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Intervention by Denise Caruso Read Intervention by Denise Caruso, Executive Director of the Hybrid Vigor Silver Award Winner, 2007 Independent Publisher Book Awards; Best Business Books 2007, Strategy+Business Magazine

‘KNOWLEDGE IS POWER,
ONLY IF YOU KNOW HOW TO USE IT’

by Denise Caruso ~ March 12, 2007.
Permalink | Filed under: Hybrid Vigor, 21st Century Risk, Planetary Life.

I really liked this piece in Alternet this morning about the mythology of carbon offsets; thought I’d pass it along. Some of you on this list have been raising these issues with me privately for a while now, and I’m glad to see them start to pick up some steam in the public eye.

Also I’m very interested in the .org from whence the author came: the Institute for Local Self Reliance in Minneapolis. I know nothing about them yet, but I hope to.

That’s because I have been thinking for a while now that the only reliable action on the big hard complicated problems like climate change and transgenics/biotech et al. is going to come from communities and stakeholders working together, face to face. A lot of the top-down philanthropy we’re hearing so much about is very likely to end up being a band-aid that doesn’t stick.

It’s already pissing off some of the people it’s helping (at the TED conference last week, I am told that a former African minister basically said, ‘Stop helping us, it’s not helping,’ while pointing out that not all of Africa is in the throes of genocide or dying of AIDS), and may pour some unhelpful and possibly even hazardous “solutions” down our throats without us being able to say or do much about it.

For example, the Gates Foundation is trying to start a new Green Revolution in Africa. I hear they’ve already hired two former Monsanto executives to start inundating Africa with custom-designed transgenics crops — despite the fact that Africa has been stalwartly against transgenics since the start.

It’s either tremendously dumb or tremendously cynical (or both) that they are using the words “Green Revolution.” Have they forgotten that the original Green Revolution was a near-total disaster?

The idea behind it was to drive up crop yields in developing countries; the most modern knowledge of genetics and chemistry was used to develop new crop strains and powerful new chemicals to go along with them to serve as fertilizers, pesticides and fungicides.

And it certainly did increase yields in underdeveloped countries like India, Mexico and Sri Lanka, sometimes to an astonishing degree. But because the new higher yield crops depended on large amounts of expensive chemicals, poor farmers ended up not being able to compete in the marketplace with rich landowners and multinationals; this did little or nothing to alleviate either poverty or hunger. And the planet ended up dangerously polluted as a result.

And now the largest philanthropy in the world is trying to do it again?

I wrote a little something about the ongoing potential for these kinds of philanthropic disasters for Worldchanging’s ‘What’s Next’ feature a couple of months back.

Also, apropos of all of this is my NYT column from yesterday about knowledge v. know-how, which was what I hope is the beginning of a longer discussion I get to have in print, somewhere or another, about ways to increase human know-how in the areas where we need it most.

By the way, if you like this column, please email it to your friends and colleages — from the NYT page, not by cutting and pasting. This is an indicator to the Powers That Be what kinds of coverage people like and want.

2 Responses to ‘KNOWLEDGE IS POWER,
ONLY IF YOU KNOW HOW TO USE IT’

  1. Tim Carlson

    Dear Ms. Caruso — We were in touch a couple of years back when I was producing FAST, the (snappiest little) e-letter on French science. Brilliant luminaries pulled the plug on FAST, and one of the things I’ve gone on to is working a bit with FARM, a new French foundation for agriculture and rural life in the South (focused on ACP countries). Their approach is pretty good even with their corporate funding, and I thought of their work when I read your post on the Green Revolution. Their URL is http://www.fondation-farm.org.
    Anyway, I enjoyed your article in the NYT and am glad to be on your list.
    Let’s stay in touch,
    Tim Carlson
    Paris, France

  2. Denise Caruso

    Tim, it is so great to hear from you! I absolutely loved FAST, as you know. Are they archived anywhere?

    Glad you liked the NYT column — I’m posting another one in a few minutes — and thanks for the tip re FARM.

    What’s an ACP country? (Typical ignorant American, I know …)

    Denise

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