Analysis

Lawrence Freeman

September 20, 2018

The world is witnessing an increase in attacks on Africa’s relationships with China in various articles, as well as low-level, unthoughtful, messages on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. Not only does that content intend to demonize China as the new colonial empire of Africa, but it also includes vulgar demeaning caricatures of African Heads of State.

Could the reason for the uptick of these kinds of diatribes be related to the successful September 3-4, Forum on China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) summit in Beijing, attended by leaders from almost every African nation? China has reached out to Arica and formed a special relationship which is being embraced by African Heads of State. It should be clear to any intelligent historian, that China is not acting as an Imperialist manner towards Africa.

However, what has been conspicuously, egregiously omitted from this unsubstantiated vilification of China, is the history of Western nations and institutions, which have acted as an Imperialist power towards Africa. The latest accusation is that China is deliberately entrapping African nations into unpayable debt. However, this is precisely what the IMF, World Bank, Paris Club, along with their allies in the City of London and Wall Street did to Africa immediately following the “Winds of Change.”

The motivation for this propaganda barrage is that China via FOCAC and the Belt & Road Initiative is offering African nations a pathway toward growth uncontrolled by the financial predators in the City of London and Wall Street. Contrary to the myth that China is stealing African resources; which the Western powers did first under slavery, then under colonialism, and have continued under neo-colonialism, China is actually providing credit for physical infrastructure; the sin qua non to spur economic growth.

Debt and Credit for What?  

A pervasive and quite serious problem affecting well-intentioned individuals from all corners of the globe is the lack of understanding of what actually creates economic growth. Neither money, nor financial transactions, nor derivatives, nor speculation, nor rising stock markets, nor the market place are the cause of growth or synonymous with real economic growth.

Credits issued for infrastructure; water, energy, rail, roads, healthcare, and education, identifying the most vital categories, if properly organized, leads to an increase in the productivity i.e. the economic power of the society. This is measured by the ability of society to increase its physical output from one production cycle to the next. By utilizing advanced technologies embedded in new capital equipment, including infrastructure, farmers and workers can produce more efficiently. Simply providing abundant energy, high-speed railroads, and water inputs to an African nation would lead to a jump in economic output.  Shortly after the death of President Kennedy, the US ceased its commitment to assist Africa nations in expanding their infrastructure.

China is committed to lending, issuing credit-yes creating a debt to fund long-term investment in infrastructure. Credit directed in this way is good debt. With non-usurious interest rates over 15-20 years, the loan can be retired from the profit it generates to society. This form of debt is not equivalent to the hundreds of billions of dollars African nations were forced to pay to the financial capitals of the world for loans to cover rigged terms of trade, and currency devaluations.

If you study the American System of Political Economy with its cornerstone; Alexander Hamilton’s national credit policy, you will realize that China is emulating the best of America’s past. For example, President Franklin Roosevelt, who successfully applied Hamilton’s principle  to rebuild the Depression riddled US with state issued credits, would have little trouble understanding the principles of President Xi Jinping’s Belt & Road.

Economics and the Common Good

There is a deeper level to comprehending economic growth. Every human being is united by a universal principle often expressed as the “common good of mankind.” Yes, all human beings regardless of religion, color, ethnicity, or place of birth, share a “common interest.” We are all created with the power of creativity. Not logic, not deduction, not induction, but the power to hypothesis new ideas. The power of discovery, to discern new principles of the universe that we previously did not know but were there waiting to be revealed to the human mind. These scientific discoveries spawn new technologies which are the primary source of economic growth. Thus, it is the responsibility, nay the obligation of every society to nurture and develop that creative potential innate in all its citizens from birth to death.

For all citizens to realize their potential, live productive lives, and raise their families without fear of hunger and security, a nation must have the economic means to expand the total physical wealth of society over succeeding generations.  An advanced industrialized nation requires a healthy manufacturing sector, which is also an essential component of a productive agriculture sector.  The absence of robust agro-manufacturing economies in Africa is crime along with its huge deficit in infrastructure.

Sadly, the West does not have the vision to assist African nations in overcoming these deficiencies. China in all, but name has launched the equivalent of a Marshall Plan for Africa.

