Frank Furedi's bum (was: help sustainable development)

Mark Jones jones118 at
Sat Jun 10 05:41:24 MDT 2000

Russell, why are there water shortages in parts of sub-Saharan Africa?
(hint: recent global-warming enhanced el nino/el nina events have led to
droughts). So what IS your solution to making 7l a day the norm?

Mark Jones

> -----Original Message-----
> From: owner-marxism at
> [mailto:owner-marxism at]On Behalf Of Russell Grinker
> Sent: 10 June 2000 10:38
> To: marxism at
> Subject: Frank Furedi's bum (was: help sustainable development)
> From: Louis Proyect
> >Russell, I grow increasingly impatient with you. I advocate
> socialism, not
> >World Bank 'sustainable development'. Get your nose out of Frank Furedi's
> >bum and read something other than cult literature.
> I haven't been near Frank's bum for about a decade - promise! I'm clearly
> however in need of some serious re-education and I await your cargo plane
> with a load of suitable literature...
> Seriously though...what a pity that you never took the trouble to
> answer any
> of my substantive points about the current form taken by "sustainable
> development" in theory as well as practice (at least here in
> Africa - maybe
> it's different in NYC).
> I think we need to pay much more attention to the current
> bourgeois rhetoric
> of sustainable development. This argues for a lowering of expectations in
> the economy and just about every other sphere of life. It stems from their
> insecurity about their system and how uncertain they now feel about their
> own mission. As a result it is now fashionable to inflate every difficulty
> into a problem of universal proportions. As is shown by current
> panics about
> climate, global warming etc (and the virus has certainly infected some on
> this list), there is now a tendency to represent routine (and certainly
> significant) problems as signs of the possible extinction of
> humanity. Their
> obsession with risk (which you laugh off as inconsequential)
> actually serves
> to justify restraint, austerity and low expectations. Maybe that's not too
> important in the first world but out here that kind of restraint is often
> the difference between a decent life and eking out survival at the lowest
> material level.
> Here's just one practical example of what I'm talking about (the
> concept of
> sustainability comes up all over the place in policy documents
> these days).
> Current debates over public water policy here include a
> government proposal
> to reduce the minimum supply of water per person per day to 7 litres from
> the current 25 litres (WHO recommends 50 litres as a minimum for a healthy
> existence). Just to give an indication of how little 7 litres is
> - it takes
> about 120 litres to fill the average bathtub. The 7 litre level
> is justified
> on the basis that this is all people who already have water schemes are
> currently using (because this is all they can afford to pay for) and that
> this is therefore the sustainable level of water supply which should in
> future be designed for in all rural areas. Government argues that if it
> provides more - which will require that it subsidises consumption - others
> needing water will lose out. A higher level of service is therefore
> "unsustainable".
> To give you more of the flavour of what's happening, I quote from
> various SA
> government policy documents (note also the stuff about "responsible"
> behaviour - this is a big element of what sustainability now
> means): First,
> the Water and Sanitation White Paper states that if government covers
> operating and maintenance costs, there will be a "reduction in finances
> available for the development of basic services for those
> citizens who have
> nothing. It is therefore not equitable for any community to expect not to
> have to pay for the recurring costs of their services. It is not the
> Government who is paying for their free services but the unserved." The
> White Paper thus argues for a "some for all, not all for some" approach.
> Second, the White Paper states that payment for services is the single
> defining feature that determines whether people and communities behave
> responsibly: "The other reason why operating and maintenance
> costs should be
> borne by the communities is the principle of Community-Based
> Development. If
> the community expects some outside agency to be responsible for keeping
> their supplies going, they will have no control over the
> processes and lose
> leverage and ownership. Responsibility for keeping the service going is
> placed with a remote authority and accountability is lost. This
> will have an
> impact on the reliability of supplies". The National Sanitation
> Policy White
> Paper, released in 1996, reiterates the "some for all, not all for some"
> approach and included as a principle that the user pays:
> "Sanitation systems
> must be sustainable. This means they must be affordable to the service
> provider, and payment by the user is essential to ensure this".
> So ultimately, if your average consumer can only afford to
> purchase 7 litres
> of water per day, this becomes the sustainable level for which all future
> water schemes will be designed. "Sustainability" in this case means
> condemning most rural people to a supply of water perpetually limited to
> about half a bucket a day. We're talking here about making extreme
> deprivation sustainable into the indefinite future.
> Russell

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