The European Union Green rhetoric

All the versions of this article: [English] [Castellano]

Authors: Luis González Reyes and Pedro Ramiro [1](Members of Ecologistas en Acción).

January 2005.

The analysis of the EU policies cannot be done outside the framework of the capitalist economic development model in line with the basic principles of neoliberalism. In this sense, EU environmental policy is not different from those applied in other sectors. The fundamental dogma is to condition all the approaches-in this case, the environmental ones-to the market.


 

1. The Union environmental discourse

In recent times the European Union has been developing an environmental legislation that in most cases is more permissive than the national legislation of its Member States. However, its environmental concerns do not arise from a true attempt to achieve sustainability, it is rather the result of the fact that the ecological damage cannot be concealed any longer and the fact that the European population as become more aware of environmental issues.

The European Union has attempted to lead the World in the progress towards a sustainable development model. In order to do that, it has revised this concept: Sustainable development jeans, as far as the Union is concerned, the perpetuation of a capitalist production and consumption model, the sovereignty of financial economics as a growth engine whilst its speeches and treaties are seasoned with ecological jargon adapted to the needs at the time [2].
As proof of that, the Treaty establishing the European Constitution states from the beginning the values that are going that it is going to be based on in order to achieve its objectives.

One of the objectives of the Union it mentions (art. I-3.3) is that “The Union shall work for the sustainable development of Europe based on balanced economic growth and price stability, a highly competitive social market economy, aiming at full employment and social progress, and a high level of protection and improvement of the quality of the environment”. All the articles of the draft constitution repeat once and again that the aim is to balance environmental protection and market economy. But they are talking about something impossible, as that market economy is ultimately responsible for the current ecological crisis. And when it comes to choosing between one or the other, the EU policies, that will be discussed in detail later in this document, give a very clear answer this question. Furthermore, these values will be exported, as “in its relations with the wider world, the Union shall uphold and promote its values and interests” and “it shall contribute to peace, security, the sustainable development of the Earth, solidarity and mutual respect among peoples, free and fair trade, eradication of poverty and the protection of human rights (...)” (art. I-3.4).

All this green rhetoric the European Union is using to try and hide its unfriendly face, is supplemented with other similar statements: “Environmental protection requirements must be integrated into the definition and implementation of the policies and activities (...) with a view to promoting sustainable development” (art. III-119), and “consumer protection requirements shall be taken into account” (art. III-120). But, how can that be achieved? Who should be responsible for it?... All things considered, it own lack of definition deprives these objectives of any value.

Article II-97 is also rhetorical: “A high level of environmental protection and the improvement of the quality of the environment must be integrated into the policies of the Union and ensured in accordance with the principle of sustainable development”. It should be pointed out that this article does not provide for the individual’s subjective right to a healthy environment (as recognized in the Aarhus Convention, signed by the European Union and all its Member States), but it is rather a mere governing principle, that is, a responsibility of public authorities that individuals cannot demand. Therefore, the environmental references in the draft Constitution fit in perfectly with the European Union 2001 Sustainable Development Strategy, which pretended to clad the production capitalism with a green outfit.

In any case, it must be pointed out that it is difficult to uphold this argument without running into some inconsistencies. Contradictions come to surface, for example, when we pay attention to the scope and level of detail used in economic policy discussion. In this sense there is a section that deals exclusively with the national market and another one that deals with the economic and monetary policy. Convergence criteria (art. III-198.1), inflation control (art. I-30.2) or deficit control (art. III-185.1) are discussed in detail in these sections, unlike any of the environmental intentions vaguely express in the Treaty. Environmental issues are discussed in chapter III “Policies in other areas”.

Faced with such a declaration of intentions, we can ask ourselves what the European Union has done in the past to achieve sustainability. In order to find an answer, it may be helpful to compare theory and practice. We are going to illustrate the Constitution articles with sectoral policies that have been developed to this effect, and we will see that those objectives are not only unattainable but there is also no real interest to achieve them. The real European Union policy, we insist, leaves aside its alleged respect for the environment because it clashes with the preponderance of the neoliberal economic objectives, which are incompatible with the progress towards an environmentally sustainable social model.

Before starting a detailed assessment of each sector, it would be helpful to list some of the fundamental principles governing the neoliberal mechanism of the European project, which have a huge impact on the environment.

