October 24, 2016

Forum 2000

Edward Goldsmith was a panellist at the plenary session of the 2002 meeting of Forum 2000 in Prague, an event founded by the Czech President Václav Havel, Japanese philanthropist Yohei Sasakawa, and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel.

Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I am afraid that for me there is an unbridgeable gap between the policies that are required to satisfy the needs of our multinational corporations and those that are required to ensure the habitability of this planet. I think I can make this clear with reference to one issue: the issue is global warming, which Mr. Navarro had mentioned.

People don’t realize that global warming is going to affect every aspect of our lives. All the things that we have discussed today — poverty, for instance — will be affected by global warming. There are no measures we can take to reduce poverty once many areas of our planet dry up, as we are told they will.

This is going to create a refugee problem that has so far been unthinkable. We are going to have tens, if not hundreds, of millions of people moving from uninhabitable areas to areas that are inhabitable, at least in the short term.

It is absurd to talk about health, as I did in Johannesburg, without considering the effects of global warming on our health. You could build all the hospitals in the world; it is not going to compensate for the introduction into temperate areas of all the diseases that now exist in the wet tropics, like malaria, and all these diseases which made West Africa the white man’s grave. The first English colonists lasted about a year and a half there before they died. This is what we are going to inherit.

It is absurd to talk about feeding the world if we don’t take into account what the intergovernmental panel on climate change is telling us: that 30 percent of the world’s agricultural land is likely to be affected by the climate change. When the sea level rises, it means that much of our arable land is going to be inundated — flooded — or at least going to be deemed useless by saltwater intrusion. Now, if you look at this, you must consider that even if we stop burning fossil fuels tomorrow, the planet is going to start heating up, and it is going to heat up for at least another 150 years. That is the residence time of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Here we are: we are living in a whole different world. This situation creates a completely different world. We’re creating a world in which, if we do nothing about it, we are not going to survive. It is by no means certain that the conditions that are predicted for the end of [this] century are compatible with human survival on this planet. Now, the measures required — the policies required, for instance — are defeated by ourselves.

I am diametrically opposed to those that have promoted the food and agricultural organizations of the world, the WTO and every other international agency. As a result of [the] monoculture [they are promoting, it] becomes suicidal—and that is the only “economic” form of agriculture [they accept]. Suicidal because who knows, who can forecast how vulnerable [this] can be to the different discontinuities that we are going to encounter.

You need a massive diversity of crops, you need to return to small farms which are incomparably more productive than large farms—they are five or six times more productive than big ones in their production.

I’ll stop now, but I think that the sorts of policies that are required are not development policies but de-development policies. These policies are totally incompatible with today’s ideas of economics and of the very existence of a global economy, and for the big institutions that govern it.

Thank you.


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