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Global Free Trade is on its deathbed. Globalized Solidarity and Localized Agriculture will bring food sovereignty: Korean Peasants’ League

By Lee Kyung Hae - La Via Campesina, September 10, 2021

In a statement issued to commemorate the International Day of Action against WTO and FTAs, the South East and East Asian members of La Via Campesina have issued a statement reminding that free-market economy has failed the world and food sovereignty is our future. Read the full statement below.

“WTO Kills Farmers!”—it is what Lee Kyung Hae, who took his own life during a protest against WTO in Cancun, Mexico, shouted out on September 10, 2003. The world was outraged by his death. Peasants from the world once again strengthened their will to fight against WTO at the global peasant funeral for Lee. The anniversary of Lee’s death has been designated as the International Day of Action against WTO and FTA.

18 years have passed since Lee’s death. For 18 years—even before Lee’s death, free trade with an arsenal of FTA, mainly led by WTO, has threatened the lives of the people all over the world, including peasants; it has influenced all parts of the world—from cities’ dense buildings, jungle and grasslands to deserts.

Over the past 30 years, free trade has only satisfied global capital’s appetite by emptying out people’s money and depriving freedom to peasants in smaller nations. And its result has been disastrous. Under different names, free trade has brought poverty, starvation, deprivation of resources, and destruction of environment; degrading food producers to food importers; privatizing water resources and public service; obliterating native seeds; and destroying a traditional mode of agriculture. Then, a nation has lost their own sovereignty, while multinational capital replacing for its place.

However, we are facing the end of free trade now. Every country has taken its leave of free trade, for national borders are closed with a movement restricted among nations due to COVID-19, and for the world is confronted with a new kind of food crisis from climate change. Those who used to insist free trade, claim protectionism now; agriculture is no exception. In the midst of this crisis, the world is struggling to secure foods to provide their people. The opportunity to achieve food sovereignty is right ahead of us.

Due to unjust capital and policies, free trade threatening lives of peasants and the people all over the world, has almost drawn its last breath; globalized solidarity and localized agriculture will fill in for it. Finishing free trade, peasants and the people will pave, on their own, the way toward a new era of food sovereignty.

Korea Peasant League resolves to lead this way, requesting as follows:

  • Against free trade threatening peasants’ right to live in the pursuit of the benefits of capital!
  • Against free trade bringing debt, poverty, hunger, and death!
  • Against free trade expelling peasants from the community!
  • Let’s build a new trade order based on peasants’ dignity, self-supply, and solidarity!

Sustaining the Unsustainable: Why Renewable Energy Companies Are Not Climate Warriors

By Sean Sweeney - New Labor Forum, August 27, 2021

In the fight to address climate change, renewable energy companies are often assumed to be Jedi Knights. Valiantly struggling to save the planet, wind and solar interests are thought to be locked in mortal combat with large fossil fuel corporations that continue to mine, drill, and blast through the earth’s fragile ecosystems, dragging us all into a grim and sweaty dystopia.

In the United States and elsewhere, solar panels glitter on rooftops and in fields; turbines tower majestically over rural landscapes. The fact that, globally, the renewables sector continues to break records in terms of annual deployment levels is, for many, a source of considerable comfort. Acting like informational Xanax to ease widespread climate anxiety, news headlines reassure us that the costs of wind and solar power continue to fall, and therefore wind and solar is (or soon will be) “competitive” with energy from coal and gas. The transition to clean energy is, therefore, unstoppable.

By Any Means Necessary

Of course, wind and solar companies are not charities. They are, in a phrase, profit driven. They want to attract investment capital; they seek to build market share, and they all want to pay out dividends to shareholders. In this respect, renewable energy (and “clean tech”) companies are not fundamentally different from fossil fuel companies.

. . . [W]ind and solar companies are not charities. . . . In this respect, [they] are not fundamentally different from fossil fuel companies.

But so what? North-based environmental groups frequently point out that we have just a handful of years to start to make major reductions in emissions. Therefore, this is not a time, they insist, to split hairs or to make the perfect the enemy of the good. If electricity generation is the leading single source of CO2 pollution, then surely the more electrons generated by renewable sources of energy will mean fewer electrons being generated by fossil fuels. What more needs to be said?

But there are several reasons why, in their current role, renewable energy companies could be more part of the problem than they are part of the solution—which, if true, means a lot more has to be said. As we will see, they are beginning to squander their “social license” by being party to a “race to the bottom” dynamic that risks turning workers and many ordinary people against action on climate change. Equally serious, large wind and solar interests’ “me first” behavior is propping up a policy architecture that is sucking in large amounts of public money to make their private operations profitable.

They are sustaining a model of energy transition that has already shown itself to be incapable of meeting climate targets.[1] In so doing, these companies have not just gone over to the political dark side, they helped design it.

