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McKibben’s Divestment Tour – Brought to You by Wall Street [Part X of an Investigative Report] [Targeting Millennials: The 30 Trillion Dollar Jackpot]

The Art of Annihilation

August 6, 2015

Part ten of an investigative series by Cory Morningstar

Divestment Investigative Report Series [Further Reading]: Part IPart IIPart IIIPart IVPart VPart VIPart VIIPart VIIIPart IXPart XPart XIPart XIIPart XIII

 

“Sometimes people hold a core belief that is very strong. When they are presented with evidence that works against that belief, the new evidence cannot be accepted. It would create a feeling that is extremely uncomfortable, called cognitive dissonance. And because it is so important to protect the core belief, they will rationalize, ignore and even deny anything that doesn’t fit in with the core belief.” — Frantz Fanon, in Black Skin, White Masks

 

Prologue: A Coup d’état of Nature – Led by the Non-Profit Industrial Complex

It is somewhat ironic that anti-REDD climate activists, faux green organizations (in contrast to legitimate grassroots organizations that do exist, although few and far between) and self-proclaimed environmentalists, who consider themselves progressive will speak out against the commodification of nature’s natural resources while simultaneously promoting the toothless divestment campaign promoted by the useless mainstream groups allegedly on the left. It’s ironic because the divestment campaign will result (succeed) in a colossal injection of money shifting over to the very portfolios heavily invested in, thus dependent upon, the intense commodification and privatization of Earth’s last remaining forests, water, etc. (via REDD, environmental “markets” and the like ). This tour de force will be executed with cunning precision under the guise of environmental stewardship and “internalising negative externalities through appropriate pricing.” Thus, ironically (if in appearances only), the greatest surge in the ultimate corporate capture of Earth’s final remaining resources is being led, and will be accomplished, by the very environmentalists and environmental groups that claim to oppose such corporate domination and capture.

Beyond shelling out billions of tax-exempt dollars (i.e., investments) to those institutions most accommodating in the non-profit industrial complex (otherwise known as foundations), the corporations need not lift a finger to sell this pseudo green agenda to the people in the environmental movement; the feat is being carried out by a tag team comprised of the legitimate and the faux environmentalists. As the public is wholly ignorant and gullible, it almost has no comprehension of the following:

  1. the magnitude of our ecological crisis
  2. the root causes of the planetary crisis, or
  3. the non-profit industrial complex as an instrument of hegemony.

The commodification of the commons will represent the greatest, and most cunning, coup d’état in the history of corporate dominance –an extraordinary fait accompli of unparalleled scale, with unimaginable repercussions for humanity and all life.

Further, it matters little whether or not the money is moved from direct investments in fossil fuel corporations to so-called “socially responsible investments.” The fact of the matter is that all corporations on the planet (and therefore by extension, all investments on the planet) are dependent upon and will continue to require massive amounts of fossil fuels to continue to grow and expand ad infinitum – as required by the industrialized capitalist economic system.

The windmills and solar panels serve as beautiful (marketing) imagery as a panacea for our energy issues, yet they are illusory – the fake veneer for the commodification of the commons, which is the fundamental objective of Wall Street, the very advisers of the divestment campaign.

Thus we find ourselves unwilling to acknowledge the necessity to dismantle the industrialized capitalist economic system, choosing instead to embrace an illusion designed by corporate power.

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Millennials: The 30 Trillion Dollar Jackpot

“[T]here is one particularly desirable audience that’s watching closely: Millennials. This trend-setting, if not free-spending, group of 95 million Americans, born between 1982 and 2004, live and breathe social media and are broadly convinced that doing the right thing isn’t just vogue, but mandatory. With nearly a third of the population driving this trend, kindness is becoming the nation’s newest currency.” — Millennials Spur Capitalism With a Conscience, March 27, 2013

Naomi Klein, renowned author and board member of 350.org (one of, if not the most prominent environmental organizations of the problematic mainstream) devotes a large section of her book, This Changes Everything, to the divestment campaign as a legitimate tool in the fight against climate change. This divestment campaign may very well “change everything,” but not in the way Klein states. Rather, it is an extraordinary feat comprised of an army of well-endowed NGOs that has done a masterful job of manipulating the present young students (referred to as “millennials” in the media) and other well-meaning activists into essentially becoming shareholder activists for finance capital – all while believing that they are fighting some sort of radical “good fight.” Of further benefit to Wall Street is that the campaign also ensures these same students/youth will become shareholders of finance capital in the future. It’s a well-played public relations endeavour as well as a pivotal learning exercise in exploitation, social engineering and behaviour modification.

