Tsunami: disaster compounds imperialist devastation

On 26 December 2004, a huge earthquake off the northern coast of Sumatra triggered one of the most powerful tsunamis in living memory. Within 15 minutes, it had swept nearly 220,000 people to their deaths in the north Sumatran province of Aceh. Half an hour later, 8,000 died on the coast of Thailand around the tourist resort of Phuket. Within a further hour, another 10,000 had died along the coast of eastern India, and more than 30,000 in Sri Lanka. The scale of destruction was massive: the city of Banda Aceh, with a population of 400,000, was almost completely destroyed, one in seven of its population dead. 4,000 miles away, tsunami waves hit the coast of eastern Africa, leaving 150 more dead. ROBERT CLOUGH reports.

• The US has promised $350m in aid. The cost of a F-22 Raptor fighter jet is $225m. The total cost to date of the US war on Iraq is $148bn, a daily rate of $270m, or three-quarters of promised tsunami aid.

• Britain’s promised aid has now risen to £200m. This compares to the £1bn military aid it gave to Indonesia to buy Hawk jet fighters.

• The $4bn promised by the international community in emergency aid compares to
the $44bn spent on debt repayments last year by Thailand, Indonesia and India.

 

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Britain's supermarkets – food imperialism

Faced with the growing demands of British consumers for high-quality organic fruit, Sainsbury is planning to invade the Caribbean island of Grenada, to take over and convert most of its good quality agricultural land to organic production. It will do the same on four large farms in St Lucia. Sainsbury will not own or farm the land itself, but will have total control of all aspects of production and distribution.

To sustain its profits in the increasingly cut-throat British food market, Sainsbury needs to ensure a ready supply of high-quality, 'healthily' grown bananas, passion fruit, coconuts and mangoes for its stores. Caribbean agriculture is in dire straits, unable to compete in a global farm economy increasingly dominated by imperialist multinationals and policed by imperialist institutions like the IMF, World Bank and World Trade Organisation (WTO). Caribbean small farmers are being driven off the land and rural communities are destitute. Grenada, with 16% unemployment and 65% of its population dependent on farming, is in no position to resist this invasion by Sainsbury. This is the other side of the good quality, healthy, increasingly exotic and relatively cheap food supplied by highly profitable British supermarkets to middle class and, more recently, increasing numbers of working class consumers. This is a new era of food imperialism. 1

 

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GM Foods - Labour comes a cropper

FRFI 151 Octover / November 1999

As a result of a Friends of the Earth (FoE) legal challenge, recently planted, genetically-modified (GM) crop trials in Lincolnshire and Hertfordshire have been exposed as illegal. Michael Meacher, Environment Minister, acknowledged the illegality as 'only a technicality' with 'no health, safety or environmental issues involved'. This is consistent with the government's gung-ho attitude to GM foods and the profits its agri-business bedfellows will reap if they are given the go-ahead for full-scale production. Meanwhile, however, across the globe the resistance to GM foods is mushrooming as consumers and growers are leading the way.

 

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W$$D does nothing for the oppressed

FRFI 169 October / November 2002

Ten years after the Rio Earth Summit, Johannesburg, South Africa played host to the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in August. Delegates from 190 countries gathered in the formerly whites-only suburb of Sandton for what was claimed to be a major event aimed at reducing poverty and environmental destruction.

Ten years on from Rio things are deteriorating. The forests and coral reefs are disappearing while poverty increases. Climate change has already gone from being a possibility to a disastrous reality. Perversely, climate change means that both floods and droughts increase, as will storms and hurricanes. Even while the WSSD was taking place, flooding in Central and Eastern Europe left over 90 people dead and millions of pounds worth of damage.

 

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Destroying the environment

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Human activity is wiping out 150 species of plants and animals a day. 17 million hectares of forest are destroyed each year. Top soil is being eroded 20-40 times faster than it is being replaced. 44% of commercially targeted marine fish stocks are over-exploited. These are the effects of monopoly capital’s hundred-year rampage across the globe. Twenty companies sell 94% of the world’s
agri-chemicals; five control 90% of the world grain market. Land in underdeveloped nations is purchased or placed under the control of these companies by the Structural Adjustment Programmes of the World Bank and the IMF, which, in recent years, have pressured over 70 countries into changing their mining laws in favour of multinational investment. These bodies force underdeveloped nations into producing cash crops and raw materials for export, using intensive methods that destroy the soil and drain resources.

 

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