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

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Sun Jun 11 13:45:58 MDT 2000

>It's not a matter of what I would support.  Do you accept that African
>governments have the right to make decisions about what forms development
>should take in their countries without outsiders dictating to them via
>pressure on the international credit institutions?  Do you think that
>African governments should just be ignored (as too
>dependent/corrupt/incompetent or whatever) and that these countries should
>merely be turned into international charity cases dependent on western

We can't get anywhere by raising things to this level of abstraction. I am
not interested in a coming up with general guidelines for when to support
or veto a World Bank loan, but in analyzing the reasons for
underdevelopment in Africa. Underdevelopment is not the fault of a "mood"
that's affected the ruling class, leaving aside the question of whether
Greenpeace infected them with it or they succumbed to it on their own.
Capitalists and capitalist lending institutions operate on the basis of
economic laws first discovered by Karl Marx in the 19th century. These laws
have nothing to do with "greed" or its opposite. Instead they are the
function of m-c-m'. I have no what exit ramp you folks took off the main
highway, but the notion of a fearful and timid ruling class forsaking its
historic responsibility is something out of Ayn Rand, not Marxism.

The only kind of development that is feasible is development that takes
place on the basis of socialised property relations. When one abandons
socialism, you are left in a very poor position to give advice to a country
like Chad or Cameroon. Or South Africa for that matter. You end up on the
horns of a dilemma between what is known as "brownmail" and economic
misery. The powerful nations and lending institutions are looking for
places to extract oil without worrying about environmental protection. In
recent years oil exploration has been taking place in areas where the
desperation is on such a high level that the government is under enormous
pressure to allow Shell or Exxon to have its way. In every single instance
there has been no "development". The native ruling classes get some crumbs
from the table, but the masses end up with polluted water and continued
poverty. The only alternative is when a revolutionary or populist
government is in charge, but in those instances the World Bank is not going
to be in a mood to help out with low-interest loans, as Venezuela would
seem to indicate.

Your problem, Russell, is that you are not interested in concrete cases or
history. You talk about NGO's subverting Narmada, but when I told you about
the real history, you had no rejoinder. You then turned your attention to
the World Bank, and I explained to you that out of 24 projects, only a
single one has ever been turned down because of environmental
considerations. Furthermore, I explained the situation developing in
Chad/Cameroon which any sensible person understands will have no benefits
for the suffering masses. But you are not interested in Chad/Cameroon, only
in empty philosophizing about the rights of governments to work for
"progress". Aren't you interested in class criteria? I guess not.

Here, let me supply another bit of concrete information related to the real
world that might show why oil companies do no good in such places. Again,
one must assume that by your logic these oil companies should have been
supported because they were promoting "investment" and "development". I
take a position that what happened was not only not "sustainable
development", it was not even development. Why LM supporters would want to
take the side of the oil companies and corrupt dictatorships willing to
accomodate them is anybody's guess.


The Houston Chronicle, December 15, 1996

SHUSHUFINDI, Ecuador - This rain forest promised a fresh start, says Angel
Ordonez, a chance to make good on everything that went so bad in the high,
dry land where he was born.

Here in Ecuador's Amazon Basin, Ordonez, and thousands more like him, were
going to make a new world for themselves. Oil had opened up the once
impenetrable region. The settlers were going to fill the void.

Land was for the taking. Draining out of the high Andes along roads cut
into the green vastness by the oil companies, the settlers dreamed of
subduing the land, forcing it to produce, making themselves rich in the

It hasn't happened.

The rain forest and the indigenous people who once roamed it have been
decimated in three decades of oil production and colonization. So far, what
has replaced them has fallen far short of many newcomers' expectations.

Today, most of the several hundred thousand colonists who marched into
Ecuador's Oriente, as the Amazon region is known, scratch a meager living
from an increasingly depleted soil.

Deforestation has brought the settlers drought and erosion.

Lack of government planning and the distance to markets for their products
have bankrupted many.

Across the Oriente, spilled crude oil and toxic wastes have tainted streams
and rivers. Gas flares and raging fires in open pits foul the air. Deep
pools of black crude, full of production chemicals and heavy metals, brood
alongside every oil well.

Petroleum revenues have become essential to Ecuador's nearly 12 million
people, padding the government's budget and paying its international
creditors. But here in the Oriente, the oil-fueled destruction of the
forest has benefited very few.

Farmers like Ordonez and many of his neighbors have been left insolvent,
sick and seething.

"When we arrived, the only hope I saw for us was the land here,'' Ordonez,
61, says as he walks through a small banana grove behind his house, where
toxic runoff from an oil waste pit drains into a small creek. "And now we
are dying because of this place.

"We have worked harder than animals,'' he says. "But it hasn't served for
anything. ''

One of Ordonez's daughters already has died of an illness that he blames on
oil pollution. A son is going blind. Ordonez says his hearing has been
damaged by the constant high screech from water being injected into the oil
well that stands not 50 yards from his home.

"We have found death here instead of relief,'' he says.

The plight of the settlers has been ignored until recently because the
world's attention has focused on the destruction of the rain forest and the
fate of the nomadic indigenous people who lived here.

All but a few hundred of the forest Indians have been subdued or swallowed
up by the tide of colonization. Now with the remaining rain forest platted
for future development, what happens to the settlers and to the oil
industry here will largely decide the fate of this fragile and essential
corner of the world.

"The future is really uncertain,'' says Luis Yanza, who heads a coalition
of peasant and indigenous groups that monitor the oil companies' activities
in the region. "They have taken a lot of oil out of the area. But it hasn't
helped those of us who live there. ''

The drama played out in Ecuador's Amazon country echoes across the tropics,
where poor and deeply indebted societies find it necessary to extract and
export their natural resources to the industrial world. In the process,
huge swaths of once pristine lands are being destroyed, legacies sold off.
In many nations, where democracy remains a mirage, international companies
and the powerful ruling elite grab the lion's share of income from oil and
other resources.

Environmentalists argue that the relatively small amount of oil here - the
nearly 400,000 barrels a day now pumped from Ecuador's rain forest
represents a fraction of the 60 million barrels produced daily worldwide -
cannot justify the destruction that production will cause.

Oil executives here and government officials scoff.

"If we don't produce it, someone else will,'' says Manuel Echeverria, 46,
Occidental Petroleum's manager for community relations in Ecuador.

Louis Proyect
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