Divestment2

Yet “millennials” are not recognized and sought after by the establishment merely for their rampant consumerism (as 21st century “prosumers”) and narcissism (something inflicted by a devolving society stripped of culture and void of meaning). Nor are they sought after simply for the expansion of human capital. This fact is illustrated in the following Bloomberg article, March 3, 2015: Wall Street Has Its Eyes on Millennials’ $30 Trillion Inheritance:

“It seems the millennials are going to inherit a lot more from their Baby Boomer parents than just some tie-dyes, Steely Dan LPs and Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers comic books. To the tune of $30 trillion, according to Federated. That is some serious dough! … So it’s no surprise firms seem to have their Flash animators working non-stop to chase this big payday once the Boomers start croaking in earnest.”

Divestment3Divestment1

Images: Federated Investors Inc.: Millennials: The Next Big Thing

Divestment as Symbolism

“Similarly to that movement, fossil fuel divestment has rallied 400 campus campaigns across the country around a symbolic demand. As 350.org’s Jamie Henn explained in his response to the article, the goal ‘isn’t to make a direct economic impact by selling stock, it’s to stigmatize the industry to the point they start losing political power.'” — Why a Movement is Never a Farce, July 10, 2014

The author of the afore-mentioned article (Why a Movement is Never a Farce) cites the divestment campaign as symbolic in the following excerpt: “fossil fuel divestment has rallied 400 campus campaigns across the country around a symbolic demand.” (Emphasis in original) The author then references 350.org’s Jamie Henn’s response that the goal “isn’t to make a direct economic impact by selling stock, it’s to stigmatize the industry to the point they start losing political power.” These statements mirror the general consensus of those within the non-profit industrial complex (NPIC), that the divestment campaign has been designed and intended to be merely symbolic since its inception. As many have written, the Keystone XL campaign, was considered to be merely symbolic at its inception. Many journalists, activists, citizens, etc. still retain/accept this notion. However, considering the outcome, one must acknowledge the KXL campaign was not merely symbolic. Rather, in hindsight, the KXL campaign served to be both a strategic diversion and an infallible vehicle for a rail dynasty built by Warren Buffett, who benefited by the economic transition from pipeline to rail in transporting one of the most filthy fuels imaginable. Unbeknownst to most activists was that Buffett, the primary beneficiary of the campaign against the tar sands pipeline, funneled up to $26 million into the movement (2003-2011), and effectively brushed critical thinking under the rug. The question that must be asked is this: why are foundations, elite firms, plutocrats and oligarchs funneling millions of dollars for resources and media coverage into a global divestment campaign – is it more than mere symbolism?

It is tempting to attribute the growing divestment campaign to brilliant public relations, sharp marketing, feel-good greenwashing and nothing more.

For one who understands, even vaguely, the inner workings and functions of the NPIC, a first instinct may be to view the symbolic element of the divestment campaign as no more than another simple discourse along the following lines:

1) We don’t need to change the system or address the underlying values and worldview driving this physical and psychic destruction

2) The global divestment campaign confirms that the “market” can be and is the solution. Thus, it’s actually a strategic discourse, one that allows economic growth to continue unabated while those driving it appear to be looking seriously at climate change.

At least in part, this would seem to be an apt assessment to even a fairly seasoned environmentalist. Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, openly admits that the intent of the divestment campaign is merely symbolic in both nature and purpose – stating that its key purpose is only to stigmatize the fossil fuel industry (demonstrating a talking point that has been reverberated down the divestment chain of command). But to conclude that this campaign is purely symbolic is, undoubtedly a grave (and dangerous) lapse in assessment.

In comparison, we must again consider the Keystone XL campaign that preceded the divestment campaign as far as level of importance since it was also often referred to as nothing more than symbolic. Quite the contrary, the KXL campaign was absolutely strategic in allowing Warren Buffett’s rail empire to set up and then flourish – completely unhindered. Further, campaigns such as KXL and fossil fuel divestment serve as captivating smoke and mirrors. Utilizing behavioural change tactics and behavioural economics, such critical discourse effectively stigmatizes any focus on confronting root causes – which is vital for maintaining current power structures. Thus divestment, much more than simply symbolic, must be considered an important part, if not the key element, of a pivotal meme that the establishment (via the NPIC and media) is embedding in the third revolution zeitgeist. This concept/language is part and parcel of the “new economy” marketing dictionary, in tandem with other key words AND memes such as B Corps, Natural Capital, the Biosphere Economy (the Financialization of Nature), etc., etc. Or to paraphrase a popular quote, frame it properly and it will come, with ‘it’ being defined as investment capital. Billions of dollars are being funneled into the NPIC to finance the implantation of such memes into your psyche. The ultimate goal is the further normalization of, and servitude to, corporate dominance while developing, building and nurturing acquiescence for the commodification of the commons.

