Thursday, 30 August 2012

A critical Pedagogy


I am going to examine the approaches of Dewey, Bruner, Friere, Illich,Vygotsky towards building up an alternative system of education. Their ideas contradict what is taken to be the conventional views about ‘schooling’.

John Dewey and experiential education
It is worth reminding ourselves that these problems were considered in the 1930’s by John Dewey, an instrumentalist, a pragmatist, who held that we learn through experience, by doing, and argued that greater emphasis should be placed on problem solving and critical thinking skills. Dewey emphasised that   'teaching' is too concerned with the delivery of approved knowledge. This needs to be balanced by a much greater concern with the students' actual experiences, and active learning. He was an exponent of 'experiential education' based on project based learning, with the learners as active  researchers, problem solving  topics  in which the teacher, the learner and community identify what is to be learned.  

Bruner and scaffolding
The work of  Bruner confirmed that the learner is active, whereas systems of 'teaching' assume that  'learners' are passive.....doing as they are told!   Bruner emphasized that learning is a social process  and  that knowledge was best acquired when students were allowed to discover it on their own.’ 
A useful starting point can be for teachers and learners to think in terms of Bruner’s concepts  of learning and ‘scaffolding’ in which the role of the teacher is to provide support for student thinking in ways which help them to move beyond their present levels of understanding. A major theme in the theoretical framework of Bruner is that learning is an active process in which learners construct a scaffold of new ideas or concepts based upon their current/past knowledge.  If scaffolding is properly administered, it will act as an enabler, not as a disabler.

Friere and discovery
These strategies   were explored by  Paulo Friere, 1968, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, who declared a respect for diversity; a recognition of our interdependence in cooperation not competition; and that we are all learners. He argued  that learning is living and takes place everywhere.Paulo Friere, and Ivan Illich, went further than Dewey, and Bruner, insisting  that education is learning by discovery,  creating learning communities, or cultural circles, involving everybody, young and old, in the processes of learning new knowledge, skills, and attitudes.
This alternative approach to education involves an open, process-based, negotiated curriculum which is based upon general learning outcomes, key skills and collaboration and participation.
This is an alternative to any prescriptive approach embodied in a National Curriculum. It is a negotiated curriculum, where the arbiter of studies is the learner not the teacher or tutor and certainly not the government. Within a negotiated curriculum the teacher/tutor is the facilitator, the enabler, providing a service. The learner is actively pursuing their preferences with the advice of the teacher/tutor. The learner takes on the responsibility to meet the deadlines, and to consult with the teacher/tutors and to pursue their projects.

'Learning as discovery', as described by Ivan Illich, will take place in learning spaces, not teaching rooms. These spaces can be in the field, forest, street, museum, classroom, home, town hall, and so on. The learners will not be organized in rows in classrooms but in flexible patterns. Sometimes all age groups will be together, other times, friends, and family groups. The knowledge is not prescribed, it is to be discovered. The teacher is not at a high desk at the front of the room, but is sitting with the learners, sometimes the learner, sometimes the leader, at other times the adviser. Lessons are not a series of prescriptions, but a complex series of problems to be solved jointly.  For those with access, the library is the world wide web with up-to-the minute information, facts, statistics. For others, the creative use of the local community and neighborhood can provide personal experiences and local knowledge from which to encourage investigation, and an innovative database.  The communities of learners are actively involved in negotiating their studies with teachers who see their role as co-learners, organizing and structuring the learning experiences. This means that the teachers must themselves become learners, developing their skills in planning the presentation of problems and devising a supportive structure to guide learners in their explorations. An important aspect of these approaches is that everybody is involved and learning, and enjoying the experiences.
For the poor, education in learning spaces will avoid the costs of schools and colleges. All they will require are laptops and teams of teacher-tutors. It will not be necessary for teachers to be subject specialists. It will be important for them to be skilled problem solvers, managers of information for the communities of learners.  ‘Education’ can be provided for all local communities at a minimal cost. Vygotsky offered further support for the social situations of learning.  He wanted to insist that social interaction plays a fundamental role in the development of cognition e.g. that we learn a language amongst our family and friends.  Bruner and Vygotsky argue that learning must begin from what the learner actually knows and can do. More open approaches to learning, in which the teachers change their role from one of instruction to guidance, will enable learning to be a voyage of discovery in which each learner is inspired to construct, innovate and communicate. This voyage will ensure more effective learning.

A pedagogy of the poor is Open learning. The focus will change from prescribed knowledge to the achievement of General Learning Outcomes; key skill areas such as Communication, Problem Solving, Interpersonal Relationships, Planning, Decision Making.
Open learning involves the development of an open dialogue aiming to alter the relationships between teachers and students so that all can participate as a community of learners.  The development of dialogue is a key element in an alternative model of education.  It provides a structure and a learning space for everyone to participate as equals.  Dialogue can encourage diverse groups to come to consensus about the issues being discussed.

Education as open learning, and learning as discovery, involve the teachers and the learners, the writers and the readers, in the social processes of dialogue, negotiation, experiment, writing and reading as communities of learners. The implication of such notions is that the identification of meaning is a collective action. The texts that we write and study are not fixed transmissions but have to be interpreted in the light of the problems and the answers that we are seeking.
Umberto Eco (1979) University of Bologna, developed the notion of an ‘open’ text which calls not only for the cooperation of the reader but actually wants the reader to make a series of interpretive choices: that is, the text is open to interpretation by any reader. There needs to be a move from the usual models of communication which describe a direct transmission of a known message from the  author  to the the reader which assumes an understanding of the ideas by both parties. An open text may be conceived as interactive, rather than given as received. If it is interactive, then the entire student group can contribute. If it is received, then it is ‘given’ and requires the learner to memorise it, reproduce and quote it for assessment.
The adoption of such procedures can give teachers a clear framework for providing appropriate scaffolding for students in developing their problem solving skills. The purpose of developing such skills is so that students can recognize their interdependence and analyse the texts and actions of others in order to clarify their meanings and purposes.