Labour on the farm

By Chris Smaje - Small Farm Future, May 26, 2021

The first draft of A Small Farm Future had a chapter called ‘Labour on the farm’ which didn’t make the final version. I needed to cut the length, and although there were parts of this chapter I was quite attached to, I felt I hadn’t nailed the issues as well as I’d like, so it was easy to spike. Some passages found their way into other parts of the book, but I’d been hoping to make good on the issue in this blog cycle with parts of the deleted chapter and my own more polished thoughts. Trouble is, I still don’t feel I’ve nailed this issue sufficiently. So instead I offer this post as a placeholder for a more distant day when I hope I can offer something more up to scratch.

What I’ll do here instead is provide a few brief thoughts on the topic prompted by a deeper dive I took recently into Francesca Bray’s fascinating book The Rice Economies (University of California Press, 1986) – an old book, but a very good one. Then I’m hoping I can come back in the future with something a bit more expansive.

A key organizing theme in Bray’s book is her contention that wheat in western countries and dryland cereal crops in general offer economies of scale in production that don’t exist in the case of the wet rice cultivation that dominates much of the populous regions of East, South and Southeast Asia. The combination of relatively scarce labour and relatively abundant land in the west (albeit that the latter was too often a function of colonial dispossession) created a dynamic of labour substitution and mechanization geared to increasing the per worker productivity of farming as an economic sector that’s come to be seen as exemplary of agricultural ‘progress’. In the wet rice regions, on the other hand, relatively abundant labour and relatively scarce land created a dynamic of agricultural development where the focus was using more (skilled) labour to increase the per acre productivity of the land.

From this point of departure, Bray unfurls an enormously detailed and sophisticated discussion of poverty, development, mechanization, landownership, credit, state formation, agrarian organization and much else besides which I hope to draw and elaborate from in future posts. But for now I’ll restrict myself to a couple of main points.

In certain situations of economic growth and capitalist development, there can be a compelling logic to agricultural labour substitution of the western kind. People quit the toilsome agrarian life for better paid jobs in industry or services, helping fuel an accumulation of capital and resources that redounds to the net benefit of all.

This is a pretty idealized vision of how capitalism works in practice, but it has a sufficient grain of historical truth to it in western societies to colour notions of a more labour-intensive agricultural future with a sense of regress and misplaced romanticism. Nevertheless, it matters where the accumulated capital and resources go. If labour substitution helps generate extra income that doesn’t find its way back to labourers, then to them there is no benefit. And this is basically what’s happening in the present phase of the global economy.

What could be wrong about planting trees?: The new push for more industrial tree plantations in the Global South

By Winfridus Overbeek - World Rainforest Movement, February 2020

What could be wrong about planting trees? Haven’t communities around the world been planting a diversity of trees since the dawn of human civilization?

Yes they have. But in more recent times, companies have also been planting trees, especially in Africa, Asia and Latin America, and the way they do so is very different from that of communities. They cover huge areas with trees from one single species, creating vast industrial or monoculture plantations devoid of biodiversity.

Today, these same companies plan to start a new round of massive expansion. Exploiting growing public awareness and concern about climate change, they argue that monoculture plantations are an excellent option to help solve some of the world’s most urgent problems: loss of forests, global heating and dependence on fossil fuels (oil, coal and gas).

The corporate argument is that plantations will encourage “forest restoration”, can serve as a natural “solution” to the climate emergency, or help foster a “bio-economy”.

The simple truth, however, is that the industries involved want more plantations simply to increase their profit margins. And other industries and polluters are also using such deceptive arguments, in order to hide their contributions to an ever-worsening social and environmental planetary crisis.

In this booklet, WRM aims to alert community groups and activists about the corporate push for a new round of industrial tree plantation expansion. It also reveals why planting trees on such a large scale can be extremely detrimental, in spite of seductive marketing campaigns claiming that these plantations will or could be a “solution” to the climate crisis.

Read the report (PDF).

Rights in a Changing Climate: Human Rights Under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change

By staff - Center for International Environmental Law, December 5, 2019

Climate change and human rights are not separate concepts, but rather go hand-in-hand. In line with the increased recognition in human rights bodies, countries around the world, and public discourse, Rights in a Changing Climate demonstrates the fundamental links between human rights and climate change and documents the growing momentum within the UN climate regime to articulate the legally binding duties of States to protect, respect, and promote human rights in the context of the climate crisis.

Rights in a Changing Climate showcases the increasing number of explicit and implicit references to different human rights in climate agreements and policies. It reveals that rights-based action is being discussed with greater frequency and with ever more explicit instructions for how States must incorporate a rights-based approach to climate action.

