Two members of the unelected camera of the United Kingdom have recently accused Greenpeace of being hijacked by political views on globalisation (“Green movement ‘hijacked’ by politics”, The Guardian, 13th May 2009) :-
“”Much of the green movement isn’t a green movement at all, it’s a political movement,” said Lord May, who is a former government chief scientific adviser and president of the Royal Society. He singled out Greenpeace as an environmental campaign group that had “transmogrified” into one with primarily an anti-globalisation stance. “Maybe they are right, but I wish they would wear the uniform of the army they are fighting [under],” said May, adding that he used to be involved with Greenpeace in the 1970s.”
My first reaction on reading this was to ask myself, “when was environmental campaigning ever non-political ?”
My second question was to ask, “what has globalisation ever done for us ?”
Let’s take a brief, but exhilarating tour of the last few centuries of the development of international trade.
First there was general exploitation of New World and old : ships sent out on journeys of “discovery”, returning to Europe laden with goodies, gold, silver and spices. And ruinous tobacco of course.
Then there came the Industrial Revolution Trade Triangle : ironwork being traded in Western Africa for slaves being traded in the West Indies for sugar.
Arguably, this had a huge impact on the Continent of Africa, setting in motion the impoverishment of African societies, as it led on to colonisation and appropriation of resources, first by Empires and then by Corporates, a process which has not stopped to this day.
Globalised trade followed pretty much the same patterns but in different places for a while, but then had a massive boost in the development of the “consumer culture” with its emphasis on growth in consumption, feeding on goods, products and services from the cheapest sources worldwide.
This has caused massive exploitation of natural and human resources : for example, the destruction of rainforest for timber, toilet tissue and soya growing for beef rearing.
I’m sure the good Lords would approve of Fair Trade, that goes some way to compensating such people as subsistence coffee farmers from the abuses of “foreign investment” monoculture.
Wherever globalised trade has sought out new sources of supply it has created new scourges on the landscapes, animals and peoples.
The system of trade is deeply biased, as evidenced by the calcuable fact that raw commodities and skills fed into the global trade machine by the Global South is up to ten times more than those contributed by the Global North. And yet the Global North is still wealthier. Because they own and control the trade.
I was on the London Tube the other evening, listening to a little girl asking her father questions about an advertisement of a little African boy on the carriage wall.
“Well,” he explained, “some people in the world are poor. They don’t have as much money as we do. They can be hungry sometimes.” And he explained about giving money to the people who don’t have the good things we have.
Where’s the analysis ? People in countries with rich natural resources haven’t made themselves poor, have they ? Why did not this father tell the truth : that people like us have made people like the little boy poor by taking everything away from him ?
Climate Change is yet another way to make poor people more poor. It’s a side-effect of the rich living of the people in the industrialised countries, and the way it’s been done is through the unfair system of globalised trade.
Globalisation has done nothing for us except made billions of people poor, and destroyed natural environments, and our ability to sustain Life on Earth.
I would have every good reason to be an anti-globalisation campaigner.
Although I tend not to join things in order to stay as neutral as I can, the ridiculous opinions of the two noble, honourable Peers of the Realm nearly convinced me to join Greenpeace, right there and then.