The availability of the internet means that learners can be anywhere and everywhere and lead to the creation of Virtual learning communities. The concept of 'community' has been used to refer to people being in the same space. The notion of a ‘virtual community’ clearly challenges this, focusing rather on the sharing of the activity of communicating by electronic means rather than the sharing of a physical space. If we are able to learn in virtual space it would make the educational buildings in physical space redundant. A ‘virtual learning community’ would then be groups who engage in the process of communication to improve learning. This could be thought of as a ‘community of ideas,’ the connection between the participants being the identification of a common problem which they wish to address. For a virtual learning community to develop, participants would need to be prepared to enter into relationships within which respect and trust are paramount. The aim of such a virtual community of learners would be to uncover meaning, developing understanding of self and others by focusing upon a common problem.

This approach sees community development as a process, not a product. Within a virtual community of learners, technology is used as a tool, facilitating connections between people who do not share a common space and time, but who share a common goal. This goal could begin with a problem but can grow into the development of skills in learning how to identify questions and finding answers. The age of the computer has opened the way to self-directed learning. Computer and e-mail connections are not only the preserve of the wealthy, developed world. Across the world extensive connections have been set up, allowing people to gain access to the ‘information super highway’.  It may be that the future is ‘virtual’ whereby all comers are able to ‘log-on’ and ‘log-off’ when it suits them. The potential of a ‘virtual’ learning community has many attractions:
The institutional gatekeepers can be bypassed more easily;
Members of the community could avoid the hierarchical ‘habitus’ of traditional institutions;
Learners could access learning opportunities at times and in ways, which are suited to their own learning needs.
Educational Liberation
Our earlier concerns with the role of teacher and tutors can be resolved by recognizing that learning can take place outside of the classroom setting. Educational researchers such as Bruner, Piaget, Bourdieu, Vygotsky identified that learners are active, and involved. Learning is discovery. Writers such as Illich and Friere argued that liberation education should be in the home, in the field, on the street corner; in the village hall.  [The internet, and the wireless laptop, now provides us with the means to make this happen.] It is essential to recognize that we are talking about members of communities coming together to research, to learn, to study, to collaborate, to cooperate, to solve problems.
Students act as subjects in the creation of a democratic society. They learn to critically examine the social construction of society, rather than being forced unknowingly into a class within society. They develop a critical awareness of social reality through reflection and action, dialogue and praxis; that  lead them to demand social change. 

In Paulo Friere’s work  his emphasis on dialogue has struck a very strong chord with those concerned with popular and informal education. Given that informal education is  dialogical
(or conversational), rather than a curricula  form, this is hardly surprising. However, Paulo Freire was able to take the discussion further with his insistence that dialogue involves respect. It should not involve one person acting 'on' another, but rather people working ' with 'each other.
Second, Paulo Freire was concerned with praxis - action that is informed (and linked to certain values). Dialogue wasn't just about deepening understanding - but was part of making a difference in the world. Dialogue in itself is a co-operative activity involving respect. The process is important and can be seen as enhancing community, and building social capital and to leading us to act in ways that make for social justice. Informal and popular educators have had a long-standing orientation to action - so the emphasis on change in the world was welcome.
We need to recognise that what we learn and how we learn is a response to our social environment. These social activities build up our ‘social capital’ and promote our ‘social identity’ and as learners we recognize ourselves to be part of a wider social picture, reading the ideas of earlier writers, helping us to develop our own understanding. Even creative thinkers link their ideas to those of others. We learn by 'standing on the shoulders' of others. In recognizing our connections with others in the learning process, we have the potential to overcome the restraints of our present situation that may help us to be liberated, to develop our ‘social freedom’ by joining in communities of learners. Suddenly we can begin to see the realization of the ideas of Friere and of Illich both of whom emphasized the social context of learning as a problem solving activity, and the existence of Learning Webs.
In the process of negotiating a curriculum a wide range of problems will have been identified and it is these problems which will form the stimulus for enquiry. This can be seen as another facet of the development of an ‘open’ text. An ‘open’ text can be seen as material, which enables students to interrogate the ideas being raised, rather than being presented with the answers. This can be thought of as providing a window for students to use to reflect upon
issues and ideas. The raising of questions is intended to encourage students to reflect upon themselves and their social context, developing critical thinking skills and reflexivity in the learning process. The purpose of such thinking and enquiry is to encourage students to recognize their interdependence in an effort to develop social freedom and social ecology.

We should be viewing ‘education as liberation’, as social change. Bourdieu reminds us that the development of cultural capital is achieved by the alteration of the 'habitus' so that rather than competing with each other for the acquisition of specialist knowledge, situations are set up in which the development of learning skills and the identification of learning outcomes is achieved through teams of learners and the creation of communities of  learners. These communities come to realize that knowledge is a collaborative venture that leads to social freedom for all rather than academic distinctiveness for just the few. What we know now is built upon the endeavors of all who have gone before. It is the height of arrogance to believe that any single individual or group have the secret to all wisdom. What we know, we have learnt from others. Our education is mediated through the inspiration of others.

Our education should be a response to the environmental changes that are taking place around us. The increasing evidence of the pollution of the atmosphere; the increasing particles in the atmosphere causing ice melt, rising temperatures, and violent weather events, and the destruction of species, such as marine life, and forests, as well as the poisoning of rivers and lakes;  have led to an increasing awareness of the impacts of human action upon the natural environment. A social ecology perspective demands the promotion of sustainable economics across the globe, along with serious efforts to conserve organic life and abandone capitalism that exploits resources at any cost and without regard for the indigenous communities.
The responsibility for the sustainable economics must be local and global, with human communities organized as direct democracies. The importance of local action means that education services must be based on communities of learners, expressing their interdependence with the complex of ecological communities and seeking solutions to the problems of environmental destruction.