Among the eight major initiatives that President Xi laid out at the Africa-China Summit, China will:

1.Promote industrialization; 2. Support agricultural assistance programs; 3. Work with the African Union (Agenda 2063) to formulate a China-Africa infrastructure cooperation program; 4. Increase its imports from Africa, in particular non-resources products; 5. Train 1,000 high-caliber Africans for training in innovation sectors; provide Africa with 50,000 government scholarships; and sponsor seminar and workshop opportunities for 50,000 Africans and invite 2,000 African students to visit China for exchanges.

China has come to understand that it is the common interest of its own country, and in the fact all nations, is to help Africa develop productive industrialized societies not dependent on revenue from one resource or one crop. Under these improved conditions, hunger and poverty, the underlying causes for conflict, can be eliminated. Great progress can be accomplished in Africa and the world, if the US and Europe acquire the wisdom to join China’s Spirit of the Belt & Road

Below are three articles with excerpts that provide useful background to understanding Africa’s productive relationship with China.

“The recently concluded China-Africa Summit offers a new deal for Africa’s recovery. The Forum for China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) has the making of a 21st century equivalent of the Marshall Plan, America’s massive economic rescue programe that President Harry Truman unveiled for Europe on April 3, 1948.

AFRICA’S INDUSTRIALISATION

On its part, China is taking a Pan-African approach targeting projects with regional impact such as Kenya’s standard gauge railway.   Like the Marshall Plan that prioritized the reindustrialization of Europe after the war, China is laudably giving a pride of place to Africa’s industrialisation.

Industrialization was top on the list of President Xi Jinping’s eight-point plan to guide Chinese aid to Africa in the next three years. Recipients of Marshall Plan had to invest 60 percent of these funds in industry. The funds also involved Technical Assistance Programes to create a skilled labor force to drive industrialization.”       Read: China’s Marshall Plan for Africa-Debt or New Deal ?

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“Speaking as the Chairman of the African Union, President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, expressed the will of Africa very clearly: “Africa wishes to be a full and integral part of the Belt and Road Initiative.”And in spite of the myriad attacks in the Western media regarding the Belt and Road’s alleged “debt trap”—and its description of China’s extensive involvement in Africa as a “new colonialism”—this “fake news” has not blurred the vision of Africa’s leaders, who have stayed focused on the future of the continent.

Ramaphosa also praised the work of China’s Belt and Road Initiative: “Why do we support the Belt and Road Initiative?” “Because we are confident that this initiative, which effectively complements the work of FOCAC, will reduce the costs and increase the volume of trade between Africa and China.  It will encourage the development of Africa’s infrastructure, a critical requirement for meaningful regional and continental integration.” Read: FOCAC Summit: Turning Point in History

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“It can be said that this sentiment is near universal among the African nations now participating in the BRI. Indeed the president of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, told Xinhua on the sidelines of the summit, “Let me be very clear that Africa has absolutely no debt crisis; African countries are desperate for infrastructure. The population is rising, urbanization is there, and fiscal space is very small.” The AfDB president added, “They are taking on a lot more debt, but in the right way.” Read: Changes Underway as FOCAC Convenes

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Some Western media and politicians have recently created the phrase “debtbook diplomacy” to accuse China of “miring nations in debt” and “undercutting their sovereignty.”

According to CNN, a new report presented to the US State Department claims the “Chinese government is leveraging billions of dollars in debt to gain political leverage with developing countries.”

“This phrase ‘debtbook diplomacy’ shows the West is nervous of China-Africa cooperation. ‘Debtbook diplomacy’ is what they did to Africa for decades, but now China is actually helping African nations rid themselves of ‘the debt trap’ set by the West,” said Wang Yiwei, director of the Institute of International Affairs at Renmin University of China in Beijing.

The West left African countries with a heavy debt on projects and failed to support their sustainable development, or to increase productivity and help them realize self-reliance, Wang noted. “Western countries wanted Africa to become their raw materials supplier while maintaining their post-colonial influence over the continent. This prevented African countries from realizing their own industrialization, Wang said.

China, on the other hand, is helping the nations move toward self-reliance and industrialization. The West doesn’t like that and this is why it is attempting to slander China, Wang added.

