Sunday, July 31, 2011

African Famine Blamed on Land Grab - But the People Need Water - Not Land

There has been a sudden rush to blame the famine in the horn of Africa on the "African Land Grab".

News sources as diverse as The Local (Germany), Al Jazeera and the Montreal Gazette (online link to the July 30 article supressed or unavailable) have jumped on board to lay blame on industrial farming practices (notably by the Chinese) over the past few days.

If fact, the accusations may hold some truth, or much truth. However it must be remembered that the main reason for the famine is drought. Most probably the second reason is civil unrest in the affected countries.

The logistics involved in making sure that aid gets through to those in need are incredible.

There aren't readily available statistics on what percentages of land in Ethiopia, Somalia, etc., are falling into the clutches of the land-grabbers (i.e. "agro-investors"). But the quantity of land that is unproductive due to lack of water must account for vastly more than the corporate farms.

What the affected areas really need are reliable water supplies.

The installation of desalination plants around the Horn of Africa would unquestionably go far towards alleviating this situation.

Ideally, 9 out of 10 of these plants would be dedicated to supplying fresh water to people, farmers and communities on an individualized basis.

There is a Canadian company called Saltworks that is pioneering a new, energy efficient desalination process. I couldn't think of a more appropriate testing ground for prototypes that the coasts of Somalia.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Peter n Chris 'Save the World' on Numerous Occasions

Since these guys (Peter n Chris from Vancouver) are "Saving the World" on a regular basis, the right thing to do would be to give them a gratuitous plug.

The next gig is Vancouver's Havana Restaurant. August 4 and 5. Be a friend of the planet and do the right thing.

This clip is from Montreal Fringe.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Bombardier Cuts 1400 U.K. Workers: Welcome to the Hallucina-Scam of "Free" Trade in Europe

Tough news yesterday for 1400+ workers being laid off at the Bombardier train factory in Derby, U.K.

Therein a very stark and hard-boiled lesson for naive Canadians who believe that "free" trade with Europe means anything of the sort.

The lay-offs come as a result of the U.K. conservative coalition government handing a $5 billion contract to build rail cars to the German company, Siemens.

The government's decision is almost impossible to fathom and has set off a storm of protest from all corners of the country.

U.K. government officials blamed "complex EU rules" for the seemingly indefensible decision, as reported in The Sun:

The Coalition Government picked Siemens to build the Thameslink carriages last month as it offered "better value for taxpayers"
Yesterday Transport Secretary Philip Hammond said his hands were tied by the terms of the tender that Labour set up - and complex EU rules.

Quoted in the Montreal Gazette, Hammond acknowledges the preposterous reality of the situation, while other critics said that the French or German government would have used tricks in the procurement process to safeguard their own local suppliers.  

Hammond agreed with critics who argued that the French and German governments would never award such a large procurement contract to a foreign bidder despite European Union rules requiring open procurement bidding system.

"The French routinely award contracts for trains to French builders and the Germans award contracts for trains to German builders," Hammond said.

In 2010, overseas firms from China and Spain tried to railroad Quebec into giving the contract for new Montreal Metro cars to foreign competitors, using similar "legal" arguments. However the Quebec government finally passed a law to avoid that particular bit of nonsense.

What kind of "free" trade forces a government to throw local workers out on the street in order to give a contract to foreign competitors of a local company?

Time to say, "Thanks but no thanks" to free trade with Europe.