These alternatives may not be possible.
We have seen recently in Russia, China, Syria, Myanmar, that governments do not want to allow any freedom of expression, and would certainly attempt to control ‘education as liberation’. Whether we like it or not, ‘education’ is regarded by many governments to be an effective agent of control…..even though, according to learning theory, it is nothing of the kind. Perhaps what is more significant is the willingness of communities to send their children to school so as to pass their time doing nothing of any interest!

Confucius [450BC] stated: Tell me and I will forget. Show me and I may remember.
 Involve me and I will understand.

For a more detailed discussion of these issues go to  A Discourse: Social Ecology/Education

A Critical Pedagogy
Education as Schooling.

In the future, there will be increasing demands for different priorities to rule social life and economies across the globe. For example, the search for oil has to be controlled and required to take account of local conditions. It is no longer acceptable for oil companies to move into an area and drill, and let the oil-water waste to leach into the soil and the rivers. Nor for exploration companies to ‘frack’ oil sands and oil shales…..that is, inject water into strata and set off explosions, and cause quakes!  Rich countries, such as Saudi Arabia or South Korea or China will not be allowed to move into other lands and buy up farm lands for crops for their own home populations. In these situations local communities will be advised to find out how to stop exploitation. This will need opportunities for education and learning.

As someone who worked in the education industry in the UK for forty years, I have to accept that many debates about education are rooted in the societies of Western Europe and the USA, where schools and colleges have been built, pupils are waiting to go to school, and teachers have been trained, and are ready to teach.
The conventional views in these societies are that ‘schooling’ is the most effective way of either maintaining standards or improving standards of performance, or skill levels; or bringing about changes in social attitudes; monitoring the values of pupils and bringing about changes in behaviour. ‘Schooling’ involves teachers directing pupils to behave in acceptable, approved, legal ways: the standards are set by the officers of the government, and applied by the school system under the rules of a National Curriculum. ‘Schooling’ does not involve the pupils making choices nor exercising preferences. It is based on pupils doing as they are told, and being punished if they do not. The long term effect of this approach is that we are all conditioned to behave according to the rules when in the presence of ‘authority’, and behaving differently when amongst our families and friends or colleagues. Such inconsistencies are totally unacceptable in a world in which social changes are the keystone to ‘a better world’. It follows that ‘schooling’ is not an effective way of educating our citizens.

Ivan Illich wanted to de-school society,1971, and did not identify 'learning' with 'schooling'. In fact he saw the reverse. By being forced to go to school, the pupil is thereby "schooled"; the pupil confuses teaching with learning, grade advancement with education, a diploma with competence, and fluency with the ability to repeat something. His imagination is "schooled" to accept service in place of value. Schooling - the production of prescribed knowledge, the marketing of knowledge, which is what the school amounts to, draws society into the trap of thinking that knowledge is hygienic, pure, respectable, deodorized, produced by human heads and amassed in making school compulsory, [people] are schooled to believe that the self-taught individual is to be discriminated against; that learning and the growth of cognitive capacity require a process of consumption of services presented in an industrial, a planned, a professional form;... that learning is a thing rather than an activity. A thing that can be amassed and measured, the possession of which is a measure of the productivity of the individual within the society, that is: of his social value.            
The vast majority of people who are demanding ‘an education’, today, as well as social changes, live in the ‘developing world’ and are poor, trying to survive on less than $10 a day and more likely $1 a day. The debates should be about, what are the relevant forms of educational provision for over 6 billion people; including 2.4 billion children; 1 billion starving, and 2.6 billion without secure water supplies?
Should these peoples be schooled? Or educated? And by whom?
Their prime concerns will be survival, day to day?  But as more and more international corporations and government agencies penetrate the lands of the Amazon,  the Yangtze,  the Nile,  the Ganges,  the Andes,  the tundra of Canada and Russia, the hot deserts of the Sahara, and Australia, and the steppes of Russia, China, and Africa, and the cold lands of Greenland, in search of more and more resources, the concerns of the indigenous peoples, and the poor majority, will be security and protection, human rights, property rights, alternative agricultures, alternative land exploitation, water use and sanitation, medical services, finances, and education.  The indigenous peoples of the world can no longer live in isolation. They are being invaded by multi-national corporations and government sponsored projects for energy and minerals and foods. They need help to enable them to fight exploitation, and to preserve their sustainable lives, as well as to develop other systems of farming. They need to be ‘educated’ and liberated! Not schooled and dominated.

We have to think about the pedagogy of the poor, and the indigenous peoples across the globe. What will be the best provision?
Problems emerge from the start. The officers of governments, and members of ruling families, have almost certainly benefited from the education services of western democracies, attended private schools, and gone to University in the west. Their models of best practices will be based on the formal institutions of the UK, France, Germany, the old colonial countries, and the USA or Russia. When faced with the tasks of establishing a national education service they will utilize the systems of the developed world, with their national curricula, formal exams, and educational meritocracies supported by examinations and recognized qualifications. They will introduce and develop systems of schooling that are not particularly relevant to their home countries.
When we think about these characteristics of government education services, it becomes clear that they are irrelevant to many learners in the ‘developed world’ too, and totally irrelevant to the poor communities across the world. In fact, the  education services that are currently in operation are best seen as systems of control and schooling.
The pedagogy of the poor will require different ways of thinking about education and learning.

Confucius [450BC] stated: Tell me and I will forget. Show me and I may remember.
 Involve me and I will understand.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

People's movements and International solidarity are a powerful combination!
in the fight against VEDANTA India and London.
People are fighting Vedanta in Asia and Africa. They have succeeded in weakening Vedanta.
Join us in fighting them in London!

Why are Peoples’ Movements Fighting Vedanta?
Vedanta plc is a London listed FTSE100 company which has brought death and destruction to thousands. It is owned by billionaire Anil Agarwal and his family through companies in various tax havens. It has been consistently fought by people’s movements but it is being helped by the British government to evolve in to a multi-headed monster and spread across India and round the world, diversifying into iron in Goa, Karnataka and Liberia; Zinc in Rajasthan, Namibia, South Africa and Ireland; copper in Zambia and most recently oil in the ecologically fragile Mannar region in Sri Lanka.


