2013 - Volume 16 Number 2
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.
2013 - Volume 16 Number 1
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.
2012 - Volume 15 Number 3
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.
2012 - Volume 15 Number 2
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.’
2012 - Volume 15 Number 1
Hunger is not a natural but a man-made tragedy. People do not go hungry because there is not enough food to eat, but because the system that delivers food from the fields to our plates is broken. Rising global food prices and increasing food insecurity, which affect the poor disproportionately, is seen as a business opportunity by the agribusiness industry. Whilst drought is largely a natural phenomenon, famine is political and avoidable.
In a time where we are becoming increasingly desensitised to largescale, deepening tragedy, this is a Just Comment that brings famine and our role back to the fore. As Desmond Tutu says, 'world hunger is man-made and only we can end it'.