the irresistible fleet of bicycles


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talking empires: cotton and capitalism

Cotton Farmers

Want to dive deep into the relationship between the history of cotton farming, capitalism, and the global economy? Then Sven Beckert, author of Empire of Cotton: A Global History, is your man. He’s a historian who knows all things cotton and his book was described by the New York Times as:

…a major work of scholarship that will not be soon surpassed as the definitive account of the product that was, as Beckert puts it, the Industrial Revolution’s “launching pad.”

More than that, “Empire of Cotton” is laced with compassion for the millions of miserably treated slaves, sharecroppers and mill workers whose labors, over hundreds of years, have gone into the clothes we wear and the surprising variety of other products containing cotton, from coffee filters to gunpowder.

If you don’t, however, have the time to read all 640 pages of Sven’s book, check out the video in the link below. It’s a recent lecture that he gave at the New School in New York that’s guaranteed to make you more informed and super smart!

https://www.c-span.org/video/?324267-1/empire-cotton


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declaration against the criminalisation, persecution and judicialization of the struggle for the defence of life, rights, land, water, seeds and mother earth

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International Conference on Agrarian Reform

La Via Campesino, The Peasant’s Movement
Marabá, 15 April 2016

From 13 to 17 April 2016, in Marabá, Pará, Brazil, more than 130 delegates from 28 countries around the world were brought together as part of La Vía Campesina and allied movements, as part of the International Conference on Agrarian Reform, a symbol of the fight for freedom for men and women in the fields, the mangroves and on the sea. The aim of the conference was to draw up a much-needed proposal for Popular Agrarian Reform to override capitalist and neoliberal expansion. 

At this time of struggle and resistance for peoples of the world, we debated thecriminalisation, persecution and judicialization of the struggle for the defense of life, rights, land, water, seeds and mother earth, promoted by capitalist interests imposing political, economic, military and social terrorism. This all occurs with the consent of State Governments by means of their lethal projects such as extraction-based infrastructure projects, or capitalist ‘development’ (tourism, carbon markets, mining, hydroelectricity, monoculture, agribusiness, industrial agriculture and mariculture), as well as the militarisation of our lands. Deprivation, social instability and repression are widespread as a result of systematic assassinations, massacres, forced disappearances, high rates of femicide, imprisonment and arbitrary detention, intimidation, harassment and threats, prosecution of leaders, forced migration and wars against ordinary people.

On top of this there is political instability with the purpose of maintaining an imbalance among populations over the world, as well as frequent coups on the US government’s radar, a state which begins by creating unstable, failed states, as is the case in Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Paraguay, Ecuador, Bolivia, South Africa, and the current attempted coup against the Brazilian people and the systematic meddling in the Venezuelan process.

We see collusion between the State, private companies, corporations and elites who create a culture of impunity that allows perpetrators to escape unpunished.

Faced with this wave of unbridled criminalisation of those of us who defend water, land, mangroves, sea, territory and life, we denounce and call for the punishment of those responsible for thousands of assassinations of social leaders, we denounce the legal prosecution of thousands of campaigners, we call for the liberation of thousands of political prisoners, we denounce the extreme case of the assassination of Berta Cáceres, one of the most symbolic leaders in the fight against capital plundering and a campaigner for peace in Honduras. We urgently need an end to the criminalization of the fight for land, mangroves and sea, and the social struggle.

Today, more than ever, we reaffirm that our fight is part of the defence of human rights and life. For life we give everything, for death we give nothing.

Throughout our lifelong struggle, not one moment of silence for our dead!

 

La Via Campesino is an international movement  that seeks to unite peasants, landless, woman farmers, and rural youth to fight to defend and promote small-scale sustainable agriculture as a lifestyle and livelihood. Read more about their work here! And check out our 2011 blog post about their food sovereignty youth training program.


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just another juicy book about monopoly practices

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“The Fish That Ate the Whale” is the fourth book on the banana barons to be published in English in the past five years, and even interested readers may by now be suffering banana fatigue.

