Harvard Seminar on Environmental Values

Tuesday, March 21, 2000

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"Environmental Justice, Sustainability and Valuation"


Professor Joan Martinez-Alier

[ Biographical Background ]

Department of Economics and Economic History
Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona

Program in Agrarian Studies
Yale University


      Ecological distribution conflicts are studied by Political Ecology, a new field created by geographers, anthropologists, and environmental sociologists. These are social conflicts on the burdens of pollution, on the sharing of environmental risks, on the loss of access to natural resources and environmental services. Many such conflicts, whether inside or outside the market, whether local or global, come about because economic growth occurs at the expense of the environment. The unrelenting clash between economy and environment, with its ups and downs, its new frontiers and hinterlands, its urgencies and uncertainties, is analysed by Ecological Economics, another new field of study created mainly by ecologists and economists who endeavour to "take Nature into account" not only in money terms but also in physical and social terms. Ecological Economics puts incommensurability of values at the centre of its analysis. Thus, the paper makes a contribution to these two fields of study, Political Ecology and Ecological Economics.

      Against the hopes of the believers in eco-efficiency, economic growth unfortunately means increased environmental impacts. Thus, the oil and gas frontier, the aluminum frontier, the copper frontier, the eucalyptus frontier, the shrimp frontier, the gold frontier, the transgenic soybeans frontier, the nuclear waste frontier ... are advancing into new territories. This creates impacts which, before there is time to redress them through economic policy or changes in technology, are felt disproportionately by some social groups which often complain and resist. An Environmentalism of the Poor or Environmental Justice movement are growing in the world. This movement has also been called Livelihood Ecology (Gari, 2000), even Liberation Ecology (Peet and Watts, 1996). I shall conclude that Environmentalism of the Poor and the movement for Environmental Justice (local and global), grown from the complaints against the appropriation of communal environmental resources and against the disproportionate burdens of pollution, may help to move society and economy in the direction of ecological sustainability. This is one connection between Political Ecology, as the study of ecological distribution conflicts, and Ecological Economics as the science and management of sustainability (Costanza, 1991). Ecological distribution conflicts are sometimes expressed as discrepancies of valuation inside one single standard of value (as when there is a disputed claim for monetary compensation for an ecological debt or environmental liability), but they often lead to multi-criteria disputes (or dialogues) which rest on different standards of valuation. When the study of an ecological distribution conflict reveals a clash of incommensurable values, then Political Ecology is contributing to the development of an Ecological Economics which moves beyond the obsession of "taking Nature into account" in money terms, and which is able to cope with value pluralism. This is a second connection between Political Ecology and Ecological Economics.

      Actors of ecological distribution conflicts often have not used an environmental idiom at all, and this is one reason why Environmental Justice as as current of environmentalism has not been clearly identified until the 1980s and 1990s.

Retrospective environmentalism: instances from copper mining in Japan and Spain

      Environmentalists in Japan remember Ashio as the infamous site of Japan's first major industrial pollution disaster. This was a large copper mine not far from Tokyo owned by the Fukurawa corporation, which witnessed a major workers' riot against working conditions in 1907. Japanese social historians have debated whether the riot was "spontaneous" or organized by ancient brotherhoods. There were also already some "direct action" socialists in Japan at the time. While, as we shall see, in Rio Tinto in Andalusia in 1888 there was a common front between miners and peasants against pollution, this was not so at Ashio, where tens of thousands of peasants along the Watarase river fought during decades without support from the miners against pollution from heavy metals which damaged not only crops but also human health. They also fought against the building of a large sediment basin to store the polluted waters, which implied the destruction of the village of Yanaka in 1907 including its cemetery and sacred shrines. "The mine's refinery belched clouds containing sulfuric acid that withered the surrounding forests, and the waste water ... ran off into the Watarase River, reducing rice yields of the farmers who irrigated fields with this water... Thousands of farming families... protested many times. They petitioned the national authorities and clashed with the police. Eventually their leader, Tanaka Shozo, created a great stir by directly petitioning the emperor for relief...As environmental destruction reemerged in the 1960s as a major social issue, and popular concern with the impact of pollution intensified, so Ashio's legacy as "the birthplace of pollution in Japan" has endured... At that time copper played a major role in the Japanese economy, ranking second to silk among Japan's exports" (Nimura, 1997: 20-21, also Strong, 1977). Ashio was not unique in the world, and Fukurawa's own publicity remarked that Butte in Montana was a fearful place to live: "The smelting process has utterly destroyed the beauty of the landscape, evil gaseous smoke has killed all plant-life for miles round about; the streams are putrid with effluent, and the town itself seems buried under monstruous heaps of slag" (Strong, 1977: 67). Such were then the realities of copper mining in America. Ashio in comparison was not so bad except that, unlike Montana, there were thousands of unhappy peasants dowstream. Butte has been known as the "richest hill on Earth" in Montana's local lore and history, an honour which in truth belongs undoubtedly not to Butte's copper but to the Potosi's Cerro Rico's silver. Butte recently "has earned the more dubious distintion of being the Environmental Protection Agency's geographically largest "Superfund" cleanup site, a legacy of mining history" (Finn, 1998: 250, fn. 8). Butte used to belong to the Anaconda company, which bought from Guggenheim the Chuquicamata mine in Chile, possibly the largest copper mine on earth. No Superfund for Chuquicamata... or for Potosi.

      Fukurawa had bought the Ashio mines in 1877. In 1888 he made a deal for the supply to a French syndicate of 19,000 tons of copper over two and a half years, the target was met in full, three thousand miners were working then at Ashio, their number was to increase later to fifteen thousand. The contract with Fukurawa was signed on behalf of the French syndicate by the manager of Jardine Matheson, a firm founded by Sir James Matheson of the Lews, who was an uncle of Hugh Matheson, the founder of the Rio Tinto company (Strong, 1977: 67). Fukurawa procastinated for decades on anti-pollution measures, profitting from the novelty and uncertainty of the chemical pollution in question, and from the closeness between government and business in Japan. In cost-benefit language, it was argued: "Suppose for the sake of the argument that copper effluent were responsible for the damage to farmlands on either side of the Watarase - the public benefits that accrue to the country from the Ashio mine far outweigh any losses suffered in the affected areas. The damage can in any case be adequately taken care of by compensation" (article in the Tokio Nichi Nichi Shinbun of 10 Febr. 1892, in Strong, 1977: 74). Tanaka Shozo (1841-1913), the son of a peasant headman of a village in the polluted area, became in the 1890s a member of the Diet in Tokyo famous for this fervent speeches, he was a man with deep religious feelings, the retrospective father figure of Japanese environmentalism - born therefore more in a tradition of pro-peasant environmental justice than wilderness, although within a national context of industrialism and militarism which put environmentalism on the defensive.Today Japan is of course a big importer of copper through active transnational companies like Mitsubishi. Copper production (and pollution from copper mining and smelting) play still a big role in the (pecuniary and ecological) economies of some exporting countries.

      Ashio is a famous case of Japanese early popular environmentalism though not the only one. Thus, when "the Nikko company built its copper refinery on the tip of the Saganoseki peninsula (in Oita Prefecture) in 1917, local farmers objected strenuosly. They feared that the acrid smoke from the refinery would blight the mountains and ruin the mulberry trees, on which their silk industry depended. Ignoring them the town officials agreed to the refinery. The farmers felt betrayed. The angry farmers swarmed into town and cut through the village leader's house pillars, a tactic (uchikowashi) drawn straight from the Tokugawa period... The police brutally suppressed this protest, beating and arresting 100 participants. Nikko built the mill, and it operates to this day" (Broadbent, 1998: 138).

      There is at least one good reason to romanticize the past: the romantics reacted against what they perceived as the social and aesthetic horrors of industrialization, they had a nose for dark smoky mills and smelters, for environmental chemistry and industrial pollution. It was in Huelva, in the southern Spanish region of Andalusia in the 1880s, years before the words environment and ecology became common social coinage, that the first big environmental conflict associated with the name of Rio Tinto took place (Avery, 1974, Ferrero, 1994). The old royal mines of Rio Tinto were bought in 1873 by British and German interests, under Hugh Matheson, first chairman of the Rio Tinto Company. A new railway to the harbour of Huelva was immediately built, which was kindly made also available to local passengers on week-days (not on local holidays or Queen Victoria's birthday). A very large open-pit mining operation was launched. Eighty years later, in 1954, the mines were sold back to new Spanish owners, the original Rio Tinto company keeping one-third interest. This British company Rio Tinto (renamed Rio Tinto Zinc) went on to become a worldwide mining and polluting giant (Moody, 1991) - its name, its business origins, its archive in London, all point to Andalusia, where a massacre by the Army on the 4th February 1888 of local farmers and peasants, and syndicalist miners, was the culmination of years of protests against sulfur dioxide pollution. Historians still debate the number of deaths caused when the Pavia Regiment opened fire against a large demonstration in the plaza of the village of Rio Tinto: "The company could not find out, and in any case soon decided it was better to play down the seriousness of the whole affair and gave up its attempts to discover the number of casualties, though Rio Tinto tradition puts the total number of dead at between one and two hundred" (Amery, 1974:207, also Ferrero, 1993: 83 ff.) . Historians also debate whether the miners complained only against the fact that excessive pollution prevented them from working on some days (days of manta, i.e. blanket) and therefore from earning full wages on those days, or whether they complained against pollution per se because of damage to their own and their families' health. The company was taking out a large quantity of copper pyrites, employing some ten thousand miners. The idea was to sell the copper for export, and also as a by-product the sulfur in the pyrites (used for manufacturing fertilizers). The amount of ore extracted was so large, that in order to obtain the copper quickly, a lot of the sulfur was not recuperated but was thrown into the air as sulfur dioxide when roasting the ore in teleras in a process of open-air calcination, previous to smelting the remaining ore. "The sulphurous fumes from the calcining grounds were a major cause of discontent. They produced an environment that everyone resented, for the pall of smoke which frequently hung over the area destroyed much of the vegetation and produced constant gloom and dirt" (Amery, 1974:192). Large and small farmers, though the company was paying monetary compensation to them, managed to convince some of the councils from small surroundings villages to forbid open-air calcination in their own municipal territories. The company successfully intrigued (through members of the Spanish Parliament in its pay) to segregate Rio Tinto as a municipal territory of its own (previously being part of the territory of Zalamea, a larger town), on the reasonable argument that population in the mining area had increased very much. The company was keen to have local municipal officers favourable to her. On the 4th February 1888, the immediate causes for the strike had been the complaint against the non-payment of full wages in manta days, and the demand for the abolition of piece-work and for the end of the deduction of one peseta weekly from the wage bill to cover expenses of the medical fund. Maximiliano Tornet, the miners' syndicalist leader, an anarchist who had been deported from Cuba back to Spain some years earlier, had managed to make an alliance with the peasants and farmers (and some landowners and local politicians) who had constituted the Huelva Anti-Smoke League. When the Army arrived in the plaza full of striking miners and peasants and peasant families from the region damaged by sulfur dioxide, an argument was going on inside the Rio Tinto town-hall on whether open-air teleras should be prohibited by municipal decree not only in surrounding villages but also in Rio Tinto itself. In terms of today's language of environmental management, the local stakeholders (union leaders, local politicians, peasants and farmers) did not achieve successful conflict resolution, let alone problem resolution. Had the municipality publicly announced a decree against open-air calcination, the tension in the plaza would have diminished, the strike would have been called off. Other stakeholders, that is, the Rio Tinto company and the civil governor in the capital of the province, were in the meantime arranging for troops to be brought into action. It is not known for sure who first shouted "fire", perhaps a civilian from a window (Amery, 1974:205), but the soldiers understood the shout as an order to start shooting into the crowd. (Ferrero, 1993:214, lists in detail the articles of the Criminal Code which, according to the politician Romero Robledo, were infringed - there were no judicial consequences either in Spain or in Britain).

      The popular interpretation of this episode in terms of retrospective environmentalism became unexpectedly relevant one hundred years later, as the village of Nerva, exactly in this region, struggled in the 1990s against the regional authorities over the siting of a large hazardous waste dump (precisely in a disused mine), local environmentalists and village officials explicitly appealing to the living memory of that "year of shots" of 1888 (Garcia Rey, 1997), fifty years before the Civil War of 1936-39 when the miners of Rio Tinto were massacred again, this time for non-ecological reasons. Meanwhile, sceptics on the thesis of popular environmentalism point out that, in 1888, the workers were more worried about wages that about pollution, and that the peasants and farmers were manipulated by local politicians who wanted to make money from the Rio Tinto company or who had their own disagreements with other politicians at national level on the treatment given to the British company.

