Globalising Change

Bridging the Hemispheres of Humanity

The environmental challenges facing the whole world, the land-grabbing challenges facing Third World (and increasingly First World) farmers, and even the global challenge of metropolitan poverty increasingly facing the First World, can all meet on the peasants’ bridge.

Although the links between the two agrarian hemispheres are at best tentative and discursive at present the framework for bridging them already exists in the socially principled structures evolving around La Via Campesina (LVC), particularly at this moment through its association with the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

Grounded in the experience of ubiquitous marginalisation and a reinvigorated style of democracy, the ongoing ‘Food Sovereignty’ campaign being organised by the International Planning Committee for Food Sovereignty (IPC) has amalgamated massive grassroots support, at the scale of a world war. So while the leadership of the First World is bunkered down within its peak-oil neoliberal mentality some of the Third World leaders, particularly from empire-battered Latin America, are championing an agroecological revolution for the whole world. Their message at large might have reached academia but is yet to break through the prejudices of First World media and its paternalistic repackaging of resistance into versions of rebellious discontent.

Promoting cooperative engagement across this divide is hindered mostly by entrenched First World attitudes and profit-taking, political preconceptions, and media characterisations such as ‘failed modernity’, ‘materialistically deprived’ and ‘unpalatable beliefs’. Although (LVC) has embarked upon a struggle to dismantle this perception they need to revise their brand, become visible to the First World in places other than street demonstrations and to inspire the emotions of good times and better futures through proximity with their peasant counterparts. Language might well be their greatest barrier in this endeavour. Mostly the websites associated with peasant movements are presented in Spanish, English, and or French, but other nationalities must rely on their local action groups to connect them to what they hope may be a link to a better life. Keeping this dialogue alive is important to their future. Recognising this, LVC updates its website at least once a week.

In the South American heartland of grassroots agrarian reform, Venezuala, once fifth-equal in national well-being (gallup, 2011), is the flagship of peasant movements. The Chavez government recently built nine metropolitan universities and 120 satellite-fed classrooms: providing courses in agroecology, IT and media. Although only provided in Spanish, anyone from anywhere may take the courses for free. In 2008 LVC moved its headquarters from Honduras to Jakarta aiming to de-link its brand from Chavez’s Bolivarian revolution and to improve access for other countries, especially where landlessness issues continue to escalate (farmlandgrab.org). Encouragingly, African groups have shown increasing interest in becoming involved.

Conclusion

Viewed agriculturally humanity exists in two spheres more or less corresponding to the Third and First Worlds, but the division is blurring. Big agribusiness is rapidly colonising the Third World stirring up peasant resistance from indigenous farmers. Their resistances target the desperate failings and tragic consequences of neoliberalism – for their own world, and the world as a whole. Meanwhile peasantisation in various guises is spreading back into First World farming, following a similar but more conservatively localised logic. Resolving the economy of crises facing both spheres will require restraining neoliberal capitalism. Grassroots resistance movements are gaining concessions. The peasant-led agrarian transition has become the primary vehicle for spreading the understanding of neoliberalism’s roots, ideas and false logic amongst the world’s agrarian poor. It assumes new relevance when considering the bridging of otherness between the dispossessed majorities across cultural divisions.

Peasants:

Chomsky on Climate and Farming (2014 – 27 mins.)

This short documentary considers that fate of agriculture and the environment in the age of agri-business and climate change.
 Noam Chomsky, Bill McKibben, Tad Patzek , Wendell Berry, Mark Shepard and the rest of the cast explain that big agriculture’s insatiable need for revenue not only afflicts the environment with toxic fertilisers, pesticides and carbon emissions, it degrades the state of agriculture itself by destroying the soil and subverting the natural evolution of animals, plants and insects. “Gain wealth, forgetting all but self“, is as unsustainable as it is unstoppable.