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The Unannounced Death of the Green New Deal: Part 1 – What Happened to the People’s Plan?

Wrong Kind of Green

September 11, 2020

By Michael Swifte

 

 

Is this a people’s plan or is this a process to get elected officials a policy in a timeline that will allow them to promote it around the 2020 election?

 

— John Washington speaking on behalf of Climate Justice Alliance to New Consensus and networks on 18 March 2019 [Source]

 

False Solutions continue to poison, displace, and imprison communities

 

Nuclear, fracking, “clean coal”, incineration and even prisons are offered as economic transition solutions to the climate crisis, but only continue to harm the health of people and the planet. The path of extracting, transporting, processing, and consuming these technologies is paved with communities riddled with cancer, reproductive and respiratory disease, among other devastating health impacts. These false solutions turn low-income communities, communities of color and indigenous communities into sacrifice zones. These do not move us toward a just transition.

 

Climate Justice Alliance, Just Transition Principles, 21 April 2017 [Source]

 

You could say that the Green New Deal died when the Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force recommendations came through, or perhaps that was the moment we knew that the Jemez Principles  and the principles of a Just Transition had been abandoned more than a year before? Perhaps they were abandoned shortly after John Washington’s straight forward, perfectly articulated warning to New Consensus? Or perhaps they were abandoned as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ed Markey prepared the Green New Deal resolution with it’s “clean” and “net zero” language replacing the language of fossil fuel phase outs and 100% Renewables? Perhaps the Sunrise Movement, New Consensus, Justice Democrats and Data for Progress all fell in line with the net zero language of ruling class carbon accounts while paying lip service to fighting fossil fuels and pushing the advocates for First Nations and frontline communities further from the negotiating table?

I’ve looked and I’ve watched and I may be wrong, but it seems like the concerns of the Climate Justice Alliance fell off the map in March 2019 after they presented their position on the importance of observing the Jemez principles in the development of the Green New Deal to New Consensus and its connected networks. At some point between the first promises of a fossil fuel phase out and no new nuclear energy that were part of the notional Green New Deal endorsed by 350 dot org and 600+ of their NGO friends in January 2019, and the release of the Unity Task Force recommendations, any notion of actually centering-frontline-communities in the development of a Green New Deal were, it seems, abandoned. Not long after the Green New Deal Resolution was introduced on 7 February 2019, 350 dot org’s Julian Brave Noisecat took up a key position at Data for Progress whose September 2018 report on the Green New Deal more completely resembles the net zero language of “clean energy” rather than the phase out language of “100% Renewables”. The exact phrase Bria Viniate used in reference to the Ocasio-Cortez/Sunrise version of the Green New Deal in Vogue shortly before the November 2018 midterms is “100% Renewables”. The new phrase at the center of the Green New Deal after the introduction of the Green New Deal Resolution is “100% clean, renewable and zero emissions”.

 

Key Documents

Jemez Principles: https://www.ejnet.org/ej/jemez.pdf

Just Transition Principles: https://climatejusticealliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/CJA_JustTransition_Principles_final_hi-rez.pdf

People of Color Environmental Justice: “Principles of Working Together” http://www.ejnet.org/ej/workingtogether.pdf

Green New Deal Resolution: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/116/hres109/text

Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force Recommendations: https://joebiden.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/UNITY-TASK-FORCE-RECOMMENDATIONS.pdf

Data for Progress – Green New Deal Report: https://www.dataforprogress.org/green-new-deal/

Fake it until you make new plans?

19 November 2018 – January 10 2019

When First Nations groups like the Lakota Law Project celebrated the creation of a Green New Deal in November 2018 they did so after hearing Ocasio-Cortez tell of her experiences at Standing Rock and saying “we have to get to 100 percent renewable energy in 10 years”.

Now, we find ourselves in this struggle together. Every aspect of the Green New Deal must be implemented now.

 

Chase Iron Eyes, Lakota People’s Law Project lead counsel [SOURCE]

In December 2018 Climate Justice Alliance issued a statement that made it clear that it’s primary demand was that Green New Deal builders go to the grass roots and take direction from there.

The proposal for the GND was made public at the grasstops level. When we consulted with many of our own communities, they were neither aware of, nor had they been consulted about the launch of the GND.

 

Climate Justice Alliance [SOURCE]

In January of 2019 Climate Justice Alliance and Indigenous Environment Network made very clear the commitments that would need to be upheld to keep a Green New Deal functioning.

What we want to do is strengthen and center the Green New Deal in environmental justice communities that have both experience and lived history of confronting the struggle against fossil fuel industries,

 

Angela Adrar [SOURCE]

 

The way that the plan was developed and shared is one of its greatest weaknesses,

 

Angela Adrar [SOURCE]

One of the most significant statements, attributable to Angela Adrar, is hard to date. The comment appears in the Green New Deal section of the CJA website but I could not find it in any published documents. It contains a dire warning about “Net Zero” and the burden that will be felt by frontline communities.

 

Allowing for neoliberal constructs such as Net Zero emissions, which equate carbon emission offsets and technology investments with real emissions reductions at source, would only exacerbate existing pollution burdens on frontline communities.

 

Angela Adrar [SOURCE]

On the eve of the release of the letter to congress from 626 environmental groups including 350 dot org Tom Goldtooth from Indigenous Environment Network reaffirmed the need for Green New Deal proponents to engage under the appropriate principles.

We’re asking that leadership of the Green New Deal meet with us and have a discussion how we can strengthen this campaign with the participation of the communities most impacted.

 

Tom Goldtooth [SOURCE]

Speaking upon the release of the letter of 626 groups and in reference to the input from IEN and CJA, Goldtooth indicated that commitment to “real solutions” were hard won. It’s important to note that at the time of the release of this letter Ocasio-Cortez was on record supporting “100% Renewables” having tweeted a call for a “wartime-level” mobilization in a January 2, 2019 tweet. [LINK]

Of course, we really had to assert ourselves on different issues that are very dear to us on seeking real solutions to mitigate climate change.

 

Tom Goldtooth

 

Goldtooth goes on to make it very clear that “real solutions” do not include carbon capture utilization and storage.

The techno fixes are very critical as well. In our analysis, it’s part of the false solutions. Carbon capture and storage, for an example, the technology is still being tested out there, concerns around leakage, and a lot of the private sector, the polluters, will benefit now, only to find out that there’s complications, and really justifying the offset regimes that happen in this scenario to where carbon capture and storage just isn’t working. Carbon capture use and storage and these other areas are very critical concerns with us. We have formed solidarity with other entities that have been addressing this issue as well. And so, we’re very thankful to all the other green groups, the six hundred and twenty some signatures, that they stand with us in looking for real solutions. [SOURCE]

Below is a key passage from the strongly aspirational letter of the 626 groups, January 10, 2019. The claims within have been rendered into empty promises since the introduction of the Green New Deal Resolution. More than a dozen bipartisan bills aimed at expanding fossil fuel extraction are making their way through congress. Bills designed; to expand the refining and use of fossil fuels through 45Q tax credits & modifications to the tax code; develop pipeline corridors; provide support and funding for R&D; and enable the use of financial instruments like private activity bonds. Scarce little has been done by Green New Deal Resolution cosponsors, proponent NGOs or climate justice and progressive NGOs to fight against the bipartisan 45Q bills or indeed in support of the solitary bill designed to eliminate the 45Q tax credit, the End Polluter Welfare Act 2020.

Further, we will vigorously oppose any legislation that: (1) rolls back existing environmental, health, and other protections, (2) protects fossil fuel and other dirty energy polluters from liability, or (3) promotes corporate schemes that place profits over community burdens and benefits, including market-based mechanisms and technology options such as carbon and emissions trading and offsets, carbon capture and storage,nuclear power, waste-to-energy and biomass energy. [Source]

The resolution and the handover to Democrat apparatchiks

4 February 2019 – 18 March 2019

Julian Brave Noisecat was able to see and respond to the language of the Green New Deal resolution before it was introduced. On February 4, 2019 Noisecat made comments published in Politico that show him attempting to bridge the contradiction between fighting for a fossil fuel phase out and fighting for net-zero.

 The language I read was clean, renewable, zero emissions — which is that ‘keep the door open’ approach,” said Julian NoiseCat, policy director with the climate group 350.org, adding that his organization pressed Ocasio-Cortez to include a statement requiring the phase-out of fossil fuels. [SOURCE]

 Noisecat made his comment while he was still employed by 350 dot org. Within a couple of months he would become the Director of Green New Deal Strategy with Data for Progress. While 350 dot org, in theory, still support a fossil fuel phase out, Data for Progress have always used the language as it appeared in the GND resolution. There is nothing that Data for Progress are doing or have done that is strategically supporting a fossil fuel phase out. As reported on January 18, 2019 a few weeks before the GND resolution was published, Greg Carlock, a key author of the Data for Progress – Green New Deal Report published in September 2018, thinks carbon capture utilization and storage is inevitable.

There is no scenario produced by the IPCC or the UN where we hit mid-century decarbonization without some kind of carbon capture.

Carlock also works for the World Resources Institute (WRI) as Manager for Climate Action and Data. WRI have never been committed to phasing out fossil fuels or building 100% renewables.

 

It is firmly understood that going 100 percent renewable in 10 years is technically impossible—like, physically and engineering-wise, it is impossible, [SOURCE] https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2019/01/first-fight-about-democrats-climate-green-new-deal/580543/

In testimony to the House Resources Committee on February 6, 2019, at a hearing titled: ‘Climate Change: The Impacts and the Need to Act’, Elizabeth Yeampierre, executive director of Uprose and steering committee co-chair of Climate Justice Alliance reiterated the need for a just transition.

VIDEO: The House Committee on Natural Resources hosted the hearing “Climate Change: The Impacts and the Need to Act”:

 

To effectively tackle climate change, we must invest in a Just Transition toward specifically local, living economies of scale.

 

Just Transition is a vision-led, unifying and place-based set of principles, processes and practices that build economic and political power to shift from an extractive economy to a regenerative economy – not just for workers but for whole communities. This means approaching production and consumption cycles holistically and waste-free.

 

This transition away from fossil fuels itself must be just and equitable, redressing past harms and creating new relationships of power for the future through reparations, living wage jobs and economic and social development that aims to address historical harm and discrimination. If the process of transition is not just, the outcome will never be. [Source]

An FAQ document that was apparently released in error on February 7, 2019 in advance of the introduction of the Green New Deal Resolution shows that the team formulating the resolution were cognisant of the implications of the change in language from “100% Renewables” to “100% clean and renewable” or “clean, renewable and zero-emission energy” which became the specific language in the resolution.

 

 Why 100% clean and renewable and not just 100% renewable? Are you saying we won’t transition off fossil fuels?

 

Yes, we are calling for a full transition off fossil fuels and zero greenhouse gases. Anyone who has read the resolution sees that we spell this out through a plan that calls for eliminating greenhouse gas emissions from every sector of the economy. [SOURCE: Green New Deal FAQ Fact Sheet, February 7, 2019]

 

On February 7, 2019 Indigenous Environment Network released their ‘talking points’ on the Green New Deal resolution offering an instant rejection of the “net-zero” language.

The primary goal of the AOC-Markey Green New Deal (GND) Resolution is to “achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions”. We reject net-zero emissions language (as well as carbon neutral and zero-carbon) because it implies the use of carbon accounting that includes various types of carbon pricing systems, offsets and/or Payments for Ecological Services (PES).

 

We can no longer leave any options for the fossil fuel industry to determine the economic and energy future of this country. And until the Green New Deal can be explicit in this demand as well as closing the loop on harmful incentives, we cannot fully endorse the resolution. [SOURCE]

In response to the release of the Green New Deal resolution the Indigenous Environment Network released a statement on February 8, 2019. In it they make very clear their position on nuclear energy and their concerns stemming from the door being left open for nuclear in the resolution language.

The Green New Deal (GND) resolutio[n], as it is written right now, with no exclusion of nuclear energy to be considered clean energy, would open the door for Yucca Mountain to be reconsidered for dumping the nuclear energy waste. It would create the largest nuclear waste transportation campaign in history, possibly endangering residents in 44 states, thousands of towns and cities, and our Indigenous territories. [SOURCE]

It’s clear from Ed Markey’s dismissive statements at a press conference on February 11, 2019 unveiling the Green New Deal Resolution that there was a clear break in language of and the responsibility for the Green New Deal. His responses suppose that moderate Democrats should be kept happy. At the same moment First Nations and frontline advocates were clearly unhappy.

We’ve drafted it in a way that can get the support of progressives and moderates inside our caucus.

 

Ed Markey

 

That’s what you should focus on. Focus on the resolution.

 

Ed Markey [SOURCES]

The language of the resolution itself calls for the exercise of the same values enshrined in the Jemez principles.

in transparent and inclusive consultation, collaboration, and partnership with frontline and vulnerable communities, labor unions, worker cooperatives, civil society groups, academia, and businesses. [SOURCE]

In her February 13, 2019 piece for The Intercept following the introduction of the GND resolution Naomi Klein did not mention the disappearance of a fossil fuel phase out or note the change in language.  If 350 had pressed Ocasio-Cortez on a phase out like Noisecat says, you would think it ought to be mentioned by 350’s leading light? Klein instead called for vigilance and ensuring responsiveness to pressure from frontline communities.

The Green New Deal will need to be subject to constant vigilance and pressure from experts who understand exactly what it will take to lower our emissions as rapidly as science demands, and from social movements that have decades of experience bearing the brunt of false climate solutions, whether nuclear power, the chimera of carbon capture and storage, or carbon offsets. [SOURCE]

By mid March 2019 the Climate Justice Alliance were pushed to the point where they felt they had to ask some questions about the values held by New Consensus: Who funds it? and, To whom is it accountable?

To this end, in order for us to continue in this process, we have four clear demands:

 

  1. Include both the Jemez Principles and the Environmental Justice Principles of Working Together in all work stemming from this gathering and forthcoming;

 

  1. Disclose and maintain transparency in funding sources, current and emerging, and commit that funding directly to those most impacted, including frontline and base-building organizing groups, alliances and networks for the development of policy priorities and language;

 

  1. Clearly outline who New Consensus is accountable to and who it works for; and why is there redundancy, going into communities where work is already being done when the country is vast and there are so many other places where there isn’t yet consensus;

 

  1. Commit to New Consensus’ participation in a strategy meeting with CJA and allied frontline partners in order to move our collective conversation and possible relationship forward, we would ask that a MOA be entered into between New Consensus and CJA frontlines.[SOURCE]

John Washington presented his strident arguments to new Consensus and GND partners on March 18, 2019 following the reading of the CJA statement by Miya Yoshitani. Robinson Meyer reported in The Atlantic in June 2019 that “difficulties came to a head” that day, but he did not specify which 2 activists raised issues.

The meeting was bumpy from the first hour, when two environmental-justice activists interrupted proceedings to protest the absence of the Climate Justice Alliance, a national network of urban, rural, and indigenous groups. The alliance had been asked to endorse the Green New Deal, but it had not been asked to help write it, the activists charged.

 

But one of the major demands the environmental-justice activists raised at the meeting has gone publicly unanswered. They asked a simple question: Who’s funding New Consensus? [SOURCE]

The Series

In Part 2 of this series I will look more closely at the negative impacts of marginalizing First Nations, frontline and grass roots voices, and how the fuzzy “clean” language of the Green New Deal Resolution left room for all the Democratic presidential hopefuls to capitalise on climate and justice issues, even when their real commitments would put them at odds with a fossil fuel phase out or 100% renewables.

In Part 3 I will look in depth at the neglected battlefields in stopping fossil fuel extraction including the bipartisan bills supporting expansion of the already misused 45Q tax credit making their way through congress, and the forces lining up to profit from the absence of any real commitment to eliminating fossil fuel subsidies from the DNC through the Progressive Caucus and onto the Green New Deal proponents.

Conclusion

Angela Adrar observed that the way the grass roots component of the Green New Deal was developed is its “greatest weakness” and that the “grasstops” announcement of the Green New Deal concept was not preceded by consultation with grass roots networks. We should keep this in mind whenever we think about the Green New Deal. We may never discover what happened after the March 2019 New Consensus meeting, but we do know there is an enormous responsibility on the shoulders of any honest brokers to redress the relationships compromised in the process of delivering policies for Democrat presidential hopefuls.

We should take as a warning and a lesson the words of Mark Charles at the Native American Presidential Forum in August 2019 as reported by Julian Brave Noisecat.

Now, if you have a house that’s built on a bad foundation, you’re going to get cracks in your walls. You’re going to get gaps in your windows. And you’re going to get a creaky floor,” he said, his oration reaching its soaring conclusion. “And you can scream and you can fight about what color to paint the walls, what kind of calking to use in your windows, and what kind of carpet to put on your floor, but until you go into the basement and examine your foundation and do something to firm those up and make those strong—you are never going to fix the problems in the house.” The audience cheered. Some women who had been cautious with their lele’s earlier really let loose.” [SOURCE]

 

[Michael Swifte is an Australian activist and a member of the Wrong Kind of Green critical thinking collective.]

COMMENTS on ‘Green’ billionaires behind professional activist network that led suppression of ‘Planet of the Humans’ documentary

COMMENTS on ‘Green’ billionaires behind professional activist network that led suppression of ‘Planet of the Humans’ documentary

Wrong Kind of Green

September 9, 2020

An informal response written by Cory Morningstar (Wrong Kind of Green Collective) to the recent Max Blumenthal piece “‘Green’ billionaires behind professional activist network that led suppression of ‘Planet of the Humans’ documentary”.