      A more recent case. In the late 1990s, in the region of Intag (Cotocachi, province of Imbabura) in northern Ecuador, Mitsubishi was defeated by a local non-governmental organization, Decoin (led by a schoolteacher), with help from Ecuadorian and international groups, in its plans to start mining for copper. I know this case first-hand, because of my relation with Accion Ecologica (Quito) which helped Decoin. The idea was to relocate one hundred families to make way for open-cast mining, bringing in thousand of miners in order to extract a large reserve of copper. This is a beautiful and fragile area of cloud forest and agriculture, with a mestizo population. Rio Tinto Zinc had already shown interest, but its previous incursions in Ecuador (at Salinas in Bolivar, at Molleturo in Azuay) ended in retreats. A Mitsubishi subsidiary, Bishi Metals, started in the early 1990s some preliminary work in Intag. After many meetings with the authorities, on May 12, 1997, a large gathering of members of affected communities resorted to direct action. Most of the company's goods were inventoried and removed from the area (and later given back to the company), and the remaining equipment was burnt with no damage to persons. The government of Ecuador reacted by bringing a court case for terrorism (a rare event in Ecuador) against two community leaders and the leader of Decoin but the case was dismissed by the courts one year later. Attempts to bring in Codelco to mine (the Chilean national copper company) were also defeated, when Accion Ecologica from Quito sent one activist, Ivonne Ramos, to downtown Santiago to demonstrate with support from Chilean environmentalists on the occasion of a state visit of the president of Ecuador, and she was arrested. The publicity convinced Codelco to withdraw. Accion Ecologica also organized a visit by the schoolteacher and other women belonging to the Intag communities, to copper mining areas in Peru, like Cerro de Pasco, La Oroya and Ilo - the women did their own interviews in those areas, and came back to Intag with sad miners' music and lyrics which became an immediate hit in Intag. These triumphant local women still deny to this day that they are environmentalists, or, God forbid, ecofeminists.

      In Irian Jaya, i.e. western New Guinea under Indonesia's sovereignty, many complaints against FreeportMcMoRan (and also Rio Tinto Zinc, which a participation in this mine) led to an unsuccessful attempt at a court case in New Orleans in April 1996 by Tom Beanal and many members of the Amungme tribe. Eventually Tom Beanal went to work for the company, a classic procedure for conflict resolution. Some shareholders have been publicly concerned about the liabilities incurred by the company in Indonesia, and it is interesting to reflect on the line that the new Indonesian government will take. Will claims for an ecological debt to be paid by Freeport McMoRan be made not through a private class-action suit but as a result of a governmental action, an international replica of a Superfund case in the United States? Attempts to obtain indemnities for international externalities caused by TNCs outside their legal country of residence are interesting ingredientes in the calculation of the environmental liabilities which the North owes to the South, the sum of which would amount to a large ecological debt. Vast quantities of tailings have been dropped in the rivers of that region in Irian Jaya, with major environmental damage and human right abuses, including many killings by the Indonesian military and police. This is the world's largest gold mine and the third-largest copper mine. Water pollution rather that air pollution has been up to now the major complaint. The ecology of the island is particularly sensitive, and the scale of operations is enormous. Freeport McMoRan is building with Mitsubishi a large smelter at Gresik, for export of copper to Japan. Freeport McMoRan also happens to own in Huelva, Spain, the firm Atlantic Copper which is the successor of the copper smelting and refining operation of the Spanish Rio Tinto company formed after 1954. It is all as a large family. In another case, Broken Hill Proprietary, one of Australia's larget companies, settled a lawsuit brought by indigenous leaders from the area surrounding its Ok Tedi mine, 300 miles east of Freeport's operation in Irian Jaya. This is a smaller mine than Freeport's. A settlement of about US$ 400 million was agreed, while the initial claim against Freeport had been for more than US$ 6000 million.

      An exacerbation of conflict can lead to a solution to the problem. The teleras disappeared in Huelva some ten years after the massacre, and nevertheless exports of Rio Tinto copper kept increasing. Broadbent (1998) shows how, following some well-known environmental conflicts in Japan at the end of the 1960s and the beginning of the 1970s, there was a minor "pollution miracle" in Japan, as relates to sulfur dioxide, and to mercury contamination, so conspicuous because of the Minamata and Nigata cases (which started in the 1950s). Instead, other environmental problems persist. A social-constructionist view of Nature is useful to account for the tides and ebbs of environmental protests, for the shifting of public interest from one issue to another, for Japanese dislike of sulfur dioxide and French suspicions over transgenic crops, and for the pro-nuclear atmosphere in both countries at least until the end of the 20th century. Nevertheless, the unavoidable clash between economy and environment gives rise to real grievances which cannot be permanently silenced by temporary conflict-resolution or by socially-constructed hopes of an angelical dematerialization of the economy. Hence the birth of Political Ecology. Other environmental conflicts will be described in the rest of the paper, on mangroves, on "biopiracy", "farmers' rights", and "biosafety", on struggles against "environmental racism" in the United States and Sudafrica, and on property rights on carbon sinks.


      It is common to find social resistance in many areas (in Ecuador, Honduras, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines) where poor people live sustainably in or near mangroves by collecting shells and crabs, by fishing, by using the wood for charcoal and building materials. Mangroves are uprooted in order to provide space for commercial shrimp farming for export. The mangroves are usually public land in all countries, being in the tidal zone, but governments give concessions for shrimp farming or the land is enclosed illegally by shrimp growers. Illegality is prevalent not only because of the public character of the mangrove land, but also because often there are specific environmental laws protecting the mangroves as valuable ecosystems. Shrimp or prawn production entails the uprooting of the mangroves, and the loss of livelihood of people living directly from, and also selling, mangrove resources (shells, fish, wood). Beyond direct human livelihood, other functions of mangroves such as coastal defence (against sea level rise), breeding grounds for fish, carbon sinks, repositories of biodiversity (e.g. genetic resources resistant to salinity) are also lost, perhaps irreversibly, together with aesthetic values. In the fight against shrimp farming, people who make a living in the mangroves, have resorted when circumstances have allowed them, to destroy the shrimp ponds, replanting rhizofora seedlings as a symbolic gesture and perhaps with some hope of reconstructing the vanished mangroves.

      The intermediary NGOs give an explicit environmental meaning to livelihood struggles, connecting local groups into international networks (such as IsaNet, i.e. International Shrimp Action Network). In Ecuador there was a rumour in early 1999 that shrimp ponds build on destroyed mangroves in public lands were going to become legalized by payment of a fee of US$1000 per hectare. This would convert 60,000 hectares of illegal ponds built after 1994 into legal 99 year leases (under art. 12 of a proposed Law for the Rationalization of Public Finances). Greenpeace, in its campaign against shrimp farming, sent a letter to Ecuador's President, arguing in terms of the livelihoods of the local population, and also in terms of the ecological and economic value of the functions of mangroves, citing Odum's and Arding's 1991 analysis of the "emergy" (embodied energy) of mangroves which is dilapidated when they are destroyed. "We are aware of economic research on Ecuador's mangrove ecosystems -wrote on 18 March 1999 Michael Hagler, Greenpeace's ocean and fisheries campaigner, member of the steering committee of IsaNet- that has valued the various goods and services provided by such ecosystems to the economy annually at US$ 13,000 per hectare... we fail to see the economic justification in sacrificing tens of billions of dollars of long term economic benefits to be gained over the proposed period of the 90 year leases in order to gain a one-off payment of 60 million dollars in the short term". Greenpeace warned the President of other dangers: new diseases (as actually happened with the "white spot" later in 1999), and "the potential for a major eco-conscious consumer backlash against farmed shrimp". An alternative policy was urged on the President, based on ecosystem restoration and preservation, and the bolstering of coastal communities' self-reliance and development. This was supported by Odum's and Arding's accounts of the enormous "emergy" (embodied energy) exports which the shrimp industry represents. Such analysis was corroborated by studies elsewhere in Latin America and in Asia. Hence, the Supreme Court of India's order to close and ban all industrial shrimp aquaculture within the country's coastal regulation zone. The court had accepted evidence which demonstrated that the costs of the harm done to coastal environment and coastal communities far outweighed the value of any benefits, including foreign exchange earnings, that could be attributed to the shrimp industry.

      One week earlier, Fundecol had distributed a message to international environmental networks couched in a different language. It included (in Spanish) the following call from a woman against what would be called in the United States "environmental racism": "We have always been ready to cope with everything, and now more than ever, but they want to humiliate us because we are black, because we are poor, but one does not choose the race into which one is born, nor does one choose not to have anything to eat, nor to be ill. But I am proud of my race and of being conchera because it is my race which gives me strength to do battle in defence of what my parents were, and my children will inherit; proud of being conchera because I have never stolen anything from anyone, I have never taken anybody's bread from his mouth to fill mine, because I have never crawled on my knees asking anybody for money, and I have always lived standing up. Now we are struggling for something which is ours, our ecosystem, but not because we are professional ecologists but because we must remain alive, because if the mangroves disappear, a whole people disappears, we all disappear, we shall no longer be part of the history of Muisne, we shall ourselves exist no longer ... I do not know what will happen to us if the mangroves disappear, we shall eat gargabe in the outskirts of the city of Esmeraldas or in Guayaquil, we shall become prostitutes, I do not know what will happen to us if the mangroves disappear... what I know is that I shall die for my mangroves, even if everything falls down my mangroves will remain, and my children will also remain with me, and I shall fight to give them a better life than I have had... We think, if the camaroneros who are not the rightful owners, nevertheless now prevent us and the carboneros from getting through the lands they have taken, not allowing us to get across the esteros, shouting and shooting at us, whall will happen next, when the government gives them the lands, will they put up big "Private Property" signs, will they even kill us with the blessing of the President?"

      Killing threats must be understood literally even in Ecuador, which has been an island of peace between Peru and Colombia. In Honduras, the conservation of mangroves has exacted a price in human lives - it has been successful because of the effectiveness of the NGO Codefagolff, led by Jorge Varela, recipient of the Goldman Prize in 1999. In the Philippines, Broad and Cavanagh (1993: 114-5) reported: "Eliodoro 'Ely' de la Rosa, a forty-three year old father of five, had been a fisherman and a leader of the fishers' group LAMBAT... Ely was deeply concerned that Manila Bay was dying, that there would be no fish for his children and grandchildren. He talked of his organization's efforts to halt the destruction of the coastal mangroves. He spoke eloquently of the dangers of prawn pond expansion, of the need to stand up to the prawn-pond owners and other mangrove destroyers, and of his plans to start a mangrove replanting program. For his visions and for his ability to inspire others to take action against the impediments to these visions, he was murdered" (on 22 January 1990).

      In the Pacific Coast of Colombia pressure by the shrimp industry on the mangroves is increasing, though they have been mostly preserved until now. Across the border with Ecuador, in Tumaco (so far, a relatively peaceful corner of Colombia), sustainable extraction of shells is part of the everyday economy for a few thousand women. On both sides of the border, the defence of the mangroves is connected to the birth of an African-American movement (Grueso, Rosero and Escobar, 1997). There is much contact between family members across the Colombian-Ecuador border in this area. In Tumaco, one local cooperative has been successful in setting up small-scale shrimp farming (with ponds of about one hectare, instead of 50 or 100 hectares), although industrial shrimp growers exercise increasing pressure. Local grassroots leaders convey a doctrine of sustainable use of the mangroves, and of resistance against industrial shrimp growers. Thus, an interview in Tumaco with Jose Joaquin Castro, head of Asocarlet (the association of charcoal makers, who sell it for local consumption) elicited a description of the burgeoning conflict in the following terms:

      "The magroves are part of our culture, as you can see. From the time the first slaves arrived here, what they found as an alternative for livelihood was the mangrove forest, and today, when we are moving out of the 20th century towards the 21th century, the mangroves still subsist despite development. For us in the Pacific Coast, the priority are the mangroves as a means of subsistance, as a means of protection. From the mangroves we obtain our food, and the charcoal for cooking food, and also the wood to build our homes which are 80 per cent mangrove wood. The young mangroves are not cut down. We cut in one zone today, we come back in one year, and there is new material to be cut. If we keep the magroves, then we have fish, we have shrimp, we have crabs. But the industrial camaroneros started to invade our lands, without asking the Negro people for our opinion, not taking into account that this is the terrain of the charcoal maker, the wood collector, the concheras, the fishermen. They surveyed the area from the air, flying over it and making topographic measurements, then they asked for concessions from the State of one thousand or more hectares each, and they cut and uprooted all the mangroves, then the mangroves cannnot grow again. They did not take into account that behind this strip of mangroves there are many families who obtain their livelihood from them, without any piety at all they displaced the charcoal maker, and the fishermen... They put up notices of private property".

