October 9, 2013.
Lecture 5 – Environment, Development and the Postcolonial
50% of women in North America? US? Say they would rather be hit by a truck than be
626 million people in India have to defecate in public (no adequate washroom facilities
within accessible distance)
Louis CK: If God Came Back
“Did you shit all over everything?!”
The way we exist makes little sense
We want silly things
That wanting has consequences for others (that are serious and worse than silly)
A few key propositions today
We have exacerbated poverty, inequality, and ecological destruction in the name of
Reject the idea that we must choose between humans OR the environment; humans OR
animals. We are all bound together.
“Environment” is not a neutral term. Certain people’s environments suck, while certain
other people’s do not.
In our consumption, we make value judgments about the worth of our lives compared
An “anti-politics machine”
o This means that, often, by giving people things in the name of development, we
are ensuring that they depoliticize themselves.
Things like schools, washrooms, resources, etc.
o An attempt to fix problems that are actually structural (structural as in racism,
sexism, colonialism), and you can’t fix a structural problem like colonialism by
giving people a toilet
o Makes people feel like the problem is being solved, when it isn’t
o Saying to people “don’t speak out against say, World Bank, because they gave
you a school in your village”
Technical solutions do not solve structural problems, they only further them.
The “charitable-industrial complex”. What’s the problem?
o Peter Buffet (Son of Warren Buffet, big-time financial investor) wrote an article
arguing about technical solutions to structural problem (like Ferguson’s anti-
politics machine but on a more everyday level)
What he calls “conscience laundering” o For example, getting all bothered over unprotected sex-work in another country
and then donating money to a charity that provides these sex-workers with
condoms to protect them
Doesn’t change any structural issues, and in fact makes the situation
worse because it heightens the value of unprotected sex and therefore
more women engage in it because they make more money
Does not acknowledge the structural issues of women being in situations
where they have to engage in sex work to survive
Development usually just means dumping our surplus and therefore expanding
o Giving people who “have less” shit we don’t want which leads to them having
more things and more money and then putting that back into the capitalist grasp
through consuming more
And then what happens?
o Green revolution in Indonesia
Given miracle rice in the 1960s, a strain called IR8; had a yield higher than
ever seen before
Students and peasants took on the spreading of this strain, making sure
people knew how to plant them, etc.
Sarto (president) came along and in 1965 took this initiative away from
the peasants and students and sold the rice to multi-national
corporations who then created “Green revolution kits” that they sold to
Something about killing all the fish and then losing out in protein but
then having this excess of rice
Bigger farmers who were able to acquire loans and kits and used them to
buy tractors, which completely changed the playing field and allowed
them to takeover smaller-scale farmers
These small-scale farmers had no choice but to move to the city and their
demand for labour and flooding of the job market lowered the minimum
wage in an area that already had many urban/poverty-related issues
Overpopulation, spread of communicable disease, etc.
o Milk production in India
European surplus in 1968
Surplus was bad because it would lower the value because too
much supply for demand and the dairy industry would suffer;