Right to the City #2

David Harvey: The Right to the City

New Left Review
September-October 2008

The Right to the City

Examining the link between urbanization and capitalism, David Harvey suggests we view Haussmann’s reshaping of Paris and today’s explosive growth of cities as responses to systemic crises of accumulation–and issues a call to democratize the power to shape the urban experience.

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The Right to the City #1

My friend Bill K recently sent three pieces about an idea that crops up in The Value of Nothing – The Right to the City. It’s the absurd notion that, within cities, people ought democratically to be able to control and manage the city’s resources.

The Right to the City is a necessary idea, particularly if you think that cities can harbour progressive and ecologically sustainable social change. Stewart Brand , in a Panglossian article seems to think that ‘slums will save the planet’, but Mike Davis – an altogether more thoughtful scholar – does too. Sure, cities can be more ecologically and socially sustainable that rural communities, but that doesn’t happen by magic. Nor, as Brand seems to forget, is there anything terribly desirable about living in a slum. As he would discover were he ever to leave his houseboat visit one, most people would rather not live in one. And neither author spends as much time as he ought thinking about gender in the city. So where will the politics of sustainable urban change come from? The movements for the Right to the City can help answer that. More below the fold, and in the next two posts. Continue reading “The Right to the City #1”

Glen Ellyn, IL

Stuffed and Starved

To show how a few powerful food distributors control the health of the entire world, Raj Patel conducted a global investigation, traveling from the “green deserts” of Brazil and protester-packed streets of South Korea to bankrupt Ugandan coffee farms and barren fields in India.

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Unravelling the Malawi Miracle

Here’s a terrific piece by GRAIN on what’s really happening in Malawi. I had the chance to be chaperoned around Northern Malawi by Rachel Bezner Kerr last year, and you can expect to see the fruits of some of our combined labour later in the year, in which we’ll be paying a little more attention to gender than this piece does. In the meantime, here’s some very useful analysis on how Africa’s Miracle is a bill of goods, while the real miracles of sustainable farming are being trounced. If you’re interested, here’s an older piece that I wrote almost a decade ago that has everything you need to know in the title: Beware Americans Bearing Gifts: Another Poisoned Chalice for Africa. Continue reading “Unravelling the Malawi Miracle”

Brazil is Naked

Here’s a terrific piece on soybeans from the Brazilian group FASE (Federation of Organizations for Social and Educational Assistance).

Soybeans? In my first book, Stuffed and Starved, I used soybeans as an example of how modern capitalist industrial farming could take a perfectly wonderful plant and turn it into a curse. Soy is a terrific plant – rich in protein and great for the soil as part of a polyculture. But when you plant millions of acres of it, things turn bad. Soybeans have been a central part of the narrative of Brazil’s agricultural success but that success, as this report shows, has been bought at a high ecological, social and indeed economic price. Although it looks like soyfarmers are the poster children of pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps New World entrepreneurialism, the industry was only able to grow behind high tariff barriers and loans from central government at negative interest rates – in other words, the government paid the farmers to take out loans to develop the industry. There are ways to grow this miracle crop that are part of a thriving environment. Brazil’s soy barons aren’t involved in any of those ways.

One of the parts of the soy miracle that I didn’t fully appreciate is the ‘virtual water‘ that soy uses. In 2004, China bought 18 million tons of Brazilian soybeans, which required 45 cubic km of water to produce. Global water consumption in the home is 65 cubic km. Find out more below the fold. Continue reading “Brazil is Naked”

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