Xu Weizhong, deputy director of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations’ Institute of West Asian and African Studies, said that “Africa needs a lot of investment to build infrastructure, and China’s loans, which have increased African countries’ debt, are necessary for their development.”

China’s assistance to Africa differs from what the West offers. China has a “crucial principle,” which is to respect African countries’ will and conditions. China has never forced African countries to accept loans on large infrastructure projects beyond their ability to pay, Wang said.

“China and Africa have walked an extraordinary path in developing relations and cooperation, and our peoples have benefited greatly from it,” Assistant Foreign Minister Chen Xiaodong said at the opening ceremony of the Seventh China-Africa Think Tank Forum in Beijing on July 4.

“A minority of Westerners are blinded by their ‘pride and prejudice’ and choose not to see this… maybe that is what they call ‘sour grapes’?” Chen said.

West is largest debt holder

Data shows that Western countries and West-led organizations are the largest owners of African debt, not China, Shen Shiwei, a research fellow at the Charhar Institute and former government relations and business consultant for Chinese enterprises in Africa, said in an article published on CGTN’s website.

Research from SAIS and the China Africa Research Initiative at Johns Hopkins University shows that China has provided loans worth $114.4 billion to Africa from 2000-2016, which accounts for 1.8 percent of Africa’s total external debt. 

“The IMF and World Bank own 36 percent of African debt.These multilateral financial institutions and other giant investors in Europe and the US have far stronger leverage [than China],” Shen noted in his article.

“For historical reasons, the West has many interests in Africa. Those that are reasonable should be respected when we cooperate with Africa. But for those that are unreasonable, should China and African countries continue to respect them? Before accusing China, the West should think about this carefully,” Xu said                   (emphasis added)

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Illustration: Luo Xuan/GT

The just-concluded EU Summit on migration has come up with measures like securing centers for migrants to process asylum claims, strengthening external border controls, and boosting financing for Turkey and countries in North Africa. But these are old solutions to old problems.

Since 2015, the EU has been working at full capacity to overcome the migration crisis. EU member states received over 1.2 million first-time asylum applications in 2015, more than double that of the previous year. But it seems that the European continent is still working in the same old way to try to prevent the entry of immigrants and not to address the causes of migration. Even if we assume these measures bring success in reducing immigration for some time, the EU will later be surprised when migrants use other means and methods to migrate, because the causes of migration still exist.

The root of migration is poverty. The African continent has suffered occupation and war for many decades. Many African countries have not yet been able to achieve the path of reform and development. This has put the people of these countries under unbearable pressure from poverty, ignorance and disease. They have pushed themselves into the abyss and tried to cross the border to reach Europe. They have faced danger and horror, believing a chance at a better future is worth dying for, if necessary.

With the emergence of the new system of globalization, the world became a small village and Africans opened their eyes to the luxury and good life enjoyed by Europeans, which inspired them to move to these countries. The majority of people from African countries continue to blame European countries for their backwardness and believe they should shoulder their responsibilities toward Africa. As a result of the failure of European countries to play the role that the African people were waiting for, these masses migrated to Europe to try to gain these rights. Europe, when dealing with refugees, looks at them from a perspective of human logic or empathy and does not view migration as a symptom of a disease. European countries must change their thinking and strategy to deal with the disease in order to make the causes of migration disappear.

It is time for Europe to look at the Chinese experience in Africa. The Chinese policy has  always focused on development. Economic relations between Africa and China have grown enormously, especially since 2006. The African continent is playing an important role in the Belt and Road initiative. China provides infrastructure funding and a workforce, and this infrastructure allows Africa to increase its production and exports, improving the quality of life and improving the conditions of millions of Africans.

Hope is the solution. The people of the African continent need hope. At least this last summit has come out with some words about more investment in Africa to help the continent achieve a substantial socio-economic transformation. China has been focusing on African development for a long time and has seen the results. The EU should work closely with China to push for the B&R to fight poverty in Africa and promote development. (emphasis added)

He Wenping is a senior research fellow at the Charhar Institute in China, and Hisham Abu Bakr Metwally is the first economist researcher at the Central Department for Export & Import Policy under the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Trade and Industry. bizopinion@globaltimes.com.cn

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By William Jones

The world is on tenterhooks waiting for the next moves from the Trump Administration in terms of the draconian tariffs he has threatened to place on China as well as on a number of other countries, including our close neighbors Canada and Mexico. And the question remains for most people: Is he really intent on carrying out the threat (the first tariffs are to take effect on July 6) or is this merely an “in-your-face” negotiating tactic to cut a better deal for the United States? We probably won’t know until the last moment, but a number of things seem to be clear.