Using GDP (a magnitude designed basically to measure monetary flows, that is, market activity) to measure wellbeing is a dogma of faith that proofs again the narrow development path of the much-trumpeted ecological sensitivity of the European Union, since many facts that threaten the quality of the environment have a positive reflection on GDP accounting. For instance, this is what happens if the water coming out of the tap ceases to be drinkable and we have to by bottled mineral water, if more cars are manufactured or more trees are felled. Destroying in order to reconstruct is more profitable for capitalism.
The European Union defines itself as a single market where competition is free and undistorted (art. I-3.2) and this is radically opposed to sustainability. Indeed, how can the continuous development of goods distribution through thousands of kilometres using fossil fuels based only on profitability criteria be sustainable?

The financial capital preponderance in this economic model that the current Project consolidates is another feature that reflects the primacy of economic interests over environmental interests. The creation of a single financial market [3] boosted by the European Union strengthens speculative capital, which has disastrous consequences for the environment. There is no doubt that the continuous crisis caused by financial speculation have contributed to the dismantling of the production system (especially the small local systems, much more integrated in the middle) and the increasing pressure on peripheral countries to exploit their natural resources to the maximum in order to obtain foreign exchange. We mustn’t forget Esther that financial capital is what allows a small percentage of the population to maintain very high and unsustainable consumption levels.

1.1 Transport

The European Union was conceived to decentralize and spread manufacturing around the continent, and to establish long distance distribution and commerce, which increases energy consumption and pollutant emissions. Decentralization is mainly internal, but it is also done outside the EU, as several initiatives of the European Union show, i.e. the new round of negotiations under the WTO, the creation of the Euro-Mediterranean Free Trade Area (EMFTA) or the free trade treaties with Mercosur.

Under this transport model the environmental costs are not reflected in the expense account. Currently transport is growing faster than GDP within the Union [4] (air transport being the extreme case with an annual growth of 7.4%). Also, the Union enlargement to include ten more countries is going to enlarge its internal market, increasing transport levels [5]. It is significant that the total expense on transport is a 10% of the European Union GDP [6]. Therefore, the Union relieves strongly on the creation of large transport infrastructures, such a motorways [7], high speed trains, super ports and super airports. And in the European Constitution Draft, article III-246 states that “the Union shall contribute to the establishment and development of trans-European networks in the areas of transport, telecommunications and energy infrastructures. (...) Within the framework of a system of open and competitive markets, action by the Union shall aim at promoting the interconnection and interoperability of national networks as well as access to such networks.” Besides, this is one of the few sectors the Union will be able to finance through a fund (art. III-247).

And these articles are not mere rhetoric any more, because the Union, under pressure from the ERT [8], will support larger transport infrastructures. Currently the primary objective of communications networks that link the Union is to remove existing bottlenecks (the Alps, the Pyrenees, etc.) and to connect it to Eastern Europe for an effective enlargement. At the same time it favours road transport and the high speed train, which has a much more harmful impact than the conventional train (the AVE uses almost as much as an airplane and has strong impact on the land), as can be seen in the plan approved by the Commission in December 2003.

All this increases CO2 emissions, resulting in climate change [9], will. This model also has a significant impact on the land (as it is designed to favour communication only between large economic poles) and it promotes urban dispersion. People are pushed towards highly built-up spaces (the Union is the most built-up region in the world [10]), increasing its impact on the environment. Also, near 25 acres are asphalted every day to build motorways, dividing the land into even smaller pieces, threatening its biodiversity. Another important consequence of the current transport model is a high accident rate, which why road accidents are the third cause of deaths among the population.

The problem the Union currently has is that transport is reaching its saturation point [11]. In a 1990 report commissioned by the European Commission warned that “in recent years Europe seems to have exceeded the point of no return beyond which any increase in traffic is counterproductive. The sum of negative effects seems to cancel the increasing choice, efficiency, comfort and easiness of travelling that should come with the increase in traffic volume”. Thus, the Union proposes a lower increase in road transport (the type of transport with less development possibilities) than initially planned; an increase of just 38% (versus the initial 50%) for freight and 24% (versus the initial 43%) for passengers is expected by 2010. The train is starting to be discussed, not as an alternative to road transport, but as a means to increase mobility further. Although only through high speed tracks for long distance passenger and freight trains [12].

