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CASLL-L  October 1995

CASLL-L October 1995

Subject:

On Starving the World's Hungry Hordes

From:

Lahoucine Ouzgane <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sat, 21 Oct 1995 12:06:45 -0600

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (62 lines)

As a third world person now living in the first, I would like to offer this
excerpt from Vandana Shiva's essay "The Impoverishment of the Environment:
Women and Children Last." The complete essay is being reprinted in _The
Environmental Materialist Reader_ (to be published next year).

Lahoucine Ouzgane
--------------------------------------------------------------------------
[Taken from Vandana Shiva and Maria Mies, _Ecofeminism_ (London: Zed Books,
1993)].

Dispensability of the last child: the dominant paradigm

From the viewpoint of governments, intergovernmental agencies, and power
elites, the 'last child' needs no lifeboat. This view has been explicitly
developed by Garrett Hardin in his 'life-boat ethics'1: the poor, the weak
are a 'surplus' population, putting an unnecessary burden on the planet's
resources. This view and the responses and strategies that emerge from it
totally ignore the fact that the greatest pressure on the earth's resources
is not from large numbers of poor people but from a small number of the
world's ever-consuming elite.

Ignoring these resource pressures of consumption and destructive
technologies, 'conservation' plans increasingly push the last child further
to the margins of existence. Official strategies, reflecting elite
interests, strongly imply that the world would be better off if it could
shed its 'non-productive' poor through the life-boat strategy.
Environmentalism is increasingly used in the rhetoric of
manager-technocrats, who see the ecological crises as an opportunity for
new investments and profits. The World Bank's Tropical Action Plan, the
Climate Convention, the Montreal Protocol are often viewed as new means of
dispossessing the poor to 'save' the forests and atmosphere and biological
commons for exploitation by the rich and powerful. The victims are
transformed into villains in these ecological plans--and women, who have
struggled most to protect their children in the face of ecological threats,
become the elements who have to be policed to protect the planet.2

'Population explosions' have always emerged as images created by modern
patriarchy in periods of increasing social and economic polarizations.
Malthus3 saw populations exploding at the dawn of the industrial era;
between World War I and II certain groups were seen as a threatening
deterioration of the human genetic stock; post World War II, countries
where unrest threatened US access to resources and markets, became known as
the 'population powderkegs'. Today, concern for the survival of the planet
has made pollution control appear acceptable and even imperative, in the
face of the popularized pictures of the world's hungry hordes.

What this focus on numbers hides is people's unequal access to resources
and the unequal environmental burden they put on the earth. In global
terms, the impact of a drastic decrease of population in the poorest areas
of Asia, Africa and Latin America would be immeasurably smaller than a
decrease of only five percent in the ten richest countries at present
consumption levels.4


1. Hardin, Garrett, _Bioscience_ Vol. 24 (1974) p. 561.
2. Shiva, Vandana, 'Forestry Crisis and Forestry Myths: A Critical Review
of Tropical Forests: A Call for Action,' World Rainforest Movement, Penang,
1987.
3. Malthus, in Barbara Duden, 'Population', in Wolfgang Sachs (ed)
_Development Dictionary_. Zed Books, London, 1990.
4. UNICEF, op. cit., 1990.
--------------------------------------------------------------------

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