Category Archives: comsumption

Poverty Contests

An article published in today’s New York Times reports on efforts in India to enshrine access to food as a constitutionally protected right, a law its proponents expect could enable the food-insecure to make their own market choices to purchase food with food coupons or cash, instead of waiting for monthly 77 pound bags of grain, sugar and kerosene under the current regime. The article also goes on to highlight statistics about how India’s poverty is more widespread and intense than Africa’s, despite the “Tiger” rebranding and annual economic growth rate. A report compiled in India Current Affairs in July also highlights these poverty rankings, comparing the one Indian state of Madhya Pradesh in the country’s center with the entire Democratic Republic of Congo, both of similar population (though the Congo’s size is more comparable to India in its entirety), and finding the same levels of deprivation, even with DRC’s wars (though Madhya Pradesh is not without Naxalites and other struggles for land and resources between communities and multi-national mining and other interests, not unlike DRC).

On the one hand, the expectation around the world seems to be of Africa as the world’s eternal poverty yardstick. This in spite of similar levels of conventionally measured economic growth in a number of Sub-Saharan countries that approach such activity as seen in India in recent years. By comparing favorably to Africa, a government should have license to claim progress in the war on poverty – that’s the ridiculous, racist assumption, an assumption of development stasis.

On the other more important hand, these rankings and contests, especially as presented in the links mentioned above, are patently absurd in themselves, ignoring the basic fact that most of the annual GDP growth measures the rise in income of mostly exclusive urban, male, elite high-end sectors which determine and direct mining, cash-crop, real estate (land displacement), and [cheapest] labor configurations which exclude vast rural populations, whether in India, Congo, or Colombia. Human beings are impoverishing other human beings – not continental geographies. And the story is similar in most geographies including those concerned in this essay – Adivasis in rural Chhattisgarh struggle to hold on to their land in the face of “Memoranda of Understanding” signed by illegitimate politicians to mining interests to violently displace the people from their land, similarly to how Niger Delta militants attack oil infrastructure and kidnap oil workers in response to land displacement and ecosystem destruction by a half century of oil exploitation by foreign corporations in happy concert with local state governments and the Federal Government of Nigeria.

Once you understand neo-colonialism and neoliberal market economics, these patterns can be easily understood as to how they determine poverty and struggle around the third world. Malnutrition and poverty propagate fastest and most consistently wherever governments fail to prioritize enabling peripheral population groups to exact their own capacity to cultivate, live and eat of the land. Changes in the environment, and dietary demands which may place undue stress on the ecosystem and reduce its carrying capacity, may further impede nutrition and food security, as predominates in Sahelian countries that currently suffer serious drought. But policy-makers in much of the third world more often than not do not care, since they do not share the same fate as those far beyond the capitals, the urban and privileged spaces where they bury their heads, forgetting what rural populations go through, forgetting they exist.

I think that in itself, that food security should become a constitutional and human right anywhere is excellent. But a shifting in societal priorities would be a more lasting solution, towards actually considering the plights of women, of agriculturalists, and enabling their self-determination while the wealth of the nation focuses first on human and ecological needs rather than profit for exploitative corporations and salaries for ministers and bureaucracies.

Why focus on these poverty contests, with Africa at level zero? These statistics only measure those who, already in positions of control over powerful economic interests, are getting richer as they exploit more underpaid, vulnerable workers, and the land those workers may have been displaced or evicted from. These statistics don’t measure women’s reproductive work, don’t measure broader levels of quality of life that get inflated by those at the very top, even while the masses at the bottom suffer more dispossession and malnutrition year after year.

Human solidarity is to be encouraged instead. The same problems in Nigeria or Congo are found in India, Bangladesh, Indonesia or Peru, the same exact identical types of fierce corruption, the same exact types of high-official sellouts, the same exact identical types of Western aspirationalism and mimicry, the same exact types of ideological and religious extremisms and hysterias which cripple the masses from thinking critically and boldly enough to challenge the regimes that cause their suffering, the same exact multinationals praying on their resources, human and natural, to be exploited to the lowest common denominator. The same exact types of ignorance forced upon the masses with the absence of schools and the tolerance of illiteracy, despite official claims to the contrary. The exact same types of oppression of labor activists and human-rights campaigners and journalists. The exact same types of classisms and casteisms that compel generations to accept their designated desperation. The same exact types of false democracies in which the people do not have choice or voice in the structural economic questions of society, only at best over the latest personality who says the prettiest things or just looks pretty, but in power does little to nothing of the good he or she promised.

Thus I reject poverty contests. Instead, I move towards human collaboration and solidarity in the third world in pursuit of revolution! Towards the African revolution, the South Asian revolution, the Latin American revolution, the world revolution! Towards human-based economics! Towards the end of rapacious capitalism, the end of the rush to privatize water, seeds and land! Towards human and community-level self-governance and self-determination! Towards the humanization of labor such that people are not reduced to pack mules to produce Wal-Mart products at competitively lower and lower wages in ever more dangerous workplaces!

