Saturday, April 12, 2008

And how to do it wrong..

In case you needed any more proof of the utter cluelessness of our "economic leadership"- this little bit in Forbes will do it.

Briefly quoting: 
'Food prices, if they go on like they are doing today ... the consequences will be terrible,' IMF managing director Dominque Strauss-Kahn said.

'Hundreds of thousands of people will be starving ... leading to disruption of the economic environment,' Strauss-Kahn told a news conference at the close of the IMF spring meeting here.

Development gains made in the past five or 10 years could be 'totally destroyed,' he said, warning that the issue goes beyond humanitarian concerns.

My bold.  IMF is "International Monetary Fund".  

Pretty grim.

Meanwhile, in lovely nice Minneapolis- the vandals are loose, and armed.


Tina Cardone said...

When did humanitarian concerns become insufficient to provoke action?? I'm stunned.

Anonymous said...

I'm not so stunned. It's somebody else's problem - at least from his perspective. Unless we all push on some pretty big icebergs, history will see the last human on earth die wondering why the experts didn't do something about this. For this guy, the humanitarian stuff isn't his job. He just talks about what will happen if the humanitarian crisis experts don't fix things. Crazy. Totally crazy.

Anonymous said...

Maybe I'm reading it wrong, but my take on it is different (though still discouraged). I think the IMF guy thinks that "humanitarian" issues like famine and starvation don't frighten people in the first world, who are insulated from the problem. But by saying "hey, this situation reaches BEYOND humanitarian issues and is even going to be a global economic issue," he's trying to tell people it will affect THEM even though they might not be going hungry. It sounds pretty callous, and I don't think the IMF are the good guys by any means (quite the opposite), but that is how I interpreted his comments in that article.

Western Great Basin

Anonymous said...

Personally, I wouldn't mind seeing what the ellipsis mark in the third paragraph replaced; I couldn't find a more complete account of that quote. I'm not a fan of slanted, stunted reporting and half-paid attention, even if they do validate my own perceptions.


DC said...

Now that they have figured out that trashing the earth and letting everyone starve to death could adversely affect financial markets (gasp!), I'm sure that the powers that be will find a solution -- probably something like robotic workers that they don't have to feed.

Don't worry about the copper theft crisis, Greenpa -- I can get you a good deal on a security system for your big vacation home in the Hamptons. Yes, copper is in high demand these days. The military uses a whole, whole lot of it in for their copper jacketed ammunition. If they shoot you, don't worry though -- their bullets are now "nontoxic."

Interesting world we live in.

etbnc said...

"When did humanitarian concerns become insufficient to provoke action?"

About 10,000 years ago.

Which sounds like a long time, at first glance, but it's less than 5% of our species' history. Our cultural ancestors started this experiment 500 generations ago. That's longer than economists usually consider, but still only a small fraction of our history.

That's probably an unexpected reply to a rhetorical question. But I find helpful to think about that context.

To paraphrase dc's parting comment: It's an interesting world that we're creating for ourselves.

Cheers, y'all

katecontinued said...

For Annette - though I didn't choose to read it in all its obfuscating entirety. This seems to be the IMF report.

You make a good point. There is so much lazy journalism around. On the other hand, I wouldn't have thought of this blog as the spot to voice that particular criticism, but at Forbes instead. Maybe that is what you meant.

Greenpa said...

I'm really proud to have you guys as readers- every one of you above have made GOOD points.

Sue ITWB- I think you're right about the IMF guy's take- but part of what I was pointing out was- isn't it horrifying to have such an official KNOW that just saying "Hundreds of thousands will starve" - will NOT BE ENOUGH to motivate his audience? I think that's pretty grim.

Anon Annette- and, I think, it turns out you're right; what the guy actually said was rather more humane; part of what was omitted was "Children will suffer from malnutrition, with consequences all of their lives."

Not too bad- but he DOES still go on: "So, financial turmoil, on the one hand, slowdown in the economies, no decoupling from the emerging countries, global problems, that is one of the problems we have to face. Increase in price commodities, especially in food prices, that is the second problem we have to face."

Financial turmoil comes first. Food comes second. In general, I get the idea from his words that he's a little more into "financial" stuff being serious than "only humanitarian" stuff.

DC - :-) glad to know about the copper bullets. One of the weird pieces of nonsense here- I helped get a law passed in MN that puts a little tax ($1) on some kinds of deer licenses- the money is used to pay for processing "spare" deer for food banks. Previously in MN if you donated a deer to the food bank- you had to pay for processing. So- we got a LOT of venison into food banks last fall- now, it turns out - like 25% of it has measurable traces of... Lead. So it's all been pulled. All of it. Sheesh.

Kate- thanks for digging that out; it's great reading. And thanks for the kind words.

You guys are great.

barefoot gardener said...

The copper theft thing is really bad in my area, about 1 hr north of the Twin Cities. We have lots and lots of homes sitting empty due to all the forclosures, and those houses are easy pickin's for the copper-theifs.

