Category Archives: Economics

Chicken and your health, the latest from George Monbiot

Game of Chicken
Posted: 27 Jul 2017 06:56 AM PDT

Global trade once made us rich. Now it unleashes a full-spectrum assault on our well-being.

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 26th July 2017

What’s wrong with chlorinated chicken? It’s not as if chlorine is absent from our lives: we drink it in tap water every day. Surely it’s a small price to pay for the trade deal with the US the British government seeks? There are several answers to this question, that range from the instrumental to the existential. Let’s begin with the immediacies.

Washing chicken carcasses with chlorine allows farmers and processors to save the money they might have spent on systemic sanitation, throughout the chicken’s life and death. You need only dunk the meat in a chlorine bath to kill any accumulated germs. Does it work? It is true to say that rates of foodborne illness are similar between the EU and North America*. But chlorine-washed chicken, remarkably, could be the least offensive of the US meat regulations a trade deal might force us to adopt. It has been pushed to the fore because it’s less politically toxic than the issues hiding behind it.

While European Union rules, that currently prevail in the UK, take a precautionary approach to food regulation, permitting only products and processes proven to be safe, the US government uses a providential approach, permitting anything not yet proved to be dangerous. By limiting the budgets and powers of its regulators, it ensures that proof of danger is difficult to establish.

An investigation by Reuters discovered that chicken companies in the US use a wide array of antibiotics as routine feed supplements, both to prevent disease and as growth promoters. Among these drugs are some listed by the US Food and Drug Administration as “critically important” in human medicine. They’re administered to the chickens in low doses, creating perfect conditions for bacterial resistance and the emergence of new superbugs.

Further reports reveal that chickens are dosed with antihistamines, to make their meat more tender. Some carcasses contain steroids and ketamine. A hormone injected into US cattle to fatten them more quickly, according to the latest scientific paper on the subject, “promotes breast cancer cell growth”. And all this is before Trump completes his assault on the US regulatory system.

Trade agreements today have little to do with reducing tariffs, most of which have already been eliminated. Now they have two principal functions. The first is to extend intellectual property rights, that tends to raise prices and help the biggest corporations eliminate smaller competitors. The second is to “harmonise” regulations. When you have an asymmetric deal – between a very large country with low standards and a smaller one with higher standards – there is going to be only one outcome. We will end up with US standards. How many people in this country, offered a vote on the matter, would accept such a deal?

But there are still bigger issues in this game of chicken. On the day that the Adam Smith Institute published its misleading report, the Guardian carried an article by a consultant called Colin Cram, complaining that the UK is not engaging sufficiently in China’s Belt and Road programme: a series a vast infrastructure schemes the Chinese government is funding to facilitate its exports (Manchester’s Airport City is one component). The UK, Mr Cram claimed, “must” become a full participant in this programme, “massively revitalising its infrastructure so that all parts of the country, not just the south-east, can engage with these huge markets”. That’s because we suffer from a deficit of air pollution, noise, climate change and plastic waste. We must accelerate the Gadarene rush over the environmental cliff.

A study published by researchers at the London School of Economics last year discovered that the regions that voted most strongly for Brexit were those that had been hit hardest by “the Chinese import shock”. Anger towards immigration, they argue, became a proxy for the loss of manufacturing jobs and incomes: many of the strongest Leave votes were in places with the least immigration. Their data suggests that Brexit was globalisation’s blowback. But our government wants to seize this opportunity to accelerate the process. So much for taking back control.

So the existential question the chicken issue raises is this: why do we want more trade? What is it for? The old promise was that trade led to prosperity. But what if we have enough already? What if enhanced global trade, far from promoting well-being, now undermines it?

To people of Mr Cram’s mindset, rainforests and ancient woodlands, coral reefs and wild rivers, local markets and lively communities, civic life and public space are nothing but unrealised opportunities for development. Where we see the presence of beauty, tranquillity and wonder, they see the absence of palm oil plantations and soybean deserts, container ports and mega dams, shopping malls and 12-lane highways. For them, there is no point of arrival, just an endless escalation of transit.

Nowhere is a place in its own right: everywhere is a resource waiting to be exploited. No one is a person in their own right; everyone is a worker, consumer or debtor whose potential for profit generation has yet to be realised. Satiety, well-being, peace: these are antithetical to globalised growth, which demands constant erasure and replacement. If you are happy, you are an impediment to trade. Your self-possession must be extinguished.

So this is where the chickens come home to roost. Enhanced global trade now threatens our health, our sovereignty, our democracy. Once, it made us rich. Today it impoverishes us.

www.monbiot.com
* This article previously stated that the Adam Smith Institute’s claim that the rates of Salmonella infection in the two continents were “not out of line” was false. I had failed to notice that an item marked Non-typhoidal S.enterica in the WHO report cited by the ASI referred to a Salmonella species. My apologies.

Advertisements

Products need to be modular, durable, adaptable, repairable, recyclable…

The mufti-dimensional mega-crisis crisis includes resource depletion, waste, and pollution. Products need to be modular, durable, adaptable, repairable, recyclable, and efficient in their use of scarce resources. The old corporate model of private profit maximization encourages just the opposite.

Here’s one example of how products can be made the right way.

Ed Asner–The insanity of Florida’s proposed nuclear plant

This video featuring Ed Asner makes some powerful arguments against the proposed new nuclear power plant in Florida.

One need not argue the pros and cons of nuclear power. If we take away government subsidies and guarantees, the free market will kill nuclear power automatically.

Unemployment figures explained

Bud Abbot and Lou Costello were one of the most popular comedy teams of the 1940’s and 1950’s.
COSTELLO: I want to talk about the unemployment rate in America.

