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Want to get free lunches for the rest of your life?
All you have to do is get the Casa Sanchez corporate logo tattooed anywhere on your body and you can get free lunches forever! Casa Sanchez, a Mexican restaurant in San Francisco, is not the only company offering this kind of deal (Wells 1999). The Great Northern Brewing Company which brews Black Star Beer, recently held its second annual Black Star Beer Tattoo Contest, giving away a Harley Davidson to who ever showed up with the biggest tattoo of the "yahoo-in cowboy" company logo (Wells 1999). More recently, the Daytona Cubs baseball team has recently announced that they will give free season tickets for life to anyone who will tattoo the Cubs logo on their body (NPR 2001).
Between September 9 - 15, 2003 I participated in the direct action demonstrations against the World Trade Organization in Cancun. On September 10, fifty-six year-old South Korean farmer Lee Kyung Hae climbed atop the barricade, exclaiming out-loud, "WTO kills farmers!" as he sacrificed his life by stabbing himself in his heart with a knife. Lee sacrificed himself on Chusok day (the date that commemorates the dead in Korea -- Day of the Dead). After Lee lost his farm due to a foreclosure in 1999, and before his sacrifice in Cancun, he had camped out in front of the World Trade Organization in Geneva in a one-person hunger strike. His goal was to direct the world's attention to the genocidal policies of neoliberalism on farmers in South Korea and around the world. Lee and the farmers were ignored.
Neoliberal policies pushed Lee to take his life in Cancun as a way to protect Koreans farmers and as a symbol of the hundreds and thousands of farmers and peasants worldwide who die every year because of neoliberalism. According to Luis Hernandez Navarro, for example, subsidized rice exports to Korea from the U.S. are four times cheaper than the rice produced by Korean farmers (Food First). Over a thousand peasants committed suicide in India between 1998 and 1999; a large majority of them did it by drinking pesticide liquids. "In England and Canada the suicide rate among farmers is twice the national average. In Wales one farmer commits suicide every week. In the U.S. Midwest suicide is the fifth largest cause of death among farmers. In China peasants are the social group with the highest suicide rate" (Navarro 2003).
Recent years have seen the enthusiastic adoption of the Internet and communications technologies (ICT)--development of the knowledge economy-- notwithstanding the recent technology bubble experienced in global stock markets. ICT has been widely promoted as, among other things, an important strategy to improve the energy and materials intensity of the economy and, correspondingly, reduce energy and materials consumption. The reasoning is that dematerialising the economy and immaterialising consumer preferences can lead to greatly improved efficiencies. It is assumed that by shifting economic activities towards a service oriented economy, environmental impacts can be reduced.
Efficiency improvements in general have been widely advocated in this context for decades, dare I say centuries (Jevons, 1865). Nevertheless, energy and materials consumption continues to rise. Indeed, efficiency gains often produce unexpected results, whereby consumption levels increase, often exceeding the gains in efficiency.