 

 

Now that much (perhaps some?) of my work over the past decade is finally suitable for discussion and sharing, having been rewrapped with a Max Blumenthal bow, I’m adding some further commentary to complement the relevant piece being widely shared by filmmaker Jeff Gibbs and many more.

Let’s begin.

1. MB: “Naomi Klein, perhaps the most prominent left-wing writer on climate-related issues in the West, did not weigh in to defend “Planet of the Humans.” Instead, the Intercept columnist, social activist, and Gloria Steinem Endowed Chair in Media, Culture, and Feminist Studies at Rutgers University was an early participant in the campaign to suppress the film.”

Adding: Video, Gloria Steinem Discussing Her Time in the Central Intelligence Agency, [running time 3m:16s]:

2. MB: “He pointed to the New York State Assembly’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act as an embodiment of the foresight of proponents of a near-total transition to renewable energy.”

Adding: The Climate Leadership & Community Protection Act heralded as “moonshot”, “historic” and “one of the World’s Most Ambitious Climate Plans” promises more than a tripling of solar by 2025.

Percentage of NYC electricity from solar, 2019: 1.40%.

[Link: https://twitter.com/elleprovocateur/status/1144253062384619521]

Adding that “renewable energy” is old news, as data, as a new class asset, has emerged as the new oil – with carbon capture and storage, nuclear, and geoengineering to be at the forefront of climate “solutions” (with little resistance).

3. MB: “35 percent of investments from clean energy and energy efficiency funds [be] invested in disadvantaged communities.”

Adding: This language can serve to situate industrial sites (infrastructure which will include the physical waste and ecological devastation) on First Nations lands (recognizing that all land has been stolen from First Nations) and marginalized/impoverished communities.

4. MB: “Jacobson’s study, according to National Geographic, was “a foundation stone” of the Green New Deal proposal put forward by Democratic Sen. Ed Markey and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.”

Adding: The National Geographic is a leading partner in the plan to financialize nature led by the World Economic Forum, the World Wildlife Fund, Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project and the United Nations, which partnered with the WEF on June 13, 2019. This is the single most important threat to the natural world, now underway – with the non-profit industrial complex in its entirety, in tandem with media, supporting it (or remaining silent on it). This is the corporate capture of the commons, global in scale. Nature is to be bought, sold and traded on Wall Street. Assigning monetary value to social capital will follow. Nicole Schwab, daughter of Klaus Schwab, founder and CEO of the World Economic Forum, serves as National Geographic Society Director International  Relations, in addition to overseeing the World Economic Forum initiatives: Platform to Accelerate Nature Based Solutions – and  1tDOTorg (the Trillion Trees initiative).

[More: https://twitter.com/search?q=%40elleprovocateur%20%3A%20nicole&src=typed_query]

[Further reading, the non-funded grassroots campaign: “No Deal For Nature: Because Life is Not a Commodity]

5. MD: “He mentioned ‘a foundation based in Sweden, I think it’s called the Rasmussen Foundation that I think has been the biggest funder.'”

Adding: The 2014 People’s Climate March was a project of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and V.K. Rasmussen Foundation from the onset. Avaaz and 350-org were the leading NGOs tasked with “herding” the “cats”. Tom Kruse, Program Director at the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, serves/served on the 350-org U.S. advisory council.

Sept 23, 2015: Under One Bad Sky | TckTckTck’s 2014 People’s Climate March: This Changed Nothing:

http://www.wrongkindofgreen.org/2015/09/23/under-one-bad-sky/

Book review of This changes everything: Capitalism vs the Climate – by Tom Kruse, program director of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. Featured in the 2016 issue of Alliance magazine ("for philanthropy and social investment worldwide").

Book review of This changes everything: Capitalism vs the Climate – by Tom Kruse, program director of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. Featured in the 2016 issue of Alliance magazine (“for philanthropy and social investment worldwide”). Sept 27, 2014, Klein: “”But I have never said that we need to “slay,” “ditch” or “dismantle” capitalism in order to fight climate change.” Today, under the guise of “stakeholder capitalism” the ruling class is determined to maintain the social license required to continue in their plunder and exploitation while securing their position and status. See work of activist and author Stephanie McMillan.

 

Klein’s alliance with the Rockefeller Foundation goes way back. Nov 28, 2011: “Mission Related Investing, Making Sense of Philanthropy’s Role in the Occupy Wall Street Movement.” Featured on the five person panel was both Naomi Klein and Rockefeller’s Tom Kruse. In 2016 Kruse wrote a glowing book review on This Changes Everything (the project the Rockefeller’s  helped finance). Klein’s book, launched on September 16, 2014, just prior to “The People’s Climate March” and Climate Week NYC (Sept 22-28)(an annual event hosted in association with the United Nations; organized by The Climate Group, and the World Economic Forum), served a foundation for a ten-year global social engineering project. “Changing Together” and “Together” would be branded terms that would slowly erode all critical class analysis. On September 17, 2019, again just prior to the UN activities, Klein would release “On Fire: The Burning Case for a Green New Deal”. This book would serve to build demand for a Global Green New Deal as sought by the United Nations.

Sept 24, 2015: McKibben’s Divestment Tour – Brought to You by Wall Street [Part XIII of an Investigative Report] The Increasing Vogue for Capitalist-Friendly Climate Discourse:

http://www.wrongkindofgreen.org/2015/09/24/mckibbens-divestment-tour-brought-to-you-by-wall-street-part-xiii-the-increasing-vogue-for-capitalist-friendly-climate-discourse/

June 7, 2016: Book review by Rockefeller’s Tom Kruse featured in Alliance Magazine (“for philanthropy and social investment worldwide”):

https://www.alliancemagazine.org/book-review/this-changes-everything-capitalism-vs-the-climate-naomi-klein/

All roads lead to emerging markets. The roads are paved with the sustainable development goals.

6. MB: “It began when the foundation incubated a group called 1Sky with a $1 million grant. McKibben immediately joined as board member.”

Adding: 1Sky was injected with massive funding as this juncture, but it actually began with Step It Up (2007) – the same year Avaaz was launched. Here I will add that Avaaz and 350 are closely intertwined and have been since inception. May Boeve, 350 co-founder and current executive director, (base salary of $130,431 in 2017) has been listed as director in Avaaz 990 forms on more than one occasion.

Avaaz plays a leading role in destruction of targeted sovereign states. (A fact Klein blocked me for when asking why she did not expose this on Twitter.) Klein’s father-in-law, often affiliated with her Leap NGO, is one of Canada’s most egregious imperialists. A ideology that Klein has supported on many occasions. (Bolivia, Syria, Libya).

Avaaz is also behind the scheme to financialize nature. This ties into the global climate strikes (to strengthen the Voice for the Planet and New Deal for Nature campaigns led by World Economic Forum/UN, and the World Wildlife Fund) where again, Avaaz has played a leading role. 350 and Avaaz are both co-founders of GCCA which has largely navigated the climate “movement” since 2009. In 2015 Kumi Naidoo, former executive director of both Greenpeace International and GCCA, serving as executive director of Amnesty International, until resigning Dec 2019, was cited as a 350 director in the 2015 990 filing.

7. MB: “Whatever his motives were, since the testy exchange with Strickler, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund has contributed over $1 million to McKibben’s 350.org.

Adding: $1 million is pocket change for these groups. Look at ClimateWorks and other sources of funding (corporate profits laundered through tax exempt foundations) that protect and expand capital. 350 is international in scope – financed to provide “climate change awareness services training and events” – prior to the November 2019 coup in Bolivia. This foreign influence training model (imperial tentacles) extends to countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

Sept 11, 2019: A Design to Win — A Multi-Billion Dollar Investment [VOLUME II, ACT I]:

http://www.wrongkindofgreen.org/2019/09/11/the-manufacturing-of-greta-thunberg-for-consent-volume-ii-act-i-a-design-to-win-a-multi-billion-dollar-investment/

Article posted October 1, 2015. The UN Global Goals, also know as the Sustainable Delevelopment Goals (SDGs), are the vehicle for emerging markets. The Word Economic Forum oversees the implemtation of the SDGs.

Article posted October 1, 2015. The UN Global Goals, also know as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), are the vehicle for emerging markets. The Word Economic Forum oversees the implementation of the SDGs.

 

8. MB: “Today, the Solutions Project is ‘100% co opted and sold out,’ Fox acknowledged.”

Adding further background research on the Solutions Project:

Dec 17, 2016: Standing Rock: Profusion, Collusion & Big Money Profits [Part 5]:

http://www.wrongkindofgreen.org/2016/12/13/standing-rock-profusion-collusion-big-money-profits-part-5/

9. MB: “Skoll funded Al Gore’s film on climate change, “An Inconvenient Truth,” which went into production soon after Gore launched his Generation Investment Management fund – an inconvenient truth pointed out by “Planet of the Humans.”

Adding this as a side note: Media has recently covered the WE –Trudeau “scandal” in Canada. Conveniently media has omitted key facts – such as Jeff Skoll having been involved in the financing/creation of WE from inception. WE is partnered with the United Nations with deep ties to the ruling class in the UK.

Thread: https://twitter.com/elleprovocateur/status/1286672712690262016

Adding: To see what Gore’s dream of solar in remote and/or impoverished areas of Africa look like in real life, please read:

Jan 30, 2019: The Most Inconvenient Truth: “Capitalism is in Danger of Falling Apart” [ACT III]:

http://www.wrongkindofgreen.org/2019/01/28/the-manufacturing-of-greta-thunberg-for-consent-the-most-inconvenient-truth-capitalism-is-in-danger-of-falling-apart/

10. MB: “Dinwoodie, who signed Fox’s letter calling for the retraction of “Planet of the Humans,” was a top donor to the Rocky Mountain Institute, a so-called “do-tank” where he serves as a lead trustee. The initiative, according to Rocky Mountain, will serve as “an engine room for the financial sector to partner with corporate clients to identify practical solutions through deep partnerships with industry, civil society and policymakers to facilitate a transition in the global economy to net-zero emissions by mid-century.”

Adding: The term net-zero has nothing to do with zero emissions.

Source: Indigenous Environmental Network [IEN]

Source: Indigenous Environmental Network [IEN]

 

Adding: Co-signer Dinwoodie serves as Sierra Club’s Climate Cabinet and Scientific Advisory Panel, MIT Mechanical Engineering Visiting Committee, Advisory Board to The Solutions Project, Advisor to the MIT Energy Club (MIT is a World Economic Forum co-curator), and executive producer of film “Time To Choose”.

11. MB: “Klein, a longtime critic of elite family foundations and the billionaire class, was among the most prominent figures to join the campaign to censor “Planet of the Humans.”

Adding the background to photo of Naomi Klein and Angel Gurría, Secretary-General of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD.)Jan 25, 2016, The De-Klein of a Revolutionary Writer: From Subcomandante Marcos to Angel Gurria:

http://www.wrongkindofgreen.org/2016/01/25/the-de-klein-of-a-revolutionary-writer-from-subcomandante-marcos-to-angel-gurria/

Adding that the perception that “Klein, a longtime critic of elite family foundations and the billionaire class” is a larley a false premise manufactured by media. Consider “Honourable” Hilary M. Weston presenting the Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction to Naomi Klein, on October 15, 2014. The Westons, one of the most wealthy families in Canada, were architects of a 14-year-long bread price-fixing scheme, fleecing working class Canadians of grocery money. In 2018, the Westons were named Ireland’s richest family for the tenth year running, with a wealth of €11.42 billion. In 2020 the Westons were included in the Sunday Times Rich List ranking of the wealthiest people in the UK. The Westons are the third richest family in Canada (made possible by the exploitation and theft of labour).

More recently Klein shares equal billing for the endorsement of The Future We Choose book (authored by Christiana Figueres; UN, We Mean Business, etc.) with World Economic Forum founder and CEO, Klaus Schwab.

The World Economic Forum's Book Club pick for March 2020: The Future We Choose by Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac.

The World Economic Forum’s Book Club pick for March 2020: The Future We Choose by Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac.

 

There is no institution more important than the World Economic Forum at this moment in time, in regard to what is to happen under the guise of climate mitigation and protection of biodiversity. This, the most critical component, is missing.

Also recent, is the 2019 Confluence Philanthropy webinar with Klein, and Stephen Heintz, president of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund under the subheading of “mission-aligned investing” (often referred to as “impact investing”):

 

12. MB: “Klein has celebrated the Danish government where KR Foundation leaders have served for advancing “some of the most visionary environmental policies in the world.”

Adding: The Nordic countries are also at the helm in the plan to assign monetary value to all of nature’s “services”, global in scale.

Link: https://twitter.com/elleprovocateur/status/1301966944321572865

September 20, 2019: "It was the Nordic Council Sustainability Committee who initially came up with the idea of an initiative targeting the youth, and the idea was immediately supported by the Nordic Council of Ministers for the Environment."

September 20, 2019: “It was the Nordic Council Sustainability Committee who initially came up with the idea of an initiative targeting the youth, and the idea was immediately supported by the Nordic Council of Ministers for the Environment.”

 

Nordic Council of Ministers: "This analysis examines the attitudes of Nordic youth aged 13-30 in relation to achieving Sustainable Development Goal 12 (SDG 12) on Sustainable Consumption and Production."

Nordic Council of Ministers: “This analysis examines the attitudes of Nordic youth aged 13-30 in relation to achieving Sustainable Development Goal 12 (SDG 12) on Sustainable Consumption and Production.”

 

13. MB: “For its part, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund has supported The Syria Campaign, a public relations outfit that clamored for US military intervention to remove the UN-recognized government of Syria.”

Here it is critical to add that The Syria Campaign is a project incubated by Purpose – the for profit public relations arm of Avaaz. Specializing behavioural change, it’s clients include some of the biggest corporations on the planet. It’s most recent partnership with the UN is ShareVerified. (Promoting vaccines and data mining while attempting to control control pandemic narrative being leveraged by World Economic Forum to usher in the fourth industrial revolution architecture.) Both Purpose and Greenpeace  contributed to the creation of We Mean Business coalition representing 1340 corporations with an approx. 24.8 trillion market cap.

14. Adding mining links highlighting praise of both Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Greta Thunberg as “heroines” to the mining industry:

https://twitter.com/elleprovocateur/status/1193691372290793472

https://twitter.com/elleprovocateur/status/1224698188818456576

https://twitter.com/elleprovocateur/status/1190643776139739136

15. “Klein’s 2015 book and documentary film on climate change, “This Changes Everything,” was initially launched as a project called “The Message.” It was supported with hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants from a who’s who of major family foundations that help sustain McKibben’s political apparatus.”

Adding source: July 30, 2014, Financing “The Message” Behind Naomi Klein’s ‘This Changes Everything’ Project:

http://www.wrongkindofgreen.org/2015/10/02/financing-the-message-behind-naomi-kleins-this-changes-everything-project/

Susan Rockefeller at her home on the Upper East Side in Manhattan, New York, on Sept. 8, 2015. Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)

Susan Rockefeller at her home on the Upper East Side in Manhattan, New York, on Sept. 8, 2015. Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)

 

16. MB: “In a recent The Intercept column, Klein took aim at Schmidt, describing him as one of the billionaires exploiting “a coherent Pandemic Shock Doctrine” to begin “building a high tech dystopia.” She noted that Schmidt is closely aligned with the national security state as chair of the Defense Innovation Board, which consults for the Pentagon on the military’s application of artificial intelligence.”

Adding that Klein neglects to use the World Economic Forum’s terminology – “fourth industrial revolution”. (Max also neglects to mention this critical terminology.) See Alison McDowell’s work on Artificial intelligence (AI) and 5G in respect to the nightmarish future of militarism. Independent journalist Alison McDowell also challenges Klein on specifics and framing (via Twitter) which Klein ignores.

17. MB: The Senate version of the Green New Deal calls for the construction of “smart” power grids almost exactly like those Schmidt imagined. Klein and other high-profile Green New Deal proponents have neglected to mention that this seeming benign component of the well-intentioned plan could represent a giant step on the way to the “high tech dystopia” of Silicon Valley barons and their national security state partners.

Adding (again) that the Green New Deal (resurrected from 2009, led by the United Nations, Avaaz, etc.) is a Trojan horse for fourth industrial revolution technologies and the financialization of nature.

Adding – that Klein, with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Al Gore, Jamie Margolin of Zero Hour (groomed by Gore, tagged by “We Don’t Have Time” in the screenshot below), are the chosen/leading influencers – for a Global Green New Deal as sought by UN (now partnered with both World Economic Forum and the World Bank).

Communication specialist Callum Grieve: Co-founder of We Mean Business, creator of Climate Week NYC for The Climate Group - and Greta Thunberg handler. Grieve has coordinated high-level climate change communications campaigns and interventions for the United Nations, World Bank Group, C40, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and several Fortune 500 companies.

Communication specialist Callum Grieve: Co-founder of We Mean Business, creator of Climate Week NYC for The Climate Group – and Greta Thunberg handler. Grieve has coordinated high-level climate change communications campaigns and interventions for the United Nations, World Bank Group, C40, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and several Fortune 500 companies. Further reading: “A 100 Trillion Dollar Storytelling Campaign [A Short Story], Oct 6, 2019]

“The liquidation of fascism must be the liquidation of the bourgeoisie that created it.” – Gramsci [Tagging this with #WeDontHaveTime]

18. MB: Flush with dark money from Democratic Party-aligned billionaires, Sunrise Movement co-founder Varshini Prakash stated on July 14 – the day Biden released his clean energy plan: “It’s no secret that we’ve been critical of Vice President’s Biden’s plans and commitments in the past. Today, he’s responded to many of those criticisms: dramatically increasing the scale and urgency of investments… Our movement, alongside environmental justice communities and frontline workers, has taught Joe Biden to talk the talk.”

