Oxfam: 85 richest people as wealthy as poorest half of the world
Winnie Byanyima, the Oxfam executive director who will attend this week’s Davos World Economic Forum meetings (January 2014), said: “It is staggering that in the 21st Century, half of the world’s population – that’s three and a half billion people – own no more than a tiny elite whose numbers could all fit comfortably on a double-decker bus.” The world’s wealthiest people – ‘global elite’ – the extent to which so much global wealth has become corralled by a virtual handful of individuals is exposed in a new report from Oxfam on Monday. It warned that those richest 85 people across the globe share a combined wealth of £1tn, as much as the poorest 3.5 billion of the world’s population. Oxfam also argues that this is no accident either, saying growing inequality has been driven by a “power grab” by wealthy elites, who have co-opted the political process to rig the rules of the economic system in their favour.
But is this really the point? What about the destruction of the world’s environment in the process? Isn’t it time these polluting criminals were forced to pay back all their wealth to develop alternative global economic policies that introduce sustainability to the World’s now obsolete and sickened capitalist economy? Shouldn’t they be tried as environmental criminals, made to witness their filth first hand and imprisoned for life? Bankers, mining transnationals, oil barons, arms manufacturers, stocks and shares…
Why do they even need to meet at a World Economic Forum? Are they not content with owning more than half of the world?
This reminds me of an old Cree prophet I would hear as a child in Canada:
“Only after the last tree has been cut down. Only after the last river has been poisoned. Only after the last fish has been caught. Only then will you find that money cannot be eaten.”
These global elites are criminals profiting from a loathsome system that allows huge economic gains for a select few. Not only does it show the absurdity and sickness in a global political/economic power system that permits 85 people to financially accrue more than half of the world’s population, but it also excuses them from any concept of environmental justice…A crucial point that the article failed to raise – and the proliferation of war as the world’s biggest and dirtiest business (Martin Bell) – keeping Earth as a floating casino for a select few to speculate away the rights of all future life on Earth. Reporting is always human-centred, but these criminals have crippled our planet’s ecosystems and biodiversity beyond 50%. When does any journalist ever make a comment on the environmental impact of cruise missiles and cluster bombing? When did any maniac global elite ever sit down before an Ocean for two hours and contemplate a sunset and then write a postcard, or a poem, or a song, or even share their thoughts with a passer by?
Their take and manufacture practises, that can only be termed as wild and rampant capitalism, have left the world’s ecosystems totally crippled; many leading voices (United Nations IPCC), state the environmental damage done to our planet is totally irreversible with mean temperatures reaching +2 degrees.
Peru’s ex Environment Minister, Doctor Antonio Brack Egg (2010), an inspiring and knowledgeable man, recognized the destruction and environmental lawlessness in the Amazon Rainforests, clarifying that most of it was stemming from ‘outside of the region’. He poignantly called for the destruction to cease, stating that this reality is deserving of a ‘deep reflection’.
It is clear that the global elites’ lives will never be affected by their environmental rape and destruction. Since the 1970s academia has established that pollution, environmental destruction and climate change are disproportionate. In particular, Indigenous people the World over from Latin America’s Andean regions – where Tropical Glaciers are receding and collapsing (already more than 45,000 Peruvians have lost their lives due to glacial collapse), to the Arctic’s 165,000 Inuit peoples – state that the impacts of climate change are now so apparent in their regions that their socio-political leaders have repeatedly raised the belief that this colonial world power structure – that has led to the insanity of 85 individuals owning more than half of the World – is a fundamental ‘human rights issue’. In 2005, the ‘Inuit Circumpolar Conference’ (ICC) made formal petitions at the Inter-American Commission stating that these economic and consumerist inequalities amount to climate change and human rights violations.
For an example on how radically geo-politically opposed debates on the environment still are, and also chained to North-South economic relations and, in other words, not taken as a global condition to be faced by the World, consider this reportage by Guillermo Giacosa in Perú.21 (2010). Giacosa is reflecting on the environmental summit, ‘World Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth’, held in Cochabamba, Bolivia in 2010.
He writes, ‘the world conference…received so little attention…Bolivia, whose glaciers are disappearing, face a life and death situation. They have every right in the world to shout out loud to the leading polluters that they do something immediately. Unfortunately, the pragmatists (whose idiot pragmatism), never did allow them to reflect further on how we are arriving at such a point. They think – although they won’t say so – that Bolivia or Tuvalu, for example, are dispensable. Rich countries have little interest in learning…’*
*Giacosa, Guillermo, ‘La Cumbre de Cochabamba’, Perú.21, ‘Opina’, Lima: martes 27 de abril de 2010, p. 15.
