Having heard so often “why are people littering so much in Africa, why can’t garbage be simply placed in the rubbish bins”, made me stop and reflect on the problem surrounding us at an ethical level.
Not so long ago, our modus vivendi was generating only small amounts of non-biodegradable waste. But unfortunately, a lot was to change with the western industrial revolution, the use of fossil energies and the development of the by-products of oil refining.
Here again, similarly to the dramatic consequences of the industrialisation of agriculture as described in “For the love of being…” (1), greed and the capitalist framework of an economy essentially driven by the grail of the holy growth is the principle responsible for the present state of disgrace emanated from the E.U. and the U.S., followed by China and South Korea to name but a few… .
Following colonisation and, similarly to the import of religions, cults or spiritual beliefs, the West promptly found an available and new immense consumers base for their industrial products. Their brainwashing pretended to provide a key to access absolute consumerism slavery, one of the quintessential parts of the American dream… prior to China following suit.
In the West, societies have been able to take the time required to address on their own beloved territories waste management alongside the development of industrialisation itself, and to disseminate the produced garbage to many other territories and oceans of our planet. This took many generations,
In Africa, as on the other continents, the hunter gatherers’ way of life survived for thousands of years before giving way to the agricultural revolution. The results of the industrial revolution, as well as the industrialisation of the agriculture, got imported to Africa in a flash leaving to globalisation the pleasure to share the “grand finale” : the state of perpetual need…
Waste management was not given any priority nor resources to accompany the plethora of goods. Africa did not have this privilege. Neither was the relationship to industrial waste written, generations after generations, in Africans’ genetic code. On the contrary, the continent was forced to accept without any precautions or endorse, the overpowering dictatorship of the greed of the shareholders of the industrial multinationals and their packaged production. Over a very short time, banana peels, coco shells or corn leaves were replaced by wrappers of all shapes, dimensions, or materials – without forgetting ‘His Majesty’, polystyrene. Even the weaved basket got replaced by the plastic bag. A lot lighter, this one would allow all of us to carry more of these pseudo essential products in the likes inter alia of moisturizing creams, hair products, potato chips, coca-cola and many more…And let’s not forget tomato sauce in plastic doses for the hamburger in its polystyrene container.
I highlighted the word “ packaged ” because there lies the evidence of the crime. Most of the visible waste is nothing more than “ packaging ” used not only to protect the goods but also to shout one last time their exceptional desirability.
The obvious questions start to appear. Whose waste is it actually? Where from does the primary source of the problem originate?
I need to add to this that littering in South Africa was furthermore partially an expression of rejection and protest of Westernisation ( or should we say Wasternisation ) and of European norms at the time of the struggle for freedom.
So many issues remain to be addressed. For sure, now that the urbanisation and transformation of the African ways of life are a fait accompli, we will have to engrave sound waste management habits in all of us and in our governing bodies. However, if one wants to truly solve the problem of littering here and everywhere else, biodegradable packaging should be the only one allowed to be imported or produced locally. With the inclusion of some regenerating elements in them, we might even be able to re-feed our humus raped and impoverished by years of ruling by the chemical multinationals.
(1) Following my research on Pierre Rabhi I was dismayed to see a poignant documentary by Coline Serreau, LOCAL SOLUTIONS FOR GLOBAL DISORDER, which speaks to all of us. Here is what some of our current contemporary world experts in agriculture and agronomy are telling us:
Dominique Guillet, founder of Kokopelli, an association which promotes the liberation of seed and humus and which, since 1999, has been committed to the protection of alimentary biodiversity and the production and distribution of agro-ecological seeds.
“The second world war wiped out the Franco-Germanic farming community, massacred at the front. Millions of farmers died. On top of that the subsequent discovery of the synthesis of ammonia enabled the making of bombs during the war and synthetic fertilisers afterwards. Mustard gas gave birth to insecticides. With the Marshall Plan in 1948 the United States started delivering tractors, the logical sequel to tanks. Western agriculture today is an agriculture based on war.”
Vandana Shiva. Physician. Science PhD. India. Alternative Novel Prize 2013. She heads up an association which protects small Indian farmers.
“Pesticides are a product of war, fertilisers as well. The concept of agriculture as war against the planet stems from war itself. This must be rejected as an aberration from the last century. We must start this new century by rediscovering the continuity of ancient wisdom which has been teaching us how to live with the earth since time immemorial.”
Ana Primavesi. Doctor of Agronomy. Brazil.
