In the latest news and analysis…
The value of nature
The Guardian reports on a new study that argues some of the world’s poorest people should be paid $500 billion a year for the service they provide by preserving natural habitats.
“Many of the benefits of conservation, so-called ‘ecosystem services’, are invisible – for instance, maintaining wooded land can help to prevent mudslides during heavy rainfall, and provides valuable watersheds that keep rivers healthy and provide clean drinking water, as well as absorbing carbon dioxide from the air. These benefits are not assigned an economic value, however, so that chopping down trees or destroying habitats appears to deliver an instant economic return, when in fact it is leading to economic losses that are only obvious when it is too late.”
The World Development Movement’s Innocent Sithole writes about a new report on the role of European banks and private finance in food speculation and “land grabbing.”
“Our report identifies the biggest culprits in food speculation as Deutsche Bank, Barclays, the Dutch pension fund ABP, the German financial services group Allianz and French banking group BNP Paribas. We have since nominated Barclays for the 2012 Public Eye ‘shame’ awards for its financial speculation in food prices. Barclays is estimated to make up to £340 million a year from speculating in food ‘futures’ markets, making it the biggest UK player in the markets.”
Politics of xenophobia
Yahoo! News reports on the “hard line” taken by Republican presidential hopefuls on both legal and illegal immigration in the lead-up to the South Carolina primary.
“In talking about reducing legal immigration, Santorum–intentionally or not–aligned himself with the group NumbersUSA, which is spending up to $150,000 in South Carolina to run TV ads that criticize the federal government for admitting what the group considers to be too many legal immigrants each year.
Both legal and illegal immigration streams to America have fallen sharply since the recession began in 2008, even as state legislatures have increasingly passed immigration-related laws over the same period.”
The University of Notre Dame’s Mary Ellen O’Connell argues America’s increasing use of “targeted killings” – a tactic it publicly opposed in the early years of the George W. Bush administration – runs counter to its stated goal of promoting a “just and sustainable international order where the rights and responsibilities of nations and peoples are upheld, especially the fundamental rights of every human being.”
“The US did not support such killing for fundamental reasons of law and morality. Fundamental principles of law protect the human right to life and due process of law. Unlike torture, which is never permitted, states are permitted to allow designated authorities to carry out the use of lethal force in certain limited situations. In situations of armed conflict hostilities, lawful combatants will not be prosecuted for killing that complies with international humanitarian law. Today, under the international legal definition of armed conflict, the United States is involved in such hostilities in one country only: Afghanistan.
Beyond Afghanistan, any use of lethal force by designated authorities of the United States must follow the normal human rights limits on peacetime resort to lethal force. Authorities may engage in lethal force when necessary to save a human life immediately, if there is no alternative. In other cases, an attempt to arrest is required, followed by a fair trial within a reasonable period.”
Oxfam’s Kate Raworth looks into the extent to which G20 countries have succeeded in decoupling economic growth and resource use.
“The vast majority of high-income countries in the G20 have so far provided no evidence that they can make economic growth environmentally sustainable. Of course, most have barely started to put in place the policies required to make it happen – but delay will only make it harder. So what does the G20 evidence show? That absolute decoupling is possible (we’ve seen it!), at least for some of the countries, for some resources, for some of the time. But that’s a far cry from believing that environmentally sustainable GDP growth is possible everywhere, all the time, indefinitely.”
The Institute of Development Studies’ Alex Shankland writes about the “subversive ruliness” of Occupy the London Stock Exchange.
“The Occupiers are fully committed to non-violence, but also to using direct action and surprise tactics that may or may not involve breaking the law.
So far, so unruly. But I would argue that paradoxically the real significance of the model of contestation provided by the camp lies not in law-breaking, but in rule-making. Transparent, rule-bound behaviour is absolutely central to the political practices that characterise OccupyLSX. This, in turn, is central to the unique power of the challenge that it poses to the intermingled political and financial interests whose unruly, untransparent and often downright illegal practices have left their disastrous mark both on London and on communities across the world.”
Jawaharlal Nehru University’s Jayati Ghosh argues that in the space of a few short years, Ecuador has gone from a “basket case” to a development example for the world.
“All this may sound too good to be true, and certainly the process of transformation has only just begun. There are bound to be conflicts with those whose profits and power are threatened, as well as other hurdles along the way. But for those who believe that we are not condemned to the gloomy status quo, and that societies can do things differently, what is happening in Ecuador provides inspiration and even guidance. The rest of the world has much to learn from this ongoing radical experiment.”
Fear of debt
Robert Skidelsky, a member of the British House of Lords, argues there are a number of logical flaws to the prevailing thinking that debt reduction through “fiscal consolidation” is necessary for countries to enjoy healthy, sustainable economies.
“Third, the national debt is not a net burden on future generations. Even if it gives rise to future tax liabilities (and some of it will), these will be transfers from taxpayers to bond holders. This may have disagreeable distributional consequences. But trying to reduce it now will be a net burden on future generations: income will be lowered immediately, profits will fall, pension funds will be diminished, investment projects will be canceled or postponed, and houses, hospitals, and schools will not be built. Future generations will be worse off, having been deprived of assets that they might otherwise have had.”