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

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Sat Jun 10 13:15:02 MDT 2000

>The bourgeoisie have a crisis of confidence in their own system.  They're no
>longer gung ho proponents of unbridled accumulation.  They've adapted what
>was a "left" idea, sustainable development, and this has become a key
>feature of the way they try to manage their system.  The attendant
>conservatism and slow growth that this involves means a slow death for many
>in the third world.  Unfortunately much of the left has become infected with
>this outlook as well.  The left used to demand more.  Now people like you
>seem to think it's radical to call for less in the interests of saving the

The reason that Africa suffers is not because Greenpeace or Friends of the
Earth have persuaded the World Bank to hold back "modernizing" projects. It
is because it is not profitable to invest in much of Africa. Where there is
profit, there are investment funds. But in such places--like Nigeria--it is
to no avail.

As far as South Africa is concerned, I am amazed that you are so obsessed
with Greenpeace plots to block capital investment or infrastructure
projects when the real problem stares you in the face every day. It is what
Patrick Bond has been writing about, namely the willingness of the Mbeki
government to accede to IMF and World Bank demands.

The form that those demands take today is the US African Growth and
Opportunity Bill, generally referred to as the US-Africa Trade Bill. It
eliminates duties on apparel imports and reduces tariffs on other products
from 48 sub-Saharan African and 27 Caribbean countries to the US market on
condition they break down their tariff barriers to allow the entry of
foreign firms and goods, and institute economic reforms similar to those
required by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. This is the
real agenda of the imperialist bourgeoisie, not saving endangered species.

Developing countries now owe more than $2 trillion to wealthy nations and
international financial institutions like the World Bank and the
International Monetary Fund. According to Jubilee 2000/USA, part of the
international movement to cancel unpayable debt, the world's poorest
countries owe some $250 billion. That's what's necessary above all, to
repudiate the bloodsucking institutions of western imperialism, not to make
scapegoats out of the environmentalist movement.

Having said that, let's take a look at one of these projects that Russell
would support. The World Bank is nearing a vote on whether to proceed with
a 650-mile oil pipeline through Chad and Cameroon, which pits endangered
elephants and rare gorillas against multinational oil companies and Wall
Street financiers, African forest dwellers against local government
officials of dubious legitimacy.

The Chad-Cameroon pipeline attracted the wrath of the anti-globalization
protesters who blocked Washington's streets last month during the spring
meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. These are
the protestors that LM Magazine lashed out against, in its swan song edition.

A consortium of three oil companies--Exxon Mobil, Chevron and Petronas, the
Malaysian national concern--are eager to drill 300 oil wells in southern
Chad and build the necessary pipeline to the coast. They are supposed to
shoulder $ 3 billion of the $ 3.5-billion cost themselves. The World Bank
is deciding whether to lend $ 200 million to Chad and Cameroon and
underwrite a package of $ 300 million from the world's commercial banks,
which wouldn't lend money in sub-Saharan Africa on their own.

According to the May 28 Los Angeles Times, the project's supporters say the
money might mean the difference between life and death for thousands of
people. About 60,000 children now die each year in Chad before they reach
the age of 5. "Chad is one of these places where you've got real, hard
choices," said John Dixon, a staff environmentalist at the World Bank.

The article continues: "In the teeth of those arguments, environmentalists
warn that the pipeline would snake through Cameroon's moist tropical
forests, bringing development--and, most likely, logging and poaching--into
remote regions where elephants, gorillas and the people widely known as
Pygmies now live in relative seclusion. How would an oil spill be cleaned
up in a place like this?"

Although the Bank has backed off of some mega-projects that distinguished
it in the past, Frances Seymour of the World Resources Institute, claims
that "It is still the exception, rather than the rule, when bank staff
design sector- or country-level strategies with environmental
sustainability in mind as a principal objective," Seymour said.

In 1994 the World Bank launched an Independent Inspection Panel, a
court-like body that is supposed to hear the grievances of indigenous
peoples affected by bank-financed projects. But panel members from the host
countries of proposed projects have been reluctant to say anything that
might jeopardize a project back home. The upshot is that of the twenty-one
formal claims that have been brought since the panel began operations, ONLY
ONE has led to the cancellation of a disputed project--a dam in Nepal.

Now with respect to the question of whether oil exploration in Chad and
Cameroon will benefit the masses, I am convinced that based on the history
of Nigeria no good can be expected. The oil monopolies leave environmental
despoliation in their trail, while allowing the ruling classes to enjoy
some crumbs from the table. Since LM books editor Jim Heartfield viewed the
protests against Shell Oil's complicity in the death of Ken Saro-Wira as
ultimately designed to hold back "progress", I would not be surprised to
hear a similar argument from Russell. Please excuse me if I refuse to take
such arguments seriously.

Louis Proyect
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