“All conventional agriculture today is based on an alliance between two parties: agriculture and industry which, as a result of the Second World War, has enormous stocks of poison supposedly designed for killing the enemy. When the war was over, since there were no more enemies to kill, Professor Bulloch had a fantastic idea. He said: “Agriculture buys practically nothing from industry other than an occasional tractor… nothing worth mentioning. So, this is what we are going to do. We will do a deal: Agriculture will buy powerful machines, chemical fertilisers and pesticides from industry. The latter will pocket the rewards while agriculture will make a loss, but government will use part of the tax receipts to bail out agriculture.” And that is what happened, resulting in today’s famous subsidies. These worked more or less for “first world” countries which possessed industries. Here on the other hand (in Brazil) they obviously could not work. We had no industry. So we had to start importing machines and chemical products, paying on credit to import them at interest rates of 20 to 25%. It was practically an open vein allowing all the wealth of the Third World to flow towards the First World. For us it was no progress at all, but for them it was. The American economy, for example, has been in deficit in recent years, but its people have lived well thanks to the Third World which had to pay, pay and keep on paying…”
Philippe Desbrosses. Farmer, Doctor of Environmental Sciences. President of the National Commission for the A/B Label at the French Ministry of Agriculture since 2007.
“At the end of the war in ’46 or ’47 nobody knew how much manure should be put in the ground because it was an element which passed directly from the cowshed to the earth and, since it had no commercial value, it did not appear in the national accounts. We ended up finding the information in the accounts of Shell Petroleum which was looking to recycle its nitrate factories after the war so as to start producing agricultural nitrate. They wanted to know the size of such a market market. This is how it was established that France used to return some 120 million tons of manure to its land each year. Today this figure is not even thirty million. Nobody questions the consequences of this disappearance of an element which nourishes the soil’s bacteria and allows plants to grow without chemical fertilisers, pesticides and the rest of the artillery. ”
Joao Pedro Stedile. National Coordinator of Brazil’s MST Movement (movement of the landless).
“Our generation is faced with a huge dilemma because capitalism, currently dominated by financial institutions and multinationals, has imposed an agriculture whose primary goal is not to produce food. Their aim it to produce goods or commodities to make money. They have become looters of nature. They take from nature anything that can turn a profit. They exploit water and land and they apply production industry principles to agriculture, with the aim of selling farmers industrial quantities of fertilisers and pesticides, as well as ever bigger machines which eliminate the need for manual labour while appropriating drinking water resources for massive irrigation. There is no future for this “green revolution ”, which is in fact the capitalist industrial model applied to agriculture. Furthermore, it endangers life on the planet by destroying the earth’s microbiology and poisoning foods. The worst is that these poisons are indestructible. They either enter the soil or the water or your stomach. In addition, the monoculture imposed by the multinationals and the big landowners destroys biodiversity.”
“The green revolution received a Nobel Peace Prize on the grounds that the new technology linked with biology would bring prosperity and that this would bring peace. It was called “the green revolution ” as an alternative to the red revolution coming out of China. The Americans said: “spread chemical products and you will have an alternative to communism. ” Literally! Take up these chemical products against communism. ”
“The green revolution was green because of the colour of the dollar above all else. They made a lot of dollars out of the green revolution but it was terrifying for people living in the third world; the green revolution destroyed the soil, destroyed the water and destroyed the grass. Biodiversity was also destroyed. In India, for example, before the green revolution there were two hundred thousand varieties of rice, whereas after forty years of green revolution only fifty remain; five times ten, that’s all! The social fabric of India was destroyed because Indian agriculture was a female agriculture. This was turned into a male agriculture with harvests which have a value at a regional, national or international level whereas before, India’s female agriculture was first and foremost there to feed the family.”
Serge Latouche. Economist. Professor at the University of Paris Sud.
“The economy in the modern sense, the capitalist, trading, etc. economy …, is a guy thing. I’m convinced of it. I’ve been able to see through my study of economics that it isn’t completely by chance that there are very few women in economics and in industry. It’s almost a caricature in Africa, for example: everything of substance in life, which keeps Africa going, comes from the women who cultivate the earth because it is they who are fertile; they provide all the basic necessities. But as soon as a modern plantation is created, the men take over.”
Devider Sharma. India. Agronomist Engineer, journalist, writer.
“Forty years ago, the so-called green revolution was adopted. And today, we have the highest suicide rate of farmers in the world. Every hour two farmers commit suicide in India, victims in some way or another of the debt spiral”.
“They commit suicide by drinking pesticides which kill them because of the debt incurred, just as they killed the earth… ”
One after the other over the course of three hours, these experts and scientists, joined by yet others, bring us their alarming message. They warn us of the urgency of our current situation and tell us about various initiatives.
The earth is dead and even the floods we are currently experiencing are a result of the lack of porosity of this dead earth. Water can no longer penetrate it. Every minute sees another farmer leave his farm in Europe. In India, six hundred million poor people are chased from the towns after having been chased away from agricultural life. Eight hundred and fifty million Africans want to leave for Europe or elsewhere because we have destroyed the reason for which they might have remained in Africa. Everywhere the numbers of idle and despondent youth are growing and multiplying. The crisis we are facing could end in violence and the taking up of arms.
