What’s right with the green economy

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Monday, July 7, 2014


SO WHAT’S wrong with the green economy for Negros Occidental? Plenty, according to critics.

Ramón “Chinchin” Uy Jr. asked me for my opinion on the concept. I sent him back a private reply that I would like to share with my readers with some revisions.

For starters, here is Criticism No. 1. “A number of organizations and individuals have criticized aspects of the “Green Economy,” particularly the mainstream conceptions of it based on using price mechanisms to protect nature, arguing that this will extend corporate control into new areas from forestry to water.”

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My reply: In promoting organic products and non-timber forest products such as bamboocraft, processed fruits, wild honey, resins, and so on, ONOPRA and the NTFP-EP network use price mechanisms (premium organic and fair trade prices).

Thus, I see no problem if entrepreneurs practice ecologically-friendly products at fair trade prices. In fact, the current stress among the sustainable development world is strengthening value chains that would increase the income of producers, not just the compradors (traders).

In value chains, it’s almost always the traders who benefit the most. They buy produce from the growers at dirt-cheap prices and sell their produce at tremendous mark-up prices.

Besides, if we avoid pricing nature in a demand-driven economy, everyone begins to think of it as freebies. The ownership of all is the responsibility of none.

Criticism No. 2: The research organization ETC Group argues that the corporate emphasis on bio-economy “will spur even greater convergence of corporate power and unleash the most massive resource grab in more than 500 years.”

The current demand-driven model – where profits are largely the driver of entrepreneurial success – had already deprived Negrenses of our timber and forests. Just look at what the Insular Lumber Company (ILCO) bequeathed our province: denuded mountains.

Among the advocates of the green economy, the buzzwords are social inclusion and corporate social responsibility (CSR) on triple bottomlines: economics, environment, and social justice.

An example of triple bottomlines would be the project of the NTFP-EP Philippines which is taking part in the International Folk Art Market being held in Sta. Fe, New México, USA. IFAM aims to foster economic and cultural sustainability for folk artists and folk art worldwide and to create intercultural exchange opportunities that unite the peoples of the world.

If corporate power grabs (buy) the products of indigenous communities at fair prices that certainly would be a win-win equation in my book.

Criticism no. 3: Venezuelan professor Edgardo Lander says that the UNEP’s report, Toward a Green Economy, ignores the fact that the capacity of existing political systems to establish regulations and restrictions to the free operation of the markets—even when a large majority of the population call for them—is seriously limited by the political and financial power of the corporations.”

While this is true in many cases, it’s not simply corporate or political that lord it over the economy. In the current period, climate change is beginning to take a toll on the economy as Yolanda, Pablo, Habagat, Ondoy, Frank, to name a few.

We ignore a green economy that seeks to lower our greenhouses gases at our peril. Business-as-usual could soon signal an economic collapse. Can big government and corporations work with communities and civil society organization work together to avert that bleak and barren future?
There are more criticisms and we will deal with in future columns.

*****

(bqsanc@yahoo.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on July 07, 2014.

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