Why the “Fire and Fury” on China Trade?

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President of Ghana Speaks out for Strong Independent Africa

Speaking at the Presidential Palace of Ghana on December 4, 2017 with French President Macron, Ghanaian President Akufo-Addo spoke eloquently of the need for Africa to be self-sustaining and independent. Emphasizing that when African nations became developed their people would have no need to migrate to Europe. To watch his speech click: Speech by the President of Ghana
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Through Science, Africa’s Challenges Will Be Met

December 10, 2017)–South Africa’s Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor told the third Science Forum in Pretoria on Dec. 7, that “it is through science that many of the challenges faced by our communities can be addressed.” A primary objective of the two-day forum, she said, is “to put science in the service of African society.” She stressed the importance of international collaboration, welcoming delegates from around the world to Africa’s largest “open science” event. Pan-African cooperation, in particular, is a hallmark of all of South Africa’s science and technology programs.

The purpose of the forum was to discuss the role of science in society. She said that one objective of the forum was to “showcase African science and technology to the world. We want to change the way they talk about us.” Pandor is dedicated to promoting African breakthroughs in science, which will change the way Africa has historically been viewed, and will help eliminate the “Afro-pessimism” on the continent itself.

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The New York Times Is All Wrong About Africa

Lawrence Freeman

August 3, 2017

The July 30th Sunday edition of the New York Times, published an article by its Africa reporter, Jeffrey Gettleman, entitled, “Loss of Fertile Land Fuels ‘Looming Crisis’ Across Africa.” The analysis, and conclusions of this article are all wrong, because they are based on false and ideologically driven axioms regarding the development of Africa.  Essentially, Gettlemen and the New York Times are steeped in the “Zero Growth” culture which became prevalent in the United States and the West in 1970s.

In the aftermath of the 1963 assassinations of President John F Kennedy and the ensuing “rock-drug-sex” counterculture, the groundwork was prepared for the onslaught the environmental movement. With its no-growth, anti-science, anti-industrialization outlook that dominated the thinking of the baby-boomer and succeeding generations, cultural pessimism became pervasive. This ideology combined with the looting of Africa’s natural resources by the financial predators of Wall Street and the City of London resulted in a policy of no development for Africa that has continued to the present.

Today Africa has the largest deficit of infrastructure per capita and per square kilometer on the planet. The lack of electrical power, railroads, water management, and modern highways is literally responsible for the deaths of millions of Africans each year.  Only since the entrance of China into Africa in the past decade with its commitment to build physical infrastructure, have we witnessed a change in the dynamic on the continent.

Economic Science

It is no accident that the US and Europe have not contributed to the construction of vital infrastructure projects; it’s their flawed policy. Infrastructure is not just one of several possible good ideas; rather it is an indispensable, irreplaceable ingredient to the success of any agro-industrial economy.  Infrastructure drives an economy forward and upward by incorporating new scientific advances in technology that improve the productive powers of the workforce, yielding increased economic output of wealth for society. The most wicked and pernicious feature of the Zero-Growth ideology is the denial of the unique creativity of Mankind. For thousands and millions of years Mankind has transformed his surrounding environment to make it more propitious for human expansion.  Like the discovery of “fire,” a million years ago, the Neolithic revolution 12,000 years ago was a revolution in Mankind’s knowledge of the universe and led to a population explosion. This non-linear growth pattern has been repeated many times over the last 10,000 years, as a result of the unique power of discovery by the human mind.

The essential underlying cause of the problems in Africa today is not over population, or loss of arable land, but underdevelopment.   The failure to grasp this elementary concept by the New York Times and others is the reason for the abysmal conditions of life in Africa’s that contributes to the easy recruitment to terrorist movements like Boko Haram in the Lake Chad Basin region.

