Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Polluter Gets Paid Principle

Some decades ago OECD coined the Polluter Pays Principle. That is an appealing principle which states than the one that causes pollution should also pay for it - that is for the cleaning up etc. Unfortunately the principle is not always applied. In farming polluters have for decades been paid to produce more and pollute more, even if it is changing a bit the global picture is largely the same. Many countries are subsidising chemical fertilizers just to mention an example.

In the green house gas schemes there is a risk that we are endorsing the complete opposite principle, the one where the Polluter Gets Paid. I am here mainly thinking about the Carbon Capture and Storage technologies (CCS). They are costly, still not tested, technologies that are promoted by the large energy corporations. The cost for reduction of CO2 with that technology is very high, in the range of 40-50 Euro per ton, according to Mc Kinsey. Meanwhile there are plenty of methods to reduce carbon dioxide emmissions that are either for free or that saves a lot of money, such as driving less cars and use less AC or reduce temperatures a bit. In agriculture and forestry there are also methods that are a lot cheaper and which also have other benefits (such as improving the productivity of the soil or improve bio-diversity). So why is then CCS promoted?

There are two reasons: Firstly the energy corporations see them as a possibility to avoid the otherwise inevitable downward pressure on their production. It is only the CCS technologies that can cope with a constant increase of energy production and consumption. While the rest of the world discuss reduction of energy use, the energy companies are preparing for the opposite. Secondly, and what this posting is aboutis that by developing this "service" the energy companies themselves can ascertain that they will capture most of the carbon sequestration or emission reduction market which are under development. In other words, they will keep the profit in their pocket.

Hey wait a second, it gets worse: Not only will they keep the profit, they will actually increase their revenue and profit substantially. First they will earn the same money as today from selling energy. And then, in addition, society will impost a number of fees, taxes or other measures to generate money to pay for carbon sequestration and emmission reduction. Depending on the construction of these fees they will be paid over the taxes or over the energy bill, in most countries a mix of it. But the good thing, for the energy companies that is, is that they will through CCS capture most of this money. So the government de facto will reward them for their pollution, expand their business and their profit. The Polluter Gets Paid Principle. And I forgot to mention, they obviously think the tax payers should foot the bill for development of this technology. For those that hesitate that my analysis is correct can read the following article in the Guardian. Shell: market alone cannot deliver green energy

The thing reminds me a bit of the firm in Stockholm that was cleaning walls from graffiti. To boost their business they provided youngsters with spray cans.....

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Finishing the book

I will retreat a week to the beautiful West Coast of Sweden, where I will sit and "finish" my book Garden Earth. "Finish" is a dubious word when talking about a publishing process. My personal experience is that it is not until the things is printed that it is really "finished".

Anyway I am happy that Gidlunds will publish the Swedish version. Once that is published, hopefully in April, I will start working on a slightly modified English version.

Nice to just get away when the rest of society gets into pre-Christmas stress.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Taking care of the garden

Acceptance speech for the honorary doctorate in Science at Uganda Martyrs University 20th November 2009

Your Lordship Chancellor, ladies and Gentlemen,

I am honoured and humbled by this award. I have visited Uganda many times over the last fifteen years and I am happy to have contributed in making Uganda a leading country for organic in Africa. I am also happy to have assisted the Uganda Martyrs University in becoming a leading institution for organic agriculture in Africa. It is a special pleasure to congratulate the first Bachelors of Science in Organic Agriculture. Of course there are many more than me that have contributed. I think of my life companion over 33 years, Kari Örjavik and our friends and partners at the Torfolk farm in Sweden, but also of people in Uganda such as Moses Mwanga, Alan Tulip, Charles Walaga and Alastair Taylor.

Organic Agriculture has come a long way. Many people have understood organic as being pesticide free and free from synthetic inputs. And it is that, but it is a lot more. The origin of the word organic is the perception of the soil as a living organism, but organic is more than just the soil, it is about the plans, animals and people. During my presidency of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movement we developed a widened understanding of organic agriculture by stating the four principles of organic farming.
The principle of Health – that organic farming is about health of the plants and the eco-system and ultimately of the human beings. Our health and the health of nature are forever connected.
The principle of Ecology – that we in organic farming work in accordance with the same principles as most eco-systems, circulation of nutrients, diversity, balance.
The principle of Fairness – that our responsibility extends to how we treat animals in the farm, surrounding eco-systems and our fellow human beings.
The principle of Care – that we take a precautionary attitude and see ourselves as stewards of the parts of the planet under our responsibility

