Friday, May 4, 2012

The monuments of the city are built on the backs of poor rural people

When going from Lusaka towards the farm of Susan Mkandawire we meet a constant stream of guys on bicycles on their way to Lusaka with heavy loads of charcoal. One of them is Christoffer Finsoni on this picture. He is a farmer but earns most of his cash from charcoal making and marketing. He carries 4 bags of 30 kg charcoal on his bicycle some 30 km to the market in Lusaka.

We often here the story about ignorant rural population that destroys their environment by cutting down the trees for cooking. But the reality is a lot more complex. Christoffer and his likes are mainly living in the "organic economy" based on biological and renewable resources. Wood (charcoal) and human power (as in bicycle) are the main energy sources. When I meet him in my car I represent the fossil fuel economy and the global industrial system. What strikes me is the direction of the stream of resources.

Many believe that the stream is from the rich global fossil-fuel economy to the poor, but is it?

Andrews family doesn't use char coal for their cooking, they use fire wood. Char coaling for the market in the city is a bigger threat to their forest land. And who is buying the char coal? Well it is certainly not the poor, they use twigs, corn cobs, stalks and other waste for their cooking. It is rather rich people in the city that drives deforestation. A similar case is the cutting of forests for conversion to grazing land. Most of that meat is destined for rich people. A similar thing is the idea to make bio char from bio mass. Again, poor peoples resources are used to enable the rich to continue a life style that is not sustainable. 

In the same way, the notion that urban living is more environmentally friendly as claimed by many, is just a delusion. The city has always been a parasite on the rural areas and most of the destruction in rural areas are caused by "city life and industrialism". This is based on inequality, privilege and violence.

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