      A decision on mangrove conservation could be reached by trying to apply the logic of cost-benefit analysis, in the following form.


       Shrimp Farming vs Mangroves - A Cost-Benefit Approach

       Costs Benefits

      Value added (wages plus

      profits) over the lifetime of

      the pond (discounted at present value) 60 $

      Loss of landscape (for ever,

      or until replanting takes places),

      also discounted at present value 20 $

      Loss of coastal defence function

      (at replacement cost, by building wall) 15 $

      Loss of subsistence (translated into money

      and discounted at present value) 15 $

      Loss of cultural values (measured by

      willingness to accept compensation) 10 $

      The figures are imaginary. The logic is reductionist. Externalities are internalized into the price system, and only one type of value is considered. No less reductionist would be to defend the mangroves only in terms of "emergy" (embodied energy). Instead, a multi-criteria approach could incorporate criteria offered by stakeholders' and experts' interaction. Each alternative would be valued (in quantity or quality) and ranked across all the criteria. One could indeed include a financial analysis or even an extended cost-benefit analysis (with monetary valuation of environmental externalities) as one of the criteria, without this implying double counting because the other criteria would still be valued in their own physical or social scales.

       Shrimp Farming vs. Mangroves - A Multi-Criteria Approach



       Biomass Food Cultural Value Coastal Landscape Etc.

       production security values added ($) defence value


      1) Keep mangroves

      2) Grow shrimp

      3) Other alternatives (e.g. very

      small cooperative ponds)

      There are several multi-criteria methods from which to choose in order to reach one or more solutions once such a matrix is completed. "Compromise" solutions would be suggested. More important, the matrix structures and makes explicit the social conflicts over interests and values.

      International biopiracy vs. the value of local knowledge

      The word "biopiracy", introduced by Pat Mooney of RAFI (Rural Advancement Foundation International) in 1993, has been popularized by Vandana Shiva and other authors. I would love to have invented it myself, it is so easy, appropriate and successful. "Biopiracy" emphasizes not only the robbery of the raw materials but also the knowledge about the use of such resources, whether in agriculture or medicine. This type of ecological distribution conflict is not new at all, but it has become well known.

      I was lecturing on ecological economics in June 1999 in Loja, the botanical garden of America, in Humboldt's phrase. Life is peaceful and slow in that part of southern Ecuador, few outsiders come to Loja, only some eco-tourists and ecologists going to the Podocarpus park, and some post-hippies going to the beautiful Vilcabamba valley where old people abound - whether longevity is due to the quality of the water or of genetic origin, is locally disputed and it might become relevant to our topic. The lectures had been well advertised, the audience was large and sleepy but it suddenly became alive and started to clap, when I mentioned a timeworn episode of Andean history which I have narrated all too often to impertubable audiences. In 1638 the Countess of Chinchon, the viceroy's wife, improved of an attack of fever by using the bark of a tree sent from Loja to Lima by local officials who had acquired this knowledge from indigenous people whose names are not recorded. The viceroy was the Count of Chinchon, a town near Madrid known for its production of anisette and its bullfight ring. Loja is now in Ecuador, Lima was then the capital of the virreinal territory, and it is now the capital of Peru, both countries recently in conflict because of a contested border. The quinine tree figures in the coat of arms of the Republic of Peru because it was such an important export at the time of independence, the 1820s. Its bark was much used against malaria all around the world until World War II. The tree was given the botanic name of chinchona officinalis. So, the chinchona (rudely mispelled in English as "cinchona") was not baptized with the name of the indigenous experts who knew its properties but with the name of an illustrious ignorant pacient. It was overexploited around Loja. The Spanish Crown attempted until the independence of America to keep a monopoly on its exports. The tree became locally known in Spanish as cascarilla, named after the bark ("cascara"). Later, the same or other similar species were overexploited in Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, this being an Andean tree which grows at medium altitudes. Still later, there were plantations in the East Indies (as it would happen also with rubber), and later still, in the 1940s, the isolated and synthetized active principle was used in pharmaceuticals for malaria. It is a case where both the raw material was exploited, with very little local profit because of the patterns of colonial and postcolonial trade, and the knowledge was also used at zero price and without recognition. They know this story, in Loja!

      Also in Ecuador, in the summer of 1998 it became known that Abbot Laboratories, near Chicago, had patented the active principle epibatidine, with a view to develop a painkiller as effective as morphine. Accion Ecologica's public complaint against Abbot Laboratories carried the title Los sapos se llevan a las ranas, the toads take the frogs away (toad meaning also a sharp person). It created a small scandal in Ecuador. Epibatidine is similar to the secretion of the frog Epipedobates tricolor found in Ecuador and Peru, and possibly in other neigbouring countries. Interest in the frog arose because the physiological effects were locally known. The frog chemical was isolated by John Daly, a scientist as the National Institutes of Health in the United States, this information then being used by Abbot Laboratories. In order to isolate the active principle, a large sample of frogs was obtained and exported from Ecuador in the 1970s, apparently without the preceptive permission. This was before the Rio de Janeiro Convention of Biodiversity of 1992 was operative which anyway has not been ratified by the United States. The Convention of 1992 gives states sovereignty over genetic resources in their own territories, and foresees internal legislation or regulations which will allow mercantile access to genetic resources by attributing concrete ownership over them (whether to the state, indigenous communities, private owners...). The Convention demands the equitable sharing of benefits between outside companies and host countries (and the actual owners of the genetic resources, if different from the state), and theoretically recognizes in article 8J the importance of indigenous knowledge, making it necessary to obtain the prior informed consent of concerned partners before genetic resources are taken out. The Biodiversity Convention arose from a double pincer movement: the Southern historic disgust at the old practice which recently has come to be known as biopiracy, and the Northern wish to regulate mercantile access, using payments as an incentive for conservation, and also incidentally as proof of legitimate resource acquisition in inter-company disputes on patenting. An increasing number of countries (Philippines, the Andean Pact countries - Decision 391 of 1996 which applies to Ecuador-, India, Brazil... ) have enacted the regulations foreseen in the Convention or are about to enact them. More to the point in the Ecuadorian frog case, CITES was operative in the 1970s when the frogs were exported, that is the international convention banning traffic in threatened species. The frogs were in the CITES lists. As reported by Pollack (1999), Abbot Laboratories said that it owes nothing to Ecuador because it merely got the inspiration for its drug by reading a scientific paper about the frog chemical. But, why and where were the frogs' skin secretions investigated to start with?

      Events such as this are interpreted, from a Southern point of view, as instances of biopiracy about which better joke than cry. From a Northern point of view, they confirm a growing trend in the tropical countries where biodiversity is mostly located towards imposing restrictions on access to genetic resources, unless there is compensation. The red tape is even more bothersome than the actual payments or promises of royalties. "When the world mentality was that natural resources were common ownership, then there was a fertile utilization of natural resources for drug discovery. The Rio convention destroyed it". Because of the trend towards restricting access, and because of the availability of other research techniques such as combinatorial chemistry, drug companies are cutting back on natural drug discovery programmes. The sad story of Shaman Pharmaceuticals seems to corroborate the lack of short-term commercial value of the indigenous knowledge of medicinal plants, though this does not mean that this knowledge, if preserved and nurtured, would not be increasingly valuable inside or outside markets in the centuries to come.

      Shaman Pharmaceuticals was founded in 1989 in San Francisco by Lisa Conte, a business studies graduate from Dartmouth College (King et al., 1995, 1996). The firm flourished for a time on promises of patents on drugs which would be derived from the knowledge of local healers in the tropical forests. Indeed, the fact is that, inside or outside rainforests, most people in the world resort at least in part to local health traditions, such as the ayurvedic system in India. Shaman emphasized tropical forest conservation. Very few plants, of the very many species in the tropics, have been investigated for their potential use in pharmacy. There were two possible approaches. First, that of the large firms, which would either abandon natural products in favour of techniques of combinatorial chemistry, or, if still interested in natural products, would perform a random collection of plants that were investigated in mass screeening programmes. The second, novel approach, that of Shaman Pharmaceuticals, would favour collection programmes geared to medicinal plants already known by indigenous people. Hence the name of the company. The plants were not going to be collected only, research would be made on them with a view to isolating active principles and taking patents. Shaman was not in the business of selling herbal remedies, but in the patented drug business. Of course, many important chemical compounds, such as morphine and quinine, were originally discovered through their use by indigenous cultures. This was not so new, therefore. New was the promise of an attitude of reciprocity from the business back to the communities. Already before the Merck-InBio deal in Costa Rica in 1991 (which anyway did not involve indigenous groups), already before the Rio de Janeiro Convention of Biological Diversity of 1992, Shaman Pharmaceuticals stated that a logical means of compensating indigenous people for their role in drug discovery would be to give them a share in the profits from the potential drugs to be developed. This would be vehiculed through a foundation, The Healing Forest Conservancy, which would be fed by future profits. The promise of compensation would be an incentive for indigenous peoples to maintain the forest, or at least to maintain sustainable practices of raw material collection (prior to the chemical synthesis of the active principles). Now, however, everybody knew that a long time would elapse between investigating a plant on a cue from a local shaman, and getting a patented medicine out in the market through all the hurdles of research and clinical trials under the rules of the Federal Drug Administration. Perhaps ten years or more, in the best of cases. Therefore short-term and medium-term reciprocity was also envisaged.

      In practice, Shaman Pharmaceuticals had no financial success. The closest it came to bring patented drugs into the market was in 1998 with Provir and Virend, whose safety was not challenged but whose curative properties (for genital herpes, watery diarrhea and other ailments) were not established in the exacting trials demanded by the FDA in time for Shaman Pharmaceuticals to keep its attractiveness to investors. Shares who had been placed at 15 dollars in the early 1990s dropped to a few cents. Shaman Pharmaceuticals itself dropped out of Nasdaq. The Economist (20-26 February 1999) concluded gleefully that, whatever the debt for past contributions from local knowledge, nowadays such knowledge (whether free or remunerated) was superfluous for modern pharmacology. Ethnobiology was a sweet, useless anthropological discipline. In 1999 Shaman recycled itself into a company selling, not patented drugs, but herbal remedies and dietetic supplements, which is a different market, with a different sort of structure. For instance, a company from Austin, Texas (raintree.com) sells sangre de drago in the Web, which after all is what Shaman will sell, and this market is totally open. Shaman could have channelled its conservationist feelings from the beginning in a different direction, as a company selling intriguing rainforest products, such as ungurahua, una de gato, sangre de drago, adding economic value in the package and the labelling, and giving back a share of the gross revenue to indigenous people both for the raw materials and for their information. Not patented drugs, but perhaps a fair-trade fast-food Amazonian chain purveying Brazil nuts, some varieties of cassava, some of the many fruits, and capibara and tapir meatburgers from the Fatima wildlife farm of OPIP (Organization of Indigenous Populations of Pastaza).