False Axioms

For example, Gettleman cites the:

overwhelming degradation of agricultural land throughout Africa, with one recent study showing that more than 40 million Africans are trying to survive off land whose agricultural potential is declining.” He continues, “More than in any other region of the world, people in Africa live off the land. There are relatively few industrial or service jobs here. Seventy percent of Africa’s population makes a living through agriculture, higher than on any other continent, the World Bank says. But as the population rises, with more siblings competing for their share of the family farm, the slices are getting thinner.”

Why is agricultural potential of the land declining? Why are there relatively few manufacturing jobs? Why are the slices of land getting thinner?

The answer is not the Malthusian argument that Africans breed too fast and that this huge continent – almost three times the size of the continental US- has too many people trying to exist on a shrinking pie of arable land. The proper question to ask is; why after half century since the “Winds of Change” liberation from the colonial powers, Africans still do not enjoy the fruits of modern industrialized economies with a modern standard of living, instead of large pockets of abject poverty? Any poor-quality farm land, even the Sahara Desert, can be made productive with water. Less than 5% of cultivated land is irrigated In Africa. With manufacturing plants to build the irrigating machinery and sufficient energy to pump the water, millions of hectares of arable land can become fruitful. Nuclear powered desalination could provide fresh water from the Mediterranean and Red seas to the North African deserts. US farmers, among the most productive in the world, experienced huge increase in yields of food production including in the former desert of southern California by utilizing new technologies, fertilizers, irrigation, and abundant energy under President Franklin Roosevelt’s economic recovery.

Why has the US and the West not assisted African nations in acquiring the necessary infrastructure and new technologies to expand its cultivated land and build a substantial manufacturing sector as part of an integrated modern economy. In his brief Presidency, John F Kennedy collaborated with President Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana to build the Volta Dam hydro-power and industrial smelting complex. This what we should have continued to do over the last 50 years, and if we had, Africa would look completely different than it does today.

Population Reduction Is Not the Solution

In the concluding section the article, the New York Times and its reporter reveal the depraved thinking of the Zeitgest of western culture; we have too many people using up the fixed natural resources of our planet.

“Africa’s land pressures may seem overwhelming, maybe even unstoppable. But scientists say there are solutions within reach. For example, the continent has the highest fertility rates in the world, but more African governments are pushing contraceptives, saying the best answer for densely populated countries is smaller families.

‘The problem is too many people, too many cattle and too little planning,’ said Iain Douglas Hamilton, a wildlife activist in northern Kenya.”

   This view echoes Henry Kissinger’s infamous “National Security Study Memorandum 200,” written 1974-1976, which advocated reducing the population for “Third World” nations to guarantee an uninterrupted supply of vital natural resources to the West. For centuries, the British raciest imperialist school has targeted Africa’s population as inferior and as an impediment to their access of Africa’s precious minerals.

The birth a child can never be a problem for society. Each new human being, by the fact that it is human, intrinsically has the potential to contribute to new discoveries that can change the world, or contribute to the progress of society in more humble manner. Why not take up the challenge of developing the vast continent of Africa with its soon to be multi-billion population, and its rich untapped wealth? Presently we are witnessing the construction of desperately needed infrastructure on the Africa continent, with the assistance of China. Yet, Africa’s requires hundreds of gigawatts of electrical power, East-West and South-North railroads, high speed trains connecting the capital of each nation, and much, much, more. If the US joins the new paradigm of China’s “Belt and Road Initiative” and collaborates on eliminating poverty and hunger, and expanding Afrfia’s unrealized agricultural potential, the continent will be able to sustain an expanding population at a standard of living commensurate with that of the advanced sector nations.

Let us act on the words of President Franklin Roosevelt, when he told his son at the Casablanca Conference during World War II, that if we divert water into the Sahara Desert: “It’d make the Imperial Valley in California look like a cabbage patch.”

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The New Name for Peace is Development

Lawrence Freeman

June 30, 2017

Africa’s huge, unacceptable deficit in physical infrastructure is the primary cause for the continent’s problems; not over population, good governance or corruption.  It is this underdevelopment in physical economy that is literally killing millions of Africans, through disease, dirty water (cholera,) starvation, and tribal-ethnic-religious warfare.