Anonymous said...

Greenpa -- agreed! I used the word 'callous' instead of 'grim', but yes indeed. Basically he's saying "hey y'all, ya know all the horrors of hunger, malnutrition and famine that we at the IMF are [ostensibly] working on? Well, take out your donor fatigue earplugs and listen, 'coz this time the trouble ain't staying 'over there', it's coming to visit YOUR personal economy.

Grim indeed.

Sue, who spent a few years working for an NGO hunger organization and knows how frighteningly easy it is to become complacent about the statistics.

P.S. I currently work for a couple who do rehab of injured wildlife. Watching a bald eagle die of lead poisoning because it ate something that had been shot with lead ammo is heartbreaking! It's a real shame that your donated deer couldn't be put to good use, but I'm glad it got discovered before people got sick. Looking forward to a shift away from lead ammo...

Anonymous said...

Hi etbnc,

You write: "When did humanitarian concerns become insufficient to provoke action?" About 10,000 years ago.

I love to hear more about this shift and you dated it and found evidence.


Anonymous said...

We were in the process of renovating the house (for sale), and had the curtains off downstairs. Thieves (probably for copper, as it's a known problem in our state) broke in but thankfully scared themselves off. We had a table set between two windows in the dining room, with a basket of apples on it. A pedestal table. Thief was able to open the locked thief-resistant window and put his weight on one side of the table...

No sign of the thief/thieves (gloves), but we felt pretty lucky that damage to the window was minimal. And of course we got some shades back up while we continued with the window frame and trim renovations.

Heather G

etbnc said...

Hi, Eva,

Thanks for your interest. The tidbit I mentioned earlier can be a gateway to a whole lot of connected ideas -- too many to list or link here in the comments of our esteemed host's blog. In my experience, having an interest in understanding is the key to understanding. So rather than try to assemble something large that may not suit your needs, I'll just try to suggest some ways to pursue your interest.

First, the numbers: 10,000 years ago is a nice round number often quoted as the beginning of civilization. Really, it was the beginning of our particular culture, but we seem to like to believe ours is the only one that counts.

Two hundred thousand years is a nice round number for the age of the oldest fossil bones widely agreed to be from our species. So the story we like to tell ourselves about our cultural history covers 10,000 years out of at least 200,000 years of known existence on our lovely planet. Ten thousand is just 5% of 200,000. It's a nice, round number, and to me it seems a small fraction of the aggregate human history on this planet.

Data, information, and knowledge from the other 95% of human history exists. There are plenty of people who know stuff about the other 95%, especially archaeologists and anthropologists. But their stories haven't really seeped into our collective cultural consciousness. Not much, not so far.

What happened some 10,000 years ago represents a huge discontinuity in human history. After at least 190,000 years (and there are credible cases to say it was more like a million years) some of our ancestors started living very, very differently compared to their neighbors. And we, the computer-screen-reading members of hyper-industrialized first world culture, we are their direct descendents. Ten thousand years ago there were lots and lots of people who did NOT participate in that experiment. As recently as a hundred years ago there were still plenty of humans who preferred not to participate in our experiment. These days? Not so much. There are a few of those folks who live on reservations, and in the deepest parts of the remaining South American jungles, in the Australian outback, in the African desert, and, well, you get the picture.

Careful scientists generally have reference control groups who do not participate in their experiments. Our 10,000 year cultural experiment seems to include the elimination of all the control groups. That strikes me as not very nice. Also, not very wise.

At any rate, since some folks have obtained information about the control group cultures before they were eliminated, and especially since some of the control group cultures still exist, we have access to information about how they lived, how they made decisions, and how they supported each other. Most of those folks in the control groups did not work so hard at domination, exploitation, or maintaining disparity by design, not the way our culture does. (It seems to me. And to a few other folks.) As I mentioned earlier, however, that information has not seeped into our collective cultural consciousness. You can probably imagine why.

If you have access to a good library (and/or inter-library loan) you can dig deeper. And wider. Jared Diamond's work covers some of this, not just his recent popular books but some of his older writing as well. Howard Zinn's work might cover some of this territory. Daniel Quinn. Peter Farb. Marvin Harris. Online, there's Wikipedia. I'm sure you know the caveats about Wikipedia, but it does have some useful stuff. Sometimes Wikipedia's talk/discussion pages behind the scenes reveal more enlightening details than its articles. ;) Alan Weisman's book, Gaviotas, can offer some insights. Gaviotas is a modern example of a control group. I mentioned here earlier that one of its subjects, Paolo Lugari, will be visiting Philadelphia in a couple of weeks. If you're near Philly, that might be worth your time. (I met Paolo Lugari; it was worth my time.)

That's kind of long even though I tried to keep it concise. Feel free to contact me via my other web sites if those pointers don't work out for you.

Thanks again for your interest.


Anonymous said...


Your comment is terribly sad, but it really made the Anthropologist in me laugh.
I agree, being half control group and half "civilized" and having studied Anthropology in College.
Way too sad!