Vedanta’s Record in India:

In Odisha, India
Vedanta’s bauxite mining and aluminium smelters have left more than ten thousand displaced people landless, contaminated drinking water sources with ‘red mud’ and fly ash, and devastated vast tracts of fertile land in an area which has seen famine every year since 2007.Vedanta’s mine on the sacred Niyamgiri hills has been fought by Adivasi (indigenous)-led people’s movements for seven long years and has so far been stopped. This has rendered their subsidiaryVedanta Aluminium (VAL) a loss making company, starving it’s refineries at Jharsuguda and Lanjigarh of local bauxite.
In Goa:
Vedanta’s Sesa Goa subsidiary has been accused of large scale fraud and illegal mining. In June 2009 following a pit wall collapse which drowned Advalpal village in toxic mine waste, a 9year old local boy Akaash Naik filed a petition to stop the mine and mass protests later that year halted mining at one of Sesa Goa’s sites. In 2011 there were more major mine waste floods. In South Goa a 90 day road blockade by 400 villagers succeeded in stopping another iron ore mine. Sesa Goaare paying ‘silence funds’ to try and prevent similar action at their South Goa mine.

In Tamil Nadu, Tuticorin:
Vedanta subsidiary Sterlite has flouted laws without remorse, operating and expanding without consent, violating environmental conditions, and illegally dumping toxic effluents and waste. In 1997 a toxic gas leak hospitalised 100 people sparking an indefinite hungerstrike by a local politician and a ‘siege on Sterlite’ that led to 1643 arrests. Later that year a kiln explosion killed two. An estimated 16 workers died between 2007 and 2011. Police recorded most workers deaths as suicides. Pollution Control Boards, judges and expert teams have on several occasions reversed damning judgements of the company, demonstrating large scale corruption and bribery. Activists are waging a court battle which has stopped operations for several short periods.
In Tamil Nadu, Mettur:
Vedanta bought MALCO ‘s aluminium complex at Mettur 2 years before permission for their Kolli Hills bauxite mines expired but continued to mine illegally for 10years. Five adivasi villages were disturbed and a sacred grove destroyed before activist’s petitions stopped mining in 2008. Without local bauxite and with protests preventing bauxite coming from Niyamgiri in Orissa the factory at Mettur was also forced to close. However, the abandoned and unreclaimed mines continue to pollute the mountains and a huge red mud dump by the Stanley reservoir pollutes drinking water and blows toxic dust into the village.
In Chhattisgarh, Korba:
Vedanta bought the state owned BALCO’s alumina refinery, smelter and bauxite mines for ten times less than its estimated value in 2001 despite a landmark 61 day strike by workers. Since then wages have been slashed and unionised workers are losing jobs. In 2009 a factory chimney collapsed, BALCO claimed 42 were killed, but in fact 60 – 100 people are still missing. Witnesses claim these workers from poor families in neighbouring states are buried underground in the rubble, which was bulldozed over immediately after the collapse.

Stop Vedanta’s Profit from Death and Destruction!





British Government’s special relationship with Vedanta

  • • The UK’s Department for International Development (DfID) and Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) helped launch Vedanta on the London Stock Exchange and continues to support the company.
  • • Through the World Bank funded NGO Business Partners for Development, it has helped Vedanta take over copper mines in Zambia . Although Vedanta has been fined for poisoning the Kafue river and faced workers protests, the UK is helping establish it in Zambia by securing in the words of local NGOs “ a ‘champion’ withincentral government to further the ‘enabling environment’”.
  • • Meanwhile in Liberia in what has been described as one of the worst recorded concession agreements in the country’s history Sesa Goa is accused of breach of contract and may have to pay damages of US$10 billion.
  • • Most recently when the Indian government held up Vedanta’s deal with Edinburghbased Cairn Energy by investigating Vedanta’s ability to manage strategic oil fields, UKgovernment officials, briefed “over dinner” by Cairn Energy, offered to “polish” and send a letter drafted by the company to the Indian Prime Minister to force the deal through. David Cameron even personally intervened, urging India to speed up ‘unnecessary delays’. As a result the Indian government caved in and allowed a deal which handed some 30% of India’s crude oil for a fraction of its worth to this notorious corporate.
  • • Vedanta’s Cairn India is now drilling for oil in the ecologically fragile off-shore region around Mannar in Sri Lanka – an area controlled by the Sri Lankan military.
Vedanta is funded by more than 30 major banks and financial agencies including HSBC,Deutsche Bank, Axa, Royal Bank of Canada, Credit Suisse, J P Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs,  Lloyds Banking Group,Nordea Bank, HSBC, ICICI, Citigroup, National Bank of Kuwait, ANZ andMerrill Lynch. The University Superannuations Scheme (USS) pension fund, the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and Cheshire, Suffolk, Wolverhampton and Leicestershire county council’s pension schemes hold large investments. But the Norwegian Government Pension Fund, Martin Currie Investments, the Church of England, the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust and the Dutch PensionFund PGGM have divested because of Vedanta’s ecological, and human rights crimes.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Cheats and apartheid in Lonmin, South Africa

Colonial Capitalism is alive and well, hiding under the name ‘globalisation’.
 Lonmin [LonRho],  Glencore, Xstrata, [Glenstrata], operate mining companies in South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, and other outposts of colonial empires, and have their luxurious headquarters in the City of London. The companies are shareholders of each other. In 2008, Glenstrata made a take over bid for Lonmin.

Lonmin, as Lonrho, forty years ago, under Sir Angus Ogilvy, became a major player in the UK media, with links to members of Parliament, as well as members of the Royal Family. Today, as Lonmin, it is a mining company, with  platinum mines in South Africa.

Recent events in South Africa raises the issue of what has changed since the days of apartheid. Under the Boers it was common for white officers to assault black workers.    It was common for white bosses to exploit black workers. It was common for black workers to do the most dangerous jobs for the least wages.