      Sangre de drago (as it is called in Ecuador, or sangre de grado, as it is called sometimes in Peru), is the latex of croton lechleri, an Amazonian tree. This latex has an active principle, taspine, described in the scientific literature years before Shaman Pharmaceuticals was founded, which has cicatrizant properties. This scientific research on taspine was done because of the local use of sangre de drago, which as any tourist can see, is sold everywhere in the Amazonia of Ecuador, not at all a secret shamanic product. It is supposed to be good for many things. The cicatrizant properties are not in doubt. It is also anti-fungicide. This is public knowledge, cannot be patented. Both Provir and Virend were derived from sangre de drago. Should the patents have resulted in viable expensive commercial drugs, no doubt local indigenous federations in Amazonia (such as the OPIP, from Pastaza) would have raised a scandal and, if able, would have challenged the patents. Shaman Pharmaceuticals' charade of reciprocity would have been laid bare even more than it has. The commercial inviability of Shaman Pharmaceuticals prevented the coming scandal. For the fact is that Shaman got freely the widely available knowledge about sangre de drago, and it never really gave much back to Ecuador which was (together with Peru) the source of their supplies. In Ecuador, in the province of Pastaza, Shaman tried but did not get the agreement of the locally decisive indigenous confederation OPIP in order to collect sangre de drago, and went instead on its own accord to a dissident evangelical community, Jatun Molino (unmentioned in Shaman's publications). One can be sure that Shaman (staffed by ethnobiologists, academic chemists and medical doctors) would have liked to do things properly but it tried to take a quick and easy a road, perhaps pushed by the urgency of getting a promising patented drug in order to keep investors on board. Let us imagine for a moment that InBio of Costa Rica was a private company, and that it would have had to live and grow by attracting investors based on the promises of the royalties from the patents from Merck or other companies in the last ten years. In Shaman's case, they were not only collecting plants but doing chemistry, patenting, and doing clinical trials, altogether a large investment. Lisa Conte's salary was 300,000 dollars per year. Losses of millions of dollars were reported per year, waiting for the moment to sell the patents of FDA-approved drugs to one of the big companies, or perhaps to develop and market the drugs directly. Hence the lack of patience and local diplomacy. The short-term compensation for Jatun Molino (there was no occasion for even medium-term compensation) consisted in expanding the local airstrip (a bit self-serving, since Jatun Molino can be reached only by a two-day canoe trip, or by air), buying a cow for communal eating, paying some salaries at local rates for the collection of sangre de drago. No contract was signed with OPIP (though, in Peru, an agreement was made with COICA, a transnational Amazonian confederation). This embarrassing list of compensation items was published by a young anthropologist, Viki Reyes (1996), on an article in Spanish on Shaman's activities in Pastaza, taken up at once by GRAIN in a shortened English version in its journal Seedling of March 1996, widely spread out in print and in the Web. The meager compensation offered by Shaman in Jatun Molino, and the lack of agreement with OPIP, became known in circles where Shaman Pharmaceuticals had a good reputation up to then.

      RAFI included Shaman's Provir and Virend in its list of the Twenty Worst Patents. Another patent which also made it to RAFI's list was that for a cultivated variety of ayahuasca, another Amazonian dream. Ayahuasca (Banisteriopsis caapi) is commonly used with different names all over Amazonia. The patent was revoked in November 1999 by the U.S. Patent Office. In January 2000, Waphisana Indian living across the border between Brazil and Guayana were getting ready to start a law suit in Europe against patents taken by the British chemist Conrad Gorinsky on chemicals isolated from tipir, a nut from the plant Ocotea rodiati locally used to stop hemorrhages and prevent infections in addition to being a contraceptive, and also from another plant called cunami (Clibadium sylvestre) used for fishing. There are about 16,000 Wapishanas. They thought of starting a law suit after the success of the ayahuasca case. Brazilian Senator Marina Silva (from the Workers' Party in Acre, an ex-nun who had worked with Chico Mendes) was helping the Indigenous Council of Roraima in the Brazilian side, and international organizations would help the Wapishanas from Guayana.

      Another example of somewhat unequal exchange, this time successful, is that of the Eli Lilly company which developed two succesful drugs, vincristine and vinblastine, from a plant from Madagascar called rosy periwinkle. Madagascar did not share in the profits. Magadascar is a mega-diverse country. Another case is that of the "J'Oublie" berry, in Western Africa, used as a sweetener much before the French arrived in Western Africa. A protein isolated from this plant has been patented by University of Wisconsin scientists. If a table sweetener is developed from the protein, it will be through genetic engineering, eliminating trade in the berry. (Pollack, 1999). Other recent examples of patents in the United States relate to Asian materials widely known for their health applications: turmeric from India, the bitter melon from China. Relevant for India, cases of attempted foreign patents in the last few years have been some properties of products obtained from the well known neem tree (azadirachta indica), and varieties of chickpeas and basmati rice (by Rice Tec). Relevant for Latin America, patents on some hybrid varieties of Bolivian quinua by University of Colorado scientists, and on a variety of Mexican yellow bean by the small seed company Pod-Ners from the United States. Irritation at biopiracy has reached its extremes in modalities related to human genes. The goverment of China in 1998 halted a project run partly by U.S. scientists that "sought clues to longevity by studying the genes of 10,000 elderly Chinese" (Pollack, 1999) until agreement was reached on how publications and patents would be shared with Chinese scientists and organizations. With one case after the other, a widespread awareness has grown of the value of genetic resources, both medicinal and agricultural. RAFI has published estimates of the economic values expropriated by biopiracy. There are technical questions of how to calculate this item of the Ecological Debt from North to South, but beyond economics, what is new is the sense of outrage mixed with a feeling of deja vu.

      How to combat biopiracy? In India, Anil Gupta has confronted this question with a pioneering large-scale ground level effort (in the Honey Bee network) to document the community knowledge regarding old and innovative resource uses in the form of local community registers. The idea is to assist communities to document what so far has been part of oral tradition.The objectives are manifold: the exchange of ideas between communities, the revitalization of local knowledge system and the building up of local pride in such systems, and the protection against intellectual "piracy" by outsiders (Kothari, 1998: 105). The protection arises because prior registration and publication would stop patenting. As Anil Gupta has stated repeatedly, if somebody is going to patent some properties of neem, why not ourselves, Indian farmers and scientists? The main thrust of his work, however, has not been the patenting of forms of life but enhancing local pride in the existing processes of conservation and innovation.

Farmers' Rights and ecological neo-Narodnism

      The issue of biopiracy in agriculture, the fact that peasant varieties of crops and peasant knowledge have been up for grabs while "improved" seeds are increasingly protected by regimes of intellectual property rights, is reinforcing the ideas of agroecology, food security, and the in situ conservation and co-evolution of plant genetic resources. Praise for organic agriculture is nowadays expressed not only by ethnoecologists or agroecologists or by Northern neo-rural environmentalists but by real agriculturalists in international trade meetings. This is not to be seen as peasant homespun wisdom combatting Northern agricultural technology. On the contrary, it must be interpreted as part of an international worldwide trend towards an alternative modernity (to use Victor Toledo's favourite formulation). In the "centers of agricultural diversity", named after the Russian geneticist Vavilov, there has been over the last thousands of years a large amount of experimentation by peasants (women and men) in order to produce the hundreds and thousand of varieties adapted to the different conditions. These varieties have been shared freely. In India, as Kothari puts it (1998:51), a single species of rice (Oryza sativa) collected from the wild, some time in the distant past, has diversified into approximately 50,000 varieties as a result of a combination of evolutionary/habitat influences and the innovative skills of farmers. Agricultural biopiracy is a topic which the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has been discussing with no results for twenty years under the name of Farmers' Rights. Some governments from developing countries say that "if a company takes a seed from a farmer field, adds a gene and patents the resulting seed for sale at a profit [or otherwise "improves" the seed by traditional methods of crossing, and then protects it under the UPOV rules], there is no reason the initial seed should be free.They also say patents ignore the contributions by indigenous peoples, who often are the true discoverers of useful plants and animals, or of farmers who improve plants over the generations.The negotiation run by the Food and Africulture Organization [on Farmers' Rights] is weighing whether to compensate traditional farmers for work on improving crops and maintaining different varieties. Malaysia has proposed an international fund of $3 billion but the United States opposes it" (Pollack, 1999). Notice that US$3 billion, not as a fund but as a yearly contribution, would represent not more than approximately 2 dollars per member of the still existing peasant families in the world today, too little as an incentive to continue with their task of in-situ conservation and coevolution of seeds. Twenty dollars could start to make a difference, if they would reach the grass roots. But, then, who wants the Third World peasants to continue growing and locally freely sharing or selling their own low-yielding, low-input seeds? Would it not be more conducive to economic growth to replace their seeds by commercially produced seeds? A new commodity, the seed, would definitively leave the sphere of oikonomia to enter into chrematistics, moreover yields would be larger, and commercial inputs would be required. Should not traditional seeds really be forbidden, as they are forbidden in developed countries on grounds of lack of sanitary or yield guarantees?

      The growing alarm in Southern countries because of the disappearance of traditional farming goes totally against the grain of development economics. It is helped by the social and national asymmetry between the seed companies (often multinationals) and the local peasants and farmers (Kloppenburg, 1988). There are deliberate attempts in India by groups and individual farmers to revive agricultural diversity (Kothari, 1997). In the Hemval Ghati of the Garhwal Himalaya, some farmers under the banner of the Beej Bachao Andolan (Save the Seed Movement) have been travelling in the region collecting seeds of a large diversity of crops. Many farmers grow high-input high-yield rice varieties for the market but also other varieties for their own families. The movement emphasizes the economic costs of inputs, and the chemical and ecological implications of using chemicals, and tries to spread some rice varieties, like thapachini, which performed well and produced more fodder. An important issue in India is to promote not only the survival of many varieties of the main crops (wheat and rice) but also to keep alive other food crops which have been not subject to "Green Revolution" seed substitution - like bajra, ramdana and jowar, and also pulses in general. In the south of the country, in Karnataka, the somewhat grandly named "seed satyagraha" of the Karnataka Rajya Ryoth Sangha, became well known in the early 1990s. The KRRS movement is alive. On 30 November 1999, the first day of the WTO conference in Seattle, several thousand farmers gathered in Bangalore at the Mahatma Gandhi statue in the park, they issued a "Quit India" notice to Monsanto, and they warned the prestigious Indian Institute of Science not to collaborate with Monsanto in research. The company was urged to leave the country or face non-violent direct action against its activities and installations. It was reported that in some districts Monsanto seeds of sorghum had been destroyed. Agribusiness had already been warned with the destruction of Cargill installations in one district back in 1993. The KRRS leaders have been much involved in 1998 and 1999 in the debates and actions against the WTO because the new regulations on international trade bring on their wake the enforcement of property rights on commercial seeds (whether regulated by UPOV or real patents), which unjustly do not recognize the original raw material and knowledge while preventing farmers' local gifts or sale of such commercial seeds. Also in India, Navdanya is a large network of farmers, environmentalists, scientists, and concerned individuals which is working in different parts of the country to collect and store crop varieties, evaluate and select those with good performance, and encourage their reuse in the fields (Kothari, 1997: 60-61), certainly a more participatory strategy than that of ex-situ cold storage. What other name but "ecological neo-Narodnism" to give to such initiatives? However, reality is contradictory, and movements against Cargill and Monsanto are combined in India with movements for subsidized industrial fertilizers. Also, can a movement such as the KRRS which is based on middle-farmers, inspire other agrarian movements of poor peasants and landless labourers in India and elsewhere?

      Changing continent, what is the strategy that the Quechua and Aymara peasantry could put into play, in order to survive and prosper against the forces of modernization, development and rural depopulation? In the land reforms of the last fifty years they got more land than they had before, fighting against the modernization of the haciendas. The hacendados wanted to get rid of them, they stayed put, and increased their holdings. There are more established communities and more communal (pasture) land in the Andes now that thirty or forty years ago. This bothers the neo-liberals. The peasantry has not yet decreased in numbers, despite migration, but now the birth rate is coming down. Will Quechua and Aymara communities survive as such? It would help if they could improve the terms of trade for their production, if imports of agricultural products from the United States would decrease, if they also could get subsidies (in the form of payments for Farmer's Rights, for instance, and subsidies for use of solar energy), and if they could exercise organized political pressure for this purpose, not only as peasant and indigenous confederations but as nationalist movements, as might happen in Ecuador and in Bolivia sooner than in Peru. I heard Nina Pacari, who is a lawyer and not an agronomist, vicepresident in the late 1990s of the Congress of Ecuador, a member of CONAIE, the main indigenous confederation, name publicly with feeling and knowledge switching from Spanish into Quechua, the varieties of different crops she knew from her grandmother, in order to explain the concept and reality of genetic erosion to a large environmental conference in Quito in 1995. Nationalist movements revive and even invent traditions - the language, of course, if still available, or specific forms of civil law, or some religious peculiarity, or, as we might see explicitly in the Andes an agroecological pride which provides a political foundation for an alternative development or, as Arturo Escobar would put it, for an alternative to.development. This is what Pratec in Peru has been trying to do, building up on the work by agronomists from remote provinces such as Oscar Blanco who long defended in their lifetime cultivated species such as quinua and many tubers (the "lost crops of the Incas") against the onslaught of imported subsidized wheat. Pratec is romantic and extremist. The subject it puts on the table is realistic and down-to-earth, and politically relevant (Apffel, 1998). For, under the discussion on agricultural and livestock in-situ biodiversity conservation, lurks a large question, which is still outside the political and economic agenda.