1.2 Energy

Although it is responsible for 24% of the total greenhouse gas emissions, the Union has become one of the organizations that lead the world’s fight against climate change. Nevertheless, this is more the result of foreign omissions than its own merits. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) pointed out the convenience of limiting world greenhouse emissions to a 20% of 1990 levels by 2005. This would mean that percentage of reduction of the European Union, one of the main generators of these gasses, would have would have to be much higher. But the Union took advantage of the United Status and Japan’s refusal to sign the Kyoto Protocol to reduce its emission only up to 8%. It also gave in later with the so-called flexibility mechanisms (such as, emission trade or clean production mechanisms) that make the emissions reductions even more insufficient.

In any case, there is no need to explain again the difference between theory and practice, as proved by the fact that the Spanish Government has already increased CO2 production 38% between 1990 and 2002, even thought the European Union allows 15% until 2010. Data from the rest of the Union indicates that it is unlikely the pyrrhic Kyoto Protocol objective will be achieved, although the situation is better [13].
The economic policy is known to be inflexible: The failure to comply wit the Stability Pact leads to sanctions (although, in some cases, France and Germany can bypass it. But the environment is a different matter.

And the problem does not end here, because the Union is developing an emission trade market for 2005. The underlying economic thinking supports the most polluting processes rather than the lower emission processes, only favouring the cheapest solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, Member States will be able to allocate the highest proportion of emissions to each industry, and this will benefit the most polluting sectors; instead of implementing an emission unit tendering mechanism, which would have the opposite effect. Therefore, emission trade will delay the achievement of the most ambitious reductions [14].
With regard to the energy policy, security of supply and the availability of low cost energy (which would be achieved, locally, promoting competition) are the main objectives [15]. One of the methods currently used to increase competitiveness is the creation of a single energy market [16]. Most probably this will mean an increase in consumption and a move towards less environmentally friendly production processes, as costs will have to go down to gain competitiveness. More distribution networks will also have to be Developer, knowing that high voltage power lines and gas pipelines [17]have an impact on human health and the natural environment [18].

These issues are considered in the Constitution Treaty: “(...) Union policy on energy shall aim to: a) ensure the functioning of the energy market; b) ensure security of energy supply in the Union, and c) promote energy efficiency and energy saving and the development of new and renewable forms of energy” (art. III-256.1). As already said, the idea is to establish a harmonious relationship between neoliberal policies and the environment, in a desperate attempt to achieve the impossible.

Finally, and contrary to what the afore mentioned article says, it is important to note the continuous support for fossil fuels (especially oil and natural gas), relegating renewable energies, since the European Union objective is to achieve a 12% of renewable energies by 2010. And to make things worse, coal is not completely discarded, even though the European Union reports acknowledges its significant contribution to climate change, acid rain and heavy metal emission. Together with hydro power, coal is certainly the only source of energy the Union has in its own territory. And we are leaving aside the renewed pressures originating at the heart of the European Commission (repeated by Loyola de Palacio) in favour of nuclear energy, which now seems to be the most environmentally friendly, as it does not emit greenhouse gases.

1.3 Food and Agriculture

The food and agriculture system that the European project has helped to create around the world has lead to water pollution, land pollution, biodiversity loss, deforestation, desertification, lake and sea eutrophication, mad cow disease, dioxin chicken, disappearance of farmers, the fact that some nations have lost their right to control their own food supply, and the fact that big agro-chemical-pharmaceutical multinationals control the entire agricultural production line...
The European Union agricultural policy consists of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Initially it was base on these basic principles [19]:

a) A single market: It is based on free movement of agricultural products, harmonization of other related policies (such as health) and consistent prices.
b) Communitarian preference: It implies the protection of the European market against imports.
c) Common financial solidarity: The CAP expenses are paid out of the European Union’s budget.

Therefore, the CAP is clearly created to promote productivism and to ensure that the Union is a world power in this strategic issue. Therefore, the CAP has been created to fit large multinationals, since it favours concentration and large intensive monoculture exploitations [20], it promotes a model that uses chemical fertilizers [21] and pesticides [22]excessively, it implies an unsustainable consumption of water resources (especially in the South [23]) and plastic, and it promotes the use of a few hiperproductive races fed with compound feedstuff and stuffed with drugs. And since the only thing that matters is the market, the European agricultural production is dedicated to trade and export, creating dumping and therefore ruining the peripheral production. All this also increases the current agricultural model energy consumption [24]. A survey by the German Wuppertal Institut has calculated how many miles the ingredients of a pot of yoghourt are transported. Even though those ingredients could have been produced within 50 miles, they were transported over 7,000 miles.