ABBOTT: Good subject. Terrible times. It’s about 9%.

COSTELLO: That many people are out of work?

ABBOTT: No, that’s 16%.

COSTELLO: You just said 9%.

ABBOTT: 9% Unemployed.

COSTELLO: Right 9% out of work.

ABBOTT: No, that’s 16%.

COSTELLO: Okay, so it’s 16% unemployed.

ABBOTT: No, that’s 9%.

COSTELLO: WAIT A MINUTE. Is it 9% or 16%?

ABBOTT: 9% are unemployed. 16% are out of work.

COSTELLO: If you are out of work you are unemployed.

ABBOTT: No, you can’t count the “Out of Work” as the unemployed.  You have to look for work to be unemployed.

COSTELLO: But … they are out of work!

ABBOTT:   No, you miss my point.

COSTELLO: What point?

ABBOTT: Someone who doesn’t look for work, can’t be counted with those who look for work. It wouldn’t be fair.

COSTELLO: To who?

ABBOTT: The unemployed.

COSTELLO: But they are ALL out of work.

ABBOTT: No, the unemployed are actively looking for work. Those who are out of work stopped looking. They gave up. And, if you give up, you are no longer in the ranks of the unemployed.

COSTELLO: So if you’re off the unemployment roles, that would count as less unemployment?

ABBOTT: Unemployment would go down. Absolutely!

COSTELLO: The unemployment just goes down because you don’t look for work?

ABBOTT: Absolutely it goes down. That’s how you get to 9%. Otherwise it would be 16%. You don’t want to read about 16% unemployment do ya?

COSTELLO: That would be frightening.

ABBOTT: Absolutely.

COSTELLO: Wait, I got a question for you. That means there are two ways to bring down the unemployment number?

ABBOTT: Two ways is correct.

COSTELLO: Unemployment can go down if someone gets a job?

ABBOTT: Correct.

COSTELLO: And unemployment can also go down if you stop looking for a job?

ABBOTT: Bingo.

COSTELLO: So there are two ways to bring unemployment down, and the easier of the two is to just stop looking for work.

ABBOTT: Now you’re thinking like a president.

An amazing story about human progress

This short video graphically  shows improvements in human health and wealth over the past 200 years. But it leaves some lingering questions: Does longevity equate to health? Is higher money income a causal factor?

An inspiring story of ecological, economic, and social regeneration

Willie Smits: How we re-grew a rainforest

Crowdsourcing and Crowdfunding Resources

Here is a brief compilation of some Crowdsourcing and Crowdfunding websites I’m aware of. Crowdfunding is being increasingly used to fund enterprises that serve the community and the common good.–t.h.g.

Updated January 18, 2012

Crowdsourcing.org

“Everything and anything crowdsourcing”

http://www.crowdsourcing.org/

Learn about the explosive growth of crowdsourcing to share ideas, information and content. Search our communities to see how crowdsourcing is being used to create, raise funds, engage customers, innovate, share knowledge, make predictions, promote social and environmental causes. Discover what crowdsourcing tools and platforms are available.

Share your knowledge of who’s doing what in crowdsourcing by uploading articles, documents, videos, blogs and news posts and also get involved in our question and answer forums. Assign your content submissions to the crowdsourcing communities of your choice to make your content easy to find. Educate and inform others and grow your knowledge.

Connect. Crowdsourcing.org is the place to connect and network with others that can learn from you and teach you. Join in the dialogue, share your views, interact online with other members. The more active you are the more you will benefit from being part of a network of Crowdsourcing followers and experts.

__________________________________________________

IndieGoGo

http://www.indiegogo.com/

IndieGoGo helps you raise more money, from more people, faster.

Have something you are passionate about? You can create a funding campaign to raise money quickly and securely by tapping into your network of supporters and beyond. Our trusted platform has helped to raise millions of dollars for over 15,000 campaigns, across 157 countries.

Designed to meet your funding needs, anyone can start raising money immediately on IndieGoGo. Offer unique perks or tax deductions to your contributors in lieu of offering profit, but always keep 100% ownership. Each campaign has the opportunity to be featured on our homepage, placed in the press, or exposed via social media.

Join the tens of thousands of people that are visiting IndieGoGo everyday – start your campaign or find something to fund!

______________________________________________

Kickstarter

http://www.kickstarter.com/

Kickstarter is a new way to fund creative projects.

We believe that:

• A good idea, communicated well, can spread fast and wide.
• A large group of people can be a tremendous source of money and encouragement.

Kickstarter is powered by a unique all-or-nothing funding method where projects must be fully-funded or no money changes hands.

____________________________________________________

GoGetFunding

http://gogetfunding.com/

Go Get Funding lets you raise money for personal plans, events, causes and more.

Use our site to support people you know, or others you can get to know!
Along with the satisfaction of helping people, you´ll also enjoy any rewards offered by fundraisers.

The Amazon Mechanical Turk

https://www.mturk.com/mturk/welcome

The Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk) is a crowdsourcing Internet marketplace that enables computer programmers (known as Requesters) to co-ordinate the use of human intelligence to perform tasks which computers are unable to do. It is one of the suites of Amazon Web Services. The Requesters are able to pose tasks known as HITs (Human Intelligence Tasks), such as choosing the best among several photographs of a store-front, writing product descriptions, or identifying performers on music CDs. Workers (called Providers in Mechanical Turk’s Terms of Service) can then browse among existing tasks and complete them for a monetary payment set by the Requester. To place HITs, the requesting programs use an open Application Programming Interface, or the more limited Mturk Requester site. [from Wikipedia]