In August 2012, under the ANC, we had to witness black officers shooting and killing up to 44 black workers, and injuring about 100 others, on the grounds of a Lonmin mine. There had been no preliminary warning shots of  rubber bullets, only tear gas.   After the shootings the President Zuma demanded an enquiry, rather than arresting the police officers responsible for the killings.

In August 2012, it becomes clear that Lonmin makes significant profits from the 2 platinum mines it operates in South Africa., while paying the miners less than a living wage! The dispute is about wages and conditions of work, and the workers have refused to be intimidated by Lonmin.
In 2012, revenues of Lonmin were $1.99billion, and profits $156 million.

In Zambia, the GlenStrata mines at Mufulira pay workers minimum wages, create serious pollution including sulphur poisoning, and acid rain. A recent story by  John Sweeney of the BBC reported that in the DRCongo, at the Luilu refinery, Glenstrata continues to mine and refine copper by using sulphuric acid, and pouring the residues directly back into the local river........while declaring that it is busy looking after the environment, and improving the living conditions of the workers!
It is time for the actions of these ‘colonial capitalists’ to be monitored, supervised, and regulated by government agents, and for them to be required to pay taxes on their massive profits.
It is time that the indigenous owners of the land, and the workers of the mines, benefit from their assets and skills. It is time that the white bosses stopped exploiting black workers.

Thursday, 23 August 2012



Capitalism and environmental protection are not compatible. The capitalist is driven to maximise profits, the ecologist  to safeguard nature. The United Nations declares that we should be concerned with ‘development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’.
The capitalist will claim the loyalties of the investors and their workers in order to maximise profits for the company. It is 'grow or die!'.  The executives of Corporations and governments will assert that they operate to protect the environment and the interests of communities. They will endeavour to ‘green’ their products. But statements of Corporate Social Responsibility are a sham, a con trick perpetrated by companies to protect their commercial interests.
Social Ecologists argue: it is grow and die! Economic growth leads to the destruction of the biosphere, and to the deaths of many people. Major health problems such as lung cancer, brain tumours, mesothelioma, starvation, have become associated with capitalist enterprise. Medical authorities should take action to minimise the effects of pollution on people, and ban the products. The corporations and the governments persist with the production of  tobacco, asbestos, oil, mobile phones, among others, on the basis that the customers choose to buy and so are responsible for any harm that they suffer. Governments rely on the taxes raised on these products. In effect, there is no corporate social responsibility.


The new laws in Australia, Aug 14, mark a significant shift in attitudes to smoking tobacco.
Obviously, the Tobacco corporations have a different notion of Corporate Social responsibility to any other organizations and they are examples of social ir-responsibility!
Tobacco companies see nothing wrong with selling products that infect and kill their customers…….it is estimated that 6 million die each year across the world from the effects of smoking tobacco. They have been making cigarettes for many years, knowing that they were increasing the risks of chest infections and disease amongst their customers. Chris Woolston  [] reported that in the early 1960s, researchers at Brown & Williamson, one of the world's largest tobacco companies, made a sickening discovery......... Smoking causes lung cancer. But, in public, the company claimed cigarettes were perfectly safe: smoking is good for you. Behind closed doors, their scientists searched for ways to remove cancer-causing compounds from cigarettes. As their own internal documents show, the search for a safe cigarette was doomed from the start. The researchers found that burning tobacco produces a stunning collection of dangerous chemicals, no matter how it's grown, treated, or packaged. Simply put, cigarettes are not safe! are not good for you! In the USA, this finding was confirmed in 1964 by the report of the Surgeon General's Advisory Committee on Smoking and Health which declared that cigarette smoking is causally related to lung cancer: the more you smoke, the more likely you are to contract lung cancer.........and chronic bronchitis........... and chronic bronchopulmonary diseases.
Today, of course, the facts are well known. Everyone from the Surgeon General to the kid on the street corner knows smoking causes lung cancer. In fact, it causes the vast majority of all lung cancer, a disease that killed an estimated 160,000 Americans in 2007. Even the tobacco companies are now willing to admit the obvious. A statement on the Philip Morris Web site says it all: ‘We agree with the overwhelming medical and scientific consensus that
cigarette smoking causes lung cancer, heart disease, emphysema, and other serious diseases such as throat cancer, bladder cancer.’ Despite this, their drive for sales continues. Their profits expand and grow, and many of their customers die from smoking their cigarettes! In 1980 their research indicated that secondary smoke from cigarettes was toxic, but this was not made public for 20 years.
Australia last year, 2011, passed legislation requiring all tobacco to be sold in plain packets with graphic health warnings from 1 December 2012. It is the first country to pass such stringent packaging legislation. August 2012, the law requiring all packets to be plain and have graphic warnings about cancer, along with pictures of cancers was upheld by the High Court.

Countries such as the USA, Britain, Canada and

New Zealand and the EU, are considering similar

moves, but are still talking.
Why don’t health authorities simply ban tobacco

products ? make them illegal, and prosecute the

tobacco corporations for selling products that
they all know  damage and/or kills their customers?

