I would differ with Roberto only in the following (which is more of
an addition than an exception, in any case):
Grounding the existence or non-existence of governmental supports in
concrete criteria is not a "subsidy" when these measure are taken to
compensate for what otherwise are distorting factors. When these
measure are taken to reflect the true costs to the environment (i.e.
to the nation, it's patrimony and future), these are not subsidies
but rather legitimate corrective measures.
The principle problem is that comprehensive criteria for measuring
"true costs" and "true value" have not been developed, nor have
"enough" funds been dedicated to that end. Dale is right regarding
the failure of energy units to distinguish between what we could
call VITAL energy and less vital energy, and his emphasis may have
been more economically oriented than vitality oriented, although
those two converge also (and when that happens OFPA and organic
itself will become irrelevant, since we'll ALL be in the same boat
and on the same track - or stream or tack, in nautical terms - and I
do mean WHEN, not IF).
We are looking at the need for the things like the organism Misha's
now involved with ("Redefining Progress") is doing (although I might
call it "Redefining Reality"). Things are going in the right
direction and this kind of discussion is very positive (and more so,
to the degree something concrete springs from it).
Another problem (of course) is the degree that government has
established commitments with private interest groups whose goals and
policies run counter to the greater public good but whose influence
is disproportionate (distorting) in terms of the quality and
orientation of the legislation emanated from the congressional
bodies the influence, in relation to the greater public good.
Therefore, ecology, agriculture and sustainable economic development
are all inseparable from public (i.e. governmental) policy, which
MUST be supported (and controlled) by an organized, cohesive, MASS
public (rather than corporate) response. This is where the power
In the market (and the consumer wields it when real choices are
available), as well as at the ballot box (to back up the former or
if real choices AREN'T available, due to factors such as Roberto
describes, where governmental shortsightedness or connivance
distorts the marketplace by limiting choices or supporting
The media are obviously important in this endeavor (including sanet
and the wwww in general), among other means of mass communication.
Douglas Hinds - CeDeCoR, A.C.
Centro para el Desarrollo Comunitario y Rural, Asociacion Civil
(Center for Rural and Community Development,
a Mexican non-profit organization)
Cordoba, Veracruz; Cd. Guzman, Jalisco; Loma Bonita, Oaxaca
& Reynosa, Tamaulipas Mexico
*********** REPLY SEPARATOR ***********
Saturday, May 20, 2000, 1:33:55 AM, Roberto wrote:
RV> >Anyone who is sustainable has to be economically viable. Right? Do organic
RV> >farmers not need to make money to survive? The ecological part of
RV> There are farms which are moving towards ecological sustainability
RV> (which is what I perceive to be the pinnacle/ideal of organic farming)
RV> but they are not economically viable (and therefore outside your
RV> sustainability circle) for at least three reasons:
RV> - The damage to the ecology has been so serious that to repair
RV> it, some form of subsidy is needed until the balance is restored; at
RV> that point the system can also become economically viable without
RV> subsidy. In fact, the current system today is *subsidizing*
RV> ecologically unsustainable fossil-based systems, making them appear
RV> economically viable.
RV> - The present system (laws, bureaucracy, inspectors) is greatly
RV> biased against ecologically sustainable practices in favor of
RV> fossil-based (chemical/mechanical) systems, making it doubly difficult
RV> for ecological farms to be economically viable (listen to Sal!)
RV> - Economic viability can be fudged, manipulated, misrepresented,
RV> faked through hidden subsidies, etc. because it uses money as measure
RV> rather than other measuring sticks which are more difficult to cheat
RV> (like energy - this is why the full-cost energy accounting is
RV> Because of the market system, making "economic viability" as the
RV> priority goal (pinnacle of sustainability, if you like) actually
RV> *selects for* ecologically unsustainable systems which can hide (ie,
RV> externalize) their ecological costs.
RV> Because of these factors, it is true that some organic farms may fall
RV> outside your circle of sustainability (ie, economic viability +
RV> environmentally-friendly). But then, the government should step in to
RV> provide subsidy until ecological balance is restored. After all,
RV> governments today are throwing good money into all kinds of subsidies
RV> for huge corporations running ecologically unsustainable megafarms.
RV> Roberto Verzola
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