Drawing a Line in the Sod
US -- South Dakota farmers got fed up with agribusinesses swallowing up one family farm after another. In November 1998, 5g percent of the state's voters approved a constitutional amendment to ban corporations from owning farmland. Corporations are also forbidden to hire local farmers to raise livestock or crops. A court challenge is expected. [Dakota Rural Action, Box 549, Brookings, SD 57006]
The Virtual Economy
JAPAN -- Eamonn Fingleton, the Tokyo-based author of In Praise of Hard Industries, believes the cyber-hyped New Economy is not a fast-track to the future but a dead-end street. The US "has been too hasty in allowing its advanced manufacturing industries to fade away," he warns. While the Information Economy has created "a surfeit of jobs for a few highly intelligent workers," it offers "virtually no jobs for anyone else." Info-based economies are "notably weak exporters" that generate "only about one-tenth as much exporting as the manufacturing industries that the US has been abandoning." Unlike hard manufactured goods -- e.g., clothing, tools, shoes -- "information-based products are culture-specific. Thus they are more or less unsaleable in foreign markets."
An Island in Chains
PUERTO RICO -- US-based chain stores and mega-malls are eating up Puerto Rico's open spaces reports the InterPress News Service. Commercial properties already occupy 22 million square feet of the island's surface (and that doesn't include the parking lots). Wal-Mart has built nine stores and Home Depot, K-Mart, Macy's and Sam's are vying to catch up. In addition to destroying small locally owned businesses, the US chains also ravage the local ecology. "Megastores like Wal-Mart tend to establish themselves in agricultural lands," says Sarah Peische of Centro de Accion Ambiental. Plaza las Americas, a huge mall built on once-productive dairy land, now hosts more than 200 stores. Juan Rosario of the eco-group Mision Industrial, claims that Wal-Mart "determines its future store Locations after obtaining inside government information on where highways will be built and where their exits will be."
Logs and Kilos Set to Roll
NICARAGUA -- President Amoldo Aleman has overturned a logging moratorium and legalized the export of cedar and mahogany. The ruling benefits the wealthy families that control the g6 lumber companies operating in the country. Sandinista Party Executive Secretary Walmaro Gutierrez accuses Aleman of "opening the doors to indiscriminate exploitation of these precious woods." In what was possibly the last attempt to control illegal logging under Nicaragua's "Operation Ecology" program, National Police intercepted 22 trucks loaded with 200 cubic meters of wood -- mahogany, cedar and pochote -- valued at $300,000. According to ACERA Notes [Native Forest Network, PO Box 57, Burlington, VT 05402, (802) 863-0571, www.aerca.org] the trucks were carrying more than just precious wood. "Cocaine and marijuana were camouflaged beneath the wood. Now that logging has been legalized, it will be harder than ever to intercept drugs hidden beneath the logs."
Doming Down the Millennium
UK -- Britain has erected a costly Millennium Dome to honor the year 2000 with "the world's greatest exploration of who we are and where we are going." (No matter who you are, it will cost you 22 [pounds sterling] [36 bucks] to go in.) The Dome is filled with 15 corporate-sponsored theme-sites celebrating consumption. Friends of the Earth/UK notes that, instead of a vision of a sustainable future, the Dome offers "the symbolism of corporate dominance of our society." The Dome's Journey Zone is sponsored by Ford. The Mind Zone is hosted by British Aerospace and General Electric Corp. -- Britain's two biggest armsmakers. Home Planet Zone is sponsored by British Airways. The Our Town Story Theatre is run by McDonald's. While Ethical Consumer magazine opines that "coming clean about unethical activities which the sponsors . …