Towards human development work which is interested in human development, not numbers nudging and statistics masturbating.

The Prototype

Time is limited, when considering the atrocious nature of the stewardship we as a species perform on this planet. Planet Earth. None like it in the cosmos. The one and only. We may now be finding ‘super-earths’ out in the local arm of this spiral galaxy, but we ain’t going anywhere near them for centuries, nor will we be terraforming the Moon or colonizing Mars any time in our great grandchildren’s day. This is the only world that can host our species and every other creature and being on its little surface. It would seem that humanity can be said to be damn near its biggest bane: massive destruction of habitats and land, spillage of toxic hydrocarbons previously locked in the bowels of the crust, destructive conflicts that destroy human societies, habits of consumption that pollute and shorten human lives and the life of our environment all the same, mass extinctions of flora and fauna forever. It would seem that we as a species, after tens of thousands of years of behavioral modernity, have yet to deal with the fundamental problems and contradictions of the human condition and the sustainability of our home planet for all life. And yet we think ourselves the most sophisticated of the great apes.

I have yet to answer many such questions as an individual. I have made some introductory moves. I try to admit my ignorance every time it comes up. All I want to do is learn and practice methods and behaviors that collectively benefit us all and maintain joy and wellness with the most balance across our ecosystems. Cities, suburbs, forests, mountains, deserts and oceans alike are ecosystems, environments, habitats for multitudes of species, plant and animal. What are the best practices, technologies and attitudes, suitable to our budgets and environments, that can begin to address the fundamental contradictions of humanity’s most needlessly negative impacts on Earth and other people and creatures? I am just starting to take an inventory as applies to myself, a wishlist if you will.

I am nothing but a writer, a starving artist at the moment. Incomeless until (hopefully) I finish this first novel in a few weeks (and inevitably return to the workforce). And in all likelihood I’ll go back to being a student for the umpteenth time in the near future, further rendering me a person of leanest means. But I do try to dream.

I dream that I could afford a long-tail utility bike with mad racks (ala Big Dummy) and top-notch components and completely eliminate not only the very limited driving I do, but also cut out a lot of train riding and rely all but completely on my own body for transportation. I’ve been salivating over making this transition in transportation complete for a very long time now.

I dream of living in a community far denser than where I am, where community in itself is a concept pregnant with significance and actualization. A suburb like mine severely lacks this, and it is all the more isolating when the prevailing values of consumerism and material excess have long been rejected vigorously in my personal chamber. A community with more thoughtful people of color, not only the conforming ones hard-wired to their bad and destructive habits.

I dream of establishing and practicing even more meaningful relationships with a wider body of truly like-minded and like-practicing people. Why not? I’m not trying to convert anyone to how I do things. But after just about eleven years of veganism, I’m still the only vegetarian I actually know personally.

I dream of pushing the younger generations, or at least those with an open mind, toward engaging the world. Engaging the world includes hiking its lengths everyday with eyes fresh open. Engaging the world includes talking with others meaningfully, constructively, humorously. Not destructively. Not in the most shallow and empty ways. Engaging the world includes challenging oneself in this world. Engaging the world means actualizing oneself fully, given one’s sincerest aspirations, like Che Guevara. Engaging the world means recognizing ourselves in other people and respecting everyone and the diversity of identities they carry with the fullness, transcending the limiting, bigoted, intolerant, and ignorant impulses pushed by societies and traditions no thoughtful and humane person should practice if humanity is what they value. Engaging the world means recognizing one’s unity with all that is in this world, and seeing the oceans, the mountains, the cities, other people, as like an extension of one’s own body.

We don’t own the world. Even our bodies are not just some gift we have the reasoning to claim fully and exclusively – all the food we’ve digested, the seed and egg of our parents, the passage of time and accumulation of experience, they compose what we think we can call a “self.” We don’t have dominion over things. We can at best constructively participate in the process of nature and society on this wonderful planet.

Constructive engagement – perhaps that is what I most dream to do.

With our bodies, exercising daily and eating only the best food to the extent that we no longer feel hungry.

Then, fighting so others do not have to suffer hunger.

Then, fighting so that we and ourselves do not have to suffer ignorance.

Then, fighting so our planet does not have to suffer the results of our human excess.

Then, dancing with each other and ourselves in the celebration of being born not on Mars nor Venus, but beautiful and brilliant planet Earth, the one and only.

Or we can do these all at once.

I am trying my best to execute the practice of constructive engagement. I am only a beginner so bear with me. I hope others can check this same idea and give it a try, see if it works, and if not, offer constructive criticism.

Small steps with a small axe. At least we humans can try that. Else, well, time is limited on planet Earth, the one and only, and the same goes for our one life.

