From her kitchen and computer, Annie Morgan thinks through the implications of mining and money for food and fairness
As I cooked a bit tottie and chard from our community garden, I reflected on the refrain ‘Feed the World’. We recall our consciences being pricked some 35 years ago by Bob Geldof and an awareness of what is happening globally is vital. For this, I like the internet (with obvious caveats on misuse and misinformation). The library of information, interconnection and hope generates from the awareness of movements like Via Campesina, Rajavo eco-socialism, Zapatista land reform movements, the movement of ‘Si a la vida, no la mina’ in South America and so on.
But back to Bob – the idea that the rich world (even with its own plenty of poverty) can fix the poor world is very problematic and colonial in conceptualisation and philanthropic capitalism perpetuates the system that can only be fixed with equity and international co-operation. Bob’s efforts went badly wrong. He ignored Medicine Sans Frontier’s request to wait until an infrastructure for delivery of aid was in place. Both the CIA backed rebels and Mengistu Haile Mariam‘s authoritarian distortion of socialism (via forced collectivism) sucked up the donations and a disaster ensued that worsened poverty in Ethiopia.
The practices of the International Monetary Fund’s Structural Adjustment Programmes (now renamed Poverty Reduction and Extended Credit Facilities) has resulted – as with Ethiopia post-Band Aid, in poorer communities in poor countries forced into competition with other indebted countries. Here, environmental destruction follows with cash crops and mono-cropping.
I mention this to warn against philanthropic capitalism and NGO solutions without looking at global justice because to some helping the less fortunate is good business because there is money to be made in hunger’. This is miles away from the solidarity demonstrated by the East Kilbride Rolls Royce workers concern for Chilean workers on the other side of the world – see the Nae Pasaran film.
Another call for solidarity comes from Chilean mining communities. A delegation visited Glasgow before the virus hit and described the horrors of extraction. In this we should recall the Brazilian tragedies of the Mariana (2015) and Brumadinho (2019) dam busts with hundreds of casualties occurred because of the methods of mining use by the multinationals. At the same time, there is a massive challenge in a just transition from fossil to not worsen the conditions for mining communities wherever they are.
As I focus on food sovereignty, I was unaware of the extent of the impact of mining on food production. The list of harmful consequences is long: erosion, soil degradation, water depletion, loss of biodiversity, impact on bees and other pollinators, damning rivers and ponds, waste disposal, acid drainage, chemicals including cyanide, contamination of ground and surface water, and water waste. Add to this the impact on miners’ health, dislocation from family and community, resettlement, child and women’s labour often to the detriment of subsistence farming, and all points to the stressors on food production, supplies and harmful elements in the food chain.
To avoid only endlessly naming the problem and so to offer hope, we should reach out to resistance and renewal movements mentioned above. We should be able to do so as Scotland has a proud history in the Scottish Land Restoration League even if we should also note that it is lamentable that Benny Higgins of the feudal Buccleuch Estates is chair of the Scottish Government’s economic advisory group.
Global capitalism with its focus on destructive growth, competition rather than cooperation and profit centred economic development has its agents supporting mining. Erdogran in Turkey is but one example. Despite the terrible disaster in Soma, where 301 miners were killed by an explosion, the tragedy could have been prevented. In 2014, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) pushed through laws designed to help the mining corporations. At the time, Erdogan is reported to have said ‘Deaths are part of the job’.
In another part of Turkey, Canadian mining company, Ala
us and there are 32 endemic plant species. The protectors-protestors know the consequences of harming the pollinators. Vital in the food chain. The mining company failed to obtain a renewal of mining concession following the widespread environmental protests. They seek renewal and continue with a new mining field elsewhere in Turkey at Afyon-Emirdag.
John Belamy Foster is right to point out that there is a metabolic rift and we have to restore our relationship with nature. Rabbie Burns in ‘Ode to Moose’ knew this: respect the bees and the small things.
Annie Morgan is a climate activist with ScotE3 and active in local food networks and the climate challenge funded, Gilded Lily. She is member of the Unite union retired section.