“If some claimed that Stanford’s move was more symbol than substance, however, that hardly bothered the students. The symbol was part of the point. Divestment, says Peter Kinder, one of the pioneers of socially responsible investment (SRI) and coauthor of the groundbreaking 1984 book Ethical Investing, ‘is about marking the boundaries of acceptable behavior.'” — Dumping Coal Is Easy. But Who Will Divest the Rest?, September 9, 2014

In the September 9, 2014 Audubon article, Dumping Coal Is Easy. But Who Will Divest the Rest?, the author suggests that those embracing divestment invest “in ways ‘consistent with the Buddhist precept of ‘not causing harm.'” Yet the truth is that dumping all investments that contradict living in a way consistent with the Buddhist precept of “not causing harm” requires that we kill the western lifestyle. Not causing harm necessitates dismantling and transitioning from the industrialized capitalist system – completely. But how to tell middle class millennials and prosumers (the divestment campaigns’ target audience) that iPods and Starfucks does not jive with anything that resembles the Buddhist precept of “not causing harm”? Who wants to sell that unpopular (and unprofitable) campaign?

“Fossil Free” Stanford students are now pushing divestment from all carbon-polluting energy sources, but it is doubtful that these same students (the majority white and of privilege) understand that sustainability cannot and will not be achieved within the confines of capitalism … that the system itself is built upon and dependent upon the exploitation of the Earth’s most vulnerable people and the continued obliteration of the planet, its non-negotiable demand of perpetual and exponential growth, interwoven and built upon an industrial machine that cannot be separated from its origins of slavery and fossil fuels.

“And the activists are spreading the word using every social media tool they can find – including the British website pushyourparents.org, which reminds the geezers: ‘Mum and Dad, did you know your pension is f@!#ing up my future?’ Now there is a ‘massive, growing global movement’ that’s looking to ‘divest – and invest,’ to raise $1 trillion a year for new energy efforts: renewables like solar, biofuels, wind, energy-efficiency projects, materials science leaps, restoration projects, new investment portfolios. Huge investment management firms like BlackRock, which is partnering with the Natural Resources Defense Council and the London Stock Exchange’s FTSE Group, and smaller ones like Trillium, Calvert, Aperio, and Green Century are providing alternative, carbon-free ways to invest.” — Dumping Coal Is Easy. But Who Will Divest the Rest?, September 9, 2014

Yet mom and dad’s pensions are not fucking up their future due to fossil fuels alone. The pensions are fucking up their future due to the required growth of the investment – if the stock is to turn out monetary gain. For stocks and other investments to grow, nature’s resources must be converted to capital. It matters little whether they are conventional fossil fuels (the singular asset that makes Exxon-Mobil one of the most profitable corporation in the world), or solar and wind energy investments (products that are also carbon-based/dependent from cradle to grave). Nature’s resources must be voraciously consumed in order for investments to both earn interest and continually (and infinitely) increase in monetary value. Further, biofuels/biomass are perhaps the most egregious forms of energy of all when it comes to this false narrative, while “materials science leaps” will undoubtedly encompass genetically engineered food crops as a solution to our food scarcity issues. Restoration projects, as referred to by forestry, capitalists and the NPIC, are nothing more than ecological degradation carried out under the guise of sustainability: deforestation, loss of wetlands, loss of vital minerals/raw materials, soaring food prices, land grabs and loss of farmland, changing of Earth’s wind patterns and animal migrations, starvation and conflict. All are being implemented under the guise of environmental solutions. Consider BlackRock Investment Management, the biggest funds manager in the world, referred to in the afore-mentioned quote. In 2011, BlackRock founder and CEO Larry Fink stated that both agriculture and water investments would be the best performers over the next 10 years: “Go long agriculture and water and go to the beach…. Put those investments in the bottom drawer for 10 years. It’s unlike anything else we have in the world. Agriculture and water would even beat energy investments.” [Source]

Further indication of the mere “symbolism” of divestment as outlined by Paul Hamill, director of strategy and communications for the center-left American Security Project in Washington, D.C. in the following quote: “What they [divestment activists] want to do is to reduce CO2 levels in the atmosphere to tackle climate change, and that is spot-on — that’s what we really need to do. But divesting is not the way to do it. It’s almost like a glib PR stunt. It feels nice to go out and campaign, and it feels nice to try and divest from these companies, but it’s not serious.” The article in which Hamill is quoted notes that both Swarthmore College and Wellesley College decided against divestment “after internal audits found the colleges could each lose $15 million per year over the next 10 years under fossil fuel divestment policies:

“Daniel R. Fischel, professor emeritus at the University of Chicago, released an industry-financed study last week that found portfolios with energy stocks did better than those without them over a 50-year period by 0.7 percent per year. Total university holdings are estimated at $456 billion, meaning that the projected cost of divestment would top $3.2 billion per year. ‘This strikes us as an excessively high price to pay for something even divestment proponents acknowledge is largely a symbolic act….'”

