The Importance of Economic Relocalization

Local Futures: Beyond the Monoculture

Local Futures (1998)

Film Review

This documentary concerns the early work of Helena Norberg-Hodge, founder of Ancient Futures (formerly the International Society for Ecology and Culture – ISEC) and author of the book Ancient Futures (1991). Her work is also featured in the films Ancient Futures: Learning from Ladakh (1993) and Economics of Happiness (see A Film About Economic Relocalization ).

The film recounts her work assisting the people of Ladakh in resisting globalization pressures that threatened to destroy Ladakhi culture, environment, livelihoods and health.

Norberg-Hodge maintains the effects of globalization are extremely negative for the vast majority of the world. Globalization’s emphasis on ever increasing production and growth destroys ecosystems, cultural diversity and livelihoods, as it drives poor people off their land and into urban slums.

What she and other members of ISEC have learned over the past three decades is that strengthening local economies can help young indigenous people resist psychological pressure (from continual bombardment with Western advertising) to discard traditional farming, production and cultural practices in favor of Western materialism. Without this support, young people become very susceptible to Western disinformation denigrating their traditional way of life. This, in turn, can lead to profound feelings of self-doubt, depression and even violence.

In 1995, Norberg-Hodge established a 3,000+ member network of Ladakhi women that focused on rejuvenating local culture and production methods, small scale renewable energy projects and a reduction in TV viewing.

With the help of ISEC, she also established local ecology networks that became involved in regional government and helped revive ancient Tibetan medicine.

Most importantly, ISEC has played a big role in organizing cultural exchanges between Ladakhi and Western sustainability activists. Sometimes it’s only in visiting the West that young Ladakhi realize how destructive globalization, industrial agriculture and ever increasing production and economic growth really are.

Norberg-Hodge’s work has had a major influence on the growing local food movement and the mushrooming of farmer’s markets throughout the industrialized world.

Industrial Agriculture: The Truth About Where Your Meat Comes From

Land of Hope and Glory UK Earthlings Documentary

Surge (2017)

Film Review

This is a documentary about the brutal conditions under which factory farmed animals are raised in the UK, Australia and the US. This type of footage is extremely rare because Food Inc makes every effort to conceal the disgusting conditions under which our meat is produced.

Factory farmed pigs and chickens seem to fare the worst. Even though pigs are as intelligent and emotionally complex as dogs, they are raised in extremely confining cages and forced to lie in their own feces, as well as being routinely tortured and beaten by their keepers. Pigs, like most other factory farmed animals, are fed massive doses of antibiotics (contributing to antibody resistance and the rise of “superbugs”) while continual exposure to feces makes factory farmed meat a major source of food borne illness.

Chickens and more than 90% of ducks and turkeys are also crowded into pens. In chickens raised for meat, 45% suffer painful fractures because their specially bred bodies are too heavy for their skeleton.

What seems most consistent among all factory farmed animals (besides their continual exposure to feces) are the inhumane conditions under which they are killed. Although most jurisdictions require them to be asphyxiated or electrically stunned prior to slaughter, abattoir personnel are rushed and poorly trained. As the film clearly shows, many animals are still alive when they’re butchered.

 

How Industrial Farming Destroys Complex Plant Interrelationships

What Plants Talk About

PBS (2014)

Film Review

The title of this documentary is misleading, as it focuses more on plant behavior than on plant communication. The latter is surprisingly similar to animal behavior in many respects. Research shows plants forage for food (via their roots), just as animals do. Like animals they also have complex social relationships with other plants. Not only do they compete aggressively with other plants for light and nutrients, but they share nutrients with sister plants and band together to fight off predators. For example, plants give off distress hormones when they’re attacked, and selective plants (such as lupins) give off noxious substances that protect all the plants around them.

In forests, mother trees have bee found to nurture daughter trees that are too shaded to produce their own sugars via photosynthesis. By injecting large mother trees with carbon-14, scientists discovered they were transferring sugars through their roots to young saplings that surrounded them.

In a forest trees establish vast cooperative networks with fungi that exchange nutrients they capture from soil for the sugars trees produce.

