Anarcho-environmentalism allegorised

The name Anaarkali in the present context has many meanings - Anaar symbolises the anarchism of the Bhils and kali which means flower bud in Hindi stands for their traditional environmentalism. Anaar in Hindi can also mean the fruit pomegranate which is said to be a panacea for many ills as in the Hindi idiom - "Ek anar sou bimar - One pomegranate for a hundred ill people"! - which describes a situation in which there is only one remedy available for giving to a hundred ill people and so the problem is who to give it to. Thus this name indicates that anarcho-environmentalism is the only cure for the many diseases of modern development! Similarly kali can also imply a budding anarcho-environmentalist movement. Finally according to a legend that is considered to be apocryphal by historians Anarkali was the lover of Prince Salim who was later to become the Mughal emperor Jehangir. Emperor Akbar did not approve of this romance of his son and ordered Anarkali to be bricked in alive into a wall in Lahore in Pakistan but she escaped. Allegorically this means that anarcho-environmentalists can succeed in bringing about the escape of humankind from the self-destructive love of modern development that it is enamoured of at the moment and they will do this by simultaneously supporting women's struggles for their rights.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

What Kind of Food Should We Eat?

The most important question today is regarding what kind of food to eat. Should we eat to keep ourselves and nature healthy or should we eat to fill the coffers of the agri-business multinationals and keep their finances healthy. For many millennia people ate only what they grew on their fields or at the most on the fields of others within a radius of a few kilometers. Even though trade in spices and salt over long distances began quite early, staples, meat, fish and pulses were sourced locally till the nineteenth century. Even if new food varieties like the potato were brought from America and introduced into Europe and later Asia, they were subsequently locally produced. It is only with the introduction of diesel engine based transport that food in large quantities began to be exported from one region to another. Thus, it became possible to industrialise agriculture as huge production in one area could easily be transported to another and even then the cost of this food in the destination area would be less than the locally produced food. Today not only raw food but cooked food is available made from ingredients that have been imported from large distances.
The modern food system has wreaked havoc in many areas. Huge investments have been made in artificial input agriculture which has degraded the soil and polluted both ground water and rivers. The production of these artificial inputs like chemical fertilisers and insecticides causes even more pollution and disasters like the Bhopal Gas Leak which is still counting its fatal victims. Local agricultural production, especially in dry land areas where irrigation is not possible is neglected and it has decayed. The people in these areas who constituted the majority of the population of the world have to buy food produced in the industrialised farms from the market. Since they do not have the wherewithal to do so they are forced to go hungry. Their miseries are increased by the fact that financial institutions speculate on the world food markets and raise the cost of agricultural commodities even further. So much so that even Governments find it difficult to buy food and then distribute it at subsidised prices to the poor.
The biggest problem is that of the sustainability of food production. Agricultural bio-diversity is fast decreasing and instead of farmers, big agri-business multinationals are the ones who are producing and marketing seeds. The latest trend being the introduction of genetically modified seeds. What will happen if there are only a few strains of GM seeds around controlled by greedy multinational corporations a few years down the line is a sobering thought.
Another major problem area is that of water resource management. The huge demands of water for irrigation has led to the over exploitation of groundwater and the construction of large dams leading to serious social and environmental problems. In situ soil and water conservation have been neglected in the same way as dry land agriculture leading to serious problems of erosion and water scarcity.
However, despite these multiple problems the greed of financial oligarchs and technocrats is leading us down a path to perdition. Continuous propaganda through advertising and also the promotion of food habits through films and soap operas has led to unhealthy over eating by the rich which sustains the artificial industrialised agriculture that has created the present food crisis the world over.   So even though it would be sensible to go back to a decentralised organic agriculture based localised food system this will not be possible in the near future.

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