Afrikans – GREEN! Afrikans Must Become Zealous Environmentalists


To expand upon my latest entry at my political blog Project New Palmares, I’ve decided to stress the importance of Afrikan peoples to take global ecological and environmental issues very seriously. Especially in this the month of April, the month of Earth Day. Will we as Afrikans continue to allow others to speak for us when it comes to the fact that climate change will harm the Afrikan continent the most, or regarding the health and ecological disasters faced by Afrikan communities in the ghettos of America and elsewhere due to environmental racism?

Climate change will further expand the Sahara and Kalahari deserts on the one hand, while increasing flooding and torrential rain all across tropical Afrika and coastal Afrika on the other. Environmental racism means France and other European and Northern countries use Afrika as a dumping ground for nuclear and toxic waste, as happened in Cote D’Ivoire in 2006. The situation is similar in the Harlems and Newarks of the world, where asthma rates soar due to the location of waste processing sites, bus depots, and other unhealthy facilities in or near Afrikan communities in America, not in or around white and wealthy communities.

Pictured above is Wangari Maathai, leader of the Green Belt Movement of Kenya. In a nutshell, her legacy to Kenya and all of the developing world, as an environmentalist and political activist, has been the planting of 30 million trees to prevent soil erosion and improve rural woman’s lives by providing shelter, firewood, and access to clean water, among other things. The first Afrikan woman to become a Nobel laureate, I, as an Afrikan who deeply respects the virtues of planting trees and protecting the land, the watershed, the soil, and the whole ecosystem, hereby honor Queen Mother Maathai as a fantastic example for other Afrikans who should and must come to take the state of the natural environment extremely seriously.

I bring up the example of Wangari Maathai – the woman of the month here at Afrikan Raw Vegan Talk – to assert that Afrikans can address our ecological challenges autonomously and in simple ways. Planting trees is one of the most effective and beautiful methods. In Niger, the planting of trees is reversing desertification, as the linked 2007 NY Times article demonstrates. And these fruit trees also provide extra produce while fixing nitrogen in the soil for it to grow other crops. And as I have discussed in other blog entries here at Afrikan Raw Vegan Talk, the example of Yebua Danso at the Ahyiresu Naturalist Centre in Aburi, Ghana shows how effective and beautiful agroforestry can be – in which, to grow food, trees are actually planted, rather than chopped down in the old habit of “clearing the land.”

Afrika and countries and communities predominated by Afrikans – our abodes are not immune to calls to consume less and waste less. Living in Afrika I saw some of the worst pollution on Earth – creations mainly of our own habits and a lack of education on proper, sanitary waste disposal. In urban Ghana or Nigeria or elsewhere, one will notice plastic bags everywhere, clogging up the gutters, floating around even in the woods, all over the grimier areas of the open markets. By just eliminating plastic bag usage altogether and using reusable canvas or other sorts of bags and baskets, how much cleaner would our cities and towns and villages in Afrika and in the Afrikan world be? Even Bed-Stuy and Newark are polluted with this sort of waste and litter.

Solutions and ways to live by example as an ecologically responsible Afrikan – these are not to be found or expounded upon by white hippies on our behalf. We have to own this problem as much as, if not more than, anyone else in the world, no matter who created it. We often do little things and fall into socially engineered habits which reinforce the ecological crisis we all face, especially we Afrikans. So I hope others also contribute to simple practices and organizing tools for Afrikans to respond effectively to the environmental, ecological, and resultant economic crises of the day, which will also boost our food security, land arability, and water availability and quality.

What can we do? Some things that immediately come to my mind:
– Drive less; rely on ones own body and on public transport more for transportation
– Do not use disposable plastic bags; rather use reusable bags or baskets
– Use reusable bottles for water
– Go Vegan! Meat production is one of the greatest usurpers of natural resources, produces immense waste, is viciously cruel, and pastoralism in Afrika is fast expanding the Sahara as browsers chew away the greenery acre by acre
– Reuse ones goods as much as possible
– Consume less, shop less for non-essential things
– Eat more produce and natural foods, rather than heavily processed and therefore packaged foods whose containers cannot be discarded to decompose or compost organically
– Make the most of ones locale in terms of recreation, travel, etc. so as to not tax the environment too often by the heavy pollution spewed by current commercial air traffic
– Eat more locally-grown foods so as to reduce the carbon footprint of food transport over long distances
– Take the lights and other appliances off when not using them
– Live an overall more modest and simple life

Any other suggestions? Feel free to contribute. I only want the world to be cleaner and more sustainable, especially wherever Afrikans are found. And Afrikans MUST take the lead and be fully responsible in that effort. In Afrika, there too, people must consume, waste, pollute, and damage the land LESS. Development, as Frantz Fanon said, must not be into a new Europe or America. We Afrikans can and will make Afrika and Afrikan communities ecologically sustainable paradises, for ourselves to enjoy and raise the next generation within.