Letters Praise, blame and all points in between? Give us your feedback.
Cult of the predator
Life beyond growth
SPECIAL FEATURE How poor is too poor?
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Marxism won’t work Re: Edwin E Daniel’s letter (Letters, Seed savers, NI 435). It is worrying to find somebody still advocating Marxism as a solution after it has failed everywhere it has been tried.
Marxism is fatally flawed on two counts. First, Marx proposed ‘the dictatorship of the proletariat’ as an interim measure to educate the masses for democracy, but nobody who gains privilege willingly relinquishes it. So every Marxist state quickly became a dictatorship. Second, communism is the wrong kind of equalizer. When hard work and individual initiative are not rewarded there is no incentive, and society and the economy goes into decline. Communism stifled Russia’s economy, and China’s, and Cuba’s, and it is only under their post-Communist regimes that these countries have recovered economically.
Capitalism cannot function in a non-growth economy, and the world economy can’t continue growing forever, so the capitalist economic system will collapse even without peak oil and climate change to nudge it over the edge. But Marxism is not a viable alternative. The only hint of hope is the development of micro-economies that are based on local self-sufficiency and fair trade instead of on a growth-oriented exportimport economy. Peter Schaper Biggenden, Australia
Work to be done ‘On the road to zero growth’ (Life beyond growth, NI 434) is a neat presentation of the problems we face in keeping earth fit for human habitation. The ‘Work’ segment in it suggests that, without economic growth, work and jobs may become scarce. But will maintaining a state of zero growth and, at the same time, arresting climate change, not require work?
To un-grow, and to adjust Western civilization to a state of zero growth, will call for a great deal of work; re-centralization of our major cities, decentralization of our production and delivery systems, replacement of air travel and freight, improving efficiency of all forms of transport, re-education of our consumer society, reducing the carbon footprint of our agriculture and other industries, repairing the damage already done to our eco-systems, etc. The problem will not be lack of potential useful work but of finding the will and means to direct civilization onto this new and sustainable path. This path will likely lead to an economy more labour-intensive than the one we, in the consuming society, have so recently become accustomed to.
Unfortunately, we are starting to hear acceptance of the idea that continuing climate change is inevitable. This is to accept the end of a biosphere habitable by humans and many other species. There is much to be done. When will we start? Or will we continue vain attempts to prop up the world economy that has caused it all? Gordon Spafford Winnipeg, Canada
Different position I greatly appreciated Wayne Ellwood’s article ‘Nature’s bottom line’ (NI 434) and would like to introduce readers to the position on economic growth available for e-signing at www. steadystate.org which calls for the movement from growth economics to steady state economics as policy goal and cultural norm, as well as a more equitable distribution of global wealth. Herman Daly, featured in Ellwood’s article as the ‘father of green economics’ is on our Board of Directors and writes a monthly column for our blog. Brian Czech, President, Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy Arlington, US
The coming plunge I am, by nature, an optimist. But, early on, I instinctively knew that our
Share alike? While most would agree that the growth-oriented economic model is perhaps outdated, the new model will have to answer two questions. First, the number of poor people in the world compared to those who are comfortable is so large that sharing what we now have and produce equally will not reduce misery; it will only make everyone miserable. To put it starkly: how do you bring the population of humans down to the level where every human being can avail the minimum necessities of daily life? Second, how do you make the people who are comfortable give up what they consider essentials, human nature being what it is?
I don’t believe humans are capable of resolving these
An economic system that has made greed a religious creed is doomed to extinction economic system was not simply environmentally unsustainable, it was also destructive to who we are as humans. How do we deal with an economic system that is driving humanity toward extinction and individuals toward isolation and detachment? Robert Reich argues that the only hope for the future is in democracy. People wresting control from corporations and economic élites by taking back their governments. I think he is right. But I don’t see that happening.
With all the evidence existing today that we are heading toward oil depletion, we are still marching toward the edge of the energy disaster cliff without missing a step. An economic system that has made greed a religious creed is doomed to extinction. It’s a pity because what can save us is common sense with a heavy dose of pragmatism. Against the forces of greed, I don’t think either stands a chance. Eric Lane San Antonio, US
problems. They will be solved either by a natural calamity or a major war, neither all that unlikely. Sudhir Jain Calgary, Canada
Beyond dollar-a-day David Woodward’s article (‘How poor is too poor?’, Special Feature, NI 434) on the limitations of the dollara-day poverty line is very appropriate in an issue focused on the dangers of growth – in both cases looking only at dollar amounts can be tragically misleading.
This also applies to using changes in GDP as a measure of the wellbeing of a population and the sustainability of humanity’s activities. Rather than focusing on choosing one measure over another, possibly using ever more complicated calculations, we should look at educating people to look beyond oneoff statistics. For example, although the first millennium goal is to halve the number
6 ● New Internationalist ● OCTOBER 2010 of people below the dollara-day poverty line, other (non-financial) goals look at education, HIV/AIDS, infant mortality, maternal health, etc. Achieving the first goal does not guarantee achieving any of the others, and viceversa. Perhaps the first step to a more sustainable world is getting our governments to use (and prioritize) a range of sustainability and human wellbeing goals when managing our economies? Robert Ward Sydney, Australia
Iraqi refugees Your claim in ‘Post-Invasion Iraq – The Facts’ (Iraq, NI 432) that the US has accepted fewer than 800 Iraqi refugees since the invasion appears to be both inaccurate and out of date.
According to Richard Hil (a prominent critic of US foreign policy) in his brilliant book Erasing Iraq, since 2003 the US has accepted more than 30,000 Iraqi refugees. The
UN refugee agency says more than 30,000 Iraqis have moved to the United States under a resettlement programme that began in 2007. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees says much smaller numbers have gone to more than a dozen other countries. The refugee agency recommended the resettlement of 82,500 people. The agency also says that so far only 33,000 have been accepted by their proposed host countries. Adrian P Wolfin Bellingen, Australia
[We should have stated that our figure was for the period between 2003 and 2007. We regret the error. However, despite the changed numbers, the overwhelming majority of Iraqi refugees continue to reside in Syria and Jordan.]
Against amnesia I read your coverage of Iraq (NI 432) with great interest and a deep sense of loss. The catastrophic consequences for the people of Iraq of the 2003 US/ UK invasion is set out with facts and feeling. The gross violation of international law and the failure of the UN to prosecute Bush and Blair pales beside the atrocities of invasion and occupation for children, healthcare, education, collapsed civilian infrastructure, and women. To be reminded of the resulting displaced families, refugees, social collapse, ethnic violence and assassinations plus detentions of thousands is painful.
I congratulate the New Internationalist in bringing this tragic happening to the attention of readers. This is particularly so in the UK and US, where the responsibility for genocidal military aggression – without justification – against the Iraqi people, their society and cultural wealth, has been pushed into collective memory loss. Denis J Halliday, UN Assistant Secretary-General and Head, Humanitarian Programme in Iraq 1997-98, New York, US
Missing sources Due to last-minute design changes on the feature ‘A very short natural history of SEEDS’ (NI 435), acknowledgment of its sources got accidentally dropped. The missing text is as follows: Sources: chiefly Rob Kesseler and Wolfgang Stuppy, Seeds: time capsules of life, Papadakis, 2nd edition, 2009. Also Jonathan Silvertown, An Orchard Invisible: a natural history of seeds, University of Chicago Press, 2009; and Wikipedia.
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Scratchy Lines by Simon Kneebone Scratchy Lines by Simon Kneebone
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