Full article on Oxfam’s debate here: www.theguardian.com/business/2014/jan/20/oxfam-85-richest-people-half-of-the-world
Global elites – who are they? www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/interactive/2014/jan/24/who-are-the-worlds-richest-85
Just 90 companies caused two-thirds of man-made global warming emissions
Chevron, Exxon and BP among companies most responsible for climate change since dawn of industrial age…Who they are and more info here: www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/nov/20/90-companies-man-made-global-warming-emissions-climate-change
Oscar Guardiola-Rivera is optimistic about the leading role that Latin American governments today – injected by grass root social movements – are and will take in bringing about a challenge to the current world power structure that is colonial in essence. It is a global system that has only resulted in subjugating poorer countries and marginalizing their people, and one that has equally rendered Nature an exploited subaltern. The central force of this challenge is one that refuses to separate human history from one of Nature, or in other terms, of our planet Earth, including its outer atmosphere.
Guardiola-Rivera writes, banging the nail squarely on the head, that ‘What we need now is a new politics, not only a politics of freedom, but one of post-human rights and cosmopolitics…the protests that rocked the politics of countries such as Colombia, Brazil, Chile and Bolivia last year must be understood: as manifestations of dual power, and expressions of the terms of a new social contract – one that includes nature not only as a reservoir of resources but as an agent of politics and of the wellbeing of society.
As far as these movements are concerned, democracy and ethical politics go hand in hand. They discuss the big questions of our time – climate change, food security, the role of commons, the rights of nature, equality – in a political arena that until recently appeared to offer no alternative to the “one size fits all” view of globalisation and the market’.
Guardiola-Rivera, in his summation of the ‘big questions of our time’, passed over two of the most important ones, in my view, namely quality water for human consumption and the demilitarization of the world. The latter’s economy continuing to make a few select criminals of this global elite extremely rich whilst also inevitably to be used when access to dwindling resources will be in need of safeguarding.
Wouldn’t it be amazing if British politicians together with local councils created extensive green corridors the length and breath of the United Kingdom – as an example for the rest of the World to follow? These natural paths for Nature to safely travel along would also become focal educative zones for school children, as well as bringing a renewed wellbeing to all society.
British literary travel writer, Patrick Leigh Fermor noted that as late as the mid 19th century, squirrels could travel from Penzance to upper Scotland without setting foot upon the ground. The early Spanish conquistador-chronicler, Pedro Cieza de León (1520?–1554?), is considered one of the first travellers to have written about Peru’s flora and fauna and specific environments; his observations expressing much awe for Peru’s Nature, geographies and the environmental relations of the Indigenous. As he travelled throughout Peru’s Sierra regions in the 16th century, he wrote enthusiastically about the biodiversity that lived along the water channels constructed by pre-Hispanic civilizations. ‘The channels are always green’, he noted. ‘They have much grass for the horses and throughout the trees and leafy glades potter many birds of great diversity; lots of doves, turtledoves, turkeys, pheasants, several partridges and many deer’. A network of green corridors would only recreate such a harmonious scenario for any country – its Nature and its inhabitants.
View Guardiola-Rivera’s thought-provoking article, ‘Latin America is being transformed by a vision of post-human rights’, here: www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jan/23/latin-america-post-human-rights-ethical-politics?CMP=EMCNEWEML6619I2
‘Are we listening?’, John Pilger
G8: servicing history’s greatest war-making machine
Evo Morales, Bolivia’s President
Morales, Pilger, US-led G8 gangsterism and Erika Cuéllar, a Bolivian environmentalist
The purpose of including Pilger’s article on this site (see below) is not so much as to indicate unilateral support for Evo Morales over the bringing down of his airplane, but so as to state a few important points about the global violence and gangsterism of the US-led G8 block.
This disrespect for international rights, freedoms and laws demonstrates the extremism, massive bureaucratic and behind-the-scenes pressures that the USA and G8 will go to in order to control global peoples, and ultimately to imprison Edward Snowden – a whistleblower who revealed to the world the dark corridors of the USA’s foreign policies. Pilger has described this as a ‘preordained, vindictive incarceration that amounts to torture’, comparing it to the living ghosts – mostly Arabs – in the US military prisons of Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
Not only have the nations of Latin America united in support of Morales, making a stand against G8 imperialism, but the event has strengthened Morales’s position politically in Bolivia as elections approach.
Also emerging from this situation is the political dominance of the USA over Europe and the cowardice of the European countries that closed their airspace to Morales. This is made worse by Portugal and Spain, whose colonialism of Latin America is now considered as having been deeply destructive to international politics, as well as Latin America’s cultural and biodiversity. The destructive actions of today’s transnational extractive corporations and the historical and cultural attitudes toward the Amazon peoples and forests are an example of this.
A worthy historical reflection that would have shown European leaders to be less subjugated by US foreign policy and more understanding of their long and personal histories of colonialism and coloniality, might have involved these considerations by US scholar Mary Louise Pratt: ‘It was not in Europe, after all, that “European” institutions like colonialism, slavery, the plantation system, the mita, colonial tribute, feudal missionism […] had been lived out as history, language, culture, and everyday life’. *
Bolivian biologist, Erika Cuéllar
In Bolivia itself, Morales seems to care little for protecting Indigenous peoples and Bolivia’s immense biodiversity. Erika Cuéllar, a Bolivian biologist with an Oxford doctorate, is engaged in a struggle to preserve Bolivia’s ‘Gran Chaco’ wilderness – ‘Kaa-Iya del Gran Chaco National Park’. At 34,000 sq km (13,000 sq miles) -, an area that is bigger than Belgium, making this region Bolivia’s largest National Park. It is also the second largest wilderness in South America and it is now threatened by farming, ranching and the drugs trade – being a mirror image of the threats and lawlessness moving throughout the Amazon forests.
