Category: Vision 2020

Saving Our Soils

sos[1]There is an enormous hurdle to the sustainable use of our arable lands, whether for energy crops, food production or even reforestation: our agricultural activity over the last half-century has significantly reduced soil fertility. Before being cultivated, these lands had been self-sustaining, closed-cycle ecosystems for millions of years. The nutrients that vegetation extracted from the soil were returned to it through the decay of dead branches, leaves and fruit. CO2 from the atmosphere was incorporated into plant tissue, and this carbon was transferred to the soil through plant decay – soil humus levels were built up. Continue reading

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Permaculture: the foundation of nutritional security

Permaculture is the art and science of designing sustainable human communities that utilise integrated farming practices based on the principles learned from the study of natural ecosystems. Its key objectives are to bring food production closer to consumers, to restore soil fertility, and to cultivate land in ways that maximise long term productivity, while minimising artificial inputs and effort. Small-scale, land and energy-efficient, multi-crop systems replace large-scale, energy-consuming, extensive mono-crop ones. This approach avoids and reverses the enormous problems caused by modern industrial agriculture, such as habitat and species loss, soil degradation, erosion and salinity, as well as the unnecessary economic and environmental costs of transporting food over large distances. Continue reading

A Testing Time

Extracts from the address by Rundheersing Bheenick, Governor, Bank of Mauritius, at the Annual Dinner in honour of Economic Operators, Pailles, 1 December 2011. For the full document – click here.

We are living in troubled and testing times. Several questions arise. Will we be agile enough to meet the severe tests ahead? What kind of growth should we seek? Should it not be more inclusive? And more equitable? We are trying hard to move into niche markets but is this enough? What else must we do to escape the middle-income trap, to be amongst the best small economies, not just in Africa, but in the wider world where our main competitors are to be found?

We have seen the likes of Malta, Singapore, Hong Kong, Ireland and others raising the bar to achieve GDP per capita, adjusted for purchasing power, more than twice the levels we have achieved despite our continued economic growth. Can we make the breakthrough? Are we prepared to do what it takes to do so? Continue reading

Transport today and tomorrow

The far-sighted National Development Strategy superbly integrated policies for land use and transport. Unfortunately, politicians ignored it and implemented half-baked projects in response to oligarchic lobbies and contemporary crises rather than future needs. This follows the sad precedent of dismantling Mauritius’ extensive railway network, which used to link not only Port Louis with the towns of Plaines Wilhems, but also Mahébourg, Souillac, Tamarin, Flic-en-Flac, Pamplemousses, Rivière du Rempart, Flacq and GRSE.

At that time, people preferred buses and sugar growers lorries as they were faster and more convenient but, as private car ownership has increased, our roads have become gridlocked during ever lengthening rush hours. A plethora of new roads is a reactive solution and the recent revival of the Light Rail Transit (LRT) project, re-routed through Bagatelle, seems intended to increase the value of a certain sugar estate’s holdings. Continue reading

Fuelling the future

In January 1999, the world witnessed the end of a century of cheap oil. It then cost less than $20 per barrel. Few predicted it would reach the $100+ levels of today. Some are predicting $500 oil by 2020. This would be devastating for Mauritius, not only for tourism but for most of our industries and our quality of life. Well before this level is reached, it will be cost effective to convert coal into oil, as South Africa has done for decades, causing coal prices to increase too. Is it possible to avoid catastrophe and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels? Continue reading

Chagos and UNESCO

The Third German Empire sought to ethnically cleanse its homeland, rule its neighbours through vassal governments and plunder the world to enrich its Nazi elite. Why? Because it was God’s will for His chosen people? No, that was propaganda to recruit an army and justify genocide. The real reasons were avarice and vanity – the Nazi elite were not satisfied with what they already had, like a cancer in the body of humanity. And they were not alone. Of course, some empires are more ethical than others and exterminating alien peoples can be substituted with racial apartheid or merely discrimination.

Dominant empirical elites can only be defeated from without by a coalition of rival empires or from within by popular revolt. Historically, the former leads to a new dominant empire and the latter to a new ruling elite. With the advent of nuclear weapons, a club of empires which possessed them was established to prevent a global holocaust. The first agreement was to only engage in proxy wars on the territories of non-aligned states not in possession of a nuclear deterrent. Ensuring non-proliferation was the second.

The Chagossians are just one more indigenous people, on a very long list, who have been the innocent victims of expansionary empires. However, they are exceptional for the ecological value of the islands they once occupied and the matriarchal society that arose there. Both need to be preserved in their own right and to prevent the ecological and cultural impoverishment of future generations. If the Chagossians were to return en masse, both would be doomed. So what’s the answer? Surely not UNESCO? Continue reading

Republic 2.0

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While some peoples are overthrowing dictators in favour of a democratic dream, traditional democracies are facing popular calls for fundamental reform. Representative democracy was widely adopted in the post-industrial revolution era and now the internet era is revealing its flaws. But what could replace it? Before redesigning the system, it is essential to reflect on the foundations of good governance.

Laws

Laws regulate how society functions, define how citizens should expect to be treated and set limits on individual freedoms. Fundamental laws, such as human rights, have longevity and apply universally, some laws may be relevant only to specific segments, while others need to evolve to take account of changing circumstances and aspirations of the population. Law reform should be a fundamental societal process involving the citizens that the laws affect, facilitated by legal experts and tested, when necessary by referenda.

The process of resolving alleged of violations of  laws could follow the current adversarial court system or reflect a new legal framework more appropriate for the consensus-driven, collaborative society of tomorrow. Continue reading