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Across the globe organisations and networks are working for advocacy, action and change. Together the Edmund Rice Centre and the Australian Catholic University prepares this Just Comment publication discussing issues affecting both local and international nations and cultures.
Current Documents 1 - 10 of 63
Just Comment Vol.15 No.1: Famine: a man-made tragedy
Every five seconds, a child under 10 dies of hunger. Thirty-five million people die each year from hunger or its immediate aftermath. One billion people are permanently and severely malnourished and the situation is becoming increasingly catastrophic.
Jean Zeigler, Mass Destruction - the Geopolitics of Hunger
Just Comment Vol 16 No 2: Palm oil -- the ' threat' in our shopping trolley
It is little known the extent to which palm oil is a part of our everyday diet. In our supermarkets, pharmacies and convenience shops it is almost impossible to purchase products free from palm oil. It is used in ice cream, chocolate, biscuits, crackers, chips, margarine, fruit juice, batters, soap, toothpaste, laundry powders, detergents, cosmetics, pet food. It has also been touted as a biofuel – although palm oil-based diesel actually increases greenhouse emissions.
In Colombia human rights advocates have demonstrated that the murders and violence committed by the Colombian Armed Forces' under their 'paramiliatary strategy' whilst rationalised as 'depopulating' counter-insurgency work has the real aim of the taking of lands from peasant communities in fertile coastal plains in order to establish massive palm oil plantations to generate export dolllars for corrupt Colombian generals.
In Malaysia and Indonesia, where rainforests are being cleared, the impact on wildlife is catastrophic as the habitat of endangered species is being torn down, the livelihoods of indigenous communities destroyed, and seriously contributes to the warming of the planet. Palm-oil diesel was until recently hailed as a safe, renewable alternative to petroleum, but it has been found that the peat swamps in Indonesia and Malaysia – drained and burned to allow plantations of palm oil trees – released 2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide a year into the atmosphere, or 8% of the world's fossil fuel emissions.
The unsustainable expansion of the palm oil industry may seem a remote problem, but its solution might be the shopping trolley. The consequences of its growth have not been grasped by the industry. Consumer pressure, industry leadership and political incentives are required to permanently place these tropical rainforests off limits.
Just Comment Vol 16 No 1: Jeju Island - assault on island of peace
The US has over 1000 military bases around the world, including 82 in South Korea alone. China - against whom this expansion is directed - has no significant military bases outside its borders. Yet, most Australians and Americans are unaware of the United States increasing its military presence in Korea, Japan, and the rest of the Pacific – including Australia.
Nor are they aware of Jeju Island, 80 kms south-west of the Korean Peninsula. Many of the people of Jeju are attempting to non-violently resist the construction of a new naval base in the small fishing and farming village of Gangjeong. For Korea, the island is becoming ‘the spearhead of the country’s defense line,’ a reckless 500km from China. A naval base at Gangjeong will increase military tensions and will be an obstacle to peace in the East Asian region, so this resistance represents a larger drama being played out against the forces of empire.
U.S. foreign policy is undergoing a major ‘pivot’ to the Asia- Pacific region that already takes in Guam, Australia, Okinawa, and the Philippines. It has been called ‘America’s Pacific Century’.
Gangjeong, at the forefront of a U.S. strategy of increased militarisation, is designed, under the pretext of defense against North Korean expansion, to counterbalance China’s growing economic and military sphere of influence. This will put U.S. military might on China’s doorstep!
The failure to prevent the base construction could also impact the rest of the world as well, as China sees such projects as a threat to its national security. What is occurring on Jeju Island is becoming one of the most critical struggles to avoid a potentially devastating war in Asia.
Before March 2012, most Australians would not have heard of the Cocos-Keeling Islands, but America's military build-up in south-east Asia means that the use of the remote islands as a possible base for US surveillance aircraft has become more attractive.
Now reports suggest that the USA Pentagon is also viewing these islands as a possible new base for its unmanned aircraft or drones which have been used indiscriminately in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.
And yet whilst talk of establishing a drone base on the Territory has concerned local people, the Coalition defense spokesperson has reportedly said he is ‘very keen that we welcome the Americans in any shape or form that they want to come and work with us in our region’.
The Cocos (Keeling) Islands consist of 27 coral islands. They have a land area of only 14 square kilometres and are 2,950 kilometres north-west of Perth and 3,700 kilometres west of Darwin in the Indian Ocean. But the location is increasingly valuable for other reasons. Though locals feel they are not really wanted, they know they are strategically significant.
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Just Comment Vol 15 No 2: Austerity - 'Trickle-down cruelty'
As several countries try to pay off huge public debt due to the financial crisis and apply spending cuts - voices of caution say this is ‘a dangerous idea’ because this response indicates there is one set of rules for rich countries and another for poor countries.
The financial ship has been taken into dangerous waters by those at the top and they do not suffer from austerity budgets. We need to listen to those who have suffered from these budgets: children who only get one chance at an education; the sick and disabled unable to support themselves; and seniors too old to work.