Adding: “Our movement”: To speak of “environmental justice communities” and “frontline workers” – as having taught Joe Biden to “talk the talk” is hard to swallow, when Biden is an imperialist. Has Sunrise transformed Biden into an anti-imperialist who now respects self-determination? (rhetorical question).

Video: Biden and Elliott Abrams on Nicaragua,1987:

https://www.c-span.org/video/?c4731064/user-clip-1987-bidennicaragua

January 18, 2017, Davos: Joe Biden (R) with Klaus Schwab, founder and CEO of the World Economic Forum, Image: Manuel Lopez

19. “While it brands itself as a grassroots movement that has organized anti-establishment stunts putting centrist figures like Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein on the spot, the Sunrise Movement was incubated with a grant from the Sierra Club, the Mike Bloomberg-backed juggernaut of Big Green organizing. Today, offices of the two organizations are located a floor apart in the same building in downtown Washington DC.”

Adding: Background on Sunrise and the Green New Deal:

Feb 13, 2019: The Green New Deal is the Trojan Horse for the Financialization of Nature [ACT V]:

20. Finally, Michael Moore’s commentary in the Q&A session that followed the release of “Planet of the Humans, was worse than disappointing – yet more than revealing. Highlighting Greta Thunberg, Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Extinction Rebellion,  Green New Deal – all in the design/pocket of the ruling classes. In just one hour Moore undermines the said intent of the film. “That’s what’s great about Bernie and AOC… each of their Green New Deals acknowledge this income inequality…” Any/all Green New Deals will serve the ruling class. The World Economic Forum-United Nations is at the helm. Not Sanders. Not AOC. Not the Democrats. This matters as over 105,000 very interested people listened – wishing to learn. Moore: “we need to have a whole new environmental movement, maybe what Greta has started… Sun Rise Movement, Extinction Rebellion, Greta and her Friday School Strike.” Moore re-directs youth right back to foundation financed, billionaire/corporate backed “movements”. [Thread]

Adding that Max B missed the important article by WKOG collective member Michael on the Planet of the Humans documentary:

http://wrongkindofgreen.org/2020/05/20/clinton-to-mckibben-to-steyer-to-podesta-comments-on-planet-of-the-humans-by-michael-swifte

In respect to the pandemic referenced by MB in his article. The ruling class has weaponized the power of both fear and conformity against us. That Covid-19 is the catalyst to usher in a new global architecture, that is, the “fourth industrial revolution”, is not conjecture, not “conspiracy theory“, but a fact. Full compliance and social license of the global citizenry is required.

The ruling class has conspired to usher in a new global governance with Covid-19 as the pretext. With the World Economic-United Nations-World Bank partnership; a global consolidation of power, well underway. It is understood that the transition will cause unprecedented suffering. The only thing they fear is revolt.

The fourth industrial revolution architecture catalogues children as human capital data to be commodified on blockchain, linking behaviour to benefits. The human population to be controlled “via digital identity systems tied to cashless benefit payments within the context of a militarized 5G, “internet of things” and an “augmented reality” environment.” [See the work of Alison McDowell.]

The fourth industrial revolution cannot come into fruition without the 5G infrastructure that will run the Internet of Things. “Smart” cities (via Global Covenant of Mayors) must be understood within the context of global policing and the military industrial complex. Cybersecurity will be the battle space of the 21st century.

As part of “the great reset”, in 2021, the ruling class intends to implement the financialization of nature. Those with money will own nature The very corporations that have brought us to the precipice of ecological collapse – will now be appointed as the new stewards of nature. This has been dubbed by John Elkington (Extinction Rebellion Business signatory, Volans) as the “biosphere economy”. This represents the largest transformation of the global economic system in modern history. Assigning monetary value to nature (“natural capital”) will replace GDP, with nature “valued” at 125 trillion vs. GDP at 85.9 trillion (2018).

Image

Voting in a capitalist system is not going to cut it. Petitions are not going to stop it.

An environmental movement not built on a foundation of anti-imperialism, anti-militarism and anti-capitalism is meaningless. Worthless.

I have tried to keep this concise and brief – which is impossible. Upon that note, I caution that the most important elements now underway, in respect to further destruction of our natural world, are still be ignored by groups and writers with far more resources, and far larger audiences than we have at Wrong Kind of Green. Silence is complicity. Discourse is a strategy utilized by those in service to the ruling class. I hope this inspires more people to investigate, write and organize.

“And that’s the real question facing the white activists today. Can they tear down the institutions that have put us all in the trick bag we’ve been into for the last hundreds of years?” So to me the question is “are we tearing down the institutions or keeping them propped up?”

 

— Stokely Carmichael, 1966

 

[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, Internationalist 360, Tortilla con Sal, and Counterpunch. 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]

‘Green’ billionaires behind professional activist network that led suppression of ‘Planet of the Humans’ documentary

The Grayzone

September 7, 2020

By Max Blumenthal

 

“We must take control of our environmental movement and our future from billionaires and their permanent war on Planet Earth. They are not our friends.”

 

-Jeff Gibbs, director of “Planet of the Humans”

Green' billionaires behind professional activist network that led suppression of 'Planet of the Humans' documentary | The Grayzone

 

It is hard to think of an American film that provoked a greater backlash in 2020 than “Planet of the Humans.” Focused on the theme of planetary extinction and fanciful proposals to ward it off, the documentary was released for free on YouTube on April 21. The date was significant not only because it was the eve of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, but because a global pandemic was tearing through America’s social fabric and exposing the human toll of the country’s globalized, growth-obsessed economic model.“The Michael Moore-produced ‘Planet of the Humans’ faced a coordinated suppression campaign led by professional climate activists backed by the same ‘green’ billionaires, Wall Street investors, industry insiders and family foundations skewered in the film.”

Even before “Planet of the Humans” was released, however, the producers of the film had fallen under pressure to retract it. Upon the film’s release, a who’s who of self-styled climate justice activists proceeded to blanket the internet with accusations that it was a racist, “eco-fascist” screed that deliberately advanced the interests of the oil and gas industry. When “Planet of the Humans” was briefly yanked from YouTube thanks to a questionable copyright claim by an angry climate warrior, the free speech organization Pen America issued a remarkable statement characterizing the demands for retraction as a coordinated censorship campaign.

What had this documentary done to inflame so much opposition from the faces and voices of professional climate justice activism? First, it probed the well-established shortcomings of renewable energy sources like solar and wind power that have been marketed as a green panacea. “Planet of the Humans” portrayed these technologies as anything but green, surveying the environmental damage already caused by solar and wind farms, which require heavy mining and smelting to produce, destroy swaths of pristine land, and sometimes demand natural gas to operate.

While major environmental outfits have lobbied for a Green New Deal to fuel a renewables-based industrial revolution, and are now banking on a Democratic presidency to enact their proposals, “Planet of the Humans” put forward a radical critique that called their entire agenda into question.

As the director of the documentary, Jeff Gibbs, explained, “When we focus on climate change only as the thing destroying the planet and we demand solutions, we get used by forces of capitalism who want to continue to sell us the disastrous illusion that we can mine and smelt and industrialize our way out of this extinction event. And again, behind the scenes, much of what we’re doing to ‘save’ the planet is to burn the ‘bio’ of the planet as green energy.”

“Planet of the Humans” crossed another bright green line by taking aim at the self-proclaimed climate justice activists themselves, painting them as opportunists who had been willingly co-opted by predatory capitalists. The filmmakers highlighted the role of family foundations like the Rockefeller Brothers Fund in cultivating a class of professional activists that tend toward greenwashing partnerships with Wall Street and the Democratic Party to coalitions with anti-capitalist militants and anti-war groups.

Bill McKibben, the founder of 350.org and guru of climate justice activism, is seen throughout “Planet of the Humans” consorting with Wall Street executives and pushing fossil fuel divestment campaigns that enable powerful institutions to reshuffle their assets into plastics and mining while burnishing their image. McKibben has even called for environmentalists to cooperate with the Pentagon, one of the world’s worst polluters and greatest exporters of violence, because “when it speaks frankly, [it] has the potential to reach Americans who won’t listen to scientists.”

Perhaps the most provocative critique contained in “Planet of the Humans” was the portrayal of full-time climate warriors like McKibben as de facto lobbyists for green tech billionaires and Wall Street investors determined to get their hands on the whopping $50 trillion profit opportunity that a full transition to renewable technology represents. Why have figures like Google CEO Eric Schmidt, Michael Bloomberg, Virgin’s Richard Branson, and Tesla founder Elon Musk been plowing their fortunes into climate advocacy? The documentary taunted those who accepted these oligarchs’ gestures of environmental concern at face value.

For years, leftist criticism of professional climate activism has been largely relegated to blogs like Wrong Kind of Green, which maintains an invaluable archive of critical work on the co-optation of major environmental organizations by the billionaire class. Prominent greens might have been able to dismiss scrutiny from radical corners of the internet as background noise; however, they were unable to ignore “Planet of the Humans.”

That was because Oscar-winning documentarian Michael Moore put his name on the film as executive producer, alongside his longtime producer, Gibbs, and the scholar-researcher Ozzie Zehner. “Michael Moore validates this film,” Josh Fox, the filmmaker who led the campaign against “Planet of the Humans,” told me. “So if Michael Moore’s name is not on that film, it’s like a thousand other crappy movies.”

By racking up millions of views after just a month on YouTube, “Planet of the Humans” threatened to provoke an unprecedented debate about the corruption of environmental politics by the one percent. But thanks to the campaign by Fox and his allies, much of the debate wound up focused on the film itself, and the credibility of its producers.

“I had some sense that the film was going to ruffle some feathers, but I was unprepared for that response from what ended up being a group of people who are like an echo chamber – all related to the same funding organizations,” said Zehner. “It’s a pretty tight circle and it was a really strong, virulent pushback.”

The line of attack that may have gained the most traction in progressive circles portrayed a convoluted section of the film on the dangers of population growth and overconsumption as Malthusian, and even racist. Zehner told me he considered the attacks opportunistic, but “from a public relations standpoint, they were effective. What we were trying to do was highlight the dangers of a consumption-based economic model.”

The backlash to “Planet of the Humans” also related to its portrayal of renewables as badly flawed sources of energy that were also environmentally corrosive. Many of those attacks painted the film’s presentation of solar and wind to present the documentary as out of date and filled with misinformation.

Oddly, the professional activists who coordinated the campaign to bury “Planet of the Humans” glossed over an entire third of the documentary which focused on the corruption and co-optation of environmental politics by “green” foundations and “green” investors.

As this investigation will reveal, those climate justice activists were bound together by support from the same family foundations, billionaire investors, and industry interests that were skewered in the film.

Josh Fox Planet of the Humans billionaires

Filmmaker Josh Fox

“Censorship, plain and simple”

The ringleader of the push to suppress “Planet of the Humans” was Josh Fox, the Oscar-nominated director of the film “Gasland,” which highlighted the destructive practices inherent to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Fox launched the campaign with a sign-on letter calling for the documentary to be retracted by its producers. Then, in an incendiary takedown published in The Nation, he branded Michael Moore “the new flack for oil and gas,” a racist, and “eco-fascist” for producing the film.

As videographer Matt Orfalea reported, Fox’s crusade began the night Moore’s film was released, with an unhinged mass email to online publishers that blasted the documentary as “A GIGANTIC CROCK OF SHIT.” Fox commanded, “It must come down off your pages immediately.”

Hours later, Fox fired off another breathless email to a group of public relations professionals. “A number of reputable websites are hosting this abomination and I need your support in getting them to take it down,” he wrote. The following day, Fox took to Twitter to assure his ally, 350.org founder Bill McKibben, “We are on it.”

Next, Fox organized a sign-on letter demanding the film “be retracted by its creators and distributors and an apology rendered for its misleading content.” Among the letter’s signatories was academic and renewables advocate Leah C. Stokes, who proclaimed her wish in an article in Vox that “this film will be buried, and few will watch it or remember it.”

On April 24, Josh Fox claimed he had successfully pressured an online video library, Films For Action, into removing “Planet of the Humans” from its website. His victory lap turned out to be premature, as Films For Action re-posted the film and publicly condemned Fox’s campaign to drive it into oblivion.

The relentless push by Fox and others eventually triggered a striking statement by PEN America, the free speech advocacy group. “Calls to pull a film because of disagreement with its content are calls for censorship, plain and simple,” PEN America declared.

“Listen, nobody called to censor this movie,” Fox insisted to me. “We asked the filmmakers as part of their community to retract it, because it unfairly attacked people that we know are good, honest dealers and its premise was wrong and false.”

Fox likened “Planet of the Humans” to radio host Mike Daisey’s monologue on visiting the Foxconn factory in China where iPhones are made, and which was retracted by NPR after major fabrications came to light. “It’s clear to me that the filmmakers… put incorrect information into the film that they knew was incorrect. That thing was out of date,” Fox said of the Moore-produced documentary. “And many, many people from within our community reached out to them, which I didn’t know actually, prior to the release of the film and said, ‘This information is incorrect. What are you doing?’”

Fox was particularly incensed at Michael Moore for attaching his reputation to the film. He described the famed director as one of “the bad guys”; “a megalomaniacal multi-millionaire who craves attention unlike anyone I’ve ever met”; “the 800-pound elephant in the room”; the maker of a “racist” and “eco-fascist” film; and “a multi-millionaire circus barker” guilty of “journalistic malpractice.”

“The real bully is Michael Moore here,” Fox maintained. “It’s not me.”

Though Fox and his allies did not succeed in erasing “Planet of the Humans” from the internet, the documentary was momentarily removed from YouTube on the grounds of a copyright claim by a British photographer named Toby Smith. In a tweet he later deleted, Smith said his opposition to the film was “personal,” blasting it as a “baseless, shite doc built on bull-shit and endless copyright infringements.”

As the attacks on “Planet of the Humans” snowballed, director Jeff Gibbs attempted to defend his film. Following an article at The Guardian branding the film as “dangerous,” Gibbs emailed the paper’s opinion editors requesting a right of reply. He told me they never responded. However, just hours after Toby Smith’s politically-motivated copyright claim prompted YouTube to remove Gibbs’ documentary, he said The Guardian reached out to him for comment. “How’d they catch that so early?” he wondered.

A few left-wing journalists tried to push back on the attacks as well. But in almost every case, they were spiked by editors at ostensibly progressive journals. Christopher Ketcham, author of “This Land: How Cowboys, Capitalism, and Corruption are Ruining the American West,” was among those unable to find a venue in which to defend the documentary.

“I have come across very few editors radical enough to have the exceedingly difficult conversation about the downscaling, simplification, and the turn (in the developed world) toward diminished affluence that a 100 percent renewable energy system will necessarily entail,” Ketcham reflected to me. “You see, they have to believe that they can keep their carbon-subsidized entitlements, their toys, their leisure travel — no behavioral change or limits needed — and it will all be green and ‘sustainable.’”

Naomi Klein, perhaps the most prominent left-wing writer on climate-related issues in the West, did not weigh in to defend “Planet of the Humans.” Instead, the Intercept columnist, social activist, and Gloria Steinem Endowed Chair in Media, Culture, and Feminist Studies at Rutgers University was an early participant in the campaign to suppress the film.

According to McKibben, “Naomi [Klein] had in fact taken Moore aside in an MSNBC greenroom” before the documentary’s release to lobby him against publishing the film. Klein later signed Josh Fox’s open letter demanding the film be retracted.

On Twitter, Klein condemned “Planet of the Humans” as “truly demoralizing,” and promoted a “big blog/fact check” of the film by Ketan Joshi, a former communications officer for the Australian wind farm company Infigen Energy.

Mining a green future and burying the cost

Like most opponents of “Planet of the Humans,” Ketan Joshi painted the documentary as “a dumb old bull in the china shop that is 2020’s hard-earned climate action environment.” And along with other critics, he accused the film’s co-producers, Gibbs and Zehner, of wildly misrepresenting the efficiency of renewables.

To illustrate his point, he referenced a scene depicting the Cedar Street Solar Array in Lansing, Michigan with flexible solar panels running at 8% efficiency – purportedly enough to generate electricity for just 10 homes. Because that scene was part of a historical sequence filmed in 2008, Joshi dismissed it as an example of the film’s “extreme oldness.”

However, this February, the solar trade publication PV Magazine found that Tesla’s newest line of flexible solar shingles had an efficiency rate of 8.1% – almost exactly the same as those depicted in “Planet of the Humans.”

While it is true that mono-crystalline solar panels boast a higher efficiency rate (between 15% and 18% in commercially available form), they were also on the market back in 2008. These panels are significantly more expensive than the flexible, less efficient panels, however. And their efficiency levels do not account for the intermittency inherent to solar energy, which does not work well in cloudy or dark conditions.

Yet according to Josh Fox, the most vehement opponent of “Planet of the Humans,” the planet-saving capacity of solar and other supposedly clean forms of energy was so well-established it was beyond debate.

“The premise of the film is renewable energy doesn’t work and is dependent on fossil fuels. And that is patently ridiculous,” Fox remarked to me. “And the reason why I got into this is because I had young environmentalists – young people who are steadfast campaigners – calling me in the middle of the night, freaking out, [telling me] ‘I can’t believe this!’ And I looked at them and I said, ‘Well, there’s a reason why you can’t believe this; it’s because it’s not true.’”

