'Alligator down dey!'
It sounds more than a bit vainglorious to say 'I told you so' especially if one keeps saying it, time after time. What's sadder though, is if one continues to see oneself being proved right, time after time, and having to bite your tongue to avoid pointing out that you knew it would happen. What's even sadder is if you can actually prove that you were right.
In the papers last week were two experts, two Jamaicans, whose advice is vey likely to be ignored. If we do we will regret it – while we try to clean up and recover from the disasters they predict. One is geologist Anthony Porter, the other economist Professor Norman Girvan
Porter, a retired geologist was warning about some of the probable consequences for Jamaica of global warming and climate change. His prognosis was that if we don’t act fast, that is, right now, we stand to lose many lives and much expensive property. He wasn't trying to be alarmist. Geologists don't usually do that, accustomed as they are to thinking in millions of years, aeons, epochs, and periods with Greek names like Triassic and Cenozoic.
'Alligator down dey!'
We have a saying in Jamaica: “when fish come from river bottom and tell you sey alligator down dey, believe him!"
Porter says “… the pace at which the ice sheets and glaciers are melting is downright scary to frightening.… If the predictions being made are correct, then all of us in Jamaica and the Caribbean need to heed the warnings. We also need to set up a scientifically driven early warning and watchdog system to check and monitor the effects of rising sea levels…”
I am not going to quote all of Tony Porter's article here because I think you should read it. It'scalled "Planetary meltdown and Jamaica" and was published in last Sunday's Gleaner.
Porter is worried by the fact that already, at high tide, the Caribbean washes over the Norman Manley Highway. If the sea level rises by 10 feet as predicted, he says “Port Royal, the Cays, Palisadoes Road, and Norman Manley Airport will be completely submerged.… Elsewhere in the island, all coastal sections less than 10 feet in height above the high tide mark will be inundated by the sea, including sections of coastal highways, beaches, hotels and other buildings, low-lying swamps, mangroves, Black River Morass, Negril Morass, and the Montego Bay International airport, to name a few: groundwater tables will rise, and weather patterns will change."(Porter)
I (JM) believe that the predicted 10 foot rise is the minimum to be expected, and if the Greenland melt-down accelerates and the ice shelves of Antarctica melt faster than predicted, the rise could be much more sudden and catastrophic. Portmore, Black River and Savanna la Mar would go. The highest point in Portmore, as I reported thirty years ago, is the gas station in Independence City at the lofty eminence of 18 feet (3 meters).
I return to Porter who says:
If a 10-ft rise should occur, then In short, planetary meltdown will result in economic, physical and social chaos, and human tragedy will be unprecedented in Jamaica's history, as every aspect of life will be affected - communications, fishing, food supplies, health, insurance, industry, power generation (if we still depend on oil), transportation, and so on."
What Tony Porter is pointing out is that both international airports, Port Bustamante, the electric power stations, the petroleum refinery and most of the capital investment in our hotel industry will simply become useless. Much of the road system will also disappear and the sugar producing plains of St Catherine and Clarendon will probably become saline deserts.
Yet, there are people who still talk about producing sugar for export instead of food, of producing ethanol instead of food and of investing billions into holiday infrastructure that will be hip-deep in salt water before the foreign idiots who lent us the money are paid back.
Global Warming and food security are right now the most important facts of our lives – but nobody cares.
The Prophet unheeded
As I predicted ad nauseam a decade ago, globalisation is for us an almost unmitigated curse. Freeing up our markets and granting most favoured nation status to all kinds of foreign predators makes no sense at all, especially since our capitalists have almost all given up production for margin gathering, and land owners regard land as a portfolio asset rather than as a productive resource.
Ten years go in discussing an initiative called the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) I said "The capitalists and bureaucrats of the developed world have been working hard on a big surprise for the rest of us. It is called the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) and its purpose, they say, is to make everybody happier and richer. It is also designed to protect us from ourselves and to protect poor, weak, harmless investors from the predatory menaces of indolent Third World politicians. "(Global Reich - August 30,1998.)