      Has the march of agriculture in the last 150 years in western countries been wrong? What is the agronomic advice that should be given not only in Peru or Mexico, but even more in India, in China, should they preserve their peasantries or should they get rid of their peasantries in the process of modernization, development and urbanization? How to stop not only agricultural genetic erosion but also the loss of animal races? FAO often quotes a figure of 75 per cent of agricultural varieties already lost in-situ (though there is not enough research to substantiate a precise quantitative claim), and it has also asserted that 30 per cent of all races of domestic work or edible animals have disappeared or are about to disappear (Financial Times, 15 September 1998) - hence the Indonesian chicken disaster in 1998, a failure of food security, when the economic crisis and the devaluation of the rupee, and the previous substitution in better times of imported chicken races fed with imported feedstuffs for local chicken races, provoked a great scarcity of chicken in the markets.

      The usual explanation for the disappearance of the agricultural active population in the process of economic development is that, as productivity per worker increases in agriculture, production cannot increase pari passu because of a low-income elasticity of demand for agricultural produce as a whole (though not for specific items, like cut flowers or, initially meat, milk or fruits, compensated by negative income-elasticity for tubers, cereals and pulses directly consumed by humans). Therefore, the active agricultural propulation decreases not only in relative but also in absolute terms, and indeed this has been the path of developement - in Britain already before World War I, in Spain since the early 1960s only, in India not yet. Now, however, agricultural productivity is not well calculated, nothing is deducted from the value of production on account of chemical pollution and genetic erosion, and inputs are valued too cheaply because fossil energy is too cheap, and because insustainable use is made of soils and soil nutrients, and of some fertilizers (such as phosphorous). What the ecologically correct prices should be, nobody knows. The point is that the ecological critique of the economics of agriculture opens up a large space for neo-Narodnik argument. Issues of global environmentalism such as biodiversity conservation, threats from pesticides, energy saving, are transformed into local arguments for improvements in the conditions of life and for cultural survival of peasants, who perhaps are learning to see themselves no longer as doomed to extinction. This is not a phenomenon of post-modernity. It is rather a new route of modernity, based on scientific discussion with, and respect for, indigenous knowledge, improved ecological-economic accounting, awareness of uncertainties, ignorance and complexity, and trust in the power of reason.

Environmental Justice in the United States

      In this section we move back to industrial and urban issues. "Environmental Justice" is not an expression taken, as one could expect, from philosophy or ethics but from environmental sociology and from the study of race relations. It has come to mean since the later 1980s and early 1990s an organized movement against "environmental racism", that is, the disproportionate dumping of toxic waste or exposure to environmental risk in areas of predominantly African-American, or Hispanic or Native-American populations. In principle, this description of Environmental Justice applies only to the United States though it has also been used in South Africa and it could extend to the world. The Environmental Justice movement in the United States (Bullard, 1990,1993, Pulido, 1991, 1996, Bryant and Mohai, 1992, Bryant, 1995, Sachs, 1995, Gottlieb, 1993, Szasz, 1994, Schwab, 1994, Westra and Wenz, 1995, Dorsey, 1997, Faber, 1998, DiChiro, 1998, Camacho, 1998) is quite different from the two previous environmentalisms in this country, namely, the efficient and sustainable use of natural resources (the "gospel of eco-efficiency", in the tradition of Gifford Pinchot), and the cult of wilderness (in the tradition of John Muir and Aldo Leopold). The language employed that of race discrimination, which is politically powerful in the United States because of the long Civil Rights struggle. The organized Environmental Justice movement is not an outgrowth of previous currents of environmentalism but rather an outgrowth of the Civil Rights movement, also of the United Farmworkers' movement of Cesar Chavez which worked together in 1968 with the Environmental Defence Fund in a short marriage of convenience for the prohibition of DDT to the benefit of birds' and human health. Some direct collaborators of Martin Luther King were among the 500 people arrested in the initial episode of the self-conscious Environmental Justice movement, in Warren County in North Carolina in 1982 (Bullard, 1993). Governor Hump had decided to locate a dump for PCB residues in Warren Country, which in 1980 had 16,000 inhabitants of whom 60 per cent were African-American, most of them under the poverty line. A NIMBY struggle escalated into a massive non-violent protest with nation-wide support when the first trucks arrived in 1982.

      Thus, while in the Third World the main socio-environmental question was in the 1980s whether an indigenous, independent Environmentalism of the Poor existed, a question first theorized in India (by Ramachandra Guha in his book on Chipko, and other authors), and, later, in Latin America and Africa (Chico Mendes was killed in 1988, Ken Saro-Wiwa in 1995), in the United States the question was in the 1980s whether the "big ten" buoyant mainstream environmental organizations would deign to accept and work with "minorities" which were mainly concerned with urban pollution. Why were black people so totally absent from the governing bodies of the Sierra Club and the other environmental organizations? The "people of color" Environmental Justice movement, fed up with "white" environmentalism, pronounced itself initially against slogans such as "Save the Rainforest", insisting on urban issues, ignoring that rainforests are sometimes civilized jungles -as Descola (1988) called them-, ignoring that Biodiversity can be understood, in Escobar's formulation, as Territory + Culture. In 1987, the United Church of Christ Commission for Racial Justice had published a study of the racial and socio-economic characteristics of communities with hazardous waste sites. Subsequent studies tried to show that African Americans, American Indians, Asian Americans, and Latinos were more likely than other groups to find themselves near hazardous waste facilities. Other studies found that the average fine for violations of environmental norms in low-income or people of color communities was significantly lower than fines imposed for violations in largely white neighborhoods. True, there are many cases of local environmental activism in the United States by "citizen-workers groups" (Gould et al., 1996) outside the organized Environmental Justice movement, some with one-hundred years' roots in the many struggles for health and safety in mines and factories (Hays, 1998), perhaps also in complaints against pesticides in Southern cotton fields, and certainly in the struggle against toxic waste at Love Canal in upstate New York led by Lois Gibbs (Gibbs, 1981, 1995) who also later led a nation-wide "toxics-struggles" movement (Gottlieb. 1993, Hofrichter, 1993). In the "official" Environmental Justice movement are included celebrated episodes of collective action against incinerators (because of the uncertain risk of dioxins), particularly in Los Angeles in 1985, led by women, the Concerned Citizens of South Central Los Angeles (DiChiro, 1998). Also in the 1980s, other environmental conflicts gave rise to groups such as People for Community Recovery in South Chicago (Altgeld Gardens), led by Hazel Johnson, and the West Harlem Environmental Action (WHEACT) in New York, led by Vernice Miller. In 1989, the South-West Network for Economic and Environmental Justice (SNEEJ), led by Richard Moore, was founded, with its main seat in Albuquerque, New Mexico, out of grievances felt by Mexicans and Native American populations. In October 1991 the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit took place in Washington D.C., the Principles of Environmental Justice were proclaimed, and the movement for Environmental Justice became well known. President Clinton's Executive Order 12898 of 1994 on Environmental Justice was a triumph for this movement. It directed all federal agencies to act in such a way that disproportionate burdens of pollution do not fall on low income and minority populations in all territories and possessions of the United States - thus, both poverty and race are taken into account, and nothing is said about impacts outside the United States. Happy the country whose "low-income" people are regarded as a minority (partly overlapping with racial "minorities").

       Ecological distribution conflicts are fought with different vocabularies, the language of "environmental racism" is powerful, it can be used in many cases of environmental injustice both in the United States and in the world, though not in all. For instance, the Narmada struggle is not fought in terms of "environmental racism". In fact, some foreign analysts do not acknowledge the racial angle, and have stated that: "If one were asked to date the beginning of the environmental justice movement in the United States, then 2 August 1978 might be the place to start. This was the day when the CBS and ABC news networks first carried news of the effect of toxic waste on the health of the people of a place called Love Canal" (Dobson, 1998:18). However, the Love Canal people were not of color, as this category is understood in the U.S. Other non-U.S. academics agree with the interpretation that Environmental Justice is in the U.S. a movement against "environmental racism". I also agree. Thus, the seminal moment (Low and Gleeson, 1998: 108) was in 1982 in Warren County, North Carolina. As Bullard wrote in 1994: "The environmental justice movement has come a long way since its birth a decade ago in rural, mostly African-American, Warren County, North Carolina... Although the protestors were unsuccessful in blocking the PCB landfill, they brought national attention to waste facility sitings inequities and galvanized African-American church and civil rights leaders in support for environmental justice". Indeed, the movement invented the potent combination of words Environmental Justice (or Eco-Justice, Sachs, 1995), it shifted or try to shift the whole discussion about environmentalism in the United States (Gottlieb, 1993), and it destroyed the NIMBY image of grassroots environmental protests by turning them into NIABY protests (not in anyone's backyard). Of course, one could also argue that the world environmental justice movement started long ago at a hundred dates and places all over the world. For instance, in Andalusia in 1888 at Rio Tinto, or when Tanaka Shozo one hundred years ago threw himself in front of the Emperor's carriage with a petition in his hand. Or, in the United States, not in North Carolina but in the struggles against mining corporations in Wisconsin conducted by Indian tribes and environmentalists in the 1970s and 1980s (Gedick, 1993). Which will be the First of May or Eighth of March of the worldwide movement for Environmental Justice? Chico Mendes' assassination day, Ken Saro-Wiwa's, or perhaps the day the (first) Rainbow Warrior was sunk by the French intelligence services in New Zeland, and its Portuguese cook died?

      By emphasizing "racism", the movement for Environmental Justice also emphasizes incommensurability of values. This is one of its great achievements. The polluter pays principle implies that a worsening ecological distribution is in principle compensated by an improving economic distribution. Now, the same problem phrased in terms of "enviromental racism" becomes a different problem. There is no real compensation for negative externalities. Money and human dignity are not commensurate.

      Bullard, who is both an academic and an activist, realizes the potential of the Environmental Justice movement beyond "minority" U.S. populations, and asserted in 1994: "Grassroots groups, after decades of struggle, have grown to become the core of the multi-issue, multi-racial, and multi-regional environmental justice movement. Diverse community-based groups have begun to organize and link their struggles to issues of civil and human rights, land rights and sovereignty, cultural survival, racial and social justice, and sustainable development... Whether in urban ghettos and barrios, rural "poverty pockets", Native American reservations, or communities in the Third World, grassroots groups are demanding an end to unjust and non-sustainable environmental and development policies...". Notice then the awareness that Environmental Justice might include Third World communities, billions of people, majorities rather than minorities. Nevertheless, race is an important principle of the American social constitution, of importance in order to explain not only the controversial geography of toxic waste dumping but simple residencial and school patterns. Moreover, to establish a link between the non-violent Civil Rights movement of the 1960s and the increasing environmental awareness of the 1970s and 1980s proved attractive for instrumental reasons. The legislation against racism (such as Title VI of the Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964) forbids discrimination based on race or national origin. However, in order to establish the existence of racism, it is not sufficient to prove that environmental impact is different (for instance, that lead in children's blood level is different according to racial background), it must also be shown that there an explicit intention to cause harm to a minority group. Because of the uncertainties of environmental risk (for instance, dioxin), and because of the statistical difficulties in separating racial and economic factors in toxic waste location decisions (statistically distinguishing between environmental racism and Lawrence Summers' Principle), the attempts to prove environmental racism have given rise to a rich practice of "popular epidemiology" (Novotny, 1998). It might be difficult to prove that race more than poverty correlates with toxic waste, but if this is convincingly shown, then the chances of redress are high. Laypersons gather scientific data and other information, and they also process the results offered by official experts in order to challenge them in cases involving toxic pollution, a clear case of "extended peer review" (Funtowicz and Ravetz, 1991). The Environmental Justice movement is thus specifically a product of United States circumstances. Structured around a core of people of color activists, it encompasses also conflicts on environmental risks affecting poor people of whatever color. Internationally, it is slowly linking up with the environmentalism of the poor (see below, on South Africa) but its emphasis remains on "minority" groups. The movement was not a main actor at the environmental NGO celebrations of the 1990s: Rio de Janeiro 1992, Madrid 1995 (the campaign 50 Years in Enough against IMF and World Bank), and Seattle 1999. It does not speak loudly on global climate change, or globalized Raubwirtschaft. The "minority" focus detracts from its usefulness worldwide, unless we decide to look at the world through U.S. lenses, strangely classifying the majority of humankind as "minorities" in the U.S. sense, as if all humans were entitled by some miracle to a U.S. Social Security card.