Cuéllar says that unless the Indigenous inhabitants are directly involved it will be impossible to save the biodiversity of the ‘Gran Chaco’. Her comments about Morales on this issue leave us with thoughts about what it signifies to be a President of Indigenous heritage (who also exploits this fact publicly), and to what level his ancestral roots are oppressed by the true politics of the local and global political scene – as indeed are European countries by US foreign policy.
Cuéllar is cited as saying, ‘I can work for my entire life trying to protect the Chaco but only someone with political power can really protect this land’. Conservation was not a priority for the government of Evo Morales which had shown no interest in supporting her efforts.
Forcing down Evo Morales’s plane was an act of air piracy. Denying the Bolivian president air space was a metaphor for the gangsterism that now rules the world
Article by, John Pilger, ‘The Guardian’, Thursday 4 July 2013.
Imagine the aircraft of the president of France being forced down in Latin America on “suspicion” that it was carrying a political refugee to safety – and not just any refugee but someone who has provided the people of the world with proof of criminal activity on an epic scale.
Imagine the response from Paris, let alone the “international community”, as the governments of the west call themselves. To a chorus of baying indignation from Whitehall to Washington, Brussels to Madrid, heroic special forces would be dispatched to rescue their leader and, as sport, smash up the source of such flagrant international gangsterism. Editorials would cheer them on, perhaps reminding readers that this kind of piracy was exhibited by the German Reich in the 1930s.
The forcing down of Bolivian President Evo Morales’s plane – denied airspace by France, Spain and Portugal, followed by his 14-hour confinement while Austrian officials demanded to “inspect” his aircraft for the “fugitive” Edward Snowden – was an act of air piracy and state terrorism. It was a metaphor for the gangsterism that now rules the world and the cowardice and hypocrisy of bystanders who dare not speak its name.
In Moscow, Morales had been asked about Snowden – who remains trapped in the city’s airport. “If there were a request [for political asylum],” he said, “of course, we would be willing to debate and consider the idea.” That was clearly enough provocation for the Godfather. “We have been in touch with a range of countries that had a chance of having Snowden land or travel through their country,” said a US state department official.
The French – having squealed about Washington spying on their every move, as revealed by Snowden – were first off the mark, followed by the Portuguese. The Spanish then did their bit by enforcing a flight ban of their airspace, giving the Godfather’s Viennese hirelings enough time to find out if Snowden was indeed invoking article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states: “Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.”
Those paid to keep the record straight have played their part with a cat-and-mouse media game that reinforces the Godfather’s lie that this heroic young man is running from a system of justice, rather than preordained, vindictive incarceration that amounts to torture – ask Bradley Manning and the living ghosts in Guantánamo.
Historians seem to agree that the rise of fascism in Europe might have been averted had the liberal or left political class understood the true nature of its enemy. The parallels today are very different, but the Damocles sword over Snowden, like the casual abduction of Bolivia’s president, ought to stir us into recognising the true nature of the enemy.
Snowden’s revelations are not merely about privacy, or civil liberty, or even mass spying. They are about the unmentionable: that the democratic facades of the US now barely conceal a systematic gangsterism historically identified with, if not necessarily the same as, fascism. On Tuesday, a US drone killed 16 people in North Waziristan, “where many of the world’s most dangerous militants live”, said the few paragraphs I read. That by far the world’s most dangerous militants had hurled the drones was not a consideration. President Obama personally sends them every Tuesday.
In his acceptance of the 2005 Nobel prize in literature, Harold Pinter referred to “a vast tapestry of lies, upon which we feed”. He asked why “the systematic brutality, the widespread atrocities” of the Soviet Union were well known in the west while America’s crimes were “superficially recorded, let alone documented, let alone acknowledged”. The most enduring silence of the modern era covered the extinction and dispossession of countless human beings by a rampant US and its agents. “But you wouldn’t know it,” said Pinter. “It never happened. Even while it was happening it never happened.”
This hidden history – not really hidden, of course, but excluded from the consciousness of societies drilled in American myths and priorities – has never been more vulnerable to exposure. Snowden’s whistleblowing, like that of Manning and Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, threatens to break the silence Pinter described. In revealing a vast Orwellian police state apparatus servicing history’s greatest war-making machine, they illuminate the true extremism of the 21st century.
Unprecedented, Germany’s Der Spiegel has described the Obama administration as “soft totalitarianism”. If the penny is falling, we might all look closer to home.
Also visit: Bolivia Information Forum, ‘Special Briefing: Snowden, Evo and the Presidential Plane – A Massive Own Goal’, BIF Special Briefing, July 2013.