Based on the statistics above, $3.2 billion in losses per year (even if this figure is inflated due to the report being industry-financed), one may wonder who would assume such divested stocks, and by extension, would also assume a portion of this the $3.2 billion dollars. Whether capitalist or socialist, one must admit that if this report is at all accurate, the mere 0.7 percent that translates into 3.2 billion dollars per year seems far beyond simple symbolism. Regardless, few could argue with Hamill’s accurate observation that “[T]heir success that they’re measuring is whether institutions are divesting, not whether we’re reducing carbon emissions.”

It would be difficult to not notice the aforementioned “Fossil Fuel Free Funds” that are being promoted by universities across the globe. The notion that any investment fund can actually be referred to as “fossil fuel free” is asinine at best. The simple fact that there is not one single industry that does not rely on fossil fuel energy, in one way or another, is lost. This demonstrates a collective failure in the most basic of critical thinking exercises. Students are not only encouraged to dismiss a necessary critique of investment capital outright; they are celebrated for their ignorance and encouraged to promote it. Also lost, due to the encouragement to disregard a critical thinking analysis, is the simple fact that all successful investment is absolutely dependent upon consumption/consumerism and perpetual growth, the very main drivers of the biosphere’s destruction. The obvious end result – that “this changes nothing” – is lost amongst the self-congratulatory accolades.

Of course the corporate takeover of universities in order to further serve the establishment and intensify neoliberalism is well-documented.

Divest & Acquiesce

While the NPIC chimes in on divest-invest in euphoric harmony, nowhere are there calls to divest from “Black Friday,” international travel/flying, luxury vacations, private and company jets, personal automobiles, techo-gadgets, factory farming, the military industrial complex, the eradication/burning of trees for industrial scale biomass, etc., etc., etc. So it’s nothing more than pure spectacle when we claim we are “fighting” fossil fuels without fighting for radical reduction, restriction and rationing of all non-vital consumption in all developed countries.

In the January 14, 2015 Rolling Stone article, The Logic of Divestment: Why We Have to Kiss Off Big Carbon, the author writes that “Exxon Mobil, of course, scoffs at the notion that its ability to profit from its 25 billion barrels of proven reserves is in any way threatened. World governments, it wrote last March, lack the political will to impose the emissions reductions required to stabilize global temperature rise at 2 degrees Celsius: ‘The policy changes such a scenario would produce are beyond those that societies.?.?.?would be willing to bear, in our estimation.’ Exxon calls this low-carbon scenario ‘highly unlikely’ and neatly deems it unworthy of financial analysis.”

One hates to side with a corporation such as Exxon, yet who could argue with this logic? On this issue, their insights are dead on.

350 and other organizational partners in crime know that Exxon is correct. They are well aware that Western society (specifically, the privileged class being their target audience and core supporter base) would not be willing to accept the necessary policies required to stabilize global temperature rise at 2ºC (even though this is no longer possible without intense geo-engineering since we are already locked in at minimum to 2.4ºC as of 2008). Those in decision-making capacity at the 350.org leadership level and the NPIC as a whole (and Exxon) understand that Western society and its composite countries are not about to give up ANYTHING – let alone live a bare-bones minimalist existence stripped clean of privilege. This is one reason why the mainstream environmental movement sells the divestment campaign (as part of the “new economy”) as a “win” against “the enemy” rather than speak to the necessity of dismantling the industrialized capitalist machine and the power structure that exists and thrives within it – this and its unacknowledged absolute dependence upon said machine, for its very existence, is the primary reason why its goals are “suspiciously” aligned with those who oppress us. Further, a dismantling of the system requires that the populace comprehend how the machine is put together and more importantly, understand the mechanisms in place that protect the current power structures, ensuring they remain intact. Tragically, this required change regarding the system, comprising institutional change at a macro level all the way to personal choices at the micro level, is something of which the Western world and its citizens are wholly unaccepting.

The non-profit industrial complex inculcates its followers into acceptance without invoking the required and necessary critical thinking process. A recent example of such can be found on a 350.org Facebook post (2,153 shares) dated February 13, 2015: “The New York Times just published an editorial explaining why President Obama’s final call on Keystone XL should be so straightforward. If you need any more proof that the climate movement is winning as we take to the streets today on Global Divestment Day, look no further than the pages of the world’s biggest newspaper.” Yet consider the reality. Obama’s statement from 2012: “Over the last three years, I’ve directed my administration to open up millions of acres for gas and oil exploration across 23 different states. We’re opening up more than 75 percent of our potential oil resources offshore. We’ve quadrupled the number of operating rigs to a record high. We’ve added enough new oil and gas pipeline to encircle the Earth and then some. So we are drilling all over the place – right now.” Today, in 2015, U.S. crude oil production has neared all-time highs and is poised to set a record. The U.S. produced 3.2 billion barrels of crude oil last year, according to EIA figures, a 30-year high. In 2013, the U.S. produced 2.7 billion barrels, up from 2 billion a decade ago. [Source]

“The climate movement is winning”?

