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Pacific Ecologist Editorial: Healthy Communities

Pacific Ecologist - issue 12, winter 2006 - 76 pages
Issue 12, Pacific Ecologist - 74 pages
available for $10 - PO Box 12125, Wellington, New Zealand.


Healthy, convivial communities to avert war & global catastrophe

Golden leaves pile high on the ground here as autumn gives way to winter’s bare trees. Nature’s abundance and beauty creates, sustains and inspires us all. But for how long will it continue to sustain us in the extravagant way rich countries and multinational corporations promote as a way of life?

Excessive consumption of dwindling finite resources by the rich and their efforts to protect resource and trade interests, threaten the world with war, and are impoverishing the majority of the world’s people, Dennis Small reports from p. 5. Forests and fisheries are also collapsing through overuse and South Pacific fisheries and forests are now under pressure, pp 13-15. As natural resources are plundered in third world countries, communities are destroyed with terrible abuse of human rights and international law e.g. Iraq, p.8, the Philippines, p.16 and Nigeria from p.10. And as unrestrained global economic growth continues worldwide, global warming emissions increase, bringing great stresses on global ecosystems and unprecedented disaster if there is insufficient reduction, see p 22 and issue 11 of Pacific Ecologist.

Many societies have collapsed over the ages - Sumerian, Roman, Mayan, Easter Island, and others, through misuse of resources: deforestation, erosion, crop failures, climate change, inequitable societies and war. But never before has a global network of societies put the entire earth’s ecosystems at risk, and with a mantra demanding use of ever-increasing volumes of dwindling resources.

Meanwhile, in the sixth year of the 21st century A.D., the richest, most powerful countries in the world are honing their weapons for increased accuracy and “reliability.” But these are not just the ordinary awful weapons to kill or maim “enemies.” They are nuclear weapons of mass destruction, which damage life at the basic cellular level, bequeathing to the environment and humanity for many generations, a bitter harvest of death, long-lived pollution and genetic damage.

Threats by the US and France to use nuclear weapons, as Robert Green says in his article from p. 23, incite countries fearing attack to acquire nuclear weapons and are accelerating a nuclear arms race. Decades of work to stop proliferation of nuclear weapons, because of their capacity to deliver such terrible damage, are being reversed and the unthinkable is now frighteningly possible. There is even talk of “safe” nuclear weapons, an idea which is “as contradictory as it is monstrous,” said Sergio Duarte, Brazil’s retired Ambassador-at-large for disarmament and non-proliferation, at a disarmament conference in Wellington in May. Nuclear deterrence has become nuclear terrorism, with the US, the most powerful country in the world threatening to use nuclear weapons against North Korea and Iran. In January 2006, French President Jacques Chirac openly inferred that for France, nuclear “deterrence” now includes protecting the country’s “strategic supplies,” meaning oil.

But the many threats humanity now faces can’t be remedied by military means, let alone nuclear solutions, as Robert Green comments. Narrow nationalism needs to be replaced by a patriotism which embraces the whole earth, to prevent the destruction of humanity and the natural world on which we depend. It seems clear also that without unified strong action with citizens of the world taking to the streets on masse against nuclear weapons, there is a terrifying possibility they may become an ordinary weapon of war.

Hope lies only in fundamental change. The world can’t continue to sustain the unrestrained economic ambitions of the US, Europe, China, India and Japan, as well as the rest of the world. There’s enough for everyone’s need, but not for everyone’s greed, as Gandhi famously said.

Reversing globalisation would revitalise rural economies worldwide, stop urbanisation and the growth of vast, energy-demanding, resource-depleting cities and the growth of destitute urban populations, as Helena Norberg-Hodge says from p 51. Reversing globalisation would also stop the destruction and flow of natural resources from third world countries to rich countries.

People everywhere want societies and a world trading system that protects the environment, gives economic security and a living wage, as Dr Vandana Shiva and Colin Hines note from p 55. Since the current economic system is eroding resources, causing global warming, putting everyone at risk, as well as wiping out millions of people’s livelihoods through subsidised imports, a logical step is to replace the unrestrained free market World Trade Organisation rules with a General Agreement for Sustainable Trade, p.56, making protection of national economies and environments the rationale for world trade. With transport the fastest growing contributor to climate change, an excellent practical step towards global and regional sustainability is to reduce long-distance trade. More local trade will reduce greenhouse gases, create more work locally, reduce poverty and build sustainable, resilient, local societies to face the challenges of global warming and depletion of fossil fuel resources.

Above all, confronted with the ultimate resource wars in the nuclear age, citizens of the world can take their stand for justice and sustainability globally with alternative development paths by reducing consumption, and getting our homes in order, see pp. 58 - 72. In this way we can lessen our individual burdens on the Earth and on people in Third World countries, like Nigeria and Iraq, whose resources we use for so little. Healthy, convivial communities and global solidarity, can change the destructive, exploitative violence of the global economic system and the march towards nuclear war. Sustainability is needed NOW, for example by using public transport and dispensing with the car. It shouldn’t take a war to fuel public transport.

- Kay Weir.


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