But was the presentation of renewable energy sources in “Planet of the Humans” actually false? Ecological economist William Rees has claimed that “despite rapid growth in wind and solar generation, the green energy transition is not really happening.” That might be because it is chasing energy growth instead of curtailing it. Rees pointed out that the surge in global demand for electricity last year “exceeded the total output of the world’s entire 30-year accumulation of solar power installations.”

Are there not reasonable grounds then to be concerned about the practicality of a full transition to renewables, especially in a hyper-capitalist, growth-obsessed economy like that of the United States?

A September 2018 scientific study delivered some conclusions that contradicted the confident claims of renewables advocates. A research team measured solar thermal plants currently in operation around the world and found that they are dependent on the “intensive use of materials,” which is code for heavily mined minerals.

minerals renewable energy IEA

Minerals needed to produce renewable energy (Source: International Energy Agency / IEA)

 

Further, the researchers found that the output of these plants was marred by “significant seasonal intermittence” due to shifting weather patterns and the simple fact that the sun does not always shine.

The negative impact of massive wind farms on the environment and marginalized communities – an issue highlighted in “Planet of the Humans” – is also a serious concern, especially in the Global South. Anthropologist and “Renewing Destruction: Wind Energy Development, Conflict and Resistance in a Latin American Context” author Alexander Dunlap published a peer-reviewed 2017 study of wind farms in the indigenous Tehuantepec region of Oaxaca, Mexico, which has been marketed as one of the most ideal wind generation sites in the world. Dunlap found that the supposedly renewable projects “largely reinforced income inequality, furthered poverty entrenchment and increased food vulnerability and worker dependency on the construction of more wind parks, which cumulatively has led to an increase in work-related out-migration and environmental degradation.”

When wind turbines reach the end of their life cycle, their fiberglass blades, which can be as long as a football field, are impossible to recycle. As a result, they are piling up in rural dumping sites across the US. Meanwhile, the environmentalist magazine Grist warned this August of a “solar e-waste glut” that will produce “megatons of toxic trash” when solar panels begin to lose efficiency and die.

In response to my questions about so-called renewable energy, Fox referred me to a close ally, Anthony Ingraffea, who signed his letter calling for “Planet of the Humans” to be pulled. A civil engineer and co-founder of Physicians, Scientists and Engineers for Healthy Energy, which advocates for renewables, Ingraffea is a former oil and gas industry insider who turned into a forceful opponent of fracking. In the past six years, he has produced scientific assessments for the governments of New York State and California on a transition to mostly renewable energy sources.

Ingraffea slammed “Planet of the Humans” as “way off base” and derided research by Ozzie Zehner, the co-producer, as “conspiracy theory shit.” He contrasted his credentials with those of Zehner, boasting that while he has earned 15,000 citations in peer-reviewed academic journals during his career as an engineer, Zehner had chalked up a mere 300.

When I turned to the subject of social and environmental damage caused by so-called renewables, Ingraffea argued that the burning, storing, and transportation of fossil fuels outweighed any of those costs. According to Ingraffea, when New York State makes a decisive transition to renewables, only about 2% of the state’s land would be occupied by solar and wind farms – which translates to about 1,100 square miles.

He pointed to the New York State Assembly’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act as an embodiment of the foresight of proponents of a near-total transition to renewable energy. The bill, which calls for the state to run 70% of its publicly generated energy off of “renewable energy systems” by 2030, also mandates that “35 percent of investments from clean energy and energy efficiency funds [be] invested in disadvantaged communities.”

“That’s wisdom speaking,” Ingraffea said of the legislation. “That’s telling you that yes, we are aware of the problem that you said we should be aware of. Yeah, we’re not all dumb. We’re not all crazy. We’re not all ideological. Not all technical nerds who just fall in love and want to make sex with solar panels.”

However, the communities (or their designated NGO representatives) supposedly compensated through the New York State bill are not located in the regions that will be most impacted by the extraction necessary to manufacture so-called renewables. Already devastated by coups and neocolonial exploitation, swathes of the Global South from Bolivia to Congo – home to massive reserves of cobalt hand-mined in “slave conditions” for electric car batteries and iPhones – are being further destabilized by the minerals rush.

Even mainstream environmentalists acknowledge that rising reliance on renewable energy “means a lot of dirty mining” to extract the minerals required for electric batteries and solar cells. This prospect has sparked excitement within the mining industry, with the editor of Mining.com, Frik Els, dubbing Green New Deal spokeswomen Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Greta Thunberg “mining’s unlikely heroines.”

“Going all in on the green economy and decarbonisation requires siding with the greens against fossil fuels,” Els informed fellow mining industry insiders. “It means selling global mining as the solution to climate change because mining metals is the only path to green energy and green transport.”

Mining com Greta Thunberg AOC

The inevitable rush on minerals required to power the green revolution has not exactly delighted residents of the Global South, however.

Evo Morales, the indigenous former president of Bolivia, was driven from power in 2019 by a military junta backed by the United States and local oligarchs, in what he branded a lithium coup. With the world’s largest untapped lithium resources, Bolivia is estimated to hold as much as half of the world’s reserves. Under Morales, the country guaranteed that only state-owned firms could mine the mineral.

The ousted socialist leader argued that multi-national corporations supported his right-wing domestic opponents in order to get their hands on Bolivia’s lithium – an essential element in the electric batteries that provide the cornerstone to a digital economy dependent on smartphones, laptops, and electric vehicles. “As a small country of 10 million inhabitants, we were soon going to set the price of lithium,” Morales said. “They know we have the greatest lithium reserves in the world [in a space of] 16,000 square kilometers.”

minerals electric cars IEA

Minerals needed to produce electric cars (Source: International Energy Agency / IEA)

 

Just before the military coup in Bolivia, a report (PDF) by the World Economic Forum’s Global Battery Alliance reported that the global demand for electric batteries will increase 14-fold before 2030. Almost half of today’s lithium is mined to produce electric batteries, and the demand for the mineral will only rise as power grids incorporate high levels of battery powered tech and the demand for electric vehicles increases.

Electric batteries are also heavily reliant on cobalt, most of which is mined from Congo, and often in illegal and dangerous conditions by child labor. In December 2019, over a dozen Congolese plaintiffs sued Apple, Google’s Alphabet parent company, Microsoft, Dell, and Tesla, accusing them of “knowingly benefiting from and aiding and abetting the cruel and brutal use of young children in Democratic Republic of Congo (‘DRC’) to mine cobalt.”

This July, Tesla CEO and electric battery kingpin Elon Musk appeared to take partial credit for the 2019 military coup that forced Bolivia’s Evo Morales from power, asserting that big tech billionaires like him could “coup whoever we want.”

The payoff for all the dirty and deadly mining required to manufacture the solar panels, wind turbines, and electric batteries required to power the new industrial revolution is supposed to be a planet no longer faced with a “climate emergency” – and nevermind the damage to the Earth and its non-human inhabitants. But with the demand for electricity constantly growing, is it even possible to power an economy like that of the US with entirely renewable sources of energy (excluding nuclear)?

A scientific projection by one of the closest allies of Josh Fox and Anthony Ingraffea was supposed to have answered that question and put all doubts to bed. Instead, it resulted in acrimony and embarrassment for its author.

The 2050 transition goal: real science or a murky crystal ball?

In his piece hammering “Planet of the Humans” in The Nation, Fox touted “the proliferation of 100 percent renewable energy plans put forward by Stanford University Professor Mark Jacobson” as one of the most important pieces of evidence refuting the film’s grim narrative.

Jacobson’s study, according to National Geographic, was “a foundation stone” of the Green New Deal proposal put forward by Democratic Sen. Ed Markey and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. It was also central to the energy plan advanced by the  presidential campaigns of Sen. Bernie Sanders, who co-authored an op-ed with Jacobson that called for a full transition to “clean” energy by 2050.

Jacobson, like Ingraffea, is an environmental engineer and political partner of Fox. The Stanford professor helped Fox found the environmental advocacy organization the Solutions Project, alongside actor Mark Ruffalo and the banker and former Tesla executive Marco Krapels in 2011. (More on this group later.)

Besides his working relationship with Jacobson, Fox failed to acknowledge that the professor’s all-renewables projection was strongly challenged by 21 leading energy scientists in the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal. The scientists concluded Jacobson’s paper was rife with “invalid modeling tools, contained modeling errors, and made implausible and inadequately supported assumptions.”

A survey of the debate by Scientific American scoffed at Jacobson’s remarkable assumption “that U.S. hydroelectric dams could add turbines and transformers to produce 1,300 gigawatts of electricity instantaneously… or the equivalent of about 1000 large nuclear or coal power plants running at full power.”

Jacobson retaliated against his critics by filing a $10 million defamation lawsuit, which he was forced to withdraw in 2018. Legal commentator Kenneth White described the suit as “clearly vexatious and intended to silence dissent about an alleged scientist’s peer-reviewed article.”

This April, a DC Superior Court judge invoked anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) legislation that reportedly ordered Jacobson to pay the defendants’ legal fees.

“Planet of the Humans” co-producer Ozzie Zehner saw Mark Jacobson’s flameout as a symptom of a wider problem within mainstream climate activism. “When Big Greens talk about ‘facts,’ they often aren’t talking about what most people understand to be facts,” he explained. “They’re usually talking about models, which attempt to predict the future based on estimations of physical conditions, projections, and assumptions. Greens industrialists claim they can accurately model a renewable energy future and its effects on the global biosphere. But our best science can’t even model a fish tank.”

Ingraffea insisted that Jacobson’s legal fight had only begun, and said the professor’s critics were “partially driven by Mark [Jacobson] having made a very famous name for himself in an arena with many other people working, and they’re not getting all the fame.”

Jacobson echoed this line in his own defense: “They don’t like the fact that we’re getting a lot of attention, so they’re trying to diminish our work.”

“Give the guy a break,” Ingraffea appealed. “You know, if he’s wrong, of course he’s wrong. No one’s going to be right. No one could possibly be right right now about what’s going to happen in 25 years. We’re all entitled to our projections. We’re all entitled to our crystal balls.”

That same courtesy was not extended by Ingraffea and his allies to the makers of “Planet of the Humans,” however. “We were unable to identify any factual errors in the film, and we’re open to the idea that we could be wrong about some things,” Zehner said. “But we’d like to have that debate and not be shut down.”

Among the wave of attacks on “Planet of the Humans,” a disproportionate number were churned out by renewables industry insiders, from an “innovation strategist” at the Green Power Energy firm that was criticized in the film for clearing a Vermont mountaintop to build a wind farm (“For me, this film was personal,” he stated), to Now You Know, a podcast by two mega-fans of Elon Musk who fawningly refer to the billionaire as “Elon” and have proudly declared that they are “long on Tesla stock.”

Missing from nearly all of the takedowns was the documentary’s scathing critique of the corruption of environmental politics by billionaires and elite family foundations.

“The conversation our critics really didn’t want to have was about the last one-third of the film,” Zehner remarked, “which dealt with the influence of billionaires and money in the environmental movement, and the divestment sham.”

The shell game of fossil fuel divestment

The tactic of fossil fuel divestment is at the heart of the so-called climate justice movement’s plan to defeat the fossil fuel industry. Launched by Bill McKibben’s 350.org and a coalition of professional activists soon after the re-election of President Barack Obama in 2012, the campaign has resulted in institutions like Oxford University and Goldman Sachs supposedly divesting their holdings in oil and gas companies. Campaigners like McKibben simultaneously encouraged their constituents to invest in funds whose portfolios were supposedly free of fossil fuel companies.

“Planet of the Humans” raked this tactic over the proverbial coals, demonstrating how investment funds endorsed by 350.org have engaged in a shell game in which fossil fuel assets are simply replaced with investments in plastics, mining, oil and gas infrastructure companies, and biomass.

“The big issue with divestment is that it absolves the destructive power of extreme wealth,” Zehner explained. “It’s saying that family foundations can be forgiven and money can be moved into mining, gas and oil infrastructure, solar, wind, and biomass. They divest from the brand name coal companies while investing in infrastructure companies that support coal mining.”

In one of the most controversial scenes in “Planet of the Humans,” Bill McKibben was seen inaugurating a wood-burning biomass energy plant at Middlebury College, where he has been a scholar-in-residence. The environmental leader praised the initiative as “an act of courage.”

Because the event took place in 2009, McKibben and his allies have attacked the scene as an unfair representation of his current position. In an official 350.org response to “Planet of the Humans,” McKibben claimed that his views on biomass have evolved, leading him to cease his support for the energy source in 2016.

Yet less than a week after The Nation published Josh Fox’s incendiary attack on Michael Moore and “Planet of the Humans,” Nation editor-in-chief D.D. Guttenplan hosted an event with McKibben that was sponsored by a fund with major investments in several wood-to-energy biomass companies.

Called Domini Impact Investments, the fund claims to hold investments in “68 companies… that both impact forests and depend on them, whether for forest derived products or ecosystem services.” One such Domini holding is a wood-to-energy company called Ameresco, which builds “large, utility-scale biomass-to-energy plants,” according to its website.

Domini Impact also features its sustainable “timber” holdings, including Klabin SA, a company with logging operations spanning 590,580 acres in Brazil. Klabin SA manufactures pulp and paper products and operates a 270MW on-site black liquor biomass plant. This May, just days after Domini sponsored McKibben’s talk, the company purchased a second biomass plant.

(Fabio Schvartzman, the former CEO of Klabin SA, was charged with 270 counts of homicide in Brazil this January, after allegedly concealing knowledge of an imminent dam burst to protect the share price of his current company, Vale. The 2019 Mariana dam collapse has been described as Brazil’s worst environmental disaster.)

While introducing the Domini-sponsored event with McKibben, The Nation’s Guttenplan stated, “By investing in the Domini Funds, you can help build a better future for the planet and its people, and be part of a movement working to address a wide range of social and environmental issues including human rights, climate change mitigation and forest stewardship.”

Neither McKibben nor Guttenplan responded to email requests for comment from The Grayzone.

Domini Funds was hardly the only investment fund that McKibben has partnered with to promote fossil fuel divestment – and which has engaged in the shell game exposed in “Planet of the Humans.”

In what was perhaps the film’s most devastating scene, narrator Jeff Gibbs detailed how McKibben has advised 350.org members to direct their money into the Green Century Fund, an investment portfolio that boasts of being “wholly owned by environmental and public health nonprofit organizations,” and free of fossil fuel stock.

Green Century Funds Bill McKibben invest fossil fuels

As “Planet of the Humans” revealed, however, the Green Century Funds’ portfolio has contained heavy investments in mining companies, oil, and gas infrastructure companies, including an exploiter of tar sands, the biofuel giant Archer Daniels Midland, McDonald’s, Coca Cola (the world’s leading plastic pollution proliferator), logging giants, and big banks from Bank of America to HSBC.

Asked about this section of the film, Josh Fox dismissed it as out of date. He claimed that “the entire idea of what constitutes a divested fund has changed really radically over the last eight years, starting at first from just oil, coal and gas investments, to then encompassing things like plastics and the meat industry and derivatives and all other options.”

However, a probe of the 2019 Securities and Exchange Commission filings by Green Century Funds showed the fund held thousands of shares in meat giant McDonald’s and Royal Caribbean Cruises, among other mega-polluters. The latter company’s Harmony of the Seas ship happens to be the most environmentally toxic cruise liner on Earth, relying on three massive diesel engines to burn 66,000 gallons of fuel a day. By the end of one voyage across the Atlantic, the ship has expended the same amount of gasoline as over 5 million automobiles traveling the same distance.

Green Century’s SEC filing boasted that it elicited a pledge from Royal Caribbean “to make its food waste management and reduction strategies more public.” It also claimed to have “helped convince McDonald’s, the largest purchaser of beef in the world, to restrict the use of antibiotics in its beef and chicken supply chains.”

It was a classic case of greenwashing, in which corporate behemoths burnished their reputation among progressives by embracing cosmetic reforms that did little to challenge their bottom lines.

When I informed Fox about Green Century’s ongoing investments in carbon-heavy industries, he said, “Well, I’m all for an investigation of those things on real grounds.”

In the same breath, Fox pivoted to another complaint about “Planet of the Humans”: “The film attacks Bill McKibben in ways that were unfair and untrue.”

Was that the case, though? One of the most provocative points about McKibben and his allies in “Planet of the Humans” – that they function as de facto public relations agents for the “green” billionaires seeking to cash in on the renewables rush – was never coherently answered. But as this investigation reveals, the climate warriors criticized in the film are sponsored by many of those same billionaires, as well as the network of family foundations that help set the agenda for groups like 350.org.

The Rockefeller Brothers Fund incubates 350.org

In perhaps the most uncomfortable scene in “Planet of the Humans,” Bill McKibben was shown visibly squirming as an interviewer asked him about family foundation support for his 350.org.

“We’re not exactly Big Greens,” McKibben insisted during a 2011 interview with climate journalist Karyn Strickler. “I’m a volunteer, we’ve got seven people who work full time on this 350.org campaign.”

With a telling smirk on her face, Strickler asked McKibben how his group sustained itself.

“To the degree that we have any money at all it’s come from a few foundations in Europe and the US,” McKibben insisted.

He mentioned “a foundation based in Sweden, I think it’s called the Rasmussen Foundation that I think has been the biggest funder.”

After some prodding by Strickler, a visibly uncomfortable McKibben divulged that the “Rockefeller Brothers Fund gave us some money right when we were starting out. That’s been useful too.”

However, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and Rasmussen were not observing the birth of 350.org from the sidelines. In fact, the Rockefeller Brothers were instrumental in establishing 350.org and guiding the organization’s agenda. It began when the foundation incubated a group called 1Sky with a $1 million grant. McKibben immediately joined as board member.

As documented by radical environmentalist Cory Morningstar, 1Sky’s launch was announced at a 2007 gathering of the Clinton Global Initiative by former President Bill Clinton, who stood on stage beside Rockefeller Brothers Fund President Stephen Heintz. Four years later, the Rockefeller Brothers announced “the exciting marriage of 1Sky and 350.org — two grantees of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund’s Sustainable Development program.”

Why McKibben was so uncomfortable about discussing his relationship with Rockefeller was unclear. Perhaps he was concerned that the organization he once described as a “scruffy little outfit” would be seen as a central node in the donor-driven non-profit industrial complex.

Whatever his motives were, since the testy exchange with Strickler, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund has contributed over $1 million to McKibben’s 350.org.

Alongside a network of foundations and “green” billionaires, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and its $1.2 billion endowment serves as a primary engine of the network of self-styled “climate justice” activists that sought to steamroll “Planet of the Humans.”

These interests have cohered around the Environmental Grantmakers Association (EGA), which is located in the New York City offices of the Rockefeller Family Fund.

The EGA enables elite foundations and billionaire donors to cultivate a cadre of professional “doers” during retreats in scenic locations. One first-time student attendee said the retreat experience was designed with “the intention of strengthening relationships between funders and build[ing] relationships within the environmental movement.” As soon as she arrived, she was “paired with mentor ‘buddies,’ folks who had been to past EGA Retreats to show us the ropes.”

These encounters take place in Napa Valley, California, or at the Mohonk Mountain House resort in New York’s Hudson Valley.

report by the Threshold Foundation described the theme of the 2015 EGA fall retreat at Mohonk: “‘Fund the Fighters!’ That’s the rallying call from the stars. Not the celestial stars, but from well-known artists such as Mark Ruffalo and Naomi Klein.”

In accordance with its relationship with the EGA’s network of environmental cadres and outfits like 350.org, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund embraced their fossil fuel divestment campaign, shedding its stocks in oil and coal while increasing assets in other industries that can hardly be described as green. A look at the results of the foundation’s move offers another disturbing case study in the divestment shell game.

The Rockefeller Brothers go “green,” invest in Halliburton

In 2014, following consultations with 350.org, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund announced that it was divesting from fossil fuels. “We were extremely uncomfortable with the moral ambivalence of funding programs around the climate catastrophe while still being invested in the fossil fuels that were bringing us closer to that catastrophe,” Rockefeller Brothers Fund President Stephen Heintz said.

At a December 2015 side session of the UN climate conference in Paris, 350.org executive director May Boeve joined Heintz to celebrate the foundation’s decision to divest. “A growing number of investors representing a growing amount of capital do not want to be associated with this industry any longer,” Boeve stated.

350.org’s Boeve and Rockefeller’s Heintz at the UN climate summit in 2015

 

A look at the most recent publicly available financial filing of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, from 2018 (PDF), offered a clear glimpse at the shell game that divestment has entailed.

According to the filing, while the Rockefeller Brothers freed itself of fossil fuels, the foundation remained invested in companies including the oil services giant Halliburton, the Koch-run multinational petroleum transportation partnership Inter Pipeline Ltd, and Caterpillar, whose bulldozers are familiar at scenes of deforestation and Palestinian home demolitions. (Several NGOs that advocate divestment from companies involved in the Israeli occupation of Palestine, such as +972 Magazine and the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, have also received support from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund).

The foundation padded its portfolio with stock in financial industry titans like Citigroup and Wells Fargo, as well as Newcrest Mining, Barrick Gold, Wheaton Precious Metals Corporation, and Agnico Eagle Mines.

The Rockefeller Brothers Fund listed at least $20 million of investments in Vision Ridge Partners, which was itself invested in a biomass company called Vanguard Renewables under the guise of “renewable energy.” In December 2019, Vanguard Renewables forged a partnership with Dominion Energy – the energy giant whose Atlantic Coast Pipeline was defeated this June thanks to grassroots environmental mobilization – to convert methane from farms into natural gas.

Since the Rockefeller Brothers Fund answered 350.org’s call to divest from fossil fuels in 2014, the foundation’s wealth has increased substantially. As the Washington Post reported, “the Rockefeller Brothers fund’s assets grew at an annual average rate of 7.76 percent over the five-year period that ended Dec. 31, 2019.”

The outcome of the Rockefellers’ widely praised move established a clear precedent for other elite institutions: by allowing organizations like 350.org to lead them by the hand, they could greenwash their image, offload stocks in a fossil fuel industry described by financial analysts as a “chronic underperformer,” and protect their investments in growth industries like mining, oil services, and biomass.

McKibben, for his part, has marketed fossil fuel divestment as a win-win strategy for the capitalist class: “The institutions that divested from fossil fuel really did well financially, because the fossil fuel industry has been the worst performing part of our economy… Even if you didn’t care about destroying the planet, you’d want to get out of it because it just loses money.”

Blood and Gore make “the case for long-term greed”

In another move apparently intended to burnish its green image while padding its assets, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund invested over $100 million in Generation Investment Management’s Generation Climate Solutions Fund II and Generation IM Global Equity Fund.

These entities are jointly managed by Al Gore, the former US vice president who negotiated a notorious carbon offsets loophole at the 1997 Kyoto Climate Protocol that has been blamed for the release of 600 million tons of excess emissions. Gore launched the fund alongside David Blood, the ex-CEO of asset management for Goldman Sachs, in order to promote a climate-friendly capitalism.

In a 2015 profile of Blood and Gore’s Generation Investment Management fund, The Atlantic’s James Fallows described their investment strategy as “a demonstration of a new version of capitalism, one that will shift the incentives of financial and business operations” toward a profitable “green” economy – while potentially saving the system of capitalism from itself.

Blood was blunt when asked about his agenda: “We are making the case for long-term greed.”

The banker Blood and the green guru McKibben shared a stage together at the 2013 conference of Ceres, a non-profit that works to consolidate the mutually beneficial relationship between Big Green and Wall Street.

Bill McKibben (on the right) and former Goldman Sachs executive David Blood at the 2013 Ceres conference

 

The event featured a cast of corporate executives from companies like Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) and GM. Sponsors included Bank of America, PG&E, Bloomberg, Citi, Ford, GM, Prudential, Wells Fargo, TimeWarner, and a collection of Fortune 500 companies.

During their conversation, the investor Blood pledged to mobilize “something in the order of $40 to $50 trillion of capital” in renewables, underscoring the massive profit center that a transition to “green” energy represents.

“It’s entirely dependent on what kind of political will we can muster,” McKibben proclaimed, pledging to work toward Blood’s goal.

The unsettling sight of McKibben discussing multi-trillion dollar profit possibilities with a former Goldman Sachs banker was featured prominently in “Planet of the Humans,” and undoubtedly helped inspire the ferocious backlash against the documentary by the 350.org founder’s network.

McKibben was far from alone among climate justice warriors in his dalliance with the billionaire class, however.

A foundation-supported “ragtag bunch”

Before Josh Fox launched his media blitz against “Planet of the Humans,” he directed a full-length documentary vehicle for 350.org, titled “Divest.” For the 2016 film, Fox followed McKibben and allies like Naomi Klein as they embarked on a cross-country road trip to promote fossil fuel divestment.

Fox’s ties to the professional activists extend to the funding network centered around the Environmental Grantmakers Association. Between 2012 and 2017, Fox’s film company International WOW reported grants totaling $2.5 million. Much of that funding came courtesy of the Rockefeller Brothers Cultural Innovation Fund and Rockefeller MAP fund, as well as the Ford and Park Foundations.

Josh Fox International WOW funding foundations

Foundation funding for Josh Fox’s production company International WOW (Source)

 

In 2012, the year Fox and his allies launched their campaign promoting fossil fuel divestment, he co-founded an environmental advocacy group called the Solutions Project. He conceived the organization alongside celebrity actor Mark Ruffalo, former Tesla executive Marco Krapels, and Stanford University’s Mark Jacobson – the professor behind the dubious 2050 all-renewables projection.

The four founders gathered seed money from the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation of the eponymous film actor, and from the 11th Hour Foundation of Google CEO Eric Schmidt and his wife, Wendy, according to Fox. Fox said that after a power struggle and an attempt to force him out in order to raise several million from the Sierra Club, he, Krapels, and Jacobson eventually left the organization.

Krapels has since launched an electric battery company in Brazil – another country that happens to hold a massive reserve of lithium and other minerals necessary for his products. Brazil has experienced a rush on lithium mining in recent years thanks to the roaring demand for lithium-ion batteries.

Krapels’ former partner at Tesla’s disastrous Solar City project, Elon Musk, announced plans this year to build an electric car factory in Brazil. Musk has even reportedly sought an audience with the country’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, to further his business interests.

Today, the Solutions Project is “100% co opted and sold out,” Fox acknowledged. Indeed, the group’s board members currently include Brandon Hurlbut, a former Obama Department of Energy official who founded Boundary Stone Partners – a lobbying firm that represents the nuclear industry. Also on the board is Billy Parish, the founder of Mosaic, a financial firm that declares its “mission to revolutionize two of the biggest industries in the world: energy and finance…” Mosaic’s website states. “We focus on the integration of doing good (for the planet) and doing well (financially).”

According to its website, the Elon Musk Foundation is among the Solutions Project’s funders. The organization describes Musk as “the guy who is trying to save humanity in like four or five different ways,” comparing him to a Marvel Comics superhero.

In reality, Musk is a ferocious union-buster who recently fired workers for staying home as the Covid-19 pandemic hit – but not before deceiving them into believing they had permission to safely quarantine.

Other Solutions Project supporters include the Skoll Global Threats Fund, run by eBay billionaire Jeffrey Skoll. Skoll funded Al Gore’s film on climate change, “An Inconvenient Truth,” which went into production soon after Gore launched his Generation Investment Management fund – an inconvenient truth pointed out by “Planet of the Humans.”

The 11th Hour Project foundation of Google CEO Schmidt and his wife remains a supporter of the Solutions Project after ponying up the seed money to launch it. Asked in 2014 about the inequality and displacement that start-up tech businesses bring to the Bay Area, where Google is located, Schmidt responded, “Let us celebrate capitalism. $19 billion for 50 people? Good for them.”

When I challenged Fox about the co-optation of climate justice politics by tech oligarchs like Skoll, Schmidt, and Musk, he grew defensive. “You have to see these things in a time continuum of us trying to take off big, something bigger than anybody’s ever tried to take on in the world,” he stated, referencing his and his allies’ fight against the fossil fuel industry. “They’re bigger than Nazi Germany, bigger than America. Bigger than all of them combined. We’re a ragtag bunch of extraordinarily committed people who are willing to put our lives on the line to stop the fossil fuel industry.

“Yeah, that’s that’s really laudable,” Fox continued, referring to his own efforts, “and for a multi-millionaire circus barker, as Bill McKibben calls Michael Moore, to take potshots using flawed science, dishonest techniques, misrepresentation of the timeline, and 1,000 other things that are journalistic malpractice and that was called out by an extraordinary number of people – that’s the real story here. The real bully is Michael Moore here. It’s not me.”

The Producer

This year, Josh Fox launched a one-man show and film called “The Truth Has Changed.” According to promotional material for the performance, Fox narrated his experience as “an eyewitness to history” who “was the subject of a 100 million dollar smear campaign from the oil and gas industry.”

“Josh Fox was the beta test for the types of propaganda and smears the gang that created Cambridge Analytica is now known for world wide,” the film’s website stated. “And Josh is telling his story in an uncompromising way like never before.”

The performance was supposed to have enjoyed a lengthy run this January at one of the most renowned venues for political theater in the country, The Public Theater in New York City. But the show was abruptly canceled after the Public accused Fox of violating the theater’s code of conduct through “a series of verbal abuses to the staff.”

Fox, who is Jewish, retaliated by accusing the theater’s directors of anti-Semitism. According to the New York Times, Fox “said he had been told that he was too passionate, too loud and too emotional.”

“To me that is distinctly cultural,” Fox told the paper. “That’s a classic anti-Semitic trope.”

Behind the drama over the monologue’s cancellation, a more salient issue lingered. The executive producer of Fox’s “The Truth Has Changed” was Tom Dinwoodie, a wealthy “cleantech” entrepreneur and engineer who owned dozens of patents on solar technology, and therefore stood to reap a massive windfall profit from the renewables revolution that Fox and his allies were campaigning for.

Dinwoodie, who signed Fox’s letter calling for the retraction of “Planet of the Humans,” was a top donor to the Rocky Mountain Institute, a so-called “do-tank” where he serves as a lead trustee. In 2014, Dinwoodie helped oversee the merger of his think tank with billionaire Virgin CEO Richard Branson’s Carbon War Room, which was founded with “a mission to stimulate business-led market interventions that advance a low-carbon economy.”

“Increasingly, the solutions for climate change are those policy measures that drive economic growth,” a spokesman declares in a video announcing the strategic partnership between Branson’s non-profit and Dinwoodie’s Rocky Mountain “do-tank.”

In the same video, billionaire former Democratic Party presidential candidate and Rocky Mountain Institute donor Tom Steyer emphasized the profit motive behind the renewables transition: “Changing the way we generate and use energy is the largest industry in the history of the world. There is no time to waste.”

This July 9 – the day after the Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force released its policy recommendations – the Rocky Mountain Institute launched the Center for Climate Aligned Finance in partnership with four of the biggest banks in the world: Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, and JPMorgan Chase.

The initiative, according to Rocky Mountain, will serve as “an engine room for the financial sector to partner with corporate clients to identify practical solutions through deep partnerships with industry, civil society and policymakers to facilitate a transition in the global economy to net-zero emissions by mid-century.”

The partnership represented an obvious boon for green tycoons like Dinwoodie who profit from renewable energy. And for the big banks that continued to top the list of the world’s most prolific investors in the fossil fuel industry, it was another opportunity to greenwash their public image.

Given the economic interests represented by Dinwoodie and his “do-tank,” it was easy to understand why he signed Fox’s letter calling for “Planet of the Humans” to be retracted. The documentary had not only hammered his political partner, Richard Branson, as a PR savvy oligarch exploiting environmental politics; it took aim at the ethos of Big Green outfits that comforted their ruling-class funders with the promise that they could do good while continuing to do well.

When I asked Fox why he thought big tech tycoons and their family foundations were plowing their fortunes into climate activism, he responded, “Probably saving the planet.”

The Danish connection

While wealthy green businessmen like Dinwoodie and Elon Musk furthered their commercial interests by underwriting green advocacy, the V. Kann Rasmussen Foundation and its closely affiliated KR (Kann-Rasmussen) Foundation have strategically directed their resources into nurturing a who’s who of professional climate warriors – including several that played a role in the campaign to suppress “Planet of the Humans.”

Brian Valbjørn Sørensen, the executive director of the KR Foundation, was a former special advisor to the center-left Danish government that lost power in 2015. KR’s chair, Connie Hedegaard, was the ex-minister for climate and energy for the center-right Danish government of Anders Fogg Rasmussen, who went on to serve as secretary general of the NATO military alliance. As the European Union’s first climate chief, Hedegaard argued that renewable energy could strengthen NATO’s soft power against Russia by reducing natural gas imports from the designated enemy state.

KR’s support for groups like 350.org surfaced in “Planet of the Humans” during the cringe-inducing scene in which journalist Karyn Strickler grilled Bill McKibben about his organizational funders. According to the KR Foundation, it donated $2 million to 350.org in 2019.

Toby Smith, the photographer who filed the copyright claim against Planet of the Humans on explicitly “personal” grounds, happened to have been the media outreach director of a KR-funded non-profit called Climate Outreach. As the Rasmussen family’s KR Foundation stated in a recent financial filing, it initiated grants totaling nearly $2 million to Climate Outreach in 2019 alone.

When British columnist George Monbiot published a vitriolic condemnation of “Planet of the Humans” in The Guardian, he neglected to mention that he had been a board member of the Rasmussen-backed Climate Outreach.

The V. Kann Rasmussen Foundation has also supported Naomi Klein’s environmentalist outfit, The Leap, according to the foundation’s website.

Klein, a longtime critic of elite family foundations and the billionaire class, was among the most prominent figures to join the campaign to censor “Planet of the Humans.” As her ally McKibben acknowledged, she unsuccessfully pressured Michael Moore to retract “Planet of the Humans” before it was even released.

Klein has celebrated the Danish government where KR Foundation leaders have served for advancing “some of the most visionary environmental policies in the world.” At the same time, she has denounced the “autocratic industrial socialism” of the Soviet Union and the “petro-populism” of the socialist government of Venezuela, where Denmark has recognized US-backed coup leader Juan Guaidó.

Klein’s recent broadsides against Venezuela contrasted strongly with her signing of a 2004 open letter that proclaimed, “If we were Venezuelan… we would vote for [Hugo] Chavez”; and a 2007 column in which she wrote that thanks to the Chavez government, “citizens had renewed their faith in the power of democracy to improve their lives.”

Naomi Klein and Angel Gurría, Secretary-General of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) on November 4, 2015. Gurria was a former Finance Minister in the administration of Mexico’s neoliberal former president, Ernesto Zedillo. Gurria won the OECD’s “Globalist of the Year” award for his role in negotiating the NAFTA free trade deal and “promot[ing] trans-nationalism.”