Organic agriculture is presently recognised for
- that it is environmentally friendly
- contributing to bio-diversity
- providing eco-systems services, such as soil-building, water purification and climate regulation
- being less energy demanding
- being well adapted to the conditions for African small-holders
- being culturally appropriate, building on long traditions
- providing food security

Ultimately, the agriculture system is linked to our human social and economic systems and to ecology. In my current study, Garden Earth, I take this discussion further. It is due for publication in Swedish in April and in English towards the end of the year. In that study I look at the big picture developments.
We can look at agriculture productivity per area; per unit water; per invested dollar; per man – or woman – hour or food per energy unity. For some reason most agriculture studies and statistics focus productivity per area unit, but in the same time we know that the most competitive farmers are not the one having the highest yields, on contrary we find that the cheapest wheat is from Argentina, Australia and USA where yields often are less than half of those in Europe. As a matter of fact Bangladesh is the country in the world that produces most food per area unit and not the industrial countries. The reason is mainly that land is scarce in Bangladesh. In the same way capital productivity is often very high in poor countries, as capital is so limited. The most productive agriculture in arid areas is often not farming at all but pastoralism. By grazing, e.g. goats, we can utilise nature areas which would be too dry for any cultivation. In that sense the water productivity is very high under those conditions. Taking into account the increased prices of oil and a energy-scarce future, we certainly have to look a lot more into the energy productivity of farming. Through the use of external energy we have increased productivity tremendously, first by using animals for draught and wind for pumping and milling, but the real revolution was the introduction of fossil fuel. If we “translate” the energy content in oil into the man-power of a human, each person in the world has now some 30-40 energy slaves working for her, in the rich countries this amounts to some two hundred. So there is really nothing magic with how much we can produce.

The fundamental food equation was always that a farmer had to produce enough food to feed him or herself and a number of dependants, children, elderly and sick as well as number of people living on the back of the farmers, priests, soldiers, lords and governments. So each farmer need to keep perhaps 3-5 other people alive. And it goes without saying that a farmer has to produce enough food energy to sustain these people and herself. An energy deficient food production system was simply impossible before fossil fuel. With ample supply of fossil fuels this all changed and modern food systems actually consume some ten to twenty times as much energy than they produce. Some will now object and say we can’t compare energy in oil with energy in food. Of course they are not the same, we can’t eat oil, at least not yet, but all over the world there is a discussion about bio-fuels, that we should grow crops for fuel. And suddenly we see that there is a strong relationship between energy in food and energy in oil. The highest energy productivity is found in improved, intensive traditional systems. It is on those systems we need to build the agriculture for the future.

My discussion about productivity has so far been mainly about the production of food and energy. We all know, however, that farming produces many other things such as eco-system services; culture; meaning and connectedness to nature and we need to look at productivity also for those public goods.

Sir, let me expand my discussion beyond agriculture. The industrial capitalist production system has created unprecedented productivity and wealth. It has also contributed to the increase of human rights and liberation of women and other oppressed groups compared to the preceding feudal societies. But it has also come with a price. The price is depletion of natural resources; squeezing out other organisms and ecosystems to such an extent that we are endangering our own survival; causing climate change and chemical and medical contamination, to mention just a few. Further, there is no evidence that this growth has delivered more human well-being. Is not well-being that we should be striving for rather then GDP figures? Our society has also failed in creating wealth for the many. Big parts of humanity are as poor today as they were fifty years ago, despite unprecedented growth worldwide markets. We have failed to create an equitable society. In addition, the economic system,

The capitalist economy and its associated values – such as the vision of constant growth, risk-taking and competition – were perhaps appropriate for a world bent on expansion and colonization. But we have now colonized what there is to colonize and spread ourselves over all parts of the globe. Economic growth is still possible (we can always create new ‘virtual’ globes on the internet, can’t we? Biological, physical and geographic growth isn’t possible. Therefore, we need new values and paradigms. Most likely we also need a new economy and new forms of social capital. Population growth also needs to be checked.

We have changed the globe so much that Nature can’t make it without us anymore and more and more wild life is dependent on us for its survival. There is no point in looking back to the time when we were equal to the giraffe, the carrot or the sheep. Today, whether we like it or not, we must act as gardeners for the whole Garden Earth. In that garden we have to look after the other parts of nature, not as resources to exploit or sinks were we can dump our waste, but as integral parts of the web of life,
of our Garden