In Rockefeller (and, in this case, both Warren Buffett and the New York Times) we trust.

The truth is that attempts to curb the desire (international vacations/flying), want (bottled water, unlimited meat consumption) or ill-described need (iPhones, etc.) in America would be one of the few (and probably only) things to incite the American populace to take to the streets, burning buildings and the stringing up of beaten politicians to the myriad of street lights.

As outlined by the International Energy Agency (IEA), the foremost organization regarding the global influence of fossil fuels, in its publication Resources to Reserves 2013, which forecasts the availability of oil and gas for future generations, the author of the aforementioned Rolling Stone article writes the following: “In June, the IEA released an independent analysis projecting that carbon curbs strong enough to meet the 2 degrees Celsius threshold could leave nearly $300 billion in stranded fossil-fuel investments by 2035.” Yet, at the same time, the International Energy Agency projects that fossil fuels will provide 75-80% of the world’s energy for several decades to come. [Fossil fuels currently meet 80% of global energy demand. Even if current policy commitments and pledges made by countries to tackle climate change and other energy-related challenges were to be put in place, global energy demand in 2035 is projected to rise by 40% – with fossil fuels still contributing 75%.”[Source] [Further note that we have already exceeded a 2ºC threshold in committed global warming.]

In the same Rolling Stone article, Ellen Dorsey, executive director of the Wallace Global Fund, which is helping to promote and assist other foundations in the facile divestment plan, is quoted as saying: “‘If you own fossil fuels, you own climate change… and it’s not just owning their environmental impacts. You own their political impacts too’ – from the PR campaigns challenging climate science to the direct lobbying by oil companies of federal, state and municipal governments to block emissions limits. ‘You’re helping to build their war chest.'”

But the truth is that the 1% creating the global GHG emissions, which is the same 1% that hold shares in any investment, are the very ones that own climate change, whose high-consumption lifestyles continue to exacerbate the problem, regardless of whether they directly divest from fossil fuel stocks or not. What Dorsey deliberately omits is that environmental and political impacts from fossil fuel investments remain the same regardless of who owns them and that without dismantling an economic system to which most all people are enslaved, our efforts are futile. Dorsey speaks of owning political impacts, yet no one holds the NPIC accountable for their strategic campaign that neutralized and blocked radical emissions cuts and targets at COP15 in Copenhagen, which by all accounts should be considered a crime against humanity.

The truth is that the divestment campaign itself is the very thing “helping to build their war chest.” In the war chest we find “sustainable capitalism” by 2020, commodifying the Earth’s commons, privatization, and expansion of corporate power. Under the chest we find the requiem “The song remains the same,” with the affluent “Left” negatively impacting the environment with just as much fervour as the “Right” they criticize. Consider that the US, which represents a mere 4.45% of the world’s population, is responsible for a minimum of 27% of all global emissions, while simultaneously consuming approximately 24% of the world’s energy. Further take into account that each American consumer, the very target audience of the NPIC, requires “132,000 pounds of oil, sand, grain, iron ore, coal and wood” to maintain their current lifestyle each year. That adds up to “an eye-popping 362 pounds a day.” [Source: Juliet Schor, Plentitude, p. 44.]

It’s clear that the Wallace Global Fund is at the helm of Divest-Invest when one observes that it was the Wallace Global Fund that appointed the CEO of Phoenix Global Impact to project manage the Divest-Invest Philanthropy initiative as of March 2014. Simultaneously, Ellen Dorsey, executive director of the Wallace Global Fund, sits on all committees and working groups: 1) The steering committee, 2) Energy and Equity Working Group, 3) Organizing Working Group, and 4) the Investment Working Group. The Wallace Global Fund 990 filing reveals that their largest investment portfolio is that of Blood and Gore’s Generation Investment ($18,431,931.00), including Generation IM Credit Feeder Fund II L.P. (Private Fund, Cayman Islands) promoted by Generation Investment, see the following graphics:

Wallace Global Fund II 990

Wallace Global Fund II 2 990

All Eyes on Fossil Fuel Investments | All Eyes Off Militarism

Within the interlocking directorate of the non-profit industrial complex, it is of interest to note that Dorsey (Greenpeace Fund Board Member) is founder of the Human Rights and Environment Program of Amnesty International, having served as chair of the Board of Amnesty International USA. Amnesty, a vapid weapon in the destabilization of sovereign states (Venezuela, Libya, Eritrea, etc.) on behalf of NATO states, is silent on the devastating climate impacts and environmental devastation of militarism, which can in part be attributed to Amnesty International (and other NGOs) as they stoke the provocation of wars and conflicts. (Indeed, NGOs PLAY a critical ROLE in building public acquiescence for wars). [Further reading: A Tear for Africa: Humanitarian Abduction and Reduction] Remix: “If you entice and provoke destabilization campaigns, you own climate change… and it’s not just owning their environmental impacts. You own their political impacts (and the subsequent death toll) too – from the PR campaigns created to build acquiescence for the most egregious acts of violence, to the demonization campaigns, you’re helping to build their war chest, militarism being the most oil-exhaustive assault on the planet. Not fossil fuel investments, but militarism.”

