Elites vs Greens in the Global South

Jan 21

The developing world’s stance toward the question of the environment has often been equated with the pugnacious stance of former Malaysian Prime Minister Mohamad Mahathir, who famously said at the Rio Conference on the Environment and Development in June 1992,   When the rich chopped down their own forests, built their poison-belching factories and scoured the world for cheap resources, the poor said nothing. Indeed they paid for the development of the rich. Now the rich claim a right to regulate the development of the poor countries…As colonies we were exploited. Now as independent nations we are to be equally exploited. The North has interpreted Mahathir as speaking for a South that doesn’t have much of an environmental movement and that seeks to catch up whatever the cost. Today, China has emerged as the prime exemplar of this Mahathirian obsession with rapid industrialization that has minimal regard for the environment. In fact, however, the environmental costs of rapid industrialization are of major concern to significant sectors of the population of developing countries. The environmental movement, moreover, has been a significant actor in the debates in which many countries are exploring alternatives to the destabilizing high-growth model. While the focus of this piece is Asia, many of the same trends can be observed in Latin America, Africa, and other parts of the global South. The Environmental Movement in the NICs Among the most advanced environmental movements are those in South Korea and Taiwan, which were once known as “Newly Industrializing Countries” (NICs) or “Newly Industrializing Economies.” This should not be surprising since the process of rapid industrialization in these two societies from 1965 to 1990 took place with few environmental controls, if any. In Korea, the Han River that flows through Seoul and the Nakdong River flowing through Pusan were so polluted by unchecked dumping of industrial waste that they were close to being classified as biologically dead. Toxic waste dumping reached critical proportions. Seoul achieved the distinction in 1978 of being the city with the highest content of sulphur dioxide in the air, with high levels being registered as well in Inchon, Pusan, Ulsan, Masan, Anyang, and Changweon. In Taiwan, high-speed industrialization had its own particular hellish contours. Taiwan’s...

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“There Must Be a U-turn to Create Healthy Domestic Markets”

Jan 20

Born in the Philippines in 1945, Dr. Bello is the author of more than 10 books, including "People and Power in the Pacific" (1992), "Dark Victory: The United States and Global Poverty" (1999), "Global Finance: Thinking on regulating speculative capital markets" (2000) and "The Future in the Balance: Essays on globalisation and resistance" (2001). After receiving a Ph.D from Princeton, he was arrested several times in the United States, peacefully protesting the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship in his home country. Bello is the executive director of Focus on the Global South and a visiting professor in Southeast Asian Studies at the University of California at Los Angeles. Dr. Walden Bello spoke by phone from the Philippines with IPS Canada correspondent Chris Arsenault. IPS: There seems to be consensus among economists that globalisation, as practiced by the Bretton Woods institutions, leads to greater income inequality but also to significant GDP growth. As one of Asia's leading critics of the Bretton Woods model, don't you feel that growth is necessary to pull people out of poverty, even if inequality is an initial byproduct? Bello: I think that when you aggregate it, in the number of countries where there has been significant GDP growth, on balance, there has been an absolute reduction in poverty. Certainly in the cases of Vietnam and China, there has been an absolute decrease in poverty. However, certain social groups, especially in the rural areas, and lower-class groups in the cities, have gone into even greater poverty. In all countries in South East Asia and East Asia, you have greater inequality in income distribution. In practical terms, a great imbalance has grown between the cities and the countryside; people in the countryside have lost in absolute and relative terms compared to the city. Furthermore, we have had tremendous rates of environmental destruction. The gains in terms of poverty reduction have been counterbalanced by these other trends. I am speaking only about East Asia in this regard; the other caveat I would say in regards to Vietnam is that Vietnam has done a better job in containing these contradictions compared to countries like China. IPS: You have written that, "in the Third World the pendulum has swung so far in...

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