      There are ecological distribution conflicts in the world, for the analysis of which, the metaphor of "environmental racism" is useful. The U'Wa, against Occidental Petroleum and the government of Colombia, could use the language of environmental racism. Similarly, this language would be useful for some of the people who defend the mangroves against the shrimp industry, in Ecuador and Colombia - though not in the Philippines or Tamil Nadu? Perhaps the government of the AOSIS countries (Alliance of Small Island States) or Bangladesh will use the language of environmental racism against the threat of sea level rise caused by the enhanced greenhouse effect. Activists and lawyers in the class action suit against Texaco from Ecuador, blamed Texaco in 1999 for "environmental racism". Notice that this language, so effective in the United States, was not used when the case started in 1993, and it would be problematic though not impossible to apply it to Texaco's successor, Petroecuador, which has used similar technology damaging not only indigenous people but also average mestizo Ecuadorian settlers in Amazonia. Profiting from the publicity against Texaco because of a court case for internal racism against black employees in the United States (settled out of court in 1997 for US$ 176 million), sympathizers for the Ecuadorian plaintiffs placed this advertisement in the New York Times (23 Sept. 1999): "The lawsuit alleges that in Ecuador, Texaco dumped the poisonous water produced by oil drilling directly onto the ground, in nearby rivers, and in streams and ponds. The company knowingly destroyed the surrounding environment and endangered the lives of the indigenous people who had lived and fished there for years. These are people of color, people for whose health and well-being Texaco shows only a cavalier disregards... It's time that Texaco learns that devaluing the lives and well-being of people because of the color of their skin is no longer acceptable for any American company".

      Lacking in the United States are some natural amenities such as wild elephants, lions, tigers. Lacking also are perhaps some cultural amenities, and, most relevantly to our theme, lacking also is a movement of peasant struggles to keep control and sustainably manage communal resources threatened by private enclosure or State takeover. Certainly, some fights by Native American against mining and toxic waste (such as the Navajo or the Western Soshone against uranium mining and nuclear waste), or for the control of water or the control of remaining communal pastures by Hispanic people in the West (Pulido, 1991, 1996), are close to "eco-agrarianism". However, lacking in the United States is the agroecological pride one finds nowadays, as we have seen, in other countries. The Environmental Justice movement in the United States has included complaints against pesticide exposure among immigrant farmworkers, but it has not actively promoted agroecology in the United States and in the world. It has had nothing to say on the value of agricultural biodiversity or on "Farmers' Rights", or on the environmental risks of transgenic crops (as distinct from the health risks to consumers). The large majority of "organic" farmers in the United States, as in Europe, are neo-rural white folks. There was no land reform after the Civil War, but on the contrary, Reconstruction. Anyway the Southern peasants left the land long ago. In contrast, even in a country such as Brazil (which lacks a massive tradition of indigenous peasant farming), we now find the Movimento dos Sem Terra, MST, finally coming round in 1999 to an environmental viewpoint and denouncing transgenic crops (see below).

      On the other hand, lacking in the Third World eco-agrarianism and environmentalism of the poor, and in the literature on Political Ecology from anthropology and geography, has been the strong urban emphasis of the Environmental Justice movement in the United States, so extremely relevant for a world of increasingly urban poor populations. There is then not only a North-South but also a rural-urban complementarity among both approaches, Environmental Justice and the Environmentalism of the Poor. Will they come together in a global environmental justice movement against pollution by mining companies, in Third World urban movements against pollution and disproportionate land occupation by private cars, in complaints againt biopiracy of "wild" or medicinal or agricultural genetic resources, against the health and environmental risks from GMOs, pesticides, and nuclear waste, against damages from oil extraction in Louisiana or Nigeria, in the attempts to stop the disproportionate use by the rich of carbon sinks?

Wilderness vs. the environmentalism of the poor in South Africa?

      Wilderness enthusiasts are accused of anti-agricultural, anti-urban, anti-industrial biases. They may throw back such accusations by asserting, as they sometimes do, that economic growth, modern agriculture, urbanization and industrialization, do not present unavoidable environmental threats because of the march of technological progress, "Kuznets environmental curves", and a post-industrial service-based economy. According to this view, the main environmental threats are not in industry and in cities. They come from the expansion of the human population and human activities into wild areas. Hence, the possible alliance between the currents of environmentalism identified as the "cult of wilderness" and the "gospel of eco-efficiency" (Guha and Martinez-Alier, 1999) in order to simultaneously enjoy economic growth in industrial-urban society while salvaging some natural spaces. There is a possibility for another alliance. The wilderness enthusiasts might come to recognize that economic growth implies stronger and stronger material impacts, and also the disproportionate appropriation of environmental resources and sinks, thus damaging poor and indigenous people whose struggles for livelihood are sometimes fought in idioms (such as the "sacredness" of Nature) which should be attractive to the wilderness enthusiasts themselves. Such an alliance is not always easy, because often population growth, poverty and cultural traditions which do not always contain "wilderness" values, lead to encroaching upon and poaching the great wilderness reserves whose preservation has been so much a product of "white" civilization, notably in Eastern and South Africa. Indeed, "the preoccupation of some whites with wildlife preservation at the expense of, for example, dispossessed rural communities may be historically demonstrable - but this should not blind us to the fact that South Africa now has one of the best systems of protected areas anywhere in the world. This is a national treasure from which all future South Africans will benefit" (Ledger, in Cock and Koch, 1991: 240). From what is still the opposite viewpoint, "minority group campaigners against pollution accuse mainstream US environmental organizations of obsession with 'elitist' goals such as wilderness preservation. A similar chasm has opened up in South Africa recently as radical activists influenced by the American environmental justice movement have rediscovered ecological issues" (Beinart and Coates, 1995: 107), such as land degradation due to unequal land distribution, the dangers of asbestos and herbicides, the health conditions in mines, the lack of water in black urban settlements. Thus, the environmental justice movement is consciously present not only in the United States but also in South Africa, First World and Third World, two countries whose dominant environmental tradition is the "cult of wilderness" but where environmentalism and anti-racism have found each other.

      In South-Africa race is not less important socially and politically than in the United States. South-Africa has had also a strong wilderness movement. These are common traits. But South-Africa is very different from the United States. It has lions and elephants, it also has peasants. The explicit use of "environmental justice" by activists in South Africa because of direct influence from the United States is an exciting harbinger of a wider international movement. In South Africa, the majority of the population is potentially concerned. Attempts have been made in South Africa as elsewhere to discard the old colonial or postcolonial idea that preservation of Nature cannot be achieved unless indigenous people are removed, and instead to involve local people in managing reserves through offering them economic incentives, in the form of a share of ecotourist (or even controlled hunting) revenues. Beyond this, an Environmental Justice Networking Forum in South Africa is trying to mobilise a new environmental constituency focussing attention on a range of urban, environmental health, and pollution related problems, and also land and water management problems, which had not been considered by the "wilderness" NGO. For instance, land erosion is interpreted as a consequence of the unequal distribution of land, when African populations were crowded into "homelands" under apartheid. Another instance: the expansion of tree plantations for paper and papel pulp creates "green deserts", and it can be resisted (Cock and Koch, 1991: 176, 186). Other environmental impacts which the apartheid regime left behind are now surfacing. There are large liabilities to be faced. Best known is the asbestos scandal, which includes international litigation initiated by victims of asbestosis against British companies, particularly Cape. The lawyers argue that Cape was aware of the dangers of asbestos at least from 1931 onwards, when Britain asbestos regulations were introduced. Nevertheless production continued in South Africa with the same low safety standards until the late 1970s. Medical researchers have found that 80 per cent of Penge's black miners (in Northern Province) who died between 1959 and 1964 had asbestosis. The average age of the victims was 43. Cape operated a mill for 34 years in Prieska, Northern Cape, where 13 per cent of workers' deaths were attributed to mesothelioma, a very painful asbestos related cancer. Asbestos levels in this mill in 1948 were almost 30 times the maximum UK limit. There are other cases in South Africa of asbestos contamination, by companies such as Msauli and GEFCO, at locations such as Mafefe, Pomfret, Barberton, Badplass (Felix, in Cock and Koch, 1991).

      Contaminated abandoned mines and asbestos dumps must nowadays be rehabilitated by the post-apartheid South African governments. Simultaneously, the House of Lords ruled for a while (until July 1999, when the judgement was reversed) that in this case, a British company such as Cape could be sued in a British court. Against WTO doctrine, the asbestos court case and similar ones, if successful, would show that international regulation is required not only about the safety and quality of the final products but also on the process of production and its side-effects. When regulation failed or was non-existent, and when effective protest was impossible because of political repression, there are then retrospective liabilities to be faced. The courts will perhaps institute little by little a sort of international Superfund obligations for the transnational companies. True, the asbestos and mining companies probably fulfilled internal South African laws under apartheid as regards safety, wages, and taxes. Nevertheless, they should be held accountable for the "externalities" that they left behind. Given the chance, workers and their families would have complained, not so much because they were environmentalists but because their health was threatened. The law firm which represents the asbestosis victims (Leigh, Day) also brought actions in London for damages to workers at Thor Chemicals in KwaZulu-Natal on behalf of victims of poisoning by mercury, and on behalf of cancer victims from Rio Tinto's Rossing uranium mine in Namibia.

      In April 1990 massive concentrations of mercury had been detected in the Umgeweni River near the Thor Chemicals' Cato Ridge plant. This was reported in the national and international press. Thor Chemicals imported mercury waste into South Africa, partly supplied by Cyanamid, an American company. South African environmental groups, mainly Earthlife under Chris Albertyn's leadership, allied themselves with the Chemical Workers Industrial Union, the local African residents under their chief, and also white farmers from the Tala Valley who had endured a bad experience of pesticide spraying from the neighbouring sugar industry. A true "rainbow" alliance, which also incorporated U.S. activists against the Cyanamid plant in question, complained against such "garbage imperialism" or "toxic colonialism" by asking: "Why did Thor, a British company, decide to build the world's larget toxic mercury recycling plant on the borders of KwaZulu in a fairly remote part of South Africa? Why not build it closer to the sources of the waste mercury in the United States or in Europe?" (Crompton and Erwin, in Cock and Koch eds., 1991:82-84).

      Actually, the Basel Convention of 1989 which forbids the export of hazardous waste, was complemented on 25 March 1994 by a full ban negotiated at a meeting in Geneva, on all transboundary exports of hazardous waste from the 24 rich industrialized countries of the OECD. The agreement was reached over the opposition of the richest countries, which received from Greenpeace in this context the name of the Sinister Seven. Some defections inside the European Union (Denmark, and later Italy) helped an alliance among China, Eastern European countries, and in general all southern poor countries to close the "recycling" loophole of the initial 1989 convention though which ninety per cent of the waste was flowing. Thus, in theory, a sad chapter of industrialisation was closed, where rich countries were able to exploit the weaker regulations of poorer countries to avoid their own responsibility for minimizing waste. Clearly, the issue is far from over. The logic of Lawrence Summers' Principle remains compelling. Also, new opportunities of dumping waste might develop in the vastly under-polluted ocean.

Property rights on carbon sinks and the Ecological Debt


      As we have seen, the idiom of Environmental Justice has been employed in the United States in the struggle against the disproportionate amount of pollution in areas occupied by minority and low income people.The disproportionate emissions of carbon dioxide are an example of environmental injustice at the international level, which Anil Agarwal and Sunita Narain emphasized in their famous paper of 1991. Another idiom to discuss "greenhouse politics" might be that of Environmental Security, not in a military sense, but in a sense similar to that of food security (i.e. an agricultural policy which would assure local availability of food through use of local human and land resources). Environmental security refers to the guaranteed access to natural resources (such as water) and environmental services for all, not just the rich and powerful. So the South could argue that the North has produced and is producing a disproportionate amount of greenhouse gases, which runs counter to environmental justice, gives rise to environmental liabilities, and it also jeopardizes the environmental security of the South (or at least parts of the South).