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McKibben and 350.org would have you believe that it’s the fossil fuel corporations alone that are to blame: “The fossil-fuel industry is systematically undermining the planet’s physical systems…. We have met the enemy and they [sic] is Shell.” [Source] McKibben continues that “they [fossil fuel corporations] relentlessly search for more hydrocarbons” without mention of the capitalist consumption and growth fetish that drives the fossil fuel corporations to satisfy its economic demand for the most abundant and easily accessible resources available – a vicious circle if there ever was one. Of course, one cannot place blame on consumers (who are both willing participants and also victims) without highlighting the industrialized capitalist system that ensures all citizens are enslaved. Yet, even though this is the case, there is no mention of the necessity to dismantle the industrialized capitalist system by any members of the establishment, green environmental or otherwise. McKibben et al want to believe that if you change the “bad” products in the vicious circle – to “eco” products – via “sustainable investments” (which are just as dependent on infinite growth), the capitalist system will become, by default, compassionate and caring. Authors such as Stephanie MacMillan refer to this consumer trend as “lifestyleism”. Lifestyleism correlates with one’s own social class. It could be defined as the focus on changing one’s own behaviours within the present system, with the belief that if everyone followed suit, not only would society as a whole improve, but perhaps “immoral” capitalism could be reformed from within. Such illusions are lucrative for advertising firms and NGOs that prey upon hyper-individualism, identity politics, and behavioral change tactics (which target middle to upper income classes*) to not only create new financial markets, but also to protect the current power structures. Yet failure to confront the power of capital actually strengthens it. This is where firms such as Purpose Inc. come in; masquerading further corporate capture and market share as radical change. (*This is clearly apparent in the divestment campaign in which the vast majority of its participants are predominantly white and of privilege.)

“Taking a moral stand might be a starting point, but if morality doesn’t rise to an understanding of the system, it not only fails to change capitalist society – it helps reinforce it.” — The Dead End of Moral Individualism, April 14, 2015

In 2011 and 2012, the Wallace Global Fund invested a substantial initial sum of grant money in groups that would effectively lead the divestment campaign by targeting college students and campuses. Recipients included the Sierra Club Student Coalition ($180,000), the Hip Hop Caucus ($40,000), As You Sow ($160,000) and 350.org ($205,000). For decades, foundations (and the elites and corporate entities that funnel money into the foundations) have recouped their investments in (more accurately, exploitation of) enthusiastic, gullible and compliant students (albeit absolutely well-intentioned) who are effectively trained to focus on what is considered politically realistic (and “appropriate”, as defined by the state and NPIC) within the confines of the existing system. Students who challenge NGO doctrine with critical and radical analysis are ignored, marginalized, and treated as negative and/or divisive, while those who fall in line are recognized as positive “leaders.” These behavioural change tactics subtly and effectively crush most critical thinking.

“Mass organizations under this system (such as collaborationist unions and NGOs) are usually dominated by institutionalized bureaucracies whose very functions are, first: to make money, and second: to pacify the masses by diverting their discontent into compromises with capital.” — Stephanie McMillan, Capitalism Must Die!

Consider the article Fossil Fuel Divestment’s True Aim? To Remake Capitalism (February 20, 2015) and how it was highlighted/shared via social media by a 350.org staff (Canadian tar sands organizer and “divestment activist”). From the article:

“For young climate activists like Soron and Hemingway, such analyses overlook the divestment movement’s broader aim: which is to remake the value structure of capitalism. No less than the Swiss financial giant UBS thinks such efforts should not be ignored. ‘Many of those engaged in [divestment] are the consumers, voters and leaders of the next several decades….'”

The same article was “re-tweeted” by 350.org’s main twitter account, 350.org Toronto and Divest SFU (Simon Fraser University), see below:

Remaking Capitalism Tweet Remaking Capitalism Tweet 2

The Fossil Free Indexes

The Fossil Free Indexes represent another important component of the “socially responsible investments” movement.

