Date: Mon, 23 Nov 1998 08:11:15 -0500 From: Alex Falconer MEP <•••@••.•••> Subject: Re: Global Economic Reform Campaign Sender: Alex Falconer MEP <•••@••.•••> To: Jan Slakov <•••@••.•••> Jan, You wrote << I went to Alex's web site and copied the main article there (by "Alex and Dave") as I think it is very good. Of course, for me to share it round, I will need to tediously go through it and justify the lines. (If you could send me an e-mail version that would be great.) >> I'm happy to e-mail you the text. You'll find the html version pasted below and a text version attached. It sounds like you may have cut and pasted the text from the web page view. May I suggest that a better alternative in such circumstances is to save the html version and pass that on. Anybody with a browser would be able to read it (minus any graphic elements), and since in our case, the html tags are fairly minimal, apart from the bit at the beginning, even reading the source text is a fairly easy option (as you'll see when you scroll down). << I tried to go to the geocites web site but my system replies that the server doesn't have a DNS? entry or something. Anyhow, I would like to subscribe to the list but it seems I can,t get to the web site. >> Odd, since Geocities is a large and well established operation. The DNS is as I understand it, basically an address book of internet servers (I think they all have numeric codes, and the entry for the alphanumeric URL is checked to obtain the numeric address, or something like that), which your ISP uses to connect you. I've checked the URL I distributed and it was correct - http://www.geocities.com/RainForest/Vines/9981/ Perhaps you mistyped it, or perhaps it was temporarily unavailable from your server. If you can log onto the main geocities page http://www.geocities.com/ then you should be able to access the Global Citizen page. If you cannot get this page despite retrying, then tell your ISP. It could be their fault. That said, don't worry too much, because I will post most items on Alex's pages as well, and distribute them through the list, so your only problem is that you haven't signed up for the list, but then, I can add your name, and you will just need to reply to the e-mail authorisation when it arrives. I have also added the Global signup form, and a link to the global site, to the compuserve site (on the global menu page). << Sorry that my problems will mean asking you to take time to fiddle with these details for me, if I am to get much use of your work... >> Please do not hesitate to ask for further assistance if needed . . . << PS What does MEP (at the end of Alex' name) stand for? >> Member of the European Parliament. Regards Dave Smith ************************************************************************** Please feel free to distribute and reprint this article, but we'd appreciate it if we could be informed of any publication it appears in, and ask that the contact details at the end accompany any use. Thanks. The shape of things to come Dave Smith / Alex Falconer MEP (Member of the European Parliament) With the approach of the triple zero year 2000 (and for purists, the new millennium which begins the following year), we can expect to see growing numbers of doom merchants taking to the streets, demanding that we repent because the end is nigh. They will doubtless be accompanied by many exploitative authors and publishers who jump on the lucrative bandwagon, preying on peoples' fear of the future. Putting to one side the hype of the false prophets and the pedlars of pulp faction, there is a third, and much larger, category of people who believe that the human race faces a potentially apocalyptic future. These people do not suffer from pre millennial tension. They don't expect the crunch to come this side of the millennium, and probably not for quite a few years after. But, within the next few decades, they know we face global catastrophe in several guises. With a few exceptions, these disasters-waiting-to-happen have been created by homo sapiens. With fewer exceptions, they can be averted by us, if we move fast enough and soon enough. Unfortunately, the response so far has been uneven, sluggish, and inadequate. Despite the fine words of some politicians, the manmade problems are getting worse. Global warming is changing our weather patterns, increasing the destructiveness of events such as hurricanes, droughts and floods. The rising seas threaten the very existence of some nations. Despite the need to trap carbon dioxide, we continue to devour forests for the sake of a few years of unsustainable agriculture. We have a global economic system which forces people to grow cash crops for export, to finance debt repayment, when they themselves are malnourished. Global financial institutions lock people into poverty and unemployment as the price for loans which they cannot afford to repay. The international monetary system is unstable, and it is run by organisations whose modus operandi is increasingly discredited, and who even admit (to themselves but not openly to others) that they have made major mistakes. People are living in misery and dying as a result. Famine, plague and pestilence, far from being eradicated, are being exacerbated by the globalisation of capitalism. To the threat of environmental or economic collapse, we should also add the dangers of international conflict. As we have recently been reminded, we still have the capacity to blow up the world several times over. The nuclear time bomb is still ticking away in the hands of an expanding and increasingly rowdy nuclear club. Reaction and Proaction Many, many people see what is happening. They band together to campaign for change, and to help those who are suffering. There are tens of thousands of organisations throughout the world, dedicated to particular or general action on the environment or debt or poverty, and campaigning for human rights, peace and development. As people examine the causes of the issues which concern them, they meet other issues and other campaigners. They realise that their concerns are related, and that the way forward is intertwined. They forge links and make common cause, but do not necessarily take the next step. If these things have common causes, and it is our contention that they do, then the