We Need a Genuine Green Revolution
By Colin Todhunter – Over the past few centuries, Western countries embarked on a road to material affluence at the expense of the environment and other peoples across the globe who were subjugated, killed or left to live in poverty. And while offering more of the same and selling unfettered capitalism to the rest of the world, Washington as the now dominant imperial power is doing all it can to destroy any rivals, not least Russia and China. It alone thinks it should be the sole beneficiary in a resource-depleting race towards a barren-wasteland finish.
Imagine every nation attempting to emulate US levels of material consumption. Consider that US citizens constitute 5 percent of the world’s population but consume 24 percent of global energy. Now consider the consequences of a US-style model of ‘development’ rolled out across the world. It would be unsustainable for the planet to have a dozen ‘Americas’. Indeed, one alone is too much. The model of ‘development’ based on endless GDP growth being sold to the world via the neoliberal globalisation agenda is a cynical, unattainable con-trick and is leading to environmental devastation, conflict, war and poverty.
Treasury bond imperialism and the petrodollar
The US is able to consume at such a level because the dollar serves as the world reserve currency, which means high demand for it is guaranteed as most international trade (especially oil) is carried out using the dollar. US global hegemony depends on it maintaining the dollar’s leading role.
The international monetary system that emerged near the end of the Second World War was based on the US being the dominant economic power (after it watched and let its rivals destroy one another and become indebted as a result of their war efforts) and the main creditor nation, with institutions like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund eventually being created to serve its interests.
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By the 1960s, countries like Germany, France and Japan had become industrial competitors and the Vietnam War was running up the US national deficit. Not having enough gold to support the dollar, rather than devalue the currency, Henry Kissinger’s ‘diplomacy’ engineered an ‘oil crisis’ to boost the price of oil and Washington since then has been able to run up a huge balance of payments deficit by using the paper dollar as security in itself and engaging in petro-dollar recycling and treasury-bond super-
With its control and manipulation of the World Bank, IMF and WTO, the US has been able to lever the trade and the financial system to its advantage by various means (for example, see this analysis of Saudi Arabia’s oil money in relation to African debt). Washington will not allow its global hegemony and the role of the dollar to be challenged. Given Russia’s re-emergence on the global stage and China’s rise, we are witnessing a sense of urgency to destabilise and undermine both countries, especially as they are now increasingly bypassing the dollar when doing business.
US Strategic Objectives and Agribusiness
The only real alternative to avoid ecological meltdown due to the massive consumption of the planet’s finite resources and ultimately what appears to be an increasingly likely nuclear conflict with Russia (or China) is to move away from militarism and resource-gabbing conflicts by reorganising economies so that nations live within their environmental means.
Key to this involves a major shift away from the petro-chemical industrial model of agriculture and food production, not only because it leads to bad food, poor health and environmental degradation and is ultimately unsustainable but also because this model has underpinned a US resource-grabbing, food-deficit producing foreign policy agenda for many decades.
It is essential we get off the parasitical and poisonous chemical treadmill.
Professor Michel Chossudovsky discusses illustrates how the geopolitics of agriculture plays out on a global level in relation to Ethiopia:
“The “economic therapy” imposed under IMF-World Bank jurisdiction is in large part responsible for triggering famine and social devastation in Ethiopia and the rest of sub-Saharan Africa, wreaking the peasant economy and impoverishing millions of people. With the complicity of branches of the US government, it has also opened the door for the appropriation of traditional seeds and landraces by US biotech corporations, which behind the scenes have been peddling the adoption of their own genetically modified seeds under the disguise of emergency aid and famine relief. Moreover, under WTO rules, the agri-biotech conglomerates can manipulate market forces to their advantage as well as exact royalties from farmers. The WTO provides legitimacy to the food giants to dismantle State programmes including emergency grain stocks, seed banks, extension services and agricultural credit, etc.), plunder peasant economies and trigger the outbreak of periodic famines.”