The Fossil Free Indexes “community” is comprised of 350.org – The Fossil Free Campaign [1], As You Sow, Ceres [2], Green America [3], Divest Invest [4] and Carbon Tracker Initiative. [“Carbon Tracker aligns the capital markets with the climate change policy agenda to make carbon investment risk relevant available today. They apply their thinking on carbon budgets and stranded assets across geographies and assets classes to inform investor thinking and the regulation of capital markets. Their research ranking public fossil fuel companies by the carbon content of their reserves includes: Unburnable Carbon: Are the world’s financial markets carrying a carbon bubble?, Unburnable Carbon 2013: Wasted capital and stranded assets, and Carbon Avoidance? Accounting for the Emissions Hidden in Reserves.”][Source]

“‘If world governments put a cap on carbon, you would see that bubble burst and that would throw the world economy into disarray,’ she [Danielle Fugere, As You Sow’s president] said. Instead, the plan of As You Sow and other investors is to ensure ‘the bubble is going to be let out slowly in a way that nobody loses all their money.'” — Huge: Exxon Will Advise Investors on Carbon Bubble Exposure, March 23, 2014

The Board of Directors of As You Sow, an investment group dedicated to funding carbon-free and clean energy sources, is comprised of people with vast experience in business, investing and raising capital, like most boards of directors in the organizations behind the divestment campaign. Although most boast members with decades of vast experience in socially responsible investing, which is always quantified as incredibly successful (From the As You Sow Board of Directors profile page regarding Thomas Van Dyck, Chairman and Secratary: “Joining Piper Jaffray in 1997, he developed an investment management consulting team, now called the SRI Wealth Management Group, which moved to RBC Wealth Management in 2006, and is now one of the largest sustainable wealth management practices in North America”), Earth’s accelerating ecologic degradation conveys a different story. To further illustrate the murky relationship between these clean energy investment firms and the entities that underwrite them, Chevron, Exxon, Shell, BP, and Southern Company are listed among As You Sow’s “shareholder engagements.”

The Divest Invest resources on Fossil Free Indexes website include links to Cere’s Investor Network on Climate Risk [“the INCR is a network of 100 institutional investors representing more than $11 trillion in assets seizing the opportunities resulting from climate change and other sustainability challenges”] and the Global Investor Coalition on Climate Change – the more recent, international in scope, Ceres coalition that is formed by the four regional climate change investor groups (also created by Ceres): the IIGCC (Europe), INCR (North America), IGCC (Australia & New Zealand) and AIGCC (Asia).

Also listed as a resource is the Responsible Endowments Coalition, which focuses on building the campaign within colleges and universities and which co-sponsored the Tellus Institute report with the Sustainable Endowments Institute and 350.org.

And while there is no actual definition of what constitutes “the new energy economy,” on the Fossil Free Indexes website, there are many leaders/executives with Wall Street backgrounds to be found.

Carbon Bubble Discourse

“This week has seen a new green meme emerge: the idea that investment in high-carbon companies is creating a ‘carbon bubble’ that could leave the world exposed to another financial crash.” – Why a high-carbon investment bubble could be the lesser of evils, July 15, 2011

Liberal “Guardian-esque” journalism touches lightly upon the fact that the market (i.e., fossil fuel corporations) easily dismiss the risk of “unburnable carbon” simply because “the world shows no sign of taking the two-degrees target seriously.” Where the journalism does not tread is on the very real fact that it is not “the world” that shows no sign of taking the two-degrees “target” seriously; it is the 1-3% of the world’s population that are creating 50% of the global GHG emissions who clearly show no signs of taking any limits seriously. This is the true hard math that remains excluded from discussion. Just a glimpse at the disturbing and vile “Black Friday[5] phenomenon, which is expanding around the globe, provides much clarity on the message: “We want more.”

The ferocious production of fossil fuels is only made possible by the consumption that drives it. The consumption does not take place within a vacuum. Thus, the “real enemy” (as constructed by Bill McKibben in this excerpt from his Rolling Stone article: “Given this hard math, we need to view the fossil-fuel industry in a new light. It has become a rogue industry, reckless like no other force on Earth. It is Public Enemy Number One to the survival of our planetary civilization.”) [6] is not the fossil fuel corporations per se. Rather, the real enemy is fervent mass consumption by a tiny minority of the world’s population. And although the industrialized capitalist system demands nothing less than this, the united call to dismantle the suicidal global capitalist economic system is nowhere to be heard. Instead, solutions are framed under reformist language and ideology such as B Corporations, Natural Capital, New Economy, Divestment, Compassionate Capitalism, Social Capitalism, Natural Capitalism, The Biosphere Economy, etc. It is worth repeating the assertion put forward in Blood and Gore’s Generation Investment report: “But the more important fact remains: the mainstream debate is about how to practise capitalism, not whether we should choose between capitalism and some other system.”

