Friday, December 3, 2010


Another Green Revolution
or a One Straw Revolution?
By Uchita de Zoysa (Convener – Climate Sustainability PLATFORM)

I am one of those billions of people who love a simple plate of rice and curry. Another is Khuong Sopheak, of the Cambodian NGO Network. But the recent floods in Banteay Meanchey province in Cambodia have left his people in the region to give-up their traditional rice cultivation and find new agricultural practices. Cambodia is country that has produced a surplus of rice. In 2009 they had 7.3 million tonnes harvested and exported over 8,000 tonnes of milled rice mainly to Europe, Africa and the rest of Asia. Now the same people who provided rice to rest of the world may have to find their own pot of rice in neighbouring countries as climate refugees? Sopheak said “this is a new climate change related situation. People are asking the government for support because they do not have enough food as they could not produce rice during this year. But, the costs are too high even for the government. If they do not have enough food, illegal migration will increase as they will go to Thailand to earn money to survive and to support their families.”

Climate refugees will add to the food crisis as well as urbanization issues. While half of the world’s population is concentrated in urban areas, climate security and prosperity of the predominantly agrarian rural population needs more focus of the policy makers? In the aftermath of the financial downturn in 2008, a new green revolution is being proposed by the green economy initiatives and it appears to be another green technology drive. The first green revolution that mechanized agriculture and food production could not solve the worlds hunger problem, and a second may not provide the true answers. In this respect “One-Straw Revolution” by Masanobu Fukuoka, a Japanese scientist who proved that chemical and machinery use in agriculture are not necessary to harvest good yielding crops should be revisited. Fukuoka practiced a system of farming he referred to as “natural farming.” The essence of Fukuoka’s method is to reproduce natural conditions as closely as possible. Fukuoka in an interview had said “if modern agriculture continues to follow the path it’s on now, it’s finished. The food-growing situation may seem to be in good shape today, but that’s just an illusion based on the current availability of petroleum fuels. All the wheat, corn, and other crops that are produced on big American farms may be alive and growing, but they’re not products of real nature or real agriculture. They’re manufactured rather than grown. The earth isn’t producing those things... petroleum is!”

Now that we all have agreed on a future non-dependent on petroleum, what is the way forward? Have those negotiating for a deal on climate change considered a One-Straw Revolution or just believe that another Green Revolution would provide the miracles? The climate negotiations rather annoyingly continue to debate the issue of technology transfer. Why would someone want technology that is known to be destructive? Why should someone withhold technology that is vital to meet the challenges of climate change across the world? Why should another negotiate to preserve the right of ownership, when the entire world is challenged by a changing climate? Perhaps because these people see the challenges of climate change as a market opportunity and they also know that technology will remain a critical mode to bargain for the best deal?

If climate change is becoming the greatest challenge to be faced by humans according to the IPCC and the scientific community, then why worry about bargains? Well, firstly we are human and not any other animal; and are selfish by nature. Secondly, because we also know that while natural disasters will strike us time and time again, the real threat will be in another thirty to forty years time, and during that period we will not be equally affected? It is also not a secret that during the transition, technology will play a critical role in the global trade balance and economic power politics? The green economy is therefore being designed on a technological platform and the advantages are still held by the corporations in the North. Whatever the reasons, if the negotiators are coming with bags to fill up for their individual countries or corporations, then they are not negotiating for a better world.

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