There is no doubt that these are tough times folk and I find myself in a reflective mood today. The wet weather here in Maidstone Kent, from where I am writing this has not helped.
The G20 nations are due to meet in London next week and I understand that on their agenda are questions on how to tackle the current economic down turn that has left many folk workless as well as homeless.
It was reported on the news this morning that this upcoming meeting has aroused some raw emotions from environmentalists, campaigners for more jobs, as well as those who blame the financial institutions for the current economic situations. And to that end several demonstrations are underway as folk strive to get their voices heard by the powers that be.
An hour ago, I was engaged in a conversation by a fellow guest here at the Ramada Hotel in Kent. After the initial general questions the conversation soon turned to the upcoming G20 meeting. She is especially interested in all issues to do with the environment, I must confess, apart from religion, this is a topic that I would rather not get drawn into. I find it emotive and frankly I don’t know much about it.
For instance this lady wanted to know from me if it is ok to buy peas and Mange tout brought into the UK from Kenya? She informed me that the folk in her network and family believe that the process by which the peas and Mange tout get here is bad for the environment. But she doesn’t agree with them since the production method is mostly by hand or hand held tools, which in her mind offsets any carbon emissions.
I on the other hand believe that farmers in the developing world should have access to as many markets as possible as their best hope out of poverty is the ability to trade. This is not only sustainable but it ensures that other than waiting for handouts they are helping themselves out of poverty. The question then becomes one of which is more important, the climate, employment or justice?
This lady wanted an answer from me! We spoke at length about AID to African countries.
In particular Food AID. Africa as a continent made up of some of the poorest countries on earth most of which are dependent on all types of AID from donor countries. Some of this AID doesn’t make sense at all when put in the context of ending poverty, climate change and human rights
This is a strange thing for me to say, you might think. But hear me out if you will. Some parts of Africa have got an awful lot of food much more than folk can consume whilst others have none at all.
Imagine this , what if some of this food was shipped to parts of the continent that need it as opposed to flying peas, Maize, sugar etc form the USA to Somalia, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia etc? What impact would that have on climate change and poverty amongst African farmers?
The twist in the tale here is that AID in the form FOOD AID doesn’t always get to the people that need it. Here is an example of what I am talking about http://ethnicsupplies.blogspot.com/2008/09/food-distribution-in-uganda.html#links
Don’t get me wrong I am not against helping disadvantaged folk in the world. I am however concerned that this is sometimes done without due regard, and consequently a culture of dependency results. This happens in West too especially in the Housing provision area. This giving of FOOD AID can kill off local farmers markets completely.
Second clothing was the other topic for discussion. What about the second hand clothing charities send to out, the lady asked me? Sadly this too kills off local produce like cotton as demand for such textiles dies off, and as far as the environment is concerned, most developing countries may lack the technology to process artificial fabrics like Nylon, when they come to the end of their useful life!
I have seen goats/cows that have died as a result of eating these artificial fabrics as well as plastic bags. The sad thing about this is that where these goats and cows are all the assets folk have to sell to pay for children’s health care an education!!
As we parted company she asked if I have ever considered being a Politician,. The answer came very quickly NO. I don’t mind working alongside politicians but I would not want to join them.
Thinking about the G20 generally and the issues at stake, the failure of the economy has no doubt hit the poorest the hardest regardless of where in the world they are, the sad thing as articulated by the Brazilian President this week, the current situation was not credited by developing countries.
My question then is , Where do we go from here on issues, climate change, worklessness and justice? Have you got a view either way if so please share it.
Will the G20 meeting have answers to these issues?