Tag Archives: social movements

São Paulo water crisis shows the failure of public-private partnerships

Welcome to the Cantareira desert.

Welcome to the Cantareira desert.

São Paulo’s ongoing water crisis has left many of the city’s 20m or more residents without tap water for days on end. Brazil’s largest metropolis is into its third month of water rationing, and some citizens have even taken to drilling through their basements to reach groundwater. Most commentators agree that the crisis is to blame on multiple factors, but few have questioned the role of the water company in charge: Sabesp.

The utility, responsible for water and waste in São Paulo and the surrounding state of the same name, has clearly failed its public service remit. Yet, it’s not even clear whether public service is the highest priority for part-privatised Sabesp, whose directors have just awarded themselves bumper bonuses despite millions of their customers going thirsty. São Paulo’s water will go from crisis to crisis so long as Sabesp prioritises profits over long-term investment.

Clearly there are human-induced environmental factors at play: climate change, deforestation of the Amazon, pollution, as well as overconsumption. The pressures we put on nature are likely to increase water shortages worldwide, perhaps leading to conflicts and wars.

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Should we feel sorry for Tesco? The human cost of cheap food

Price wars are crippling for producers.

Price wars are crippling for producers.

The crisis of confidence at Tesco signals a remarkable fall from grace given that it wasn’t so long ago that Britons were spending one pound in every seven in its stores. But should we feel sorry for Tesco? Or should we think a little more about the people who have had to pay a high price for the way Tesco and other supermarkets have monopolised food consumption in Britain.

The difficulties Tesco is experiencing might be solely attributed to some questionable accounting and auditing practices that led to a spectacular drop in its share price. But even as this rebounds, supermarkets are being challenged by a more general shift in consumer shopping behaviour, as more and more consumers are migrating to cheaper retailers, such as Aldi and Lidl.

The price war that they have declared in response might be seen as good news for consumers after a sustained period of increased food costs. Given the alarming number of people using food banks, a decrease in food prices might even be seen as essential in addressing food poverty in the UK. But the impacts of lower food prices go beyond consumers and will be most keenly felt by those who supply supermarkets.

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Should Norway be paying Liberia to stop cutting down forests?

Norway to the rescue?

Norway to the rescue?

Despite all the treaties, pledges, export bans and labelling schemes, the world’s forests are still disappearing at an alarming rate. In poorer countries a forest may simply be worth less as a living, thriving ecosystem than it is as timber and farmland. So if money is a key factor, why not get rich countries to pay poor countries to stop chopping trees?

The UN Climate Summit in New York saw major new agreements along these lines. Norway in particular has pledged to pay Peru and Liberia hundreds of millions of dollars if they protect their forests more effectively. Such so-called REDD+ schemes hope to save millions of tons of carbon emissions while at the same time protecting indigenous people’s rights.

Although these bilateral deals sound good in principle, many NGOs, indigenous people and community groups have expressed significant concerns.

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Ecocultures: Blueprints for Sustainable Communities

Ecocultures: Blueprints for Sustainable Communities

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Abstract:

The world faces a ‘perfect storm’ of social and ecological stresses, including climate change, habitat loss, resource degradation and social, economic and cultural change. In order to cope with these, communities are struggling to transition to sustainable ways of living that improve well-being and increase resilience. This book demonstrates how communities in both developed and developing countries are already taking action to maintain or build resilient and sustainable lifestyles. These communities, here designated as ‘Ecocultures’, are exemplars of the art and science of sustainable living. Though they form a diverse group, they organise themselves around several common organising principles including an ethic of care for nature, a respect for community, high ecological knowledge, and a desire to maintain and improve personal and social wellbeing.

Case studies from both developed and developing countries including Australia, Brazil, Finland, Greenland, India, Indonesia, South Africa, UK and USA, show how, based on these principles, communities have been able to increase social, ecological and personal wellbeing and resilience. They also address how other more mainstream communities are beginning to transition to more sustainable, resilient alternatives. Some examples also illustrate the decline of ecocultures in the face of economic pressures, globalisation and climate change. Theoretical chapters examine the barriers and bridges to wider application of these examples. Overall, the volume describes how ecocultures can provide the global community with important lessons for a wider transition to sustainability and will show how we can redefine our personal and collective futures around these principles.

full text available on Academia.edu

 

The challenges ahead for Brazil now the World Cup is over

Time to look forward

Time to look forward

The 2014 World Cup in Brazil is over. It brought much joy, and huge disappointment for the hosts – perhaps even worse than the Maracanazo in 1950. Now attention in Brazil will turn to hosting the next great inter-cultural event, the 2016 Rio Olympics. And the football world will plan for the next World Cup in another BRIC country, Russia in 2018.

But the global challenges faced by us all cannot just be addressed in four-year planning rounds. Climate change, biodiversity loss, deforestation and growing social and economic inequalities: these are all facing tipping points over the next 50 to 60 years, requiring some long-term thinking by governments and policymakers in both the fast-growing and already affluent countries of the world.

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Greener, wealthier, happier: how Brazil has changed since 1950

Reason to cheer.

Reason to cheer.

It was a fearsome blow. It was the first World Cup after World War II, on home soil, and the country was desperate for international recognition. Brazil reached the final, only to lose 2-1 in a shock defeat to Uruguay. The match has forever been known as the Maracanazo – it was a national tragedy.

Now, 64 years later, Brazil is hosting the World Cup once more and the country has developed at a remarkable pace. With the eyes of the world on it once more, expectations are vast. The tragic collapse of the bridge in Belo Horizonte shows just how quickly views of a host country can change. But it’s worth looking back at Brazil’s economic development and the significant strides it has taken.

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It’s not just the World Cup Brazilians are protesting about

Protestors bust the Belo Monte Dam

The World Cup has highlighted Brazil’s dissatisfaction with the mega-development involved in building the tournament’s infrastructure. But the football stadiums are just the latest in a long line of Brazilian mega-developments, including building venues for the 2016 Rio Olympics, the Belo Monte Dam and the Cuiaba-Santarem Highway – all of which have caused controversy.

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