“The climate crisis is a human rights crisis. This doesn’t change when you step into the halls of the UNFCCC. Over the past decade, we’ve seen increasing momentum behind the integration of human rights and climate change under the UNFCCC,” says Erika Lennon, Senior Attorney at CIEL. “Going forward, human rights must be foundational to all climate action. Incorporating the voices and knowledge of women, youth, Indigenous Peoples, and local communities is vital to ensuring a rights-based approach to climate action and most effectively limiting global temperature rise to below 1.5°C.”

“CIEL’s report provides a vital guidebook for States as they consider their climate action plans and submit revised Nationally Determined Contributions early next year,” says André Weidenhaupt, Director General at the Ministry of the Environment, Climate and Sustainable Development of Luxembourg. “Solving the climate crisis requires the protection of human rights.”

The report concludes with an urgent call to action. “The greatest threat to human rights is climate change itself. As the climate crisis worsens, so do the threats to the realization of human rights. Parties must therefore urgently increase ambition to fulfill their legal obligations under human rights law. To ensure that Parties do not undermine human rights in doing so or act on climate at the expense of the rights of local communities, they should build on this momentum and place human rights at the center of climate action.”

Read the report (PDF).

(TUED Bulletin #62) Changes at TUED, new unions, report from Asia-Pacific Region

By staff - Trade Unions for Energy Democracy, August 31, 2017

Dear TUED unions and movement allies:

Please welcome John Mark Mwanika to the TUED global advisory group. He will represent the Amalgamated Transport & General Workers Union of Uganda(ATGWU – Uganda)  The ATGWU is affiliated to two Global Union Federations, namely ITF and UNI, and joined TUED last week.

Please also welcome Alex White, representing UnionsACT, the Trades and Labour Council of the Australian Capital Territory, the peak body representing all unions in Canberra. UnionsACT is now part of TUED and working with the growing TUED community in the region.

SEIU Local 1021, representing 54,000 workers in Northern California, has also joined TUED.  The local will for now be represented by Martha Hawthorne (Martha attended COP 21 in Paris in late 2015)

Click here for an updated list of unions participating in TUED

TUED Asia-Pacific 

Meanwhile, here are the minutes of the TUED Asia-Pacific discussion that took place on August 10. The coordinator of this meeting was Tom Reddington, formerly of Earthworker Cooperative. Tom is now working on climate and energy democracy for Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA. Tom is also new to the TUED community, but he’ll be very involved in the Asia-Pacific work alongside Kate Lee

Global Advisory Group

The Electrical Trades Union (ETU) of Australia will be represented by Trevor Gauld. Trevor is the ETU’s National Policy Officer.  Lance McCallum is now the National Campaign Coordinator at the Australian Council of Trade Unions. Lance is still very involved in the work of TUED and chaired the August 10th meeting.

Due to staff changes, Alison Arron will now represent the Public Services Association – New Zealand and Michael Seville will represent District Council 57, AFSCME, based in California. Cheryl Brown is now with SEIU Local 521 (thanks for everything Cheryl!)

Thank you James Hare! 
Everyone at TUED would like to express our appreciation to James Hare of the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung NYC Office, who will be moving on from RLS-NYC at the end of summer. Thank you, James, for your role in strengthening and guiding the growth of TUED for five full years. We wish you the best in all things to come!

Axes of Struggle in the Asia Pacific

By Sasha Reid Ross - Global Justice Ecology Project, July 3, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Climate change is a war waged against the people of the Global South by industrial powers. A historical epoch is descending, and the islands of the Pacific are drowning. Waters will rise three feet over the next 90 years in Micronesia, a devastating potential for those 607 islands. The small island of Kiribati is already evacuating; the UK purchased a swath of land in Fiji as a climate refugee camp for the fleeing, but Fiji, itself, is looking into the eye of climate change enhanced storms and droughts.

The pressure on Southeast Asian populations is also mounting. Among the strongest typhoons ever recorded, Typoon Haiyan left more than 6,000 dead in the Philippines alone. Aid plans are still the works, some eight months after the most deadly storm in that nation’s history. Two years after the Tōhoku earthquake triggered a tsunami that hit Fukushima Daiichi, a once-in-a-decade typhoon slammed into the country, killing 17 and causing more nuclear contamination. The condition of climate refugees is only going to put greater pressure on diplomatic relations in the region, as even the US Department of Defense has stated that its infrastructure is vulnerable to climate change in the region.

Far from promoting a way to escape climate change, the North Atlantic aims to extract fossil fuels from the contested energy-rich waters of the South China Sea by whatever means available. As the US turns its “pivot to Asia,” however, it is mirrored by Russia. Where the US uses the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) to chip away at China’s hegemony in the region, Russia works closely with China. The two countries recently signed a gas infrastructure deal that develops a historic partnership. Rosneft just deployed the world’s largest offshore oil drilling platform off Sakhalin Island while mending ties to Japan after the Crimea polarizations, and China has pushed a second offshore oilrig into waters contested by Vietnam. A storm is brewing larger than a typhoon.

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