      Using the economic language of the Ecological Debt (see also Parikh, 1995, and Christian Aid, 1999), consider the case of the environmental service provided by the carbon sinks (oceans, new vegetation, soils and atmosphere). The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased from 280 ppm to 360 ppm. The decision of the European Union (playing a "leadership game") at Kyoto in December 1997, was to allow the concentration to increase to 550 ppm which would possibly involve a two degree centigrade rise in temperature, with much uncertainty on the range, and even more regarding local effects. That this is a "safe" limit has been strongly disputed (Azar and Rhode, 1997). The emissions per person per year are in the United States of the order of 6 tons of carbon, in Europe half of this, in India 0.4 tons. We all breath in and out more or less the same, and it would be impracticable to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by slow respiration. There are livelihood emissions, and there are luxury emissions. This arises from one characteristic feature of human ecology, the extreme intraspecific difference in the exosomatic use of fuels.

      The average is about one ton of carbon per person/year (global emissions, 6000 M tons of carbon). This is already excessive, though it will increase because of population growth and economic growth. In Kyoto, and afterwards (as in Bonn in November 1999), the European Union, playing the "leadership game", proposed a slight reduction in emissions, which the United States finds difficult to accept (partly because population is growing in the U.S.). In any case, the required reduction in order to avoid further increase in concentration in the atmosphere, is of the order of half the present emissions, that is some 3000 M tons of carbon per year. Although the dynamics of carbon absorption in the oceans, new vegetations and soils depend to some extent of the amounts produced, it is not disputed that the use of the atmosphere as an open-access sink is increasing. The other sinks (oceans, soils, new vegetation) are also used on a first come, first served basis, without payment (except for some minor "joint implementation" experiments).

      It can be argued that, before making a commitment to carbon emission reductions, it is necessary to explore the reduction of other greenhouse gases, such as CFC, now prohibited because of their effect on the ozone layer, or methane which, at least in the portion coming from garbage dumps, could be cheaply recycled through combustion, thus greatly diminishing the direct effect it has as a greenhouse gas. In the experimental cases of Joint Implementation (later also called Clean Development Mechanism) which are designed to reduce carbon emissions or to produce additional carbon absorption, the costs per ton of carbon are estimated at a few dollars. Sometimes there are even negative marginal costs of greenhouse gas reduction, called "win-win" opportunities which combine economic savings and dimished emissions. Costa Rica has (more as a gimmick than as a serious financial operation) placed some carbon dioxide absorption bonds at US$ 10 per ton (less than US$ 3 per ton of carbon, the relation between carbon dioxide and carbon being 3.7). Amusing "lose-lose" situations also exist, as in the FACE project in Ecuador which consists in planting 75,000 hectares of eucalyptus and pines to absorb the carbon dioxide which would be produced by a power station in the Netherlands of 650 MW. The president of FACE is Ed Nijpels, a former Minister for the Environment. FACE is a consortium of electrical utilities in the Netherlands. The acronym means "Forest Absorption of Carbondioxide Emissions". It has operated with arrogant ignorance, stating in its widely distributed Annual Report of 1995 that in Ecuador at altitudes of 2800 m. agriculture is no longer possible and livestock raising is no longer profitable. In late 1999 is became known that by disturbing the rich organic soil of the paramo when planting pines, more carbon is released than will be absorbed thus increasing a little the Ecological Debt of the Netherlands.

      When the commitment to reduce emissions is small, as at present, then, in principle, the price of a ton of carbon in joint implementation projects will be low because the demand for sinks will be small. The price will be low also for other reasons. If local negative externalities from the projects themselves are not factored into the price, and if the supply of projects in the South is large (whether as additional sinks, especially when conservation of threatened primary forests is also accepted, or as changes in techniques which diminish carbon emissions such as substituing natural gas for coal), compared to the demand, then the price will be low. However, should the commitment to reduce be of the order of 3000 M tons of carbon per year, so as to avoid further increase of CO2 concentration in the atmosphere, then the marginal cost of the CO2 abatement would increae enormously. Perhaps, if the owners of carbon sinks are poor, the local selling price of carbon extra- absorption will still be low. Then, intermediaries would come into play, perhaps southern governments, perhaps northern financial institutions. Instead, if there is not reduction, this implies the persistent and disproportionate use of the sinks as de facto property of the rich ("might" more than "right", as E. Ostrom puts it), and therefore a continuous increase year after year of the Ecological Debt, at the tune, say, of US$ 60 billion per year (3000 M tons of carbon which should be reduced at the cost of US$ 20 per ton). This is a figure which represents the avoided costs. The Ecological Debt arises on this count because, by not doing the necessary reduction, the rich countries save themselves a quantity which would be roughly of this order of magnitude. One could easily argue than the appropriate average cost to use should be US$ 100 per ton or even higher. In any case, as a term of comparison, the present accumulated Latin American external debt is in 1999 of US$ 700,000 billion, it would be roughly offset by the Northern accumulated ecological debt (only for carbon emissions) in the last 12 years.

      This line of thinking on "greenhouse" politics is not called the "leadership game" but the "liability game", which up to know Southern governments have been reluctant to take. Perhaps the AOSIS countries will push this point, at the same time deploying also the language of their threatened environmental security. The claim of the ecological debt from the South, should it become an important topic in the international political agenda, would contribute powerfully to the "ecological adjustment" which the North must make.

Rio Grande do Sul - a transgenic-free zone?

      Shaded coffee has many virtues though it has smaller short-term yields of coffee per hectare than unshaded monocultural coffee (Moguel and Toledo, 1999). However, Brazil is different. Brazil has long been a very large coffee exporter but there is no significant production of organic shaded coffee in Brazil. This is not a land of traditional agroecological peasants but a land with a history of sugar and coffee plantations, slavery, and almost total destruction of the Atlantic rainforest. Brazil is not a place for romantic agroecologists, as the Andean highlands or the Maya territories. The potato in Brazil is called batata inglesa. There are indigenous groups in Brazil who know about medicinal biodiversity. There is useful indigenous knowledge of edible insects. The whole issue of indigenous intellectual property rights has been closely linked to Brazilian anthropology, through Darrell Posey. There are well known Brazilian stories of biopiracy (the jaborandi, for glaucoma, not to speak of rubber), and sad and amusing stories of South-North transference of indigenous knowledge, as between the Kayapo and Body Shop. There is not however a large agroecological peasantry in Brazil nor a widespread indigenous agroecological pride. There have been no politically controversial cases of agricultural biopiracy, like for quinua in Bolivia, though Brazil contains many interesting varieties of maize, and of course, of manioc or cassava, a staple in the diet both of the indigenous tribes and of poor Brazilians today, and indeed of Africans who got the plant from America.

      If not much of a traditional agroecological peasantry, there is instead in Brazil today the strongest movement not only in Latin America but probably in the world for land reform, the MST (the Movement of the Landless), whose social origins are in Rio Grande do Sul (RGS) though this is not the state with more land conflicts. Indeed, RGS has served as a relatively peaceful base for the MST, subject to violent repression by landed interests in other states. In 1999 the MST has declared itself against transgenic crops, a first step perhaps in a much awaited move towards organic farming and ecological politics. The context was the prohibition of transgenic soybeans in RGS by the state government. Even if the valiant attitude of the government and judiciary in Rio Grande do Sul against transgenic crops would finally fail because of internal opposition in the state itself or because of federal overruling, it has served to finally propel the MST into an ecological direction. This is a movement started by the sons and daugthers of small farmers of German and Italian ancestry, it has spread to the whole country, it has withstood violent armed repression in Parana, Para and other states. Its tactics consists in occupation, settlement and immediate cultivation of large idle properties. Land invasions are achieved by peaceful mass direct action, with emphasis on food production for subsistance, but also with a modernist and productivist technological outlook against absentee landlords and grileiros (speculators who illegally enclose large areas of land) who are taken to be so rich that they do not care to produce food. Many of the MST leaders belong also to the Workers' Party though the MST is more to the left. The transgenic issue has sparked off a general discussion on agricultural technology inside the MST which was lacking until now, in a country like Brazil, whose population has stopped growing quickly and, which, as Ignacy Sachs once said, "instead of turning into a rural paradise, which it could be, it is becoming an urban hell" (Padua, 1996). The MST is sponsoring some return migration from urban shanty towns to new rural settlements.

      What happened in Rio Grande do Sul? The European alarm at GM foods is well known in America. This is a movement led by consumers, worried about uncertain risks to health, strongly supported by some remaining peasant groups in France and in some other countries such as Austria, which believe that one defence of European agriculture lies in producing output with different standards of quality than the large exporting countries. There is a lingering suspicion that European policy against U.S. "hormone" beef, or against imported transgenic crops, is motivated not only by uncertain health risks, but also by farmers' interest in hiding behind protectionist non-tariff barriers. Not so well known around the world is the local resistance since 1998 to genetically modified foods, especially soybeans, in Rio Grande do Sul. The state government imposed a ban on transgenic soybeans. It is a case similar to that of resistance to logging, mining, shrimp exports or oil exports in other Southern countries: it is not environmental protectionism but its reverse, environmental resistance to increase exports because of local damage or uncertain local environmental risks. In this case, there is support not only from NGO but from both the judiciary and the (local) executive branch of government. The fact that a state in Brazil which is a leading producer of soybeans for export would forbid transgenic crops is of great interest. It offers a commercial opportunity to fill in the European import requirement for "green" non-GM soybeans. But not only this. It also gives arguments for a similar attitude towards transgenic maize, which is indigenous to the New World, and therefore with many wild relatives and greater environmental risks than transgenic soybeans. Maize and soybeans are staple feedstuffs for the world food regime of increased meat consumption.

      The so-called Miami Group of agricultural exporting countries led by the United States includes Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, Uruguay. This Transgenic Sextet are "staple theory of growth" countries, Alfred Crosby's "neo-Europes", or Harriet Friedmann's "settler agriculture states". This is a coherent group that consistenly opposed the negotiation of an international Biosafety Protocol to be added to the Convention on Biological Diversity, insisting instead on unrestricted free exports of transgenic crops. Chile is not really interested in soybeans or maize exports, but potentially in transgenic timber, and in any case it acts out of neoliberal principle and colonial fidelity. However, the support for transgenic crops in some of the countries in this cluster of major agricultural exporters, is precarious because the technology is foreign-owned, environmentally risky, and it might encounter a consumer backlash in the importing countries. Remarkably the Miami Group does not include Brazil, to Fernando Henrique Cardoso's credit. The Miami group's line has been opposed by the European Union and also by the so-called "Like-Minded" group of countries, comprising all G-77 plus China, except Argentina, Chile and Uruguay. In fact, Argentina is the number two producer of GM soybeans after the U.S. The disagreement on the Biosafety Protocol hinged on the technical issue of prior informed consent to consume transgenic products. Article 19(3) of the Biodiversity Convention of 1992 states that "the Parties shall consider the need for and modalities of a protocol setting out appropriate procedures including, in particular, advance informed agreement, in the field of the safe transfer, handling and use of any living modified organism resulting from biotechnology that may have adverse effect on the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity". The "advance informed agreement" procedure would oblige countries to ensure that its exporters give prior notification to importing countries to enable them to make a risk assessment of the GM product before import is approved. Clearly, this would facilitate, if nothing else, the labelling of GM products, and the spontaneous development in the market of a two-tier price structure for transgenic and non-transgenic soybeans and maize. In January 2000, the United States (which has not ratified the Convention of Biological Diversity of 1992), hampered through the Miami Group at a meeting in Montreal as it had done one year earlier in Cartagena de Indias, attempts at strongly regulating exports of transgenic foods.

      In May 1999 the Brazilian federal Ministry of Agriculture authorized Monsanto Ready-Roundup soybeans, but a federal court ruled that Monsanto and its Brazilian subsidiary, Monsoy, could not commercialize the seeds until the government issues biosafety and labelling regulations for GM organisms. Thus ruling was a response to the suit brought by the Brazilian Institute of Consumer Defence and by Greenpeace, arguing that the Constitution mandated environmental assessments for any innovation which impacts on the environment. Judge Antonio Prudente (his real name) stated that "the irresponsible haste in introducing the advances of genetic engineering is inspired by the greed of economic globalization". Monsanto appealed, and at the beginning of the year 2000 the case is still open. Monsanto could gain large profits by capturing the Brazilian soybean seed market. So, the situation in Brazil was that GM soybeans were forbidden by the state government in RGS, and in practice neither allowed nor forbidden in the rest of the country. Jaime Lerner, the former mayor of Curitiba, well known for his ecological public transport plans in the city, a potential presidential candidate, is since 1999 the governor of Parana, a state which borders on RGS, and is the top producer of soybeans and also one of the most violent in Brazil because of unsettled land disputes. Will he oppose transgenic crops? Will he become, as his enemies claim, the first "transgenic" environmentalist under the pressure of Monsanto?