From Big Green critic to “Planet of the Humans” opponent

Naomi Klein’s opposition to “Planet of the Humans” was surprising given the views she has expressed in the past on mainstream environmental politics. In 2013, for example, she bemoaned the “deep denialism in the environmental movement among the Big Green groups [on how to fight climate change]. And to be very honest with you,” she continued, “I think it’s been more damaging than the right-wing denialism in terms of how much ground we’ve lost.”

In her widely acclaimed 2008 book “The Shock Doctrine,” Klein documenting the Ford Foundation’s role as a CIA cutout that helped establish the Center for Latin American Studies at the University of Chicago.

The Ford-funded academic department nurtured the infamous “Chicago Boys,” a group of neoliberal economists led by Milton Friedman who conceived the disaster capitalist “shock doctrine” that inspired the title of Klein’s book. They applied their program to Chile as General Augusto Pinochet’s economic advisors following his CIA-backed military coup to destroy the leftist government of Chilean President Salvador Allende.

Klein also surveyed the Ford Foundation’s support for the “Berkeley Mafia” at the University of California that advised the hyper-repressive junta of General Suharto, which toppled Indonesia’s socialist government in 1965.

“The Berkeley Mafia had studied in the US as part of a program that began in 1956, funded by the Ford Foundation…” Klein wrote. “Ford-funded students became leaders of the campus groups that participated in overthrowing Sukarno, and the Berkeley Mafia worked closely with the military in the lead-up to the coup…”

Henry Kissinger, the Nixon foreign policy guru whom Klein identified as the mastermind of the dirty war in Chile, had previously served as the director of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund’s Special Strategies Project, which helped conceive US national security strategies for countering the spread of communism.

Today, the Ford Foundation and Rockefeller Brothers Fund support an array of liberal causes, from diversity and racial justice initiatives to the network of NGO’s organizing for fossil fuel divestment. At the same time, the Ford Foundation backs organizations that push regime change in Latin America, partnering with the US government to fund Freedom House, a DC-based NGO which supported the failed coup to oust Nicaragua’s elected leftist government in 2018. For its part, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund has supported The Syria Campaign, a public relations outfit that clamored for US military intervention to remove the UN-recognized government of Syria.

In 2011, when Klein was appointed to 350.org’s board of directors, she joined forces with an environmental organization incubated by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and supported by the Ford Foundation. “As 350.org founder Bill McKibben puts it: unless we go after the ‘money pollution,’ no campaign against real pollution stands a chance,” Klein wrote at the time.

Klein’s 2015 book and documentary film on climate change, “This Changes Everything,” was initially launched as a project called “The Message.” It was supported with hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants from a who’s who of major family foundations that help sustain McKibben’s political apparatus.

In one of several grants to the book and film project, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund contributed $50,000 to “The Message” via a non-profit pass-through called the Sustainable Markets Foundation. [PDF]

Susan Rockefeller served as a co-executive producer of the documentary version of “This Changes Everything.” Her husband, David Rockefeller Jr. is the son of tycoon David Rockefeller, a US government-linked cold warrior who co-founded the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and helped back the US-managed coup that put Pinochet and the Chicago Boys in power in Chile. Rockefeller Jr., a major supporter of conservationist causes, is a former chairman of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and board member of Rockefeller Financial Services.

In 2014, the Ford Foundation chipped in with $250,000 to Klein’s project. [PDF]

Klein’s “The Message” also benefited from $140,000 in support from the Schmidt Family Foundation of Google CEO Eric Schmidt and his wife, Wendy. The Schmidt Family Foundation is an ongoing contributor to McKibben’s 350.org, kicking in $200,000 in 2018 [PDF].

In April 2019, Klein released “A Message From The Future,” a video collaboration with Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and artist and pundit Molly Crabapple, which promoted the Green New Deal as a pathway to a renewable-powered economic utopia.

Crabapple, a vehement supporter of Washington’s campaign for regime change in Syria, is an Eric and Wendy Schmidt Fellow at the New America Foundation, a Democratic Party-linked think tank substantially funded by Google’s Schmidt, the Ford Foundation and the US State Department.

In a recent The Intercept column, Klein took aim at Schmidt, describing him as one of the billionaires exploiting “a coherent Pandemic Shock Doctrine” to begin “building a high tech dystopia.” She noted that Schmidt is closely aligned with the national security state as chair of the Defense Innovation Board, which consults for the Pentagon on the military’s application of artificial intelligence.

Schmidt also happens to be a proponent of a “smart” energy grid, which he says will “modernize the electric grid to make it look more like the Internet.” Such a model would not only benefit tech companies like Google which make their money buying and selling data, but the U.S. national security state, whose partnerships with big tech companies increase the capacity of its surveillance apparatus.

The Senate version of the Green New Deal calls for the construction of “smart” power grids almost exactly like those Schmidt imagined. Klein and other high-profile Green New Deal proponents have neglected to mention that this seeming benign component of the well-intentioned plan could represent a giant step on the way to the “high tech dystopia” of Silicon Valley barons and their national security state partners.

In May 2018, Klein became the Gloria Steinem Endowed Chair in Media, Culture and Feminist Studies at Rutgers University. The position was created “following a three-year, $3 million campaign…including a dozen foundations.” Among the “early and path breaking contributors,” according to Rutgers, was the Ford Foundation.

Gloria Steinem (L) and Naomi Klein at the 2018 Rutgers ceremony inaugurating Steinem’s endowed chair

 

Contributions also poured in for the endowment from tycoons like Sheryl Sandberg, the billionaire chief operating officer of Facebook and advocate of corporate “Lean In” feminism; and Harvey Weinstein, the Hollywood mogul who was sentenced this March to 23 years in prison for first degree criminal sexual assault. According to Rutgers, Weinstein provided “a gift of $100,000 in honor of his late mother, who shared Gloria Steinem’s hopes for female equality.”

I had hoped to have a conversation with Klein, a former colleague at the Nation Institute, about her reflexive opposition to a documentary that advanced many of the same arguments that appeared in her past writings. Was the exclusive focus on carbon emissions by professional climate warriors not a blinkered approach that ignored the environmental damage inherent in producing still-unproven renewable technology? Did “cleantech” tycoons not have a vested interest in advancing a global transition to the renewable products their companies manufactured? And when she had clearly articulated the problems with billionaire-backed Big Green advocacy, why had Klein cast her lot with a political network that seemed to epitomize it?

My emails were met with an auto-reply informing me Klein was “off grid,” and referring me to her personal assistant.

According to Fox, high-profile climate warriors like McKibben and Klein had no interest in speaking to me about their opposition to the film because “it’s like four months ago, man, everybody’s moved on.”

Seeing green in Biden

By August, members of the professional climate advocacy network that saw its interests threatened by “Planet of the Humans” was preparing for a much more elaborate on-screen production that promised new opportunities.

In the weeks ahead of the Democratic National Convention, climate justice organizations like the Sunrise Movement 501 c-4 which emerged in the shadow of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential run and condemned former Vice President Joseph Biden as a tool of the establishment suddenly changed their tune.

Flush with dark money from Democratic Party-aligned billionaires, Sunrise Movement co-founder Varshini Prakash stated on July 14 – the day Biden released his clean energy plan: “It’s no secret that we’ve been critical of Vice President’s Biden’s plans and commitments in the past. Today, he’s responded to many of those criticisms: dramatically increasing the scale and urgency of investments… Our movement, alongside environmental justice communities and frontline workers, has taught Joe Biden to talk the talk.”

While it brands itself as a grassroots movement that has organized anti-establishment stunts putting centrist figures like Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein on the spot, the Sunrise Movement was incubated with a grant from the Sierra Club, the Mike Bloomberg-backed juggernaut of Big Green organizing. Today, offices of the two organizations are located a floor apart in the same building in downtown Washington DC.

Ahead of the DNC, the Biden campaign introduced a $2 trillion plan pledge to invest heavily in renewable technology to achieve “a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035.” The plan promised to erect 500 million solar panels in the next five years alongside 60,000 new wind turbines.

With the demand for solar plummeting due to the coronavirus pandemic, the prospect of gigantic government subsidies was music to the ears of the “cleantech” tycoons who sponsor Democratic Party-aligned climate advocacy organizations.

Many of these green millionaires and billionaires had feasted at the trough of Obama’s stimulus package, which was directly responsible for powering the rise of America’s solar industry. After promising upon his inauguration to invest $150 billion in “a new green energy business sector,” Obama doled out an eye-popping $4.9 billion in subsidies to Tesla’s Elon Musk and a $1.2 billion loan guarantee for Tom Dinwoodie’s SunPower US to construct the California Valley Solar Ranch. In June 2019, an “avian incident” caused a fire at the SunPower Solar Ranch project, impacting over 1200 acres and knocking out 84% of generating capacity for several weeks.

“Planet of the Humans” presented viewers with the disturbing story of the Ivanpah solar plant, a signature initiative in Obama’s green energy plan which was co-owned by Google. Gifted with $1.6 billion in loan guarantees and $600 million in federal tax credits, Ivanpah was built on 5.6 square miles of pristine public land close to California’s Mojave National Preserve. In its first year, the massive plant produced less than half its of its planned energy goal while burning over 6000 birds to death.

The Ivanpah solar thermal plant and its three power towers spans across the Mojave Desert

 

Because of the intermittency inherent to solar power, the gargantuan energy project has had to burn massive amounts of natural gas to keep the system primed when the sun is not shining. Despite its dependence on fossil fuel, Ivanpah still qualifies under state rules as a renewable plant.

“The bottom line is the public didn’t expect this project to consume this much natural gas,” David Lamfrom, California desert manager for the National Parks Conservation Association, told the local Press-Enterprise. “We did not have full knowledge that this was what we were signing up for.”

Even after the Obama administration poured billions of dollars into solar projects, solar energy output increased between 2008 and 2016 by a mere .7% as a total of American energy production.

Meanwhile, across the country, many new wind projects remain stalled due to community concerns about land destruction. In the home state of Green New Deal advocate Sen. Bernie Sanders, the only remaining wind project was canceled this January.

For raising questions about the efficacy and environmental cost of renewable projects like these, and proposing an explicitly anti-capitalist solution to the corporate destruction of the planet, the makers of “Planet of the Humans” were steamrolled by a network of professional climate activists, billionaire investors and industry insiders.

Now, with the Biden campaign promising a new flood of renewable subsidies and tax breaks under the auspices of a “clean” energy plan, the public remains in the dark about what it is signing up for. Even if the ambitious agenda fails to deliver any substantial environmental good, it promises a growing class of green investors another opportunity to do well.

 

[Max Blumenthal is the editor-in-chief of The Grayzone, an award-winning journalist, and the author of several books. He has produced print articles for an array of publications, many video reports, and several documentaries, including Killing Gaza. Blumenthal founded The Grayzone in 2015 to shine a journalistic light on America’s state of perpetual war and its dangerous domestic repercussions.]

WATCH: The Afterlife of Slavery: Markets, Property & Race [Cheryl Harris]

WATCH: The Afterlife of Slavery: Markets, Property & Race [Cheryl Harris]

January 19, 2016 lecture

 

“The walls talk to me. The dust on the floors write me messages. I’m in the vents. I’m in the bulletin boards. I’m in the chipped paint. Ain’t nobody can slip through the cracks past me up in here.”

 

– MONOLOGUES FROM SKELETON CREW by DOMINIQUE MORISSEAU

 

“Despite efforts to obscure slavery and indigenous dispossession in the genealogy and narrative of American nationhood, these realities remain deeply embedded in the relationship between race and markets where in fact race and economic domination are fused. Racial hierarchy is continually replenished through the market, while the market encodes property in accord with racial regimes. For example, “black” spaces are forever unstable, subprime, and “waste,” making them always available for (re) appropriation through various technologies such as debt, (de)regulation, and development.”

– Cheryl I. Harris

“In conjunction with Cameron Rowland’s exhibition 91020000, Artists Space presents a talk by Cheryl I. Harris, Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Critical Race Studies at UCLA School of Law. Harris is the author of key texts in the field of critical race theory including “Whiteness as Property” (1993) and “Equal Treatment and the Reproduction of Inequality” (2001).” [Source: Artists Space]

 

WATCH: Ella Baker: “The Fight for Freedom Every Day”

WATCH: Ella Baker: “The Fight for Freedom Every Day”

“Life-long human rights activist and movement organizer, Ella Baker, addresses 1974 Puerto Rico solidarity rally about the need for every person to make the struggle for human dignity and freedom every day.”

TRANSCRIPT:

Friends, brothers, and sisters in the struggle for human dignity and freedom. I am here to represent the struggle that has gone on for three-hundred or more years — a struggle to be recognized as citizens in a country in which we were born. I have had about forty or fifty years of struggle, ever since a little boy on the streets of Norfolk called me a nigger. I struck him back. And then I had to learn that hitting back with my fists one individual was not enough. It takes organization. It takes dedication. It takes the willingness to stand by and do what has to be done, when it has to be done.

A nice gathering like today is not enough. You have to go back and reach out to your neighbors who don’t speak to you. And you have to reach out to your friends who think they are making it good. And get them to understand that they–as well as you and I–cannot be free in America or anywhere else where there is capitalism and imperialism. Until we can get people to recognize that they themselves have to make the struggle and have to make the fight for freedom every day in the year, every year until they win it.”

[Source: Peaceable Power”]

WATCH: Justin Leroy: Race, Finance, and the Afterlife of Slavery [Social Impact Bonds]

WATCH: Justin Leroy: Race, Finance, and the Afterlife of Slavery [Social Impact Bonds]

Art and EducationWhitney Museum of American Art

Filmed March 29, 2017

 

Justin Leroy presents on the overlapping histories of race and financial innovation, from slave insurance to social entrepreneurship, in conjunction with Cameron Rowland’s project for the 2017 Whitney Biennial. Leroy teaches nineteenth-century U.S. history at the University of California, Davis; his book Freedom’s Limit: Racial Capitalism and the Afterlives of Slavery, is forthcoming from Columbia University Press. — Whitney Museum of American Art

 

We cannot unthink our relations to property and the ways in which we govern and justify those bonds without also thinking of racialized capitalism and the afterlife of slavery, as Justin Leroy so eloquently does here. Our work is not so simple a matter as to lament that if we could only move from object/property to subject/human, then we could claim to have uprooted the logics which maintain dominance over our capacity to relate, and by proxy produce something like a life. We must also place these logics and practices within a historical continuum as a way to understand how they remain animate after their alleged abolition. [February, 2019]

Bonded Life, Technologies of racial finance from slave insurance to philanthrocapital

Abstract: “Amid public critiques of Wall Street’s amorality and protests against sharpening inequality since the financial crisis of 2008, the emergent discourse of philanthrocapitalism – philanthropic capitalism – has sought to recuperate a moral centre for finance capitalism. Philanthrocapitalism seeks to marry finance capital with a moral commitment to do good. These strategies require new financial instruments to make poverty reduction and other forms of social welfare profitable business ventures. Social impact bonds (SIBs) – which offer private investors competitive returns on public sector investments – and related instruments have galvanized the financialization of both public services and the life possibilities of poor communities in the USA and the Global South. This article maps new intrusions of credit and debt into previously unmarketable spheres of life, such as prison recidivism outcomes, and argues that contemporary social finance practices such as SIBs are inextricable from histories of race – that financialization has been and continues to be a deeply racialized process. Intervening in debates about the social life of financial practices and the coercive creation of new debtor publics, we chart technologies meant to transform subjects considered valueless into appropriate, even laudable, objects of financial investment. Because their proponents frame SIBs as philanthropic endeavours, the violence required to financialize human life becomes obfuscated. We aim to historicize the violence of financialization by drawing out links between financial capitalism as it developed during the height of the Atlantic slave trade and the more subtle violence of philanthropic financial capitalism. Though the notion that slaves could be a good investment – both in the profitable and moral sense of the word – seems far removed from our contemporary sensibilities, the shadow of slavery haunts SIBs; despite their many differences, both required black bodies to be made available for investment. Both also represent an expansion to the limits of financialization.”

[Zenia Kish & Justin Leroy (2015) Bonded Life, Cultural Studies, 29:5-6, 630-651, DOI: 10.1080/09502386.2015.101713]

Bonded Life Technologies of Racial Finance from Slave Insurance to Philanthrocapital

 

WATCH: Conspiracy AND Class Power [Michael Parenti Lecture, 1993, Berkeley, CA.]

WATCH: Conspiracy AND Class Power [Michael Parenti Lecture, 1993, Berkeley, CA.]

 

 

“No ruling class could survive if it wasn’t attentive to its own interest consciously trying to anticipate control / initiate events at home & abroad both overtly & secretly.”

 

“The dirty truth is that many people find fascism to be not particularly horrible.”

 

— Michael Parenti

 

Defend critical thinking.

Defend the right to question/challenge narratives that serve ruling class.

Lecture by Michael Parenti discussing the relationship of conspiracy to the larger political economic context.

“The speech on Conspiracy and Class Power (1993) was lost for several years and only recently discovered in the collection of a listener in Seattle. Michael Parenti spoke before an overflow audience in Berkeley, CA.” [Source: Dandelion Salad]

 

Justin Trudeau’s Billion-Dollar Scandal Is a Story of Power, Branding, and Charity

Vice

July 22, 2020

By Justin Ling

 

“In Justin Trudeau, WE Charity had a prominent booster. In WE, Justin Trudeau had a powerful platform popular with young people.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (right) along with WE co-founders, Craig (middle) and Marc Kielburger, WE Day Ottawa, November 9, 2016. MARKETWIRED PHOTO/WE Day

 

It’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s summer scandal. He and his finance minister are under investigation from an ethics watchdog. Two Parliamentary committees have started investigating the affair and Trudeau will testify.