These complex networks are destroyed by industrial agriculture. Plowing and heavy use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides destroy the vast fungal network essential for healthy plant growth. This is the main reason why organic farming – which preserves vital soil organisms – produces much higher overall yields than industrial agriculture.

Why Growth is the Main Cause of Poverty

Growth Equals Poverty

Vendana Shiva (2013)

In this presentation, environmentalist and anti-globalization activist Vendana Shiva challenges the Wall Street mythology that economic growth reduces poverty. Using her own country India as an example, she demonstrates how poverty (and inequality) increase in direct correlation to GDP increases.

The examples she offers clearly apply to the US, UK and New Zealand. All three countries are experiencing alarming increases in poverty and inequality as GDP increases. As in India, the quality and availability of health, education and other public services have declined steeply as “growth” has increased.

She goes on to demonstrate what GDP growth really represents: the privatization (ie theft) of natural and public resources by a small number of elites.

In India at present, 1/4 of the population lives in abject poverty and 1/2 of children are malnourished. Vendana blames the increase in hunger on the forced adoption of industrial agriculture and GMO crops. Monsanto and GMO advocates like Bill gates argue that GMOs will decrease world hunger. In India, where Monsanto has successfully lobbied to make it illegal for farmers to save seed, just the opposite has happened.

This due partly to Monsanto’s seed monopoly, which has caused an 8,000% increase in the cost of seed; partly to the high cost of fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides GMO crops require; and partly to the destruction of soil, bees and biodiversity caused by industrial agriculture and GMO crops.

The Ugly Truth About Factory Farms

The Truth About Factory Farms

The mass production of America’s food comes with a hefty price. Find out the environmental, animal, and human impact of raising over 99 percent of US farm animals in factory farms in this infographic,”The Truth About Factory Farms.” Visit our infographic page for the high-res version.

Capitalism, Colonialism and the Failure of Industrial Agriculture

This presentation by anti-GMO and anti-globalization activist Vendana Shiva focuses on colonialism and its fundamental role in capitalism. She quotes from 17th century philosophers Bacon and Locke, who laid the groundwork for a capitalist philosophy that is clearly at odds with most human needs.

Their determination to “dominate” (in some cases they use the world “rape”) the natural world went hand in hand with early capitalists’ determination to dominate and enslave third world peoples and steal their lands.

Industrial farming is an excellent example of this attempt to “dominate” nature. Although it’s promoted as a method of reducing world hunger, it actually feeds fewer people because it destroys soil, kills pollinators and reduces access to fresh water. Its true purpose is to produce immense profits for a handful of rich capitalists.

At present industrial agriculture, which only produces 20% of the food people eat, is responsible for 70% of global disease and malnutrition and 75% of the damage capitalism causes to the global ecology.

The True Cost of Cheap Meat

farmageddon

Farmageddon: The True Cost of Cheap Meat

By Philip Lymbery with Isobel Oakeshott

Bloomsbury Press (2014)

Book Review

Farmageddon is about the false economy of industrial meat production. While the corporations that promote factory farming applaud themselves for producing “cheap meat” for poor people, when societal costs are counted, industrially produced meat costs society approximately 25 times the sticker price. So as not to infringe on corporate profits, the excess costs (for environmental clean-up and a myriad of health problems) are transferred to the taxpayer.

Lymbery, a long time organic farming proponent, provides an extremely thorough and compelling expose of the numerous drawbacks of raising livestock in concrete warehouses. The side effects of living adjacent to a factory farm include air and water pollution by toxic herbicides and pesticides, nitrates, pathogenic bacteria and arsenic; loss of songbirds, bees and other insect species; reduced life expectancy,* increased exposure to disease carrying mosquitoes, loss of earthworms (due to fertilizer-related soil acidification), increased incidence (by threefold) of childhood asthma; increased antibiotic resistance (due to routine feeding of antibiotics to factory farmed cows, pigs and chickens); reduced sperm counts and increased breast cancer and renal tumors related to Roundup, the herbicide used with GMO crops.

Lymbery also includes a section on industrially farmed fish and they risks they pose to the health of wild fish populations.

His final chapter includes a variety of policy recommendations that could facilitate a move away from industrial farming to safer, less environmentally destructive traditional farming.


*Individuals who live adjacent to intensive dairy farms have a ten year decrease in life expectancy.