November 16, 2007

Green technology just a new name for old pattern of exploitation

Wendell Berry, letter to the editor, New York Review of Books, Sept. 27, 2007:

... As for rural poverty, Mr. Dyson's thinking ["Our Biotech Future", July 19] is all too familiar to any rural American: "What the world needs is a technology that directly attacks the problem of rural poverty by creating wealth and jobs in the villages." This is called "bringing in industry," a practice dear to state politicians. To bring in industry, the state offers "economic incentives" (or "corporate welfare") and cheap labor to presumed benefactors, who often leave very soon for greater incentives and cheaper labor elsewhere.

Industrial technology, as brought-in industry and as applied by agribusiness, has been the cleverest means so far of siphoning the wealth of the countryside -- not to the cities, as Mr. Dyson appears to think, for urban poverty is inextricably related to rural poverty -- but to the corporations. Industries that are "brought in" convey the local wealth out; otherwise they would not come. And what makes it likely that "green technology" would be an exception? How can Mr. Dyson suppose that the rural poor will control the power of biotechnology so as to use it for their own advantage? Has he not heard of the patenting of varieties and genes? Has he not heard of the infamous lawsuit of Monsanto against the Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser? I suppose that if, as Mr. Dyson predicts, biotechnology becomes available -- cheaply, I guess -- even to children, then it would be available to poor country people. But what would be the economic advantage of this? How, in short, would this work to relieve poverty? Mr. Dyson does not say.

His only example of a beneficent rural biotechnology is the cloning of Dolly the sheep. But he does not say how this feat has benefited sheep production, let alone the rural poor.

[These statements apply similarly to wind energy development. See also the comments by Garret Keizer (click here) specifically about wind energy and the rural poor.

wind power, wind energy, wind farms, human rights, animal rights, , anarchism, anarchosyndicalism, ecoanarchism