solution must encompass all the problems. Furthermore, it should not surprise us that in a world where profits rule supreme, all roads to salvation lead back to the global economic and financial system. The dangers which we face in the next few decades are, if not cataclysmic, then without doubt, extremely serious. The present system has shown itself incapable of addressing them adequately. We therefore need radical changes to the system. Campaigns such as Jubilee 2000 are making great strides in raising awareness, both among the public and politicians. If they manage to overcome the recalcitrance of the USA et al, then the measures they are demanding would certainly alleviate the worst effects of the present system. However, while debt cancellation is a necessary part of any strategy to overhaul the global economy, it only treats the symptoms of the malaise. Unless we also attack the root causes, then the symptoms will recur, or we will be subject to another manifestation of the underlying disorder. Consider deforestation (and the consequent loss of biodiversity and acceleration of global warming). In temperate regions, most primary forest has already been destroyed. Tropical rainforest is disappearing so fast that at current rates, there will be little left by 2040. Schemes such as debt for nature swaps are too often aimed at alternative exploitation that provides little benefit for local populations, and in any event, are totally inadequate to deal with this scale of destruction. Deforestation is the inevitable result of the rapid economic growth policies adopted by many developing nations in response to the demands of the global financial institutions. The (unsustainable) growth imperative permeates all the problems we face. It makes us look at the world through a distorting lens. Productivity is measured in terms which ignore pollution by toxic and climate changing chemicals. When modern agriculture, based on fossil fuels and chemical fertilisers, uses ten calories of non-renewable energy to produce one calorie of food, is it really an advance upon traditional practices that yield two calories of food for every calorie of renewable energy input? The power beyond nations Given the undeniable severity of the consequences of inaction, why are the nations of the world not tackling these problems effectively? Pin the blame, yet again, on the global economic system. Nations are not the only players in the game. Transnational Corporations have bigger turnovers and more power than many nations. They can even take on and win in battles against supranational institutions such as the European Union. The supposed regulators of international trade and finance, such as the WTO, are in practice captives to the Transnationals' agenda. It would be untrue to say that capitalist enterprises are not interested in long term future prosperity. But they do apply a heavy discount rate to future benefits, which means that in all but the most extreme circumstances, short-term profits are the prime motivation determining their actions. Such is their power, internationally and within nations, that their short-term perspective is inevitably the dominant factor determining government policies. Short termism is inherent in the global economic system. An examination of the factors which contribute to short-termism reveals fundamental flaws in the system. The long term solution to the destructive tendencies of global capitalism requires that we identify and eliminate those flaws. This is, of course, A Massive Task. However, it is also essential for the long term survival of the human race. What is to be done? A few months ago, we met with a handful of people to discuss this situation, and what we could do about it. We agreed that given the size of the task, any campaign must aim to involve, link and unify in action, the many and diverse forces already campaigning on one or more of the issues. Also, it was recognised that while such a campaign would essentially be one which created a network among existing organisations (it would be counterproductive to attempt to duplicate the work which is already being done), it should also be flexible enough to engage new supporters. At subsequent meetings, which have involved activists from NGOs, churches, and the labour movement, we decided to concentrate in the first instance on building support for the idea of such a campaign among Scottish organisations and activists. To this end we prepared a short pamphlet that outlined the main principles on which we thought a campaign could be built, but making it clear that the purpose of the pamphlet was to stimulate interest and debate, not to serve as a definitive and immutable founding statement. Apart from anything else, we know that we live in an imperfect world, and that attempts to impose "perfect" solutions on it are doomed to failure (and we wish that more economists would realise it too). We have also been pleased to hear that similar campaigns are being built elsewhere, offering the possibility of building a global network, connecting national, regional and local groups. In this context, we were also heartened by a success of the campaign against the Multilateral Agreement on Investment. The campaign was internationally coordinated, largely via the internet. It has provided a valuable lesson in how progressive forces can make use of new technology to tackle global issues. We are now in the process of "recruitment". There have been fringe meetings at several conferences, and we would appreciate invitations to speak at others. The still ad hoc group operates under the working title of the Global Economic Reform Movement, but that's only the germ of an idea. That we still have no fixed title is however deliberate, and reflects the early stage of development. Having pointed the finger at the fundamental flaws, we do not want to preempt the wider discussion of the campaign's objectives and organisation. For that, we await your involvement. Alex Falconer is the Member of the European Parliament for Mid Scotland and Fife. Dave Smith is Alex's researcher. They have worked together on many pamphlets, the most recent of which was "The Wealth Beyond Nations", available free of charge from 25 Church Street, Inverkeithing, Fife (telephone 01383 419330, e-mail •••@••.•••).