In the middle of it all is a $912 million contract, awarded without competition to the Canadian-founded WE Charity, a household name thanks to a powerful origin story that has morphed into a huge youth-oriented movement with celebrities like Meghan Markle and Prince Harry attached.

It’s an organization with close ties to the prime minister himself. The scandal unfurled as it was revealed Trudeau’s own family received large speaking fees from the organization and while Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s daughter worked at the charity.

“I made a mistake in not recusing myself,” Trudeau said.

Trudeau himself announced the Canada Student Service Grant program, which would award grants to students and youth for doing volunteer work amid the economic slowdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. WE would have earned between $19.5 million and $43.5 million for just running the program. WE has already withdrawn from its government contract with a promise to “return to its roots” of international development.

From the outside, it may seem like a very Canadian scandal: Money for a charity stymied by an alleged ethical lapse caused, in part, by the prime minister’s famous mother being paid to speak to legions of teens.

Dig a little deeper, and this scandal, Trudeau’s third such ethics investigation, says an awful lot about both his government and the WE organization.

VICE News reviewed hundreds of financial disclosure documents and internal presentation decks, consulted a forensic accountant regarding WE’s books, and spoke to several past employees about how the charity—and its less-understood corporate arm—does business.

As VICE News started asking questions about WE’s financials, WE announced it would be reorienting its charity and business divisions, acknowledging that its years of rapid expansion has led to a “organizational structure that is more complicated than it needs to be.”

At the centre of this scandal is the story of WE, a unique charitable-corporate hybrid, and its symbiotic relationship with the prime minister.

Friends in high places

The WE Charity origin story is the stuff of legend. A 12-year-old Craig Kielburger, per the WE account, was flipping through a newspaper in 1995 in search of the comics. He happened upon an article about a 12-year-old Pakistani labour rights activist, Iqbal Masih, who had been murdered.

“Craig convinced a handful of Grade 7 classmates that together they could make an impact, and WE Charity was born,” WE writes on their website. Soon, his older brother Marc was in on the family charitable business.

They called the organization Free the Children (it would be renamed WE Charity in 2016), and they set out to do the kind of altruistic development that was du jour in the late 1990s—building wells, schools, and clinics for the underprivileged in the Global South. On a tour of East Asia, Craig would cross paths with then-prime minister Jean Chretien, whom he challenged to take a stand against child slavery.

The inspiring story drove international attention, and donations. But international development is a saturated market—Oxfam, Unicef, World Vision, and a host of others have been doing this work for decades.

The Kielburgers pioneered a new way of financing their charitable efforts: ME to WE Social Enterprises. It would be, according to their website, “a new model to support the long-term charitable goals of WE Charity.” This related corporate entity would organize trips, sell sustainably made goods, run events, and donate much of its profits back to WE Charity.

For about $5,000, students could fly to various destinations in Central and South America, Africa, and South Asia and stay at WE ranches and facilities. The trips mixed the air of a sleepaway camp, focusing on team building and leadership, while also offering day trips where students would contribute to building schools or wells. WE would eventually start offering corporate retreats as well.

Those trips faced criticism familiar to other so-called “voluntourism” organizations—that poorer communities need investment and opportunity, not privileged children from North America and Europe to contribute their unskilled labour. WE brushed the criticism aside. “When done properly and in partnership with communities, trips can be beneficial,” its executive director once wrote.

ME to WE expanded to run WE Day, which blends stadium-sized motivational speaking tours with the vibe of a children’s day camp. Celebrity cameos have included Kendrick Lamar, the Dalai Lama, Martin Sheen and Al Gore. ME to WE opened shops, selling sustainably made goods. It opened WE Schools, which provided slickly made, development-minded curricula to teachers.

1595445034328-Screen-Shot-2020-07-22-at-112954-AM

An internal WE document.

 

WE’s stock rose steadily through the 2000s and early 2010s, and it incorporated its charity-corporate model in the United States and United Kingdom. Both Kielburgers were awarded the Order of Canada. It published books with contributions from Richard Gere and Oprah. 60 Minutes profiled the brothers.

The organization is not outwardly political. Its U.K. board of directors boasts a Liberal Democrat lord and a Conservative Member of Parliament. But in Justin Trudeau, it had an early champion. He appeared at the first-ever WE Day in 2007, when he was running for Parliament for the first time. He appeared again after he was elected in 2008, per a list compiled by iPolitics.

Just days after he spoke at WE Day Toronto 2012, Trudeau launched his bid to lead the Liberal Party of Canada. Craig Kielburger contributed $1,200, the maximum allowed, to Trudeau’s campaign.

When he became prime minister in 2015, one of Trudeau’s first public events was WE Day Ottawa.

Trudeau wasn’t the only one in the family joining WE Day. Trudeau’s partner, Sophie; mother, Margaret; and brother, Sacha, all spoke at various WE Days. Sophie Grégoire Trudeau even co-hosted a WE podcast. Canadaland and CBC reported that Me to We paid $312,000 for Margaret Trudeau’s appearances, and $40,000 for eight engagements with Sacha Trudeau. The prime minister was, according to the government, not paid for any of his appearances.

As Trudeau’s family became functional ambassadors for the organization, the government of Canada began an enthusiastic WE partnership.

Before his election, Ottawa had paid less than a million dollars in grants to WE. After Trudeau assumed office, that changed.

In 2016, Heritage Canada awarded WE Charity $1.5 million to participate in the lead-up to Canada’s 150th anniversary, as part of a program to “commemorate and celebrate historical figures, places, events, and accomplishments of national significance.” As part of that program, WE put out a video prominently featuring the prime minister himself.

VICE News asked if any Government of Canada money was spent on that ad. WE said it didn’t know.

“We are getting a significant number of requests from media at this time,” a spokesperson said. “While we remain committed to providing as much information as possible, we are still in the process of gathering and reviewing our internal records of contracts of years past in order to fully cooperate with various inquiries from official sources to which we are legally required to respond.”

When Canada Day rolled around, the Kielburger brothers were featured heavily at the Parliament Hill celebrations. Days later, at the WE-branded celebrations, Trudeau graced the stage.

Ottawa offered WE Charity non-competitive and sole-sourced contracts, too, for “management consulting” or “public relations services.”

Overall, the Government of Canada paid WE Charity and ME to WE more than $5.8 million.

On Wednesday, Finance Minister Morneau told a House of Commons committee that he and his family accepted invitations by WE to visit their high-end camps in Kenya and Ecuador. There, they lent a hand in building nearby schools. While the committee seized on some $40,000 in expenses that Morneau did not reimburse WE for, the trips say so much more about just how close WE and the Trudeau government really are.

A cash flow crunch

As WE became a household name for many, its finances showed signs it had expanded too fast.

In 2017, the Canadian arm of WE Charity posted a $3.8 million surplus, thanks to more than $45 million in annual donations and $10 million in private grants.

By 2019, though, the charity fell into the red, according to WE Charity’s unpublished audited financial statements provided to VICE News. Donations and grants stayed mostly flat, but spending rose rapidly. The charity posted a $2.3 million deficit, plus an additional $4 million in bank loans.

That has all the hallmarks of a “cash flow crunch,” says Kate Bahen, the managing director of Charity Intelligence, an organization devoted to analyzing the financials of Canadian charities. She obtained and analyzed WE Charity’s 2019 financial statements.

The Government of Canada was there to help, however. Three days after the WE Charity fiscal period ended in September 2019, Employment and Social Development Canada awarded it a $3 million grant.

It was the biggest contribution from the Canadian government to WE up to that point.

WE disagrees there was an issue with its finances. “WE is not experiencing a cash flow problem and it would be incorrect to say so,” a spokesperson said.

The spokesperson told VICE News that part of the problem came from WE’s own decision to shift its fiscal year. Until 2013, WE ended its fiscal year in March; then it moved to December; and finally, in 2018, it took the unusual step to align with the academic year, ending in August.

Bahen calls the frequency of that change “highly irregular.” WE acknowledges it makes it impossible to compare one year to the next—in 2018, WE posted a $400,000 deficit, but only over eight months, not 12.

WE says that, because of the shift in fiscal year, some $21 million in donations had to be deferred “from one fiscal year to another, to account for the fiscal year in which the program would occur,” the spokesperson explained. “Because of these larger deferrals, we had…run a deficit, on paper, in 2018 and 2019.”

The deficit was due to the fiscal year shift, they said, “not because of the financial health of the organization.”

Yet the shift happened in 2018. The 2019 year was a full 12 months. It’s not clear why WE would have to keep deferring revenue.

WE says the decision to shift the fiscal year was a decision taken by the board of directors. That board is now mostly gone.

Michelle Douglas, the former chair of WE Charity’s board, left earlier this year. In April, she tweeted skepticism of WE’s accounting of its impact abroad.

Of the 15 directors who sat on the boards of the Charity’s Canadian and American arms in 2018, just four remain. WE has told CBC that the new board was selected to “address issues such as diversity, inclusion, and range of competencies.” Douglas, a former member of the Canadian Forces who was purged from the ranks due to her sexuality, said most of the board had resigned or been replaced. The new chair of the Canadian board is Greg Rogers, formerly with Toronto Catholic District School Board.

Even with its back-to-back deficits, WE is not about to go bankrupt. Part of the financial health of the organization is its real estate holdings, totalling nearly $50 million across North America, including a sprawling Arizona ranch and a much-celebrated, newly-renovated office in Toronto’s Corktown, where it plans to keep expanding. Abroad, WE owns a constellation of properties through local corporations.

“All real estate purchases were made possible by targeted gifts from donors who believed that owning its own facilities would make WE more sustainable and effective in the long term,” WE wrote to VICE News. On top of savings on rent, WE says it serves as a nest egg that provides “long-term financial stability and a value fiscal reserve to underpin its operations.”

Several of those properties, however, still carry mortgages. Those mortgages require that WE maintains enough profit to comfortably cover the payments. (“One of the covenants of the mortgage provisions is that WE Charity generates positive EBITDA [Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization] to cover 1.3 times the mortgage payments in the fiscal year,” WE wrote.)

WE failed to meet that condition in both 2018 and 2019, and had to seek a specific waiver to avoid breaching their mortgage agreements.

“If our fiscal year end was either October 31 or December 31, this would not have been an issue; there would have been no ‘deficit’ and/or need for a waiver,” WE said. “This was simply an operational decision that we made consciously and still support.”

1595445234499-Screen-Shot-2020-07-22-at-112943-AM

An internal WE powerpoint slide.

 

This was all before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Real estate values took a beating, international travel was shut down, and WE Day 2020, a massive revenue source for the organization, was cancelled. Sources told the Toronto Star that donations had slowed significantly, and WE started mass layoffs.

In April, a lifeline appeared. The Trudeau government was looking to incentivize volunteer work for students who may have lost jobs and internships due to the global pandemic—the Canada Student Service Grant would award them between $1,000 and $5,000.

Exactly who proposed WE to run the program is still a matter of debate. Trudeau says it was the bureaucracy who suggested the organization administer the program. WE initially suggested it was Trudeau’s office who first offered them the contract, but later recanted that story.

Privy Council Clerk Ian Shugart, the head of Canada’s civil service, told a parliamentary committee Tuesday that the government did not kick the tires on WE’s financials before awarding them the contract. “To the best of my knowledge, officials did not engage in detailed scrutiny of the financial affairs of the organization,” he said. “No financial flags were raised through this process about the WE Charity.”

WE would have received between $19.5 million and $43.5 million of the $912 million program, which would have gone a long way towards addressing their increasing debt load and decline in donations.

The willingness to go with WE is curious. The organization encourages volunteer work, through WE Schools and WE Day, but largely by encouraging students to organize and execute work on their own. Many other charities like Kiwanis, the Lion’s Club, and Volunteer Canada all either link up with local organizations or have existing infrastructure in communities and schools.

WE’s power, however, is in the branding.

‘We brought them to WE Day’

A page of WE’s website, advertising Marc Kielburger as a paid speaker, touts his insights into “purposeful and profitable business strategies.” The page, which has since been updated to remove that language, boasts that Marc can help teach strategies to “inspire brand fanatics to stay loyal to you, your company, and your cause (and) add a halo effect to your product.”

That halo effect is core to WE’s strategy.

WE lets its partners co-brand international development projects, grace the stage at the ebullient WE Day celebrations, and even help craft school curricula. All for a fee.

The corporate arm of WE does not proactively publish corporate financial information. But internal PowerPoint presentations provided by a former employee reveal that by summer 2017, ME to WE boasted some 206 active partnerships with an annual revenue of $47.5 million.

Of hundreds of sponsors, just 20 large sponsors comprised nearly 90 percent of ME to WE’s revenue, including insurance vendor Allstate, RBC bank, movie chain Cineplex, Microsoft, accounting firm KPMG, and resource companies PotashCorp and Teck Resources.

WE insists WE Day and WE Schools are empowering and educational. To potential sponsors, however, WE is pretty blunt that it offers a big branding opportunity.

In an internal pitch presentation, WE said its youth-oriented programs “improve partners’ brand reputation particularly by increasing consumer perception of partners’ investment in their local community.” WE further suggested that partnerships “can drive consumer exploration, consideration, and purchase of products and services.”

Internal polling of students and parents about its corporate-branded in-school programs bragged that “60 percent of (WE) teens spoke positively about the company with their parents.”

The internal polling suggests that WE Schools and WE Day also pushed teens to complete a “social action”—such as “connected with an Allstate agent in my community,” “bought a Surface [tablet] or other Microsoft product,” and “used Skype”—yet most had no clear social component whatsoever. The only non-corporate examples listed were “learned more about computer science and coding” and “took action to live more sustainably (i.e., conserving water, reducing waste).”

1595445303308-Screen-Shot-2020-07-22-at-112925-AM

An internal WE document.

 

WE’s programs are present in some 18,000 schools throughout North America. WE Day, meanwhile, engrossed attendees with its high production value, socially conscious messaging, and big-name guests.

“Any time I wanted to sign a new company, we brought them to WE Day,” a former employee told Canadaland last year, for a series of stories about WE’s corporate partnerships and its work in schools across North America. (Disclosure: I contributed some reporting and editing to Canadaland on those stories, and am relying on some of the information I learned for this story.)

The corporate branding is obvious, however.

At WE Days, students may watch short documentaries about their corporate sponsors. One video played at WE Day 2017 showed a student shopping at a Walgreens, encouraging her peers to purchase WE-branded goods at the retail giant. WE Day Montreal this year was co-branded by seven companies, including KPMG and steakhouse chain The Keg.

These partnerships aren’t cheap.

A pitch deck prepared for household goods company Unilever suggested partnerships starting at $800,000 to get co-branding at WE Schools, with add-ons that could have brought the total value of the deal to more than $4 million. For that money, Unilever would get a six-minute onstage segment at WE Day New York, involvement in a national schools speaking tour, which allows for “exposure to the full student body,” and a redrafting of the WE Schools program to ensure a “stronger tie-in to (Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan).”

Some partners are more controversial than others.

“WE Charity has a policy to carefully review potential corporate funders,” a spokesperson said. Resource extraction companies for example, “provide critical inputs for global industries such as food production and infrastructure development.”

Canadian oil sands company Teck Resources contributed $400,000 to ME to WE in 2017 that helped buy a national battery recycling program in Canadian schools.

PotashCorp, a resource extraction company and former Crown corporation, was a sponsor of WE for five years, contributing $1 million in 2017 alone. This, even as the company faced criticism for extracting hundreds of millions of dollars of natural resources in occupied Western Sahara. “We do not see how the association with a company that aids and abets in the occupation of Western Sahara, resulting in tremendous human suffering, relates to the views and values of Free the Children,” reads a 2013 letter from the Western Sahara Resource Watch. PotashCorp and WE remained partners until the company merged with a rival in 2017.

WE says its partnership with PotashCorp “enabled farmers in developing countries to provide 15 million meals.”

WE also partnered with Dow Chemical to help middle and high school students “develop solutions to the world’s largest sustainability issues.” The curriculum prepared by WE suggests teachers ask students questions like, “How do Dow scientists approach problems?”

WE told VICE News that Dow is “ranked as one of the top companies in terms of sustainability performance,” pointing to the fact that it was listed as part of the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index for the 20th year.

The U.S. arm of WE Charity raised $5.3 million from Valeant Pharmaceuticals—now Bausch Health—seemingly in support of the Passion to Heal program, which sent American dermatologists to Kenya and India to provide skincare to those in need. The program came just after Valeant was accused of inflating drug prices by as much as 3,000 percent, and just before its executives were being charged with running a sprawling fraud scheme.

These PowerPoints themselves note the “challenges” present in their corporate relationships: The list included “sacrifices to WE program integrity.”

Last week, the company announced that WE Schools would shift to a “digital-only format.”

A corporate web

For its ingenious model of charitable giving, WE’s labyrinthine corporate structure makes it a difficult organization to untangle. When you begin pulling it apart, questions remain over just how effective an organization it truly is.

The organization’s own material suggests the structure is simple: There’s the charity, WE Charity, and there’s the company, ME to WE. Yet even WE has a hard time telling them apart. It strenuously denied that WE Charity had ever paid Margaret Trudeau for her speaking engagements, only to later admit it had cut her a $7,500 cheque in 2017. WE says it was an accounting error.

