Thursday, January 8, 2009

Our Oceans are in Trouble

I have been reading a special report on the Oceans that was recently published in The Economist that has made me sick to my stomach.

It talks about how our fish stocks are almost wiped out, that the oceans are becoming acid changing the entire composition of the oceans behavior. The profusion of massive dead zones throughout the oceans with algae and red tides. The possibility of most shell fish dying off, nuclear waste, pesticides and other heavy metals flooding into the oceans. The destruction of almost all coral reefs.

This is not a singular issue. It is not just a problem of too much CO2 but is rather a product of the type of economic structure we have in place. An economy that truly places no value on the abundant natural resources. They are viewed as holding no value so therefore no cost is associated with their destruction until it is potentially too late.

It is time to rethink this economic structure. Not tomorrow. But TODAY!! It is time to create a value structure that recognizes the value held in our global common goods; that abundance is a valuable element in the economy and needs to be integrated into the pricing system. We can not ignore this any longer.

Or, within our lifetimes there will be no more sharks, tuna, coral reefs, whales or oceans safe to swim in. It brings tears to my eyes and we the people, the citizens and stewards of this system need to wake up and take responsibility. Change is hard but it is a necessary and constant part of life.

I believe the most important thing we can do is come up with an economic structure that places value on abundance over scarcity, on cooperation over competition, on flow over accumulation. This, people, is a task for our generation and we must, we have to, step up and take responsibility now!!

Pirates or Citizen's Coast Guard

I have been reading about the "pirates" off the coast of Somalia. I have to admit that at first I bought the story that was being promoted by the western media.

It goes something like this, "innocent commercial boats are attacked by wild machine gun totting Somali's looking for a few million to finance the extremists that have destroyed the country".

I am sure there is a modicum of truth to this. But, what is the back story? Why would these guys go out and hijack these boats? Why now? Why would they be willing to do this and what is motivating them? But, in classic western media style Africa is again portrayed as all messed up and just another case of the "failed state". So, lets send out some of our big military ships to protect the ability to do business. Yes, because oil and other goods are more important and worth the investment.

Well, I was sent this article written by Johan Hari of the London Independent which was posted on the Huffington Post recently and it really opened my eyes to a background story that I had not heard anywhere in mainstream media.

The story goes that foreign ships have been fishing the waters off Somalia devastating the ability for small local fishermen to catch enough food to survive. The really shocking element is that there are reports of dumping of barrels of nuclear waste off the coast. Many of these barrels washed up after the Tsunami in 2004. This resulted in many people dying of strange cancers and diseases.

Could it be that the Somali's are actually defending the territorial integrity of their waters? Could it be that the Europeans and others have ignored requests for compensation or protection of the Somali's coastal waters? Perhaps this is how you have to do it - take matters into your own hands when your interests are ignored by the west!!

I am shocked and disgusted and once again convinced that Africa is always framed in the dark ways that benefit the Africanist perspective that dominates western media (it smacks of the famous Edward Said's famous "Orientalism").

Read the article and tell me what you think:

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Local In Alternative Currencies

My biggest concern since my foray into the world of alternative/complementary currencies is the almost constant focus on a particular concept of the "local". The type of local that these ideas are operating out of is a local that is defined by a physical geography - local with defined space and boundaries (when using the term local I am operating based on this type of definition unless otherwise stated). This is a physically bounded and situated concept of local and does not seem to pay attention to broader concepts of local - virtual networks, Diaspora communities, personal and business networks and more.

The emphasis on this type of local is based on the belief that small, locally based economies are more stable and resilient when they are not dependent or financially integrated into the global economy. This is a thinking of the global and local within a dichotomous framework - seeing the global as something separate from the local and therefore something to separate from or become distinct from. What is true is that globalization operates differently in every space and is geographically and historically constituted and therefore different facets and experiences of globalization are produced in every local economy.

The understanding that the local currency movement operates from assumes that globalization "impacts" local communities and is largely a-historical and is therefore something that is imposed upon us and must therefore be fought against. This is like talking about our different organs from the perspective of the "impact" that the human body as a whole has on a particular organ. This, as we know, is folly and is not the most constructive way to handle an issue that is "localized" - if my lungs are giving me problems I don't look at the entire body and say that we need to remove the lungs from the "impact" of the body. The two can not operate separate from each other. Globalization is local as much as it is global - it takes the local to produce the global. We, the people, are the ones that have created and continue to create globalization and we can create it in any and all forms that we may desire. It is not something that is predestined and designed - it is not something that operates separate from us.

The logic that is used to go from a critique of the monetary system to a critique of globalization is problematic to me. I, personally, see nothing wrong with globalization - especially the type of globalization that is rooted in interconnectedness and flows of information and goods across "physical" boundaries (I also think that globalization is an experience that is part of human existence - the sharing of ideas, goods, languages, etc) . I do not believe that we can, nor need to, end "globalization". Ultimately globalization is made up of many, in fact an infinite amount of "local economies". What is problematic is that the blood (money) that is pumping through these economies is somewhat toxic - as if the economy has drunk too much alcohol and is self-destructive.

Globalization is not the problem, nor is the loss of the "local". Rather the problem is the incentives and values that are rewarded and promoted within the current economic system which in great part are guided and driven by the way we create and construct our current monetary system. The alternative currency movement will find greater success in finding ways to integrate and relate to the global economy rather then viewing itself as in "opposition" to or in a process of "re-localization" as something that is against the global economy.