Who’s heard of Harold Adams Innis? Put up your hand! Not many, I see. Well, no surprise there. The Canadian academic died in 1952 and his most influential work (on the fur trade and the cod fishery, two prosaic strands of his country’s economic history) was published in the 1920s and 1930s. Eventually, this research became the core of his ‘staples theory’, an analysis of how reliance on raw material exports can shape a country’s economy and its culture.
Dry stuff, I admit. But Innis’s relevance has not faded. Today it just has a different name. The phrase used is ‘resource curse’ and it’s a major source of political conflict, environmental destruction and social dysfunction. In this issue, we try to figure out what it means for those countries and communities caught in the ‘staples trap’.
Elsewhere in the magazine photojournalist Isabella Moore travels to Russia, one of the world’s biggest fossil fuel producers, where she talks to that country’s gay citizens about the fear of living in an increasingly repressive state.
Repression, of course, takes many forms in an era of economic austerity and globe-straddling digital surveillance. (Thank you, Edward Snowden.) What’s a self-respecting government to do without the latest in anti-riot gear and non-lethal ‘crowd control’ solutions? Anna Feigenbaum expounds on the profits to be made in policing dissent.
To paraphrase Aldous Huxley: we don’t learn very much from the lessons of history and that may be the most important lesson of all. Ah, brave new world.
Wayne Ellwood for the New Internationalist co-operative.
As reserves dwindle and demand balloons, resource companies are pushing into more remote regions and onto indigenous land. Jen Wilton tours seven hotspots where native people are demanding the right to decide what happens on their ancestral territory.