Similarly, 350.org board member and author Naomi Klein (referenced by McKibben on July 19, 2012) tells us that “lots of companies do rotten things in the course of their business – pay terrible wages, make people work in sweatshops – and we pressure them to change those practices. But these numbers make clear that with the fossil-fuel industry, wrecking the planet is their business model. It’s what they do.” Like the eco-amnesia that strikes Klein each time she criticizes “Big Green” without mention of Rockefeller’s incubator project 1Sky, which morphed into 350.org in 2011, Klein cites the very real terrible wages and sweatshops, without ever asking her ardent supporters (predominantly white, privileged, middle-class who identify with Klein and her lifestyle) to give up their iPhones, cars, flights … or anything else for that matter. Rather the answer is “comprehensive policies and programs that make low-carbon choices easy and convenient for everyone” and “growing the caring economy, shrinking the careless one.” Not surprisingly, this very blueprint and ideology is the foundation for the 21st century corporate “Who Cares Wins” pathology, whereby “kindness is becoming the nation’s newest currency.” The intent behind this pathology (made famous by TckTckTck founder/creator David Jones, former CEO of Havas), is the corporate capture of “millennials” by way of manipulation via branding, advertising and social media.

In 2009, Havas (one of the world’s largest global communications groups) and the United Nations partnered with 350.org, Avaaz, Greenpeace and Oxfam (in partnership with many of the world’s most powerful and destructive corporations) in order to establish credibility for the TckTckTck campaign that dominated COP15. The “demand” was a “fair and ambitious agreement” and a 2ºC target. The “agreement” we were given was the long pre-determined deadly “target” of 2ºC, with the NGOs having succeeded in undermining and making invisible the world’s most vulnerable states who demanded that the global temperature increase not exceed 1ºC. Leading up to the Paris climate change talks, the same NGOs will attempt to create legitimacy for policies that “change everything.” Our oligarchs can hardly wait to deliver on our demands: the financialization of nature, environmental markets, carbon capture and storage, biomass, and a score of other false solutions already well under way.

 

Next: Part XI 

 

[Cory Morningstar is an independent investigative journalist, writer and environmental activist, focusing on global ecological collapse and political analysis of the non-profit industrial complex. She resides in Canada. Her recent writings can be found on Wrong Kind of Green, The Art of Annihilation, Counterpunch, Political Context, Canadians for Action on Climate Change and Countercurrents. Her writing has also been published by Bolivia Rising and Cambio, the official newspaper of the Plurinational State of Bolivia. You can follow her on twitter @elleprovocateur]

 

EndNotes:

[1] “Based on the analysis in Unburnable Carbon, the Fossil Free Campaign is seeking to persuade the world’s college endowments, city and state pension funds, church investment managers and non-profits to divest from the 200 largest public coal, oil and gas companies in the world, ranked by the size of their proven carbon reserves, starting in the United States but already active on three continents.”

[2] “Ceres advocates for sustainability leadership, mobilizing a powerful network of investors, companies and public interest groups to accelerate and expand the adoption of sustainable business practices and solutions to build a healthy global economy.”

[3] “Green America’s mission is to harness economic power – the strength of consumers, investors, businesses, and the marketplace-to create a socially just and environmentally sustainable society. Green America has a long-standing program on clean energy and climate change that uses diverse strategies to promote the development of renewable energy and to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Green America provides resources for individuals and institutions to divest from fossil fuel companies.”

[4] “Divest/Invest is foundations and individuals divesting from fossil fuels and switching to clean energy investments, joining college, health, pension funds and religious endowments doing the same. Ethically our investments shouldn’t contribute to dangerous climate change. Financially, fossil fuel stocks are over-valued as most of their reserves cannot be burned. We can get good, safe returns while helping to build a new energy system.”

[5] “What is Black Friday? Black Friday was a day where slaves traders in America held open market for slaves sales. Whenever a shipment of slaves came in, and there were hardly any disease or deaths amongst them (men, women and children), they call it a ‘Black Friday’ to celebrate the fortune they will make. However, if a shipment came in and there were mostly sick people, the traders call it a ‘Red Friday’, because of the bad outcome and ‘red’ because they would have to kill all the sick and weak slaves (because no one wanted to spend money feeding or treating those men, women and children).” [Source]

[6] Three simple numbers that add up to global catastrophe – and that make clear who the real enemy is…. But what all these climate numbers make painfully, usefully clear is that the planet does indeed have an enemy – one far more committed to action than governments or individuals. Given this hard math, we need to view the fossil-fuel industry in a new light. It has become a rogue industry, reckless like no other force on Earth. It is Public Enemy Number One to the survival of our planetary civilization. “‘Lots of companies do rotten things in the course of their business – pay terrible wages, make people work in sweatshops – and we pressure them to change those practices,’ says veteran anti-corporate leader Naomi Klein, who is at work on a book about the climate crisis. ‘But these numbers make clear that with the fossil-fuel industry, wrecking the planet is their business model. It’s what they do.'” [July 19, 2012: Source]