Where Does This Western Capitalist Mentality Come From?

In the career of political leadership, history shows the ease with which persons, facts, and even words are sanctified or demonized. Anything goes in the race to conquer people’s hearts! In this game of seduction, valuable discussion gatherings have been done away with, much to the frustration of unbelievers, specialists, and intellectuals. This is without doubt the case of the so-called ‘western capitalist mentality’ that is currently demonized in Bolivia.

It is known that the capitalist system brings about levels of (long-term) economic growth that were never seen by the world before the mid-eighteenth century. The darker side of the system is also well documented, where in many cases unfairness between social groups perpetuated compared to the previous feudal system. However, the development root of the system is little known. This root spawned in response to the mindset of middle and lower class Englishmen and their survival strategies. Read More »

Be The Change You Want To See: From Environmental Depression to Inspired Action in Six Books

I tend to get pretty down after reading many economic, international development and environmental books—factual, fiction or otherwise. If you do not know what I mean, I highly recommend reading Daniel Quinn’s 1992 novel Ishmael. Set up as a conversation between a teacher and student, where the former happens to be a hyper-intelligent, talking gorilla, the book slowly takes the reader through environmental philosophy on how we have managed to get ourselves into the present day environmental mess. Read More »

Is economy of scale really what’s best for the agriculture sector?

Over the last two decades there has been a great surge in land reform policies in developing countries. These land reform policies have mainly focused on rural property rights, and have consisted of giving small to medium size farmers, who for years have suffered from tenure insecurity, legal ownership of their land and property. Land reform has different objectives in different countries, but it is generally an attempt to boost development of the agricultural sector and rural regions, where poverty is often at its most extreme.  It is also used to appease peasant farmers, who in many countries are increasingly disgruntled by the rural inequality legacy of colonialism that is now being heightened by the rise of wealthy large scale agribusinesses due to the globalization of the food market.

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Culture or Law? What counts more in social-environmental change?

Last night I tagged along to a dinner in Bangkok where I met a couple of executives of Thailand’s national energy company. Needless to say that, as someone with environmentalist proclivities, I was deeply interested in their ‘insider’ views of the industry, as I have learnt from experience that these can be revealing. Although, like taking a ring road bypass to dodge rush hour city traffic, all questions of the environmental impacts of such processes as fracking were skillfully avoided, several things struck me as the conversation turned to the company’s ambitions in the United States.

Fracking is a process of hydraulic fracturing that uses up to 300 tons of chemicals and injects large amounts of explosives and water to crack rock and release natural gases from deep wells. It presents an opportunity to get at previously untouchable gas and every oil and gas explorer wants a piece of the pie. However, according to the executives, the confidence with which the non-renewable industry operates is somewhat geographically determined. Read More »

Theory Bites: Development, Underdevelopment and Dependency

The contemporary common language of development divides the world between developed and underdeveloped countries. This common-sensical classification also guides us to think of the two groups as rich and poor. Or even further, that the developed world, despite its imperfections, is “fine” and its people are happy—they represent the way human society should generally be—while the underdeveloped, for whichever reason, has just fallen behind—its people suffer and are not an example of what we’d like to see for humanity. The assumption is that everyone would prefer to live in a city, drive their car to work, and enjoy air conditioning and washing machines, since humans can and should “achieve” much more than washing their clothes by hand or farming for their own survival.

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Export/import restrictions – Will they really help to reduce food insecurity in Bolivia?

Mieke Dale HarrisOn the 16 October 2008 former President Clinton announced at a United Nations’ conference “we all blew it, even me.” This statement was acknowledging the major role that the west played in causing the 2006-2008 global food crisis, largely by their treatment of crops “like color TVs” rather than realizing their worth as a vital commodity for the world’s poor and thus differentiating them from material export/import goods.

Perhaps what is most surprising about this massive misjudgment of agricultural policies  is that it was heavily promoted by a number of the institutions that we tend, or at least hope, to think are working for poverty eradication and not against it. Read More »

Can economics protect the environment?

When the last tree is cut down, the last fish eaten, and the last stream poisoned, you will realize that you cannot eat money,” Native American saying

“Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs,” Brundtland Report

It is undeniable that our current way of life is unsustainable; If every country consumed resources and created waste at the same per person rate as the United States, we would need three to five planets to survive. Part of the problem lies in the fact that economics—the major discipline advising global and national policy—has failed to include the environment in its calculations. To rectify this problem, different methods have been proposed, so as to make predictions and come up with better ways of managing the planet’s resources without compromising the future.

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Is intelligence based wage discrimination wrong?

Currently many countries are passing anti-discrimination laws for the employment sector. It is increasingly considered morally wrong to pay someone less based on their genetically or environmentally determined traits, such as race, gender, age and certain mental or physical disabilities. However there is one trait that is universally left out of this anti-discrimination trend and that is intelligence; An intelligence based salary system remains completely acceptable despite the fact that we have little more control over our level of intelligence than our gender.

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Is it Me or is Communism Everywhere?

Ah, the sea of red that must be flooding your imagination: images of red flags intercepted by golden stars, shining hammers, crossing sickles, mixed in with flashes of Mao, Stalin, Che, Castro, bread queues and cold wars. Communism has become a hugely loaded word, most widely associated with political ideologies and regimes that we (UK, Europe, US and beyond) deem to be communist countries of Russia, China and Cuba.

Yet, as Anthropologist David Graeber points out in his recent book Debt: The First 5,000 years*, even the leaders and ruling parties of these nations never actually called their arrangements communist. Rather, they see themselves as socialist, with communism representing a distant, utopian, stateless ideal. Read More »


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