Agriculture today, although called modern, is all organised around and derived from a fossil resource, oil, which is condemned to extinction. What will happen when it is gone? Our land will be dead. We no longer nourish it; we nourish plants and animals directly. Livestock and plantations occur in separate regions today. For fifty years we have been killing off perennial agriculture which was based on a balance between livestock, crops and forest. If we remove chemistry nothing more will happen. The soil is dead. We are already living in a virtual desert. It is very difficult to make something “ live ”, whereas anyone can kill.
It is devastating to note that the more a country destroys its environment the more its GDP increases. Yet again it is a case of the all-powerful system plundering the earth and sacrificing our children’s future once and for all. In the most prosperous states in India from the point of view of financial growth, thirty-five million female foetuses were killed. The commercialisation of society creates new atrocities for the female gender. The profound value a woman represents as an eternal pillar of society is immediately lost in a commercialised society.
Depriving the population of the most important and necessary element for survival, its grain, its seeds, is nothing less than an act of barbarism and terrorism committed without reservations by the agro-alimentary multinationals.
Nevertheless, the current system is increasingly being called into question. Fortunately, organisations, associations and groups are being formed and are working together to completely change the way in which our global agriculture is organised. More and more people are proving that it is possible to take action and, hopefully, one day to reclaim the age-old sustainability of the agriculture of our ancestors.
An Indian farmer who was the champion of modern agricultural methods in his region, winning all the prizes, one day becomes aware of the disaster, of the loser he has become. He decides to turn his back on modern agriculture and debt. He owns and looks after 18 000 square metres of land on which 480 trees have pride of place. Every year he plants a few dozen more. On this land he produces enough food for the year for fifteen people. He also manages to sell fifteen tons of fruit, ten thousand coconuts, two tons of vegetables and four tons of grain each year. He provides his own seed and produces his own fertiliser. He depends on no one and wastes nothing. He collects rainwater, in which he breeds around four hundred fish. He tells us that the roots of the trees improve the penetration of water while the falling leaves fertilise the soil. Of course, he could sell his trees, pocket the money and dangerously affect the precious cycle of sustainability which reigns over his 18 000 square metres. He respects his trees like gods. They produce fruit which drop and become a rich fertiliser. Without incurring any expense he receives ten tons of this precious fertiliser each year and the trees are still there. It is a matter of “ agro-forestry ”. It guarantees good soil rich in humus and with a heavenly smell. His animals transform the biomass into fertiliser.
We have to rediscover the ancient agricultural know-how. We must take part in the resistance at the risk of being treated like Don Quixote. The time is not far off when those who have been part of the change will be thanked profusely. For instance, we need to urgently reinstate soil microbiology into the syllabus for students of agronomic engineering.
Even though the soil in Africa is exposed to extreme amounts of sunshine, it is possible to work it, to prepare it and to reintroduce bacteriology. “ Earth and Humanism ” can fertilise the arid land of Africa! One must be able to work it while at the same time respecting it. Like women, the earth can no longer be violated. Earth must go back to being a tender couscous and must no longer look and feel like concrete. Plants have grown in the forest without fertiliser since the beginning of time. It is through being ploughed that the earth loses its life. Let us hand the earth over to microbiology. This could progressively bring the earth back to life. Let us cover the soil with straw to retain humidity. Plantations will get through this protective blanket. Let us not be afraid to sacrifice one harvest to give back to the earth as nourishment. It can take up to two years to give the soil a good biological preparation.
In the Ukraine a farmer practices ecological farming methods on between thirty and six thousand hectares ( so this type of farming is possible on a grand scale ). To do this, he follows three principles:
- No ploughing but rather surface preparation of the land
- Supply of organic fertiliser and biomass
- Crop rotation
Each year his livestock provides seventy thousand tons of fertiliser. The animal and the vegetable are always closely linked in the running of his farm.
One essential solution for safeguarding the planet must be to stop the exodus from rural areas. We must create attractive living conditions to keep people in the villages. We have spoken of the advantages of developments in technology which will soon facilitate the distribution of education and primary medical care outside of urban centres. The global population has the right and the duty to feed itself. This sense of duty needs to become deeply integrated into all levels of the population through education. This notion forms an integral part of life’s learning, of learning to be.
In another part of India, a young farmer cultivates his garden bio-dynamically in the shape of a Mandala. The whole system is in the form of a spiral. At its heart he plants vegetables and flowers which radiate energy throughout the garden. He practices poly-culture, assembling many different species and varieties. Some plants are good partners and manage to get along and help one another in the same space. I immediately think of Veronique and Christian, whom you will hear about later. When I introduce them to you, you will easily see why they come to mind in this chapter. In 1925 Rudolph Steiner was already recommending that plantations be organised according to bio-dynamic principles, so this way of thinking or doing things is certainly not new.
Cultivating one’s garden today is both a political act and an act of resistance. Everyone who is able to, should do so. A new civilisation is in the making. We are approaching the era of the new Noah’s ark. The consumer does not realise his power. Let’s recover the nascent power within each of us and let’s boycott the products of multinationals; they could collapse within a few seasons.
The earth is female and fertile. Let us respect her like our mother, our wife or our daughters, like all women…