists sing the blues

Not all economists are humourless apologists for the rich. From the feminist economics network comes this chronicle of a flash mob, at a post-Inside Job discussion. Admittedly, the internet has better examples of flash mobs, with better tunes and, frankly, better singing. But the sentiment’s right on, and the organization behind it eminently sensible. Check out Make Wall Street Pay, and get ready for some toe curling below the fold. Continue reading “Feminist economists sing the blues”

Hippocrates Reloaded

“Let Food Be Thy Medicine and Medicine Be Thy Food.” Hippocrates offered that wisdom over two thousand years ago. Tried and tested though it is, it’s an old maxim and one with which the public is perhaps too familiar. Luckily, the good people in the life sciences have decided that to reboot the Hippocratic franchise, with new characters and better marketing.

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What is British Nature Worth?

The British government has just released a report on the value of ‘ecosystemic services’ in the UK. Nature, it seems, is worth billions. Live close to green space, and the health benefits to you are worth nearly $500. The total benefits to the British public of living near wetlands or the coast – over $2 billion. The services provided by pollinators: $700 million.

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