The recent developments in Asbestos, Quebec mark the hypocrisy of producers.
But even when a product has been banned, like asbestos, its effects continue. Asbestos fibres can cause various forms of cancer. The World Health Organisation estimates that 170,000 people die world wide annually from asbestos poisoning. People who worked with asbestos 50 years ago are coming forward with mesothelioma today. Others who were present when buildings exploded, such as the World Trade Centre in 2001, were exposed to asbestos fibres, and many have died of asbestos cancers. The  MAA Center [] is one of the centres  that monitors the many different ways in  w
hich the companies producing asbestos continue to endanger the workers and users of asbestos through the spread of mesothelioma.             
The dangers of asbestos were known 100 years ago. Companies like Bendix, Borg Warner,Chevron, Chrysler, Dow Chemicals, Kodak, Ford, General Electric manufactured and sold asbestos products.  Its use, and the profits generated, were more important than the lives of the workers and the consumers. Mining and processing was banned  in the EU, 2005: but continues in Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Canada, Brazil. China is the major producer, and consumer  of asbestos. Canada has long banned the use of asbestos, but allows the mining and export of up to 120,000 tons of white asbestos each year from Quebec.  The asbestos is to be exported to India, Indonesia, and the Philippines for use in the construction industry.             
What is the point of making statements and policies of CSR  when they mean nothing in practice, and only represent the double  standards of governments and corporations?
This is despite the fact that asbestos fibres are the cause of various forms of lung cancer. http// This is despite the fact that the Government  knows of these dangers, and actively removes asbestos from buildings, and forbids its use in building operations in Canada. These actions are tantamount to hypocrisy driven by the desire to 'make money'.
 It is worth noting that Asbestos products have not been banned in the USA, and the Surgeon General did not issue a health warning until April, 2009.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer, the National Toxicology Program, and the Environmental Protection Agency all declared asbestos a known human carcinogen decades ago. And yet U.S. imports of crude asbestos fibers rose by 235% between 2009 and 2010. Worldwide nearly 2 million tons of it were mined for use in things like cements, automotive
parts, protective footwear, and textiles. All of Europe, many countries in South America, and Saudi Arabia and others have banned asbestos. However, the United States has not seen fit to ban asbestos.
The health effects of asbestos are wide ranging, from an asbestos-related lung condition called asbestosis,  to mesothelioma, which is a tumor that affects the lining of the lungs, in the pleura, the lining of the abdomen, and this is a tumor that is unique to asbestos. The International Agency for Research on Cancer, a part of the World Health Organization, has now designated asbestos as cause of laryngeal cancer, ovarian cancer, and other forms of gastrointestinal cancer.  So it’s one substance that has had a wide variety of use but has been associated with multiple types of diseases including respiratory disease and cancer. More than 60 countries have banned asbestos.

December 10th 2009 marks the start of the 'trial of the century' in Italy.  Two executives of the company, Eternit, have been accused of  causing an environmental disaster leading to the deaths of 2,200 workers, and ill health of hundreds of others, due to asbestos poisoning in four factories.
February 13th 2012 the court in Turin found ETERNIT guilty, and sent the two executives to prison.     

Oil: who is to be trusted?
With the exploitation of oil, action can be taken to protect local communities from pollution. But as the legal battles between Chevron and the government of  Ecuador show, such actions are never straightforward and can drag on for years.
October 2009, the multibillion-dollar legal case between Amazon peasants and Chevron over oil pollution in Ecuador’s rain forest keeps unfolding more like a mystery thriller than a battle of briefs.  Since the oil giant released videos in August 2009 that were secretly taped by two businessmen, Ecuadorean officials and Chevron have accused each other of gross improprieties, including espionage. Chevron gambled that the disclosure of the videos would enable it to cast doubt on the integrity of the trial, and the honesty of the Ecuadorean legal system. But the tapes have also raised questions about its ties to the men who made the recordings, potentially opening the company to a new legal fight. The tapes were the latest turn in a legal marathon over oil contamination left by Texaco years before it was acquired by Chevron.  The fight has become one about 'damages' not about environment. On Monday 14th February, 2011, after 17 years of legal battle, the second-largest oil company in the US, Chevron, was found guilty by Ecuadorian courts of massive environmental contamination of the Amazon. Chevron was ordered to pay a fine of $9 billion in damages. This is the largest judgement ever made against a US company for environmental contamination and is the first time that indigenous and farming communities have won judgements in foreign courts against a US company for environmental crimes abroad.
From 1964 to 1990, Chevron made billions of USD in profits through oil extraction in the Ecuadorian Amazon. In the long- running trial in US and Ecuadorian courts, Chevron admitted to deliberately discharging around 18 billion gallons of toxic waste-water into the water systems of the Amazon. The company committed a series of environmental crimes, such as spilling 17 million of gallons of pure crude oil from ruptured pipelines and abandoning more than 900 unlined waster pits which leeched toxins, contaminating the air, soil and water. Chevron ordered workers to destroy records of these crimes and never carried out any environmental impact studies.
May 2010 witnessed the oil pollution of the Gulf of Mexico, and the shorelines of Louisiana, following the destruction of  the Macondo platform. The chief executives of BP, in public, were more concerned with minimising the significance of the oil spill, asserting that the quantities of oil were minor in comparison to previous spills. To say this, is to ignore the horror of the catastrophe for the local communities, and the destruction of fisheries, and marine life.  The US government has declared the oil spill the biggest ever ! If such oil companies as BP  took corporate social responsibility seriously, they would not have  drilled for oil in such ocean localities in the first place: the Deep Water Horizon well extracts oil from a depth of 2 miles! July 2010 - the CEO of BP has paid the consequences of his public indifference by being dismissed.
Nov. 2011 the exploitation of the tar sands in Canada has led Shell into conflict with the First Nations of Athabaska for failure to meet contractual agreements.
In Nigeria, Shell are legally obliged to restore Ogoniland from the effects of oil pollution. 'Fracking', a process whereby oil and gas are forced out of the ground by water, has resulted in earthquakes in Lancashire, UK. What sort of madness is this?
Mobile phones
Multi-tasking in a vehicle leads to distracted drivers.
And how should we regard Motorola or AT&T? and  the marketing of cell phones/mobile phones ? During the 1960's both corporations have admitted that they knew that 'multi-tasking' by the driver in the car, with a cell phone causes distraction, and accidents, and death....... So, of course, they mounted a campaign against the use of these phones by drivers? Not a bit of it. Motorola mounted a campaign promoting their use by lorry drivers.  Now, they have developed 'hands-free' mobile phone kits fitted in the car and lorry. This is despite the fact that they are aware that  'multi-tasking' is dangerous: leading to 2,600 fatal crashes, and 570,000 accidents in the USA, in 2007.  In Dec 2009, the BBC reported that the Transport Research Lab.UK revealed that in London the use of mobile phones in vehicles was on the increase, despite the fact that it was illegal.
January 2010, the lawmakers of the USA are drawing up legislation to control 'distracted driving'. Four bills are pending in Congress that would push the States to regulate various types of cellphone use by drivers, including banning texting, requiring hands-free devices or prohibiting motorists under the age of 21 from using any devices. In the USA, generally, States regulate their roadways — which is why, safety advocates say, the actions of state lawmakers play such a critical role in addressing the issue. (Currently, 19 states and Washington D.C. ban texting while driving, and six states and Washington require use of hands-free devices by motorists talking on phones.) In December, 2009, the House of Representatives passed an order banning 8,000 House staff members from texting while driving (following  an order signed in October by President Obama banning 4.5 million federal employees from texting in state-provided cars or phones or during work hours).
Nov.2011; a court in California ruled that using a hand held phone at a traffic lights is part of the ban, and illegal.
December 14 2011, the US  National Transportation Board issued a report  urging all states of the US to ban all use of mobile phones in automobiles. Their research into the links between distracted drivers  and accidents over the last 10 years had forced them, in the face of opposition from phonemakers and carmakers, as well as lawmakers, to draw the conclusion that mobile phones in autos are dangerous!