On Wednesday, Global News revealed that the Canada Student Service Grant contract was actually awarded to the WE Charity Foundation, not WE Charity itself. It’s not clear why the Foundation was incorporated at all, aside from an oblique reference in a 2018 financial statement about its goal “to promote the efficiency and effectiveness of other registered charities by providing and maintaining facilities to house their operations.” Global has reported it is primarily used to hold real estate.

ME to WE, meanwhile, is actually owned by a holding company, and it, in turn, owns five subsidiaries that run various aspects of its business.

Its Russian nesting doll structure aside, ME to We claims that, by donating 90 percent of its profit—$9.4 million between 2016 and 2019, WE says—it finances WE Charity’s important work.

Drill down on those numbers, however, and it’s not so clear-cut.

For starters, lots of money flows in the opposite direction. The charity actually paid its corporate arm $7 million over those three years. WE says it’s “largely due to an increase in donor trips, which resulted in a significant increase in donations to WE Charity.”

It means that the net transfer of funds between ME to WE to WE Charity over those three years is closer to $2 million.

What’s more, not all that money is cash contributions. In 2019, WE Charity reported nearly $5 million in contributions from ME to WE. Of that, more than $3.5 million is in-kind donations, such as “travel and leadership training services,” promotional goods, rent, and the purchase of books. ME to WE sells these things to WE Charity “at or below wholesale prices.” WE reports the dollar value of those goods and services.

WE insists that focusing on those figures is incorrect. “The holistic social good created by ME to WE Social Enterprise is clear,” a spokesperson said. At the same time, as Bahen notes, “ME to WE overstates how much it contributes to WE Charity.”

According to a libel notice sent to Canadaland, WE has said the reason for ME to WE is “due to the structure of the Canadian tax code limiting the ability of charities or foundations to engage in commercial enterprises to raise funds for their cause.”

Yet, in the U.S., ME to WE is also a registered charity. It’s called the ME to WE Foundation. (Not to be confused with the Canadian ME to WE Foundation, or the WE Charity Foundation.)

It’s not clear what differentiates the two U.S. entities. The U.S. WE Charity reports $33 million in revenue, and its audited financial statements are posted to the WE website; while the U.S. ME to WE Foundation reports some $10 million, and its financials are not posted. Both share significant overlap in their mandate and donors. Victor Li, WE Charity’s chief financial officer, is a director of both charities.

WE says the foundation is responsible for “domestic WE Schools & WE Day activities supporting student service-learning programs in schools and International development activities to support education, clean water, healthcare, food security, and alternative income programs.”

The foundation reports very little overseas spending.

Garbage bag company Glad announced in 2018 that anyone using its chosen hashtag or buying specific trash bags would “trigger a donation to WE Charity,” capped at $315,000. Yet according to contracts filed with state regulators and obtained by VICE News, the funds were paid to the ME to WE Foundation, not WE Charity.

WE insists that “the ME to WE Foundation has helped to provide millions of dollars of funding to WE Charity over the years.”

Yet, over the most recent two years for which there is information, it was WE Charity that made a huge contribution to the ME to WE Foundation. The charity gave nearly $400,000 to the foundation in 2016 and another $1.25 million in 2017, while only $100,000 in contributions from the foundation to the charity were reported over the same time.

So much of WE’s branding is wrapped up with its overseas work. Yet, in recent years, WE’s Canadian and U.S. charities reported that just about a third of their overall spending went to international development—about $35 million, including administrative costs.

Still, WE’s holistic vision for international development—which includes funding clean water, food security, education, healthcare, and economic opportunity—has done good abroad. It has even attracted other, smaller, charities.

In its 2017 financial statements, WE Charity reported it, by mutual agreement, “took control” of Imagine 1 Day, another charity “providing children in Ethiopia with access to quality education.” As part of the agreement, WE Charity received $10 million from the organization, with the stipulation that “the amount transferred is to be used towards initiatives in Ethiopia.”

Normally, such a transfer would be considered a “restricted” donation—meaning the contribution could only be used for a specific purpose for which it was gifted. That’s how WE accepts its real estate gifts.

The $10 million however, was included in a general line item on the charity’s financial statements as unrestricted contributions.

Per its financial disclosures and statement to VICE News, some $6.8 million of Imagine 1 Day’s assets have been absorbed into WE Charity to date. But not all of that money has gone to Ethiopia.

“$4.2 million has been spent in support of projects and programming in Ethiopia, $1.2 million has been transferred back to Imagine1Day for targeted core operations, and $1.4 million has been spent on WE Charity’s support and integration of Ethiopia into WE,” a spokesperson said. That last figure has included staff salaries in Canada “to manage program and project design support, monitoring and evaluation, and other management expenses.” It has also covered travel costs between Ethiopia to Toronto.

Asking tough questions of WE

WE, like any multi-million dollar charitable organization, especially one that benefits from tax-exempt status, deserves scrutiny.

In 2019, Canadaland did exactly that. It asked questions about WE’s corporate partners, its education programming, and allegations that it has a “toxic” workplace culture. WE provided lengthy responses to those questions, but also started proceedings to sue the media company for libel in litigant-friendly Manitoba.

Part of the claim sent by WE’s lawyers to Canadaland alleges the company showed malice “by misrepresenting our clients as litigious.” (WE had previously sued now-defunct Saturday Night magazine, which settled in 2000.)

WE has, this week, demanded an apology from Postmedia News and Toronto Sun columnist Brian Lilley, after they ran a series of stories taking a critical look at WE’s real estate holdings.

Even Bahen, who has delved deep into WE’s financials, has earned herself a threatening letter from WE. “We are respectfully asking you to please stop making incorrect, misleading, and incomplete statements when we have repeatedly provided you with accurate information,” reads the letter.

When VICE News sent multiple requests for comment to WE, it initially heard back from their lawyer, Howard Winkler, demanding that “you disclose to our clients for response any purported statements of fact or allegations you intend to publish of and concerning them which contain a negative innuendo.” Later, it provided lengthy and detailed responses to VICE News’ questions.

After Canadaland ran critical stories about WE, including its attempt to discourage critical coverage, curious campaigns to discredit the news outlet sprang up.

Op-eds popped up in U.S. publications, calling Canadaland “fake news.” Around the same time, a deluge of tweets, all with similar messages, poured in from a slew of accounts. (Those accounts are all now suspended for violating Twitter’s rules.) Some of this campaign appeared to be linked to a Republican consulting firm, according to Canadaland.

Private investigators, hired by one of WE’s law firms, also conducted background checks on Canadaland publisher Jesse Brown and reporter Jaren Kerr, according to the outlet.

VICE News asked WE if it ever paid for positive news coverage or social media campaigns to target its critics. WE came back, asking for specific examples, “as we are unclear and require context,” a spokesperson wrote. VICE News tried again, asking pointedly if WE had ever paid writers to pen columns or editorials without disclosing their funding, or if it had ever run an “astroturf” campaign using social media bots or fake accounts.

WE refused to answer. “WE Charity has engaged several leading companies to help with communication over the years,” a spokesperson wrote. “WE Charity has sought further clarification and/or any examples regarding this question without success. If there are specific examples of note, we would be pleased to respond and provide context.”

A friend in need is a friend, indeed

From its inception, WE has worked hard to cultivate an ethos around itself. To great effect, it has parlayed its commitment to international development, volunteerism, and social awareness. In the process, it has brought onboard an array of multi-billion dollar partners to finance its operations.

At its core, WE offered brands a chance to tap into a network of hyper-engaged, well-intentioned youth. The Faustian bargain meant that WE’s millions in donations would build clinics and schools half a world away, in exchange for advertising products and services to a captive, and otherwise difficult to reach, audience.

Allstate and Dow Chemical couldn’t otherwise tell schoolchildren of their community programs or sustainability efforts. Even if they could, there is little chance the students would much care.

WE is a perfect vehicle for exactly that kind of work.

Justin Trudeau understood that. His commitment to volunteering is undeniable, dating back to his time with youth program Katimavik. Equally undeniable is his mastery at winning over young voters, or soon-to-be voters. The 18-to-34 voting block is the only one Trudeau managed to carry in both his 2015 and 2019 electoral victories, according to pollster Ipsos.

This story is not about who got rich. It’s about how an organization that has been integral to the prime minister’s personal brand was selected for a program that it did not appear to be best-suited to run, even amid serious questions over its own financial structure and corporate practises.

Next week, the Kielburger brothers are expected to testify before a House of Commons committee.

Shortly after this story was published, Trudeau agreed to testify as well.

 

[“Justin Ling is an investigative journalist who has worked across the country, focusing on stories and issues undercovered or misunderstood. For the past year, he has been covering the investigation into Bruce McArthur. His forthcoming book on the case will be published by McClelland & Stewart in early 2020.?”]

Additional research: An extensive thread on WE by Cory Morningstar, Wrong Kind of Green:

Threats to security, health, public infrastructure—and other potential costs of Canada’s 5G rollout

Maclean’s

February 19, 2020

By David Zarnett

 

 

“What are we willing to sacrifice in exchange for faster downloads and self-driving cars?”

Jeff Gibbs: «There will never be green technological energy»

La Città Futura

August 16, 2020

By Simone Rossi

 

Planet of the Humans asks hard questions about failure of environmental movement to halt climate change and save the planet. To answer them, we asked its writer and director.

Released on the eve of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day and in the midst of the global Covid-19 pandemic, Planet of the Humans takes a harsh look at how the environmental movement has lost the battle through well-meaning but disastrous choices, including the belief that solar panels and windmills would save us, and by giving in to the corporate interests of Wall Street.

Thus, no surprise that the film has generated controversy. It has been criticized as partially outdated and misleading and some accused it of skewing renewables and delivering “Anti-Human Malthusianism”.

To dispel any doubt we decided to interview the film writer and director, Jeff Gibbs.

Born in Flint, Michigan, Jeff has served as a long time collaborator with Michael Moore. The first film he ever worked on was “Bowling for Columbine” producing many iconic scenes including “the bank that gives you a gun,” “dog shoots hunter,” and the “Michigan Militia.” Following the success or “Bowling for Columbine” Jeff became co-producer for “Fahrenheit 9/11,” the largest box-office documentary of all time. Jeff also wrote the original score for both films. Since “Fahrenheit 9/11,” though taking an occasional break to produce other films including the Dixie Chicks documentary “Shut Up and Sing,” Jeff has been singularly obsessed with the fate of the earth and humanity.

QuestionHi Jeff. Thank you very much for this opportunity. First of all, the documentary is based on scientific data. How long did it take you to collect them and how reliable are they?

“Planet of the Humans” is a story of discovery, not merely a collection of data, which without context is meaningless. The bigger picture portrayed in our film is that civilization is hitting many limits, including resource depletion, soil depletion, deforestation, overexploitation of the oceans, biodiversity collapse, and, of course, climate change. Solving climate change alone will not save us—especially when the so-called solutions involve ramping UP technologies that are decimating the biosphere and adversely affecting humans around the globe. Worse, these supposed green “solutions” involve getting into bed with bankers, industrialists, capitalists, and their “foundations.” Indeed nothing can make a difference unless we find a way to end our fatal addiction to economic growth while taking care of those who need it the most.

I began my journey exploring the mess we humans have created, and what might be the way out, over a decade ago. As I realized that the so-called “renewable” solutions were neither renewable nor solutions, I began documenting what I was experiencing. Therefore most of what you see in “Planet of the Humans” are real world examples, as well as interviews with experts. All of the data in the form of charts and graphs are from the most recent year available, typically 2019 or 2020.

We stand by every fact in the film, and have extensive documentation on our website. For instance critics say we should not have shown a historical scene with 8% efficient solar panels because efficiency has doubled since then. That’s not true. More efficient panels were available at that time, just like today, but they cost twice as much or don’t last as long. Solar efficiency hasn’t doubled since 2008. Tesla’s new solar shingles are less than 8% efficient today.

But the more important point is that it’s not the EFFICIENCY that matters—it is the INTERMITTENCY, which you see in the film. Intermittency means so-called renewable cannot directly replace fossil fuels without a vast amount of energy storage which does not exist at scale, and if it did would add tremendously to the environmental and energy impact of so-called “green” energy.

Question. You criticize some of the most important and popular renewables. Is there any form of real green energy nowadays? Do you think it is possible to produce real green energy regardless of the mode of production?

“Green renewable” energy is neither green nor renewable. Sunshine and blowing wind might be renewable, but giant technological machines made to harvest the wind and solar are the opposite. That technology could ever be “green” or “renewable” is one of the greatest illusions ever. Technology comes from digging, blasting, mining, burning, smelting, refining, and manifold industrial processes. Technology consumes non-renewable resources, and emits toxins and pollution. No other options exist. There is no free pony for everyone. Switching from carbon based energy sources to so-called “renewables,” even if it was possible, INCREASES our dependency on, and consumption of, non-renewable resources, hastening the demise of industrial civilization. The sun will keep shining and the wind will keep blowing long after our futile attempt to harvest them with hundreds of thousands of square miles of “green” technology collapses. There will never be “green” technological energy and fantasizing there could be says something about our desperation. And keep in mind that the majority of what’s defined as, and gets subsidized as “green” energy, are biofuel and biomass — burning what remains of the living planet to fuel our lifestyles.

Question. What do you think about nuclear energy?

Though nuclear provides more reliable energy than solar or wind technologies, its advocates engage in much of the same wishful thinking that so-called renewable energy proponents engage in. (Of course I was once one of them.) We will be exploring more about nuclear in our future work. But even asking the question “what about nuclear?” belies the erroneous assumption that somehow more energy would help “save the planet.” Unless we humans have an off switch, and begin to power down this global civilization, life on Earth is toast. Given more free magic “clean” energy of any kind, nuclear, solar, wind, tide, moonbeams, whatever—we humans will just use it to keep plowing, bulldozing, logging, mining, smelting, paving, polluting, plasticizing, building, overfishing, overhunting, and in general over-consuming our way through what remains of our living planet.

Question. Your documentary demonstrates how the green movement has been infiltrated by big corporations. Which lessons do activists have to learn? What mistakes did they make?

When you get into bed with capitalists, bankers, billionaires, and their so-called non-profit foundations it is not THEM that changes—it’s you. Your vision gets stuck in time and larger truths get buried. The revolution will not be funded by those who profit from the status quo. When you compromise to get a “win”— you lose. Everyone loses. Slowly but surely the capitalists have turned the environmental movement to a narrow focus on climate change and the supposed solution of green energy because it’s a $50 trillion dollar profit center. And off the table, even as some environmental leaders give it lip service, is ending our addiction to perpetual economic growth (green or otherwise) on a finite planet.

Question. Should the more conscious and radical activists engage in environmental movements to change them from the inside or are there better places and ways to conduct this battle?

Good question. I think the most important thing is to have the correct vision. This is way bigger than a climate emergency, as dire as climate is. Our entire industrial civilization of seven going on eight billion humans is coming to a close. We either get ahead of the now emerging civilization and biological collapse or suffer the most extreme consequences. Non-human species are already suffering the most extreme consequences across the globe.

Question. What do you think about Greta Thunberg Friday for future movement?

I think Greta Thunberg has some incredible insights. That young people are using the word extinction is a real breakthrough. My fear is the same as for all sincere, motivated, authentic activists young and old. When we focus on climate change only as THE thing destroying the planet and we demand solutions, we get used by forces of capitalism who want to continue to sell us the disastrous illusion that we can mine and smelt and industrialize our way out of this extinction event. And again, behind the scenes, much of what we’re doing to “save” the planet is to burn the “bio” of the planet as green energy.

Question. Despite coming out in a supposedly democratic western country, the documentary suffered a coordinated censorship campaign. Can you describe the type of censorship, the role of YouTube and tell us what lessons have you learned?

We have learned that those who are deeply invested in the status quo and who get into bed with capitalists will go to great lengths to attempt to stop those who represent a threat to their story. Though their attempts backfired and drove more people to see “Planet of the Humans,” it is truly frightening how in the year 2020 a few large corporations control what the public sees. Censorship remains a huge issue: both The Guardian and Newsweek refused multiple attempts to print responses to the calls for censorship they published. We have heard from several journalists and academics that their writing in support of “Planet of the Humans” has been turned down for publication.

Question.The documentary received some criticism. What did you learn from them?

We learned our so-called critics are shameless in their dissembling, slandering, coordinated, and apparently well-funded attacks. They choose to ignore the larger truths to keep people distracted. Once people have seen the film, the criticism seems ridiculous.

Critics say EVs charging has shifted away from fossil fuels since 2008. This isn’t the case. The Michigan grid is still 94% conventional (non-solar or wind), like most of the world. Global fossil fuel use has actually expanded in recent years – much of it used to create the materials that go into EVs, solar panels, and with turbines.

George Monbiot said the film is racist for showing the biophysical reality that overall population and consumption are increasing. Monbiot recut parts of the film to say things we didn’t say. He then fabricated highly disturbing thoughts about how to deal with it—thoughts that came from his mind, not ours. We do not subscribe to George Monbiot’s frightening plans. He’s engaging in censorship by trying to scare people from seeing the film, but his efforts have been entirely impotent.

In closing I want to be clear I am a very hopeful person. What hope we have comes from living in reality, not fantasies that giant industrial solar and wind harvesting machines, or “clean” nuclear or fossil fuels for that matter, will “save the planet.” The planet has zero interest in yet one more scheme of domination and control by humans. Now, while we still have blue whales and redwoods, songbirds and butterflies, it is a fine time to come to grips with the only hope we have: either less is the new more, or we’re going on the scrap heap of failed civilizations taking everything down with us.

See the film for yourself at PlanetoftheHumans.com.

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