This war on the majority of people intensifies as the global business class’ call for austerity ‘hides processes of the uneven distribution of risk and vulnerability.’
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Just Comment Vol 14 No 3: Riots - the Language of the Unheard
In the scramble to comprehend London’s August riots, almost every commentator opened with a ritual condemnation of the violence.
There was no doubt that arson, muggings and lootings are ugly occurrences. But it just seemed too easy to dismiss it all as mindless and needless, opportunistic theft and violence, ‘pure criminality’, or the work of a ‘violent minority’.
A reasonably objective view of Britain’s political landscape and the civil unrest witnessed in Britain would suggest that the responsibility lay exactly where it always has since the beginning of ‘civilisation’: the leaders responsible for the society they have helped to create.
It is no coincidence that this violence in London takes place against the backdrop of a global economy poised for free fall. John Kenneth Galbraith has set out the causes of recession: bad income distribution, a business sector engaged in ‘corporate larceny’, a weak banking structure and an import/export imbalance. With no jobs and no sense of a future – a human catastrophe was waiting to happen!
Download 2 page pdf document below
Just Comment Vol 14 No 2 - Insidious Violence - Depleted Uranium Weapons
The 2004 US assault on the small Iraqi town of Fallujah was one of the most horrific war crimes of our time. And yet today, another war continues daily in Fallujah. The populace is gripped by a stealthy killer - a slow and silent violence where the best medical advice given to young women is: ‘Do not have babies!’.
An average of three babies are born daily with severe deformities. Many are stillborn, others live a few hours, and most who survive live for only a few months because of their severe abnormalities. A new study, ‘Cancer, Infant Mortality and Birth Sex-Ratio in Fallujah, Iraq 2005–2009,’ showed higher rates of cancer, leukemia, infant mortality, and sexual mutations than recorded among atomic bomb survivors in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The prevalence of these conditions in Fallujah at levels many times higher than in nearby nations proves that a high proportion of the weaponry used in the US assault on Fallujah contained depleted uranium, a radioactive substance used in shells to increase their effectiveness. Fallujah provides us with stark evidence as to the urgent need for a treaty to ban depleted uranium weapons.
Just Comment Vol 14 No 1 - Disaster Capitalism
The concept of ‘disaster capitalism’ was conceived by extreme neoliberals at the University of Chicago dedicated to eliminating the public sphere so that business would be free and unfettered; and almost all social spending cease.
It feeds on the misery suffered by people whether in war, terrorism, natural catastrophes, poverty, trade sanctions and market crashes. Disasters are opportunities to generate huge profits and earnings.
The concept also applies in countries such as Australia where people who are asylum seekers are detained in centres, and prisoners held in prisons, run by ‘for-profit’ corporations. This new economy is outlined in Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. The scheme always exploits people for profits.
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Covering one seventh of Australia, the Murray Darling Basin is one of the largest river basins in the world and contains 440 000km of rivers, 30 000 wetlands and one world heritage site.
The variety of ecosystems within the basin is as diverse as the size of the basin and provides a variety of habitats for flora and fauna including more than 60 fish species and around 98 species of waterbirds. Covering four states and the ACT and with 3.4 million people relying on water from the Basin, the management of the Basin is a political tightrope.
Nevertheless, unless serious action is taken sooner rather than later the beauty, diversity and ecological significance of the Basin could be permanently lost.
Just Comment Vol 13 No 7 -- Consensual democracy vs conflictive democracy
The role of leadership is to envision and enlighten, to put the national interest before personal gain, to think about the next generation rather than merely the next election, to look for what is right and good and fair so that most can agree to it rather than seek only to humiliate and embarrass political enemies. An over-emphasis on adversarial or combative politics can lead to parliamentary ineffectiveness and a deprivation of the wisdom and contribution of half its members.
An adversarial approach means conflict where beating the enemy at all costs means that truth and wisdom are early victims and whilst bickering occurs real problems are ignored and meaningful action is impossible. Social reform has come under the control of cynical calculators who measure success by winning elections, patronage and status on the political ladder . Political parties seek power, not change. Causes have given way to careers.
Though there are politicians who would like to adopt a more meaningful, inclusive and less aggressive approach to politics, civil and reasonable dialogue on major issues seems the exception rather than the norm, and the volume and shrillness of debate contributes to policy gridlock, civic disengagement, declining standards of behaviour , and lack of accountability.
We need go beyond the view that the status quo is the best one can hope for.
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Fact-sheets on key issues:
ERC initiative the Pacific Calling Partnership promotes awareness of the devastating effects of climate change on low-lying island communities of the Pacific. The PCP campaign goes beyond both the science and the spin to make evident 'the human face of climate change'.
Update: ERC Director, Phil Glendenning, recently returned to Australia from Afghanistan after 10 days interviewing returned asylum seekers again in Kabul.
ERC is redoubling our efforts to find a third-country resettlement option for those returnees from Australia with whom we have been able to make contact. We need financial support to achieve this.
Such work uncovers high levels of risk for the deportees (and for our researchers). Research publications are available here.
Listen to Phil speak of the visit to ABC Radio National's Phillip Adams.
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