Thursday, September 10, 2009

Climate Change, Unequal Distribution of Wealth, Power, Labor, Resources, and the Empty Stomach

By Paul K. Haeder

A "state of public calamity" has been announced in Guatemala today -- to deal with food shortages throughout the Central American nation. The President of the country, Alvaro Colom blames climate change for the failure of bean and corn crops, caused by drought. We've seen droughts in Australia and African countries, and the immediate effect of lack of rain are huge cuts in the yields of staple crops.

In Guatemala that is 50 percent loss of these main crops, turning this into a regional crisis. The USA and Canada and other so-called industrialized nations play a part, as there is a collusion between corporations and the government there, because some of the best and fertile agricultural land is planted in export crops like coffee and sugar.

"There is food, what is lacking is the money for the affected people to buy food," President Colom said. "We are not going to wait until we've reached starvation levels to act." Colom's announcement allows Guatemala to buy emergency rations of food, and that estimate is from 400,000 to half a million families in need.

[for more articles on hunger, go to:

"Record hunger: one billion people are going hungry worldwide"

"Rich countries buy up agricultural land in poor countries"

The shock doctrine of the global economic slowdown-downturn has put pressure on the money many Guatemalans receive from relatives in the United States. The same is in El Salvador, and even though we have a national spasm of anti-immigrant rhetoric, little Guatemala and Little Salvador in Los Angeles allows Californians to get lawns cut, food picked, food served and manual labor done -- on the cheap.

When times are tough here, those working in the USA are struggling, so the money flow stops or decreases.

Notwithstanding that issue, UN economists say that this unequal distribution of wealth has led to this crisis. I've been there, reported on Guatemalan issues, and lived with poor families and been to the guarded estates of the oligarchy. The obsenity is malnutrition, eye disease, total abject poverty in the face of a few tooling around in Mercedes Benzes and flying to Paris for the weekend. These few rich have been propped up by guns, thuggery and big resource and land grabs.

The place is beautiful on many levels -- green forests, mountains, volcanoes, indian tribes. But there is ecological degradation due to resource plundering and climate change. People are struggling, as this latest malnutrition and crop failure story hits the airwaves.

Guatemala has some thriving coffee plantations, and some coffee traders and roasters have worked with local cooperatives to help villages deal with water delivery, education, roads, health clinics. But these have been Band Aid ways of covering over larger issues that ares effecting many in Central America and the world -- food shortages, and food prices increases.

Add to that the indentured servants that work vast land holdings by multi-millionaires who run the country. There is plenty of slavery in Guatemala, as Kevin Bales points out in his book and talks --

Bales is a leader in the abolition movement to end modern-day slavery and co-author of The Slave Next Door: Human Trafficking and Slavery in America Today. Bales estimates some 27 million people labor as slaves today—more than at anytime in history. Bales has also helped expose modern-day slavery in the United States, where he estimates between 14,000 and 17,500 people are trafficked into the country each year. He writes, “There has never been a single day in our America, from its discovery and birth right up to the moment you are reading this sentence, without slavery.”

So the international framework of the UN through its World Food Promgram (WFP) plans to distribute 20 tons of biscuits to the hardest-hit areas. Before this current food crisis, research has pointed to the fact that nearly 50 percent of children under five in Guatemala suffer from malnutrition.

Unfortunately, this blog will be looking at food, climate change, the politics of power, and the politics of who eats, who dies, and where the world community stands in all of this.

No comments:

Post a Comment

This blog is brought to you by

This blog is brought to you by
Paul Haeder

Fuse Washington

Fuse Washington