According to its sponsors the aim of MAI is to “provide a broad multilateral framework for international investment with high standards for the liberalisation of investment regimes and investment protection and with effective dispute settlement procedures”
I perceived the MAI as something more sinister
"Equal rights for millionaires
"At the heart of MAI is the idea that in a truly free world, every millionaire should have the same rights as every other millionaire. Or, forgive me, every MacDonald’s or Disney investing in say, Jamaica, should have the same rights as Tastee’s or the local jerk pork counter."
The recent dalliance between the European Union and the Regional Negotiating Machinery of CARICOM was not meant to reproduce the results of the MAI – most of which have been incorporated into the WTO. The latest affaire has been meant to hogtie us more securely for the pleasure and profit of European usurers and exploiters, a more refined form of economic sadism.
Professor Norman Girvan has been campaigning to have the forced marriage of the so-called Economic Partnership Agreement annulled before it is forcibly consummated.
Apart from individually obnoxious provisions in the EPA, Professor Girvan points out:
" … the EPA is a treaty that is legally binding, of indefinite duration, will be very difficult to amend once it is in force, covers a wide range of subject areas that have hitherto been within the jurisdiction of domestic or regional policy, and which few people know about and even less understand. “
“ The [EPA] include services, customs administration, investment, current account payments, expanded intellectual property protection, public procurement, electronic commerce, competition, investment, labour and the environment. There are also tightly prescribed dispute settlement procedures and implementation institutions with powers to take binding decisions. Caribbean countries will be for many years amending their laws, regulations, policies and practices and setting up new institutions to comply with the EPA."
Apart from President Jagdeo, none of our governors seem to be paying much attention to Professor Girvan.
Democracy for some
When the MAI was proposed, as I pointed out in 'Global Reich’ and other columns a decade ago, the European parliament insisted the proposed MAI be withdrawn and should not be re-submitted, except after wide general democratic consultation. And, when the various members of the EU were deciding on a more perfect union, they insisted that every country be given the right to discuss and decide whether it would join and under what terms.
The EU is so big on democracy and public participation that they devised and implemented a treaty called the Aarhus Convention which makes public participation mandatory in important areas of public life and they have recommended that the world adopt the convention.
According to the UN’s Economic Commission for Europe
"The …Aarhus Convention goes to the heart of the relationship between people and governments. The Convention … is also a Convention about government accountability, transparency and responsiveness.
The Aarhus Convention grants the public rights and imposes on Parties and public authorities obligations regarding access to information and public participation and access to justice."
Professor Girvan says:
"… can you imagine a situation where a new Constitution touching many aspects of the lives of citizens were to be adopted within two months from publication of the text to provisional application, without widespread public consultation, dissemination and opportunity for review? The EPA is like a new economic constitution regulating many aspects of our external and domestic policy.…. "
The Professor may not realise that the European Parliament agrees with him – in theory. So why doesn't the European Union practice what it preaches?
It all depends on who you are. There is one law for the rich and another for the Haitians and the rest of us.
You don’t believe me! Here is a quotation from a database published by the rich countries of the world (the OECD) to give guidance to us lesser breeds without the law. I have quoted it many times over the last decade for reasons that will be obvious when you read it. Under the rubric
"Globalisation: what challenges and opportunities for governments”
there is this indecent suggestion
" … Governments may take policy processes to the international level as a strategy to escape domestic opposition and to limit the number of players involved in policy. The “behind-closed-doors” nature of international trade negotiations, for example, has been noted as being helpful in overcoming protectionist pressures on the domestic front Claiming “tied hands” as a result of international agreements, may be a way for governments to present policies at home that are — despite being in the national interest (however defined) — unpalatable to certain groups, and therefore politically difficult to implement. There may, in practice, be an implicit trade-off between efficiency and democracy. "
So, Now you know.
(Next week: Amnesty’s latest report and what I wrote in 1964)
Copyright ©2008 John Maxwell