US agribusiness must be regarded as being part of the US financial-military-industrial complex (see this and this). Agriculture and agribusiness remain integral tools for US geopolitical objectives, and agribusiness is essential for colonising indigenous agriculture, whether on the back of trade deals, ‘aid’ programmes, war or indeed Washington-backed coups, as in Ukraine:
“… within two to three years, as the relevant provisions of the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the EU go into effect, Monsanto’s lobbying efforts will transform the Ukrainian market into an oligopoly consisting of American corporations.” – Oriental Review
The ‘green revolution’ was exported courtesy of the oil-rich Rockefeller family, and poorer nations adopted agribusiness’s petrochemical-dependent agriculture that required loans for inputs and infrastructure development. This was underpinned by the propaganda that these countries would earn dollars to prosper (and repay the loans) by adopting mono-crop, export-oriented policies. It entailed uprooting traditional agriculture and trapping nations into a globalised system of debt bondage, rigged trade relations and the hollowing out and destruction of national and local economies. GMOs, the control of seeds and further corporate-controlled inputs represent the second coming of the green revolution.
If green revolution technology and thinking had not been wedded to and fuelled and driven by powerful commercial and geopolitical interests, could it not have been employed more judiciously to serve farmers and the public better? Instead, what we now have are massive external costs, which include polluted environments, less diverse diets, degraded soils, nutrient deficient food, depleted water resources and ill health.
From Mexico to India, we can see how traditional food production and retail sectors are being hijacked by powerful corporate interests and can witness the subsequent impacts on health, food security, environments and farmers’ livelihoods. NAFTA set the framework for plunder in Mexico, the Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture is playing a similar role in India and various bilateral trade agreements will do it elsewhere.
In India, Monsanto and Walmart had a major role in drawing up the Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture. Monsanto now funds research in public institutions and its presence and influence compromises what should in fact be independent decision and policy making bodies. It has effectively been called the modern day East India Company. Monsanto is a driving force behind what could eventually lead to the restructuring and subjugation of India by the US.
As alluded to earlier, the IMF and Monsanto are also working to ensure Ukraine’s subservience to US geopolitical aims via the capture of land and agriculture. The capture of agriculture (and societies) by rich interests is a global phenomenon.
Only the completely naive would believe that big agribusiness and its backers in the US State Department have humanity’s interests at heart. At the very least, their collective aim is profit. Beyond that and to facilitate it, the need to secure US global hegemony is paramount.
Tthough the globalized hijack of food and agriculture by powerful corporations results in poverty, dependency and food insecurity, we are deceitfully informed that we must have more of the same if we are to feed an increasing global population and eradicate poverty. We are told that the solutions for feeding a projected world population of nine billion are more technical fixes: more petrochemical-dependent agriculture, more GMOs and more unnecessary shifting of food across the planet. Such a ‘solution’ is bogus.
The current economic system and model of globalisation and development serves the interests of Western oil companies and financial institutions (including land and commodity
The Oakland Institute last year released research showing the tremendous success of agroecology across Africa. Instead of prioritising an inappropriate Gates-Monsanto corporate-led petro-chemical industrial model of agriculture, priority should be given to agroecology rooted in local communities, as stated in numerous official reports in the last few years, not least the IAASTD report.
This would entail supporting and investing in highly productive (see this data on output per country) smallholder/peasant agriculture, which is the backbone of global food production but is being marginalised, criminalised and squeezed onto less and less land.
People want solutions for hunger, poverty and conflict but are too often told there is no alternative to what exists. The solution ultimately lies in taking manipulated markets and rigged trade rules out of farming and investing in and supporting indigenous knowledge, agroecology, education and infrastructure, instead of inappropriately diverting funds to underperforming sectors. This involves rejecting big agritech’s current agenda and resisting the US strategy of using agriculture as a geopolitical tool. It involves challenging the corporate takeover of agriculture, supporting food sovereignty movements and embracing sustainable agriculture that is locally owned and rooted in the needs of communities.
On a more general level, we should also embrace what environmentalist Barry Commoner advocated: substituting green energy for fossil and nuclear fuels, substituting electric motors for the internal combustion engine, substituting organic farming for the chemical variety and using more metal, glass, wood and paper – recyclables, renewables and durables – instead of petrochemical products.
Crucially important is moving towards a system centred on the common ownership of land and capital to serve the public good, rather than elite interests.
If there is to be an alternative to capitalism, endless war and poverty, this is where it is to be found. But as A.L. Morton’s classic text ‘A People’s History of England’ indicates, at no point whatsoever will it be handed on a plate courtesy of the bloodsuckers that are bleeding us all dry. People will have to struggle for it.
Colin Todhunter is an independent writer and former social policy researcher. His work has been extensively published both online and in the print media. Although he writes on a wide range of issues, his main area of concern involves how large corporations, especially transnational agribusiness, have captured key international and national institutions to undermine indigenous models of agriculture.