This encouragement of productivism is based on substantial grants for large landowners and for certain regions [25]. And very often the areas that do not receive any kind of protection are those with the highest environmental value and those where the reduction of agricultural activity leads to landscape deterioration.

In recent years the CAP has undergone several reviews, the last one in 2003. Such reviews are the result of internal and external pressures. Amongst the internal factors, the most important one is the high financial cost of the increasing surplus management problems, as well as the fact that the European Union is already the second world power (after the United States) in the field of food and agriculture. The environmental impact of the model encouraged by the CAP was also important in the public debate.

Amongst the external factors, the negotiations rounds under the WTO -where agro-feeding markets are regulated- were decisive. Successive negotiation rounds have imposed significant tariff discounts on grants and production aid. Thus, the only measures that are currently permitted are those considered not to have distorting effects on prices and markets (environment protection, rural development or measures that translate into payments for farmers that are not exceptional). All this has reinforced the rhetoric about the CAP agricultural sustainability.

Certainly, the European Union concessions on these issues at the heart of the WTO have not been altruistic, they actually respond to the internal factors mentioned earlier and to the fact that negotiations were based on the "globalization principle", according to which, negotiations would not be concluded until an agreement was reached on all aspects included in the initial agenda, which were much more important for the Union.

In this context, the new formal CAP objectives resulting from the reforms were focused on the reduction of production, surplus and budgetary expenditure. The key element of the CAP reforms has been the reduction of the prices guaranteed to the farmers, as they become illegal under the WTO. A second key element is the dissociation of production aid, so that farms receive aid in the form of a single payment per farm, based on aid received between 2000-2002 (i.e. production is still used as reference and historic productivism is favoured). Resides, such dissociation is not complete and the association remains in many aspects of agricultural production.

Nevertheless, the European Union is prepared to dismantle its policy of agriculture support. Therefore, the new CAP attempts to compensate lower intervention prices with direct aid, the so-called compensatory payments, in the case of herbaceous crops, dissociated from production. And taking structural measures, the so-called “accompanying measures”, for example environmental. The new CAP also implies the expansion of the rural development policy included in the regional development policy and, therefore, also allowed by the WTO. But it is important to point out that direct and environmental aid is clearly inferior to production aid, and that is why the CAP still has a productivist character.

In theory, aid is now subject to the fulfilment of certain non productive criteria that aims at meeting urban demand for quality food and respect for the environment. This condition is a tool that matches perfectly the measures adopted by the WTO, which indicates that is basically an alibi to continue subsidizing agriculture, since no real measures have been implemented to verify such environmental criteria [26].

Therefore, the only environmental difference is that from the 90’s two parallel paths are being promoted in agricultural production: The traditional intensive path, that feeds most communities, and the ecological one, which offers better quality.

And we cannot expect any change of direction from this Constitution Project. Article III-227 is very explicit: “The objectives of the common agricultural policy shall be: To increase agricultural productivity by promoting technical progress (...) thus to ensure fair standard of living for the agricultural community (...) to stabilise markets. (...) account shall be taken of: (...) the fact that in the Member States agriculture constitutes a sector closely linked with the economy as a whole.” More of the same.

As for genetically modified food, the moratorium on new authorizations that started in 1998 has just come to an end. This moratorium meant a relative delay for the massive introduction of genetically modified food, but the process of law reform that triggered it has concluded. Therefore, there is a long list of genetically modified food awaiting approval and the Commission will try to give them green light as soon as possible, giving in to pressures from the USA and the biotechnology sector. As a result, the approved regulation opens de door to the massive entry of genetically modified food.

Also, wide gaps have been opened for the biotechnology sector, such as the seed regulation that is lax enough to allow contamination of entire fields by other fields where genetically modified crops are grown, which makes it impossible to differentiate between them. And there is no regulation that establishes the civil liability of the biotechnology sector in case of damages or contamination by genetically modified organisms. In any case, although insufficient, the current legislation is stricter than the previous one regarding the requirements to obtain authorization to release new GM organisms within the European Union, as well as labelling requirements. Finally, the European Patent Directive allows patenting genes, cellular lines, animals and plants through canning legal arguments. It does not require the consent of the donor and there is no need for the patent to mention the country the biological material comes from. All this makes it easy for multinationals to steal genetically biodiversity and the ancestral knowledge of the different cultures that use that biodiversity [27].