      The Workers' Party has been in power in Porto Alegre, the capital of Rio Grande do Sul, for many years. It has conducted a famous social experiment called "participatory budgeting" at the municipal level. By a narrow margin, it came to power in the state itself in January 1999, though it has a minority of seats in the legislative assembly. RGS is a state with a strong identity, people call themselves and are known throughout Brazil as Gauchos. Porto Alegre has a long tradition of environmentalism since the early 1970s through Jose Lutzenberger. The new governor, and before him the Secretary of Agriculture, Hoffman, became convinced by local NGOs (Centro Ecologico and others, including the Colmeia -i.e. Honey Bee- consumer and farmer cooperative), that in addition to environmental and health risks, the introduction of GM crops would result in the loss of sovereignty over seed production. NGOs were supported by experts from the state agricultural extension service such as Angela Cordeiro. International organizations such as RAFI and GRAIN (Genetic Resources Action International) chimed in with information on environmental risks. Also, Monsanto had been buying Brazilian seed companies, which used knowledge developed by Embrapa, a public corporation partly privatized not long ago. Monsanto was attempting to stop Brazilian seed production, and RGS is Brazil's largest seed producer. The state government also became concerned that patented industrial seeds, first of soybeans (which is exotic), later perhaps of maize, could not be freely used by small and medium farmers, who dominate the RGS agricultural scene. The head of the inspection programme in RGS, Marta Elena Angelo Levien, who in the 1999 planting season was trying to stop some non-compliant farmers from sowing transgenic soybeans seed smuggled from Argentina, stated that ensuring that regular non-transgenic soybeans are planted was a matter of national security since this "is a technology that is dominated by a few big businesses forming a cartel. By adopting transgenic crops, Brazil would become dependent on an oligarchy for food technology".

      The Brazilian enemies of transgenic crops were given encouragement at the end of 1999 by the class action suit brought against Monsanto in a District Court for the District of Columbia on 14 December 1999 (reported in The Wall Street Journal, same date) on behalf of plaintiffs who are farmers from Iowa, Indiana but also from France, and also potentially on behalf of many other farmers in Brazil and Argentina. The plaintiffs sought injunctive relief, meaning that Monsanto should stop what it is doing, and also compensatory and punitive damages. The two main reasons were that of monopolizing or attempting to monopolize soybean and maize seeds, and that of failing to adequately test GM seeds and crops both for human health and for environmental safety, and for failing to adequately disclose the lack of testing. Lack of regulatory control not only in testing but in large scale field cultivation is obvious in Argentina.

      In a book I am writing on the Environmentalism of the Poor I am collecting more ecological distribution conflicts, but some conclusions can be reached already.

Value System Contests

      Commitments or pledges towards Nature characterize the variety of environmentalism

      described as the "cult of wilderness", while a material interest in the environmental resources and services provided by Nature for human livelihood characterizes the Environmentalism of the Poor. The very concept of Ecological Distribution Conflicts, central to my work, implies conflicts of interests. Shall we then conclude that there is an Environmentalism of Deeply Held Values versus an Environmentalism of Material Interests? Not always so. Thirty years ago, in the island of Bougainville the Rio Tinto Zinc company got into trouble because of local opposition despite the agreement the company had made with the government of Papua New Guinea, which had sovereignty over Bougainville, in order to exploit the site of what was described as the most profitable copper and gold mine in the world. Back in 1974, it was reported that "the natives of Bougainville have stopped throwing geologists into the sea even since the company [Rio Tinto Zinc] declared itself willing to compensate them for the land it had taken with cash and other material services". However, it was also reported that monetary compensation was not the issue: "The village communities affected gave the highest importance to land as the source of their material standard of life. Land was also the basis of their feelings of security, and the focus of most of their religious attention. Despite continuing compensation payments and rental fees, local resentment over the taking of the land remains high, and there is strong opposition to any expansion of mining in Bougainville, whether by the existing company, the government, or anyone else" (Mezger, 1980: 195). Finally, the tiny island of 160,000 inhabitant erupted into a seccesionist war at the end of the 1980s.

      When the U'Wa in Colombia in a famous conflict in the late 1990s refused entry to their land to Occidental Petroleum, threatening mass suicide, they claimed that not only the surface land but also the subsoil was sacred, and should not be defiled by oil exploration. This is a vocabulary of protest which implies a denial of nature as capital (M. O'Connor, 1993b), that is, the impossibility of compensation for externalities in monetary terms. The U'Wa also appealed simultaneously to their indigenous territorial rights (resguardo indigena) under the constitution of Colombia, which would then allow them to legally deny entry to Occidental Petroleum. The U'Wa case has become well-kown in the United States and Europe, only one of perhaps one hundred indigenous communities theatened at present by the oil and gas industry in tropical countries. Certainly, the appeal to sacredness has contributed to its popularity. That the land is sacred, one may no doubt in Native America. That Sira, the creator, also declared the subsoil as sacred, and that moreover oil is like blood inside the arteries and veins of the Earth, seems too much of a coincidence, perhaps a recent theological strategy which the U'Wa deployed to keep the oil company out. The existence of oil inside the earth, let alone its sacredness, is not so obvious before seismic exploration and drilling take place - this was precisely the point of confrontation. We realize then that different languages of resistance, of different vintages, are deployed at the same time. Are they compatible? The U'Wa did not say, but could have said, that they would bring a class action suit against Oxy in the United States asking for money compensation for damages once oil exploration starts. Shiv Vivanathan (1997:238) suggests that to defend the Narmada, Gandhi would not have discussed the statistics of cost-benefit analysis, he would become a pilgrim doing a parikrama of the river. Myth and sacred geography are needed. Indeed only deeply held values may explain the fervour of Medha Patkar's struggle. Let us hope that Shiv Vivanathan's phrase, "an accountant's ledger cannot be a mourning ritual", does not finally apply to the U'Wa, because the government of Colombia in January 2000 decided that U'Wa's opposition had become a national security issue, and sent the Army in, and this might provoke military intervention by other forces in Colombia.

      DiChiro (1998) describes the feeling of puzzlement at the First Environmental Justice Summit in Washington DC in 1991, among delegates from inner cities, when listening to statements from Native-Americans about "our brothers the whales". In fact, the first Principle of Environmental Justice of a list of seventeen excellent principles approved at that 1991 meeting, affirms the "sacredness of Mother Earth, ecological unity and the interdependence of all species, and the right to be free from ecological destruction". Zimmerer (1996) explains in a different context that one discourse on land erosion in Cochabamba, Bolivia, is couched by Quechua peasants in terms of anger from Pachamama because of lack of proper rituals to her. This is certainly not a "post-materialist" appreciation for natural amenities, it is something older and deeper, perhaps the real "deep ecology".

      Whenever there are unresolved ecological conflicts, there is likely to be not only a discrepancy but incommensurability in valuation (Faucheux and O'Connor, 1998, Funtowicz and Ravetz, 1994, Martinez-Alier, Munda and O'Neill, 1998, 1999, Martinez-Alier and O'Connor, 1996, 1999, O'Connor and Spash, 1999). Some people want to preserve the mangroves of Ecuador and Colombia because they appreciate their ecological and aesthetic values. Other people want to preserve the mangroves because they live from them, and/or because they understand their practical role as coastal defence and as fish breeding grounds. Other people (or the same people, in other contexts) appeal to the sense of culture and place the mangroves provide for their traditional inhabitats. The African-American Pacific deity Tunda, who protects the sea and coastal areas, may also be brought into the dialogue. In all cases, different interests can be defended either by insisting on the discrepancies of valuation inside the same standard of value, or by resorting to non-equivalent descriptions of reality, i.e. to different value standards. For instance, it can be stated that while humans have different economic values in insurance policies (or in the IPCC cost-benefit accounts) we all have the same value in the scale of human dignity. When we say that someone or something is "very valuable" or "not very valuable", this is an elliptical statement which requires the further question, in which standard of valuation? (O'Neill, 1993). For policy, what is needed is not cost-benefit analysis but rather a non-compensatory multi-criteria approach able to accomodate a plurality of incommensurable values (Munda, 1995, Martinez-Alier, Munda and O'Neill, 1998, 1999). For instance, the conflict over the safety of GM crops could apparently be solved by forcing companies such as Monsanto to take insurance or to post a bond to compensate for possible future damages, internalizing the externalities in an economic perspective. However, the consequences of introducing GMOs are scientifically contested, while the decision is urgent. This helps to enhance the social legitimacy of a plurality of perspectives and social interests. Do the economic costs of introducing GM crops outweigh the benefits? Who suffers the costs, who profits from the benefits? Do we know how to give a present-money-value to uncertain future costs to human health and the environment? Should we tamper with Nature in this way? Is nothing sacred?

      In conclusion, both non-economic values and livelihood interests come into play in environmental decision-making, aided by the failures of economic valuation. In other terms, the failure of economic valuation opens up a wide space for environmental conflicts. This is one main link between Ecological Economics and Political Ecology. Moreover, in complex situations marked by uncertainties and synergies, the disciplinary approach of the experts (each of them with her or his value standard) is not appropriate. So, incommensurability of values arises not only because of different interests and values but also because of complexity. "In the first place" (write the theorists of post-normal science, Funtowicz and Ravetz, 1994), "monetary value will be seen as a measure of one aspect of value reflecting one particular sort of interest, that which is mainly expressed through the commercial market [or through fictitious markets as in contingent valuation]. To choose any particular operational definition for value involves making a decision about what is important and real; other definitions will reflect the commitments of other stakeholders... This entails a plurality of legitimate perspectives and values...".

      "This divergence in valuation perspectives" (write the ecological economists O'Connor and Spash, 1999:5) "can be introduced in terms of two different conceptions of internalization. The diagnosis in both versions is that decisionmakers have failed to take proper account of the impacts of human activity upon the natural environment and the remedy is taking the environment properly into account. The two formulations are:

      * Internalisation of environmental damages in a narrow sense, referring to an idea of Pareto efficiency in resource allocation.

      ** Internalisation is a broad sense, referring to political processes and institutions for expressing and resolving or accepting [or exacerbating] conflicts over environmental concerns".

Environmental Justice is a force for Sustainability

      Economic growth damages the environment - in other words, there is no evidence of "Kuznets environmental curves" for many impacts, or rather the level of income at which economic growth produces enough wealth so that environmental cure may be provided, is such a high level of income that much damage has already accumulated (Opschoor, 1995). For instance, it is not difficult to correct sulfur dioxide emissions in copper smelting, or in cities ("London smog") even at a relatively low level of income, but "Los Angeles smog", produced mainly by cars, increases with incomes, at least up to very high levels of income. Irreversible damage thresholds are perhaps crossed in the meantime. For instance, biodiversity may disappear because of economic growth, and later, without possible replacement for such a loss, it might be "too late to be green." Starting from the premise that economic growth damages the environment, we have seen some ecological distribution conflicts over bioprospection and biosafety, over property rights on sinks of greenhouse gases, over the use of mangroves, over mining impacts. Such conflicts are not only conflicts of interest, they are also conflicts on values. Political Ecology, a field of study which initially dealth with the relations between land use and social structures in Third World countries (Blaikie and Brookfield, 1987), has extended its reach, and is becoming the study of ecological distribution conflicts. Quite often, social conflicts over the access to environmental resources and services or other the burden of urban and industrial pollution do not use environmental laguage.

      Today, the environmental movement worldwide continues to be dominated by two main currents, the "cult of wilderness" and (increasingly) the "gospel of eco-efficiency". However, a third current called Environmental Justice, Popular Environmentalism, the Environmentalism of the Poor, is growing, increasingly self-aware of itself. Environmental Justice originated in the United States, the Environmentalism of the Poor in the Third World, both combine a concern with the environment with a more visible concern for social justice. They are also learning to combine local with global issues, in a process of mutual reinforcement. Thus, this paper provides an answer to Raymond Bryant's complaint, that "political ecologists have yet to develop an alternative to the mainstream concept of sustainable development" (Bryant and Bailey, 1997:4). The answer is, "the environmentalism of the poor and environmental justice (local and global) are the main forces for sustainability". This is something you will not have read in the Brudtland Report.