December 2011, there are 3 billion users of mobile phones across the world. To put it another way: 3 billion people are  directly subject to the effects of micro-wave radiation, and may be subject to  skin rashes, brain tumors, sleeping disorders. Mobiles can damage your health. Governments and manufacturers know this, but say nothing...... However, on April 26 2012, the Health Protection Agency in the UK  issued a report that declared that there is no hard evidence of bad health effects from mobile phones.
The report confirmed that the greatest dangers of mobile phones is their use in cars and lorries, leading to 'distracted driving'.

CSR and pollution
McDonalds has been encouraging the growth of soya beans, which has led to the resumption of clearing of forests for farmland in the Amazon valley.
Elsewhere, in the forests of Indonesia, Wilmar, a palm oil producer, has been caught by Friends of the Earth, violating its own CSR policies by cutting forests and occupying land without permission.  
Ethics World tells us that there can be a lot of ‘greenwash’ ! Ethics World newsletter tells us that reports :Much of the past fifty years has been characterized by a corporate attitude of denial or obligation. Only over the past fifteen to twenty years have companies begun to look at social and environmental challenges as business opportunities by "greening" their current products and processes. For example, Walmart declares its food products ‘organic’ and ‘green’ so as to attract customers ……….even though there is evidence from WalmartWatch denying these claims;they suggest that for Walmart sustainability is a public relations campaign.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

DEVELOPMENT ISSUES: water, biofuels,
land grabs, wealth distribution.


All the latest work on global water supplies presents us with contradictory findings.
A report from the analysts, Maplecroft, in 2010. says that the ten countries most at risk are: Somalia (1), Mauritania (2), Sudan (3), Niger (4), Iraq (5), Uzbekistan (6), Pakistan (7), Egypt (8), Turkmenistan (9) and Syria (10). The ranking was based on an assessment of access to water, water demands and the reliance on external supplies with countries like Mauritania and Niger more than 90 per cent reliant on external water supplies.

2012: Researchers at the University of Kassel in Germany, led by Martina Floerke, projected that by the 2050s, as many as six billion people could face water scarcity.

But a new report, by the British Geological Surveys, issued 20 April 2012, declares that  there are huge ground water resources  under Africa.  Scientists say the notoriously dry continent of Africa is sitting on a vast reservoir of groundwater. They argue that the total volume of water in aquifers underground is 100 times the amount found on the surface. Freshwater rivers and lakes are subject to seasonal floods and droughts that can limit their availability for people and for agriculture. At present only 5% of arable land is irrigated.  Researchers from the British Geological Survey and University College London (UCL) have mapped the groundwater resource across the continent.  "Where there's greatest ground water storage is in northern Africa, in the large sedimentary basins, in Libya, Algeria and Chad. The amount of storage in those basins is equivalent to 75metre thickness of water across that area - it's a huge amount." Due to changes in climate that have turned the Sahara into a desert over centuries, many of the aquifers underneath were last filled with water over 5,000 years ago.  The scientists are cautious about the best way of accessing these hidden resources. They suggest that widespread drilling of large boreholes might not work.   "Appropriately sited and developed boreholes for low yielding rural water supply and hand pumps are likely to be successful."  With many aquifers not being filled due to a lack of rain, the scientists are worried that large-scale borehole developments could rapidly deplete the resource. Sometimes the slower means of extraction can be more efficient:  " our work shows that with careful exploring and construction, there is sufficient groundwater under Africa to support low yielding water supplies for drinking and community irrigation."  The scientists say that there are sufficient reserves to be able to cope with the vagaries of climate change! Clearly, these reserves will have to be carefully monitored and supervised so as to avoid massive piracy.

Weather events this year, 2012, have led to floods and droughts. If we could control water flows, water suppplies might cease to be a problem. During 2012 many countries  have been subject to   continuous flooding… Philippines, southern Russia, central China, Japan, parts of Australia, and much of the UK, along with the monsoons of southern Asia, India and Pakistan: Others places have suffered  unprecedented drought, such as the prairies of North America. or the grasslands of Chad, and Sudan. As a result of which there have been failed harvests of corn, wheat, barley, rice, and rising prices, and increasing levels of starvation.

Amazon Watch reports, August 2012, that the Belo Monte Dam Project on the Xingu River is boiling up to a conflict between the local peoples and the Brazilian government and the development corporations and the courts. Indigenous leaders say that these plans will
affect more than 50 Amazonian nations representing hundreds of thousands of Indians.
Tayajin Shuwi Peas, warns: “We are not scared and we will fight to the death over this.” The Appeals court has found in favour of the indigenous peoples, banning the construction of the Dam.