The industry developed in the final quarter of the 19th century as adventuresome Bostonians figured out how to get bananas from tropical ports to American consumers before rot set in—the method called for shipping the fruit green and letting it ripen en route aboard a high-speed steamship. The need for a reliable supply of fruit soon led to vertical integration, as banana distributors bought ships, built plantations and learned to grow fruit on an industrial scale. Competition was intense. To tame it, the entrepreneurs Minor Keith, Lorenzo Baker and Andrew Preston set up the United Fruit Co. in 1899, buying up smaller players to become the dominant force in the banana trade.

To read more, click HERE


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cartoon life advice soul medicine

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If a comic illustration can read like an heart-stirring anthem plays, then the one below would have all of us on our feet hollering along with our eyes closed. Quite honestly, greenhorns, I teared up a little reading this comic this morning. Leave it to Bill Watterson to tell you just what you need to hear when the rest of the world is knocking down the door trying to scare you into buying into its demented capitalist delusions.

2013-08-27-watterson


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a tale of two food prizes

What’s in a prize? The politics of distribution versus growth.

On October 14th in Des Moines, Iowa, the Food Sovereignty Prize will be awarded to the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, run by African-American farmers of the southern United States and to OFRANEH—the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras (Organización Fraternal Negra Hondureña).

The next day, hundreds of distinguished international guests will also gather in Des Moines, Iowa as Sir Fazle Hasan Abed accepts the World Food Prize in the name of BRAC—the world’s largest non-governmental rural development agency.

Both prizes are awarded in recognition of the fight against hunger. That’s where the similarity ends and the lesson begins.

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capitalism and the commodification of salmon

image via gawker.com

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by Stefano B. Longo, Rebecca Clausen and Brett Clark
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On February 25, 2013, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) closed the public comment period for the environmental assessment of the AquAdvantage Salmon. Their review of the first genetically modified animal for human consumption concluded with a “finding of no significant impact.”1 Numerous fishermen, consumer safety advocates, public health officials, ecologists, and risk assessment experts submitted comments that directly challenged this finding. Despite the opposition, it is very likely that the FDA’s approval of this genetically engineered salmon and precedent-setting regulatory process is imminent.
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AquAdvantage Salmon is a patented fish created and owned by a leading aquaculture technology corporation. The species has been genetically altered so that the fundamental traits and characteristics of an Atlantic salmon are now blended with the ocean pout, an eel-like species, and the Chinook, a salmon native to the Pacific Ocean. The result is a genetically modified salmon that grows at twice the rate of an Atlantic salmon, enabling it to reach a harvestable size in eighteen months instead of three years.Time magazine heralded it as one of “the best inventions of 2010.”2
The aquaculture industry and corporate investors are championing this recent development in food biotechnology. They propose that this “invention” will yield ecological benefits, such as preserving wild salmon, while enhancing efficiency. The biotechnology sector is excited, as the unprecedented approval of genetically modified animal species for human consumption opens the door for the food industry into this realm of production. While genetically engineered plants have been readily produced and consumed in the United States, animals represent the next great market leap.
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The story of genetically modified salmon is bound to the commodification of food, the intensification of seafood production, the overexploitation of fish stocks, and so-called technological solutions to address environmental problems. Unfortunately, the discussion of fisheries and oceans is constrained by ideological justifications that prevent a comprehensive assessment. For example, the depletion of fisheries is often referred to as a tragedy of the commons, where too many selfish fishers are chasing too few fish. Private property and technology are generally presented as solutions that will save fisheries and feed the world’s growing population. This argument has been used to justify subsequent conservation and management policies in fisheries. We contend that it is an inadequate explanation for the decline in fish populations and that its solutions are misdirected and problematic. As a counter, we propose that the tragedy of the commodity serves as a more appropriate explanation for the sweeping changes in oceans, fisheries, and recent efforts to introduce genetically modified salmon. This alternative approach presents how the logic of capital has shaped production and commodification processes. It also highlights how the most recent case of biotechnology in relation to salmon serves the needs of capital by increasing control of biological and ecological systems in order to better conform to economic dictates. The genetic modification of salmon is part of a biological speedup, whereby natural processes are transformed to achieve faster rates of return in the food marketplace.
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Click HERE to continue reading the article