1.4. Biodiversity

The European Commission acknowledges that “the loss of biodiversity has accelerated dramatically in the last decades” [28]. However, it does not indicate the responsibility for the acceleration of the loss of species, the reduction of genetic diversity and the alteration of natural habitats as a result of the European Union policies. Faced with this, current efforts are useless. Not even the efforts of last years to implement the Natura 2000 network [29]withintheUnionare beingsuccessful, as indicated by the more than five years of delay accumulated in the designation of Sites of Community Importance (SCI).

Regarding fisheries, suffice to say that the best kept fishing grounds are those in the Northeast of the Atlantic, where the fishing rate means that a 62% of the population is in danger of extinction. The European Constitution gives the Union the exclusive competence in the area of the conservation of marine biological resources (art. I-13.1). It is worth mentioning that this is the first issue is that clearly non economic. However, when we see the fisheries policy that is being applied in the European Union, we see that it is consistent with the rest of the articles. The Union treats marine biological resources as an unlimited assent that can be exploited to obtain the maximum economic benefit, as can be seen in the continuous passivity when it comes to reducing the unsustainable level of exploitation of fishing grounds.

1.5. Waste and Public Health

Waste generation in the Union keeps increasing year after year [30], in spite of the integration of the prevention principle in the Community regulation since 1991. The Commission still has to define tax and economic policies that promote a reduction in the amount and toxicity of waste, and so far it has just regulated disposal systems and has suggested minimum recycling targets [31]. The absurdity is total when Union documents state that a “dematerialization of the economy” is possible. ¿What would such dematerialization consist of when consumption and waste generation keep increasing?

It is also true that European laws that link public health and waste are also increasing [32]. And in some ways pollution has been reduced (emissions that generate ground level ozone and sulphur dioxide, phosphates in rivers, etc.). But these laws are not enough [33], as the dangers created by waste are still present [34], and they are even increasing in many cases (particles or nitrates in rivers). For example, recently the European Union has passed the Directive on Environmental Liability, which will apply only to certain industries, including the nuclear and the oil industries. This Directive does not include the obligation of high risk industries to be insured in order to guarantee that environmental cleaning costs are not paid by the tax payers in case they declare themselves bankrupt [35].

The general objectives included in section of the Constitution Project that deals with the environment (art. III-233) are “preserving, protecting and improving the quality of the environment; protecting human health; prudent and rational utilisation of natural resources; promoting measures at international level (...)” and it says that “it shall be based on the precautionary principle and on the principles that preventive action should be taken (...) and that the polluter should pay.” But a more careful reading reveals that “without prejudice to the principle that the polluter should pay, if a measure based on paragraph 1 involves costs deemed disproportionate for the public authorities of a Member State, such measure shall provide in appropriate from for: temporary derogations and/or financial support from the Cohesion Fund. Therefore the polluter will have to pay... but not too much. Also, the precautionary principle and the preventive action principle will most probably be omitted for nuclear energy, GM organisms, many chemical additives and radiations from telephony aerials [36].

On the other hand, for the protection of the environment the Union takes into account the increasing allocation of copyrights over natural resources. Its main tools to face these serious environmental challenges are the so-called environmental or pollution taxes [37]. These tools can certainly help to improve the protection of the environment, but they are not enough and should be accompanied by other measures: those with enough Money to pay, will do it and will keep polluting. According to the current Project, the application of the “polluter should pay” principle (art. III-233) would not necessarily benefit our relationship with the environment. Also, it is obvious that it is impossible to quantify the monetary value of each an every environmental value: How much should be paid to someone that contracts cancer as a result of electromagnetic emissions? How much would future generations pay for an unaltered climate?

Finally, the faith that the European Union has in the power of technology to solve environmental problems is it is unbelievable [38]. There is no doubt that it is important to improve efficiency, but it is absolutely insufficient in itself and without facing the other elements of the ecological issue. The introduction of catalytic converters in vehicles is a good example: Initially the reduction of pollutants had a beneficial effect that nevertheless was soon truncated by the increase in the number of cars.


 

2. Lines of action towards sustainability

Faced with the prospect outlined above, which is contrast with the alleged environmental awareness of the European Union and his project for a Constitutional Treaty, we can suggest a few lines of action that can help us make real progress towards a sustainable world.