Dry Toilets
In 2010 the UN declared  that access to water is a human right.
RIO+20 confirmed that every community must have safe water to drink, and sources for safe sanitation. But it is recognised that water toilets use too much water. The Bill/Melinda Gates Foundation, this week, [August 15 2012] offered up to $370 million to design teams to establish 'dry toilets', toilets that do not use  fresh water, but may use urine, and can operate for less than 5cents a day.
This is a good example of wealth redistribution, and design innovation. The dry toilet would be more appropriate for use in dry regions, rather than adopt water facilities developed in areas where water is plentiful.

Biofuels = starvation.
2010. New Economic Foundation’s report, ‘Growth isn’t possible’ revealed that concern for climate change and the rising price of oil has resulted in new policies that aim to substitute petrol and diesel with biofuels. There are, however, a number of unintended consequences of agro-industrial  biofuels.
‘The grain required to fill the tank of a sports utility vehicle with ethanol…could feed one person for a year; this shows how food and fuel compete. Rising prices of staple crops can cause significant welfare losses for the poor, most of whom are net buyers of staple crops’. The rise in popularity of biofuels is creating competition for land and water between crops grown for food and those grown to make biofuels. This has led to civil unrest around the world. For example, the ‘Tortilla Riots’ in Mexico in 2007 followed the dramatic rise in price of corn (a staple food for poor households) as more land was given over for biofuel production.  Research published earlier in 2007 showed that the growth of palm oil for biodiesel for the European market is now the main cause of deforestation in Indonesia.
Is the complete or even partial substitution of diesel and petrol fuels with biofuels possible?
If the UK directly substituted all its diesel and petrol fuels to rapeseed oil biodiesel and corn bioethanol, the amount of agricultural land required would be approximately 36 million hectares. Total land area in the UK is just over 24 million hectare; less than 20 per cent  is suitable for agriculture.
To meet the USA  goal of increasing bioethanol production from the five billion gallons produced to 35 billion gallons by 2017 would require more corn than the USA currently produces.
To replace 10 per cent of global petrol production with bioethanol, Brazil would have to increase its ethanol production by a factor of 40, and would result in the destruction of around 35 per cent of the remaining Amazon Rainforest.
By increasing the consumption of bioethanol to around 34 million barrels per year by 2050, we find that  this would require a 25 per cent increase in cultivated land by 2050. This will clearly mean claiming a vast amount of land from the already stressed natural environment. It seems that the biggest enemies of the environment are the Ministers and Governments of specific countries!

Land Grabs for oil
But it is not only land for farming. It is also land for oil. It is not only 'neo-colonialists', it is the home governments that are selling land off for revenue. For example, the BBC reports that  it is six years since Chad's first US-led oil project at Doba came on stream. Human rights activists in Chad say they fear a new Chinese-backed oil project will displace hundreds of people and will destroy at least 10 villages. The deal is directly between the Chadian government and the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), without any  scrutiny from the international community.  Work has begun to build a 300km (185 mile) pipeline from the Koudalwa oilfields in the south of the country, to a new refinery north of the capital. Chad's government says those who have to move will be compensated. The activists assert that the locals have not been consulted. These land grabs are not only occurring in Africa. In Peru, in South America, for the first time isolated indigenous groups are uniting to fight the Government’s plans to auction off  75 per cent of the Amazon — which accounts for nearly two thirds of the country’s territory — to oil, gas and mining companies. They oppose 11 decrees issued by President GarcĂ­a, under special legislative powers granted to him by the Peruvian Congress, to enact a free trade agreement with the US. These would allow companies to bypass indigenous communities to obtain permits for exploration and extraction of natural resources, logging and the building of hydroelectric dams.

Oxfam International  agrees that not all aid works, and that a lot of it could work better. This is an argument for aid to be fixed – not abandoned  -- Aid that does not work to alleviate poverty and inequality ; aid that is driven by geopolitical interests ;aid which is too often squandered on expensive consultants; aid which spawns parallel government structures accountable to donors and not citizens; aid conceived by ‘experts’ in Washington, Geneva, or London and imposed without meaningful consultation with, or participation by those it intends to help; All such aid has little to do with the poor. Development  aid must be monitored and regulated.
In a world where 10million people control $42 trillion, of which 1226 billionaires control $4 trillion, and up to $30trillion is hidden ‘offshore’, t
he long term solution for AID has to be one whereby wealth is taxed, and the wealthy given incentives to give significant sums to charity, and the proceeds used to provide housing, to facilitate subsistence farming, to prevent starvation,  to cure diseases, to ease water supplies, and provide sanitation; to build schools and teach billions to read and write; to make villages and neighbourhoods, places where peoples can survive. What is more, such redistribution will have to be accompanied by serious attempts to stop fraud and corruption so as to make sure that the monies go to the poor and not into the pockets of some third party. There is no prospect of the poor majority  becoming ‘rich’ and ‘comfortable’. The only hope is that they will survive in better conditions than at present. Most people in the world today are poor, and living in appalling conditions. There is overwhelming evidence that rural areas account for three in every four people living on less than $1 a day and a similar share of the world population suffering from malnutrition. Urban slum growth is outpacing  urban growth by a wide margin. Approximately half the world’s population now live in cities and towns. In 2005, one out of three urban dwellers (approximately 1 billion people) was living in slum conditions. The UN wants each citizen of the planet, by virtue of his or her humanity, to be given a right to  minimum living standards. The UN accepts that the provision of basic social services will be through long-term financial transfers - redistribution of wealth. This change of philosophy implies a real revolution for the development community.
In a way, official development flows are moving away from a logic of investment towards one of global wealth redistribution. If financial transfers and redistribution of wealth is to work globally there will need to be ‘global networks’ of allocation, enforcement and supervision similar to the United Nations and its various organisations. To help ensure that it is successful, several agencies, including the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Bank are collaborating to mobilize ongoing political and operational support, including fighting for universal access to care for all women and children.