With the population of Africa projected to reach 2.4 billion in 2050-in less than two generations from now, of which approximately 30%-over 700 million will be 35 years of younger; the continent is facing an existential crisis.  With hundreds of millions of youth ready to enter new workforce, unless African nations adopt future oriented polices now to grow healthy economies and provide them with meaningful-productive jobs, they face a potential catastrophe. To accomplish this task, governments must initiate planning and investment today for hard infrastructure in the vital categories; of energy, road, rail, and water, and soft infrastructure in health and education to create a platform for robust economic growth. Statesmen should guide their nations with a vision in their mind’s eye of how their economy should be function one to two generations into the future.

In Africa most especially, there is no substitute for infrastructure and grand-transformative projects, such as Transaqua, and East-West/North-South railroads, to ensure the survival and well-being of its soon to be billions of citizens. As a result of the Chinese One Belt-One Road policy, championed by President Xi Jinping, Africa has an opportunity to construct the infrastructure that should have been built a half century ago following the “Winds of Change,” if not earlier. With China’s assistance new railroads have been built in Ethiopia and Kenya for the first time in a century, but Africa needs much, much more. Today’s mere 100,000 megawatts for sub-Sahara Africa is a virtual death sentence. Africa needs hundreds of thousands of additional megawatts of power along millions of kilometers of railroad track for passenger and freight, and this is just the beginning of what can and should be done to lift all Africans up to a 21st century standard of living.

Like the African proverb says: The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The next best time is today. Let’s get on with it!

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UN Adviser Prof Ibrahim Gambari, Tells The Truth About Africa

Lawrence Freeman

March 1, 2002

The most urgent challenge facing Africa is “poverty prevention and development,” according to Gambari, who provides the following facts and figures. “Over 42% of Africa’s population lives on less than $1 a day, and 40% in inhuman poverty. Out of 700 million Africans, 120 million women are illiterate, and 150,000 die every year as a result of complications related to pregnancy. Even worse is the death [in the last decade] of 22 million children who die before they reach their first birthday.” This misery is concentrated in Africa’s Sub-Saharan region.

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Ghana Amb Dr. Kofi Awoonor: ‘The United Nations has lost its moral authority’

Dr. Kofi Awoonor is the ambassador and permanent representative of Ghana to the United Nations. In 1991 he was chairman of the Group of 77, which represents the more than 100 developing sector nations.

Interview-July 2, 1993

” You don’t know what we are going through, in the developing countries, after suffering so many years of colonial exploitation. We did say that in the Non- Aligned Africa’s position has been buttressed very strongly, since we are weakest link in the economic chain, by countries that are developing strong economies ; countries in Asia in particular, by Malaysia, by Indonesia, al1d so on. These countries have seen a concerted attack, a conspiracy to undermine their own development efforts by a singularly austere focus on the liberal aspect of human rights.
Of course, the NGOs-we are a little worried sometimes about the NGOs. I had a lot of problems with the NGOs when I was chairing the G-77 , on the environmental issue. I remember addressing the entire NGO group at one of the preparatory meetings in Geneva. And I said to them: “For God’s sake, you cannot make environmental work part and parcel of some kind of almost dilettantish attachment to whales and elephants, and such wonderful species that we have here. Human beings are imperiled. “Some of them seemed to understand it. But you see many of them are coming from this intellectual, emotional, psychological tradition of the West, which has perfected the habit of separate things.”

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Ghana Amb Dr. Kofi Awonoor: ‘By a stroke of the pen, cancel all debts’

Interview-October 22, 1991

Dr. Kofi Nyidevu Awoonor is the Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Ghana to the United Nations. He is also chairman of the Group of 77, which represents the more than 100 developing sector nations.

When the question of the environment was put on the international agenda a few years ago, we were enthusiastic supporters of this issue, because we share a common planet and we must be concerned as to its fate. But suddenly, when we, the developing countries, insisted upon the question of development being an intrinsic aspect of any effort to deal with environmental degradation on a global scale, we were being told that we were introducing an irrelevant issue. And we said: It’s not only a question of keeping the world green, or protecting the flora or the fauna of this planet, but the human beings which are the makers or unmakers of this planet. A great percentage of that human population lives in a state of abject poverty. In our parts of the world, poverty is the cause of environmental degradation, if it is not in the developed parts of the world, where over consumption is ..

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