What is needed, beyond the necessary institutional and legal mediation, is a change of personal values that is collectively and socially expressed. All things considered, this kind of process can only trigger the replacement of the capitalist system with another one based on a harmonious relationship with the environment, a system that introduces closed production cycles and is based on solidarity, freedom and social justice.

This new set of values would include austerity against waste, cooperation against competitiveness, pacifism against violence, sustainability against growth and accumulation, slowness against speed, shared responsibility against individual hedonism, o horizontality against verticality.

And within this framework, sustainability should be articulated in municipalities based on two main concepts:
a) Slightly open systems where the resources and energy cycles are as closed as possible, and where there is a high biological productivity.
b) Systems with plenty of information, which requires the coexistence of different people with multiple communication and exchange channels.

In order to achieve this, society in general needs to be reorganized and such reorganization must:
- Cut through every social facet and be holistic.
- Be participatory.
- Be based on reality.
- Understand that each territory constitutes a uniquecase but, at the same time, the interaction between the different processes will allow a series of essential crosscutting learning experiences.
- Have a clear and continuous transforming character and be assessed.

Therefore, economies would need to meet human needs with fairness, without extracting resources or wasting waste over the environment’s regeneration capacity. The main task of the economy should be to establish a sustainable flow of resources, and in order to do that it would be necessary to start by reducing (extraction and consumption), and the maximize reutilization and recycling. This new economy should be based on parameters such as energy, entropy (degree of disorder in a system), time, quantity and quality of various resources. This will only be feasible in a local o regional scale, where self-management and self-sufficiency will be essential.

The redistribution of wealth and opportunities is also essential. A fees policy that included environmental and social costs in the price of the products would play a key role. It is clearly essential to bring the economy closer to our lives, increasingly reducing the role of the financial economy and taking control of the production and consumption cycles up again.

The new model of industrial ecology should close the cycles, using technology to implement clean production models. Furthermore, the use of toxic or polluting products should be minimized.

We need a new land use planning that guarantees the conservation of valuable environmental areas, optimizes their use and enjoyment, avoids soil damage and desertification, restores relationships between rural and urban areas, optimizes society needs without detriment to the quality of life and without people loosing their identity as part of their surroundings.

In that sense, the urban model should be compact and diverse, following a historic city centre type of model, where social services are close to home.

Our need for mobility should be dramatically reduced and should take into account environmental issues, promoting collective transport, bicycle and foot (which are the means used by the majority of the world’s population).

Energy production should follow to basic principles: Dramatic reduction of our energy consumption and improvement of the environmental quality of the energy we consume. Finally, we should promote the use of alternative source of energy (solar, wind or others) and bring production closer to the place of consumption. We should take advantage of technological developments that already enable the generation of energy from renewable and decentralized sources, such as wind or solar energy. All this, combined with a bioclimatic architecture, makes it much less necessary the centralized mass production of energy; and the use of biomass should also be considered. In this regard, Greece is a good example, as Greek children make drawings of houses with solar panels.

Agriculture should be given a different treatment to other industries and the production of food should follow the principles of agricultural ecology.

It is also essential to understand that we are the only species on the planet that has rights. Therefore, we should enable spaces for the rest of the species to live, spaces that should be interconnected through biological corridors.
Finally, our societies should be united, intercultural, guided by participatory democracy criteria and, naturally, they should manage conflicts in a non violent manner.
Some new methods of production, consumption and interaction of this nature are already emerging.

An example of such methods are barter cooperatives. Having eliminate the element of Money, they present a series of very interesting advantages: Local production, no speculation, everybody can contribute something to the community, and the value of services and goods can be closer to their real cost, and not imposed by the market. In the European Union there are powerful barter networks, for example in Amsterdam [1]. And within Spain there are also multiple initiatives that have been working like this for years.

Another example are self-managed consumer groups. The are integrated by consumers and some farmers so that the former guarantee a continuous demand and take care of distribution, and the latter are committed to growing with environmental and solidarity criteria. The absence of intermediaries ensures prices are at the same level as supermarket prices. This type of groups exist all over our country.

We must not leave out the rural recovery and reforestation initiatives that numerous groups are implementing, initiatives that in many cases have strong links with the city. These groups are combining new ways of interaction between people and the environment that support sustainability.

Finally, social movements must be an example that proves that it is possible to move towards relationships where everybody can participate and where conflicts are solved in a peaceful manner.


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