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The New Suits of Capitalist Developmentalism: The New Green Period of Capitalism and its Ecological and Citizen Avant-garde

The New Suits of Capitalist Developmentalism: The New Green Period of Capitalism and its Ecological and Citizen Avant-garde

Kaosenlared

May 21, 2019

By Miquel Amorós

 

[*Translated from Spanish to English via DeepL translator – Original version in Spanish here.]

 

The new green period of capitalism and its ecological and citizen avant-garde.

10 Eco-Friendly Luxury Fashion Brands – Armani [Source]


The capitalist world is debating in an unprecedented ecological crisis that threatens its continuity as a system based on the pursuit of private profit. From the pollution of air, water and soil to the accumulation of waste and rubbish; from the depletion of natural resources to the extinction of species; from the urbanizing tide to climate change; it seems that a sword of Damocles hangs over the market society. Leaders from all spheres of activity are concerned about unstoppable environmental degradation, including a reorganization of production and consumption according to inevitable ecological imperatives. Many people are convinced that the capitalist system of exploitation cannot be maintained in any other way. The contradiction between growth (the accumulation of capital) and its destructive effects (the ecological disaster), will have to be overcome with a compromise between industry and nature, or better between their respective spectacular representation: on the one hand, the high executives and on the other, the patented ecologists. We are entering a new period of capitalism, the “green” stage, where new gadgets and technological systems – “renewable” energy plants, electric cars, GMOs, big data, 5G networks, etc. – will try to harmonize economic development with the territory and the resources it contains, thus facilitating “sustainable” growth and making the current, motorized and consumerist way of life compatible with the natural environment, or better yet, with what remains of it.

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez – Barneys The Window. Photographed by Roe Ethridge / Styled by Brian Molloy / BOGLIOLI K2 Wool Hopsack Two-Button Suit / COMME DES GARÇONS PLAY Men’s Chuck Taylor 1970’s High-Top Sneakers [Source: Barneys New York]

The “energy transition” is but one aspect of the “economic transition” towards ecocapitalism, which, starting from the wild (neoliberal) incorporation of nature into the market, now reaches a phase where mercantilization will be regulated by corporate and state mechanisms. It is an industrial, financial and political operation of great importance that is going to change everything so that nothing changes, so that everything remains the same.The new technologies introduced after 1945, in the postwar period, (manufacture of cements, fertilizers, additives and detergents, more powerful engines, additives, thermal power stations, “atoms for peace”, etc.) were the factors that triggered the plundering of resources, the emission of pollutants and metropolitanization, exponentially increasing the power of transnational corporations. The economic growth became a destructive element of first order, but also, in the major cause of social stabilization, of a much greater efficiency than the unions or the workers parties. Consequently, developmentalism came to shape the policies of all kinds of governments. Employment was the worker’s only means of gaining the status of consumer, motorist and inhabitant of the periphery, so that the creation of jobs then became the primary objective of the “political class”, both right-wing and left-wing. The immediate interests of the wage-earning masses integrated in the market were aligned with those of the businessmen and the parties, to the point of firmly opposing any ecological corrective that endangered growth and, consequently, jobs. Ultimately, “dying of cancer is preferable to dying of starvation,” as some said. Unfortunately, workers have been strong supporters of business continuity, urbanization and parliamentarism, not caring about the negative impact this could have on their environment, their freedom or their lives. That is why the ecological conscience has crystallized almost exclusively in sectors that are inactive or almost so, such as academics, neo-rurals, precarious, students or pensioners. The fight against noxiousness has before it a social barrier that is difficult to overcome as long as the defence of the workplace is a priority for the majority of the population; if the contradiction is not overcome, the defence of the institutions will take precedence over the defence of the territory and the autonomy of the struggles.It is up to the state to channel the protests, encourage the formation of a pragmatic ecological elite and pave the way for the new green capitalism, if necessary by promulgating a “climate alarm state”.

Faced with a politically and socially blocked situation, the international ruling class takes the initiative by trying to direct the long march of the techno-industrial economy towards profitable “sustainability” for its own benefit and without real opposition, either by eliminating old jobs, or by creating new ones. The destruction continues and even increases, but it is certainly about saving capitalism, not the planet. Extractive ecology produces profits even in the short term; however, markets are not strong enough to initiate a process of “green” reconversion, nor are technological innovations alone, in view of which the first steps depend largely on the State. It is up to the state to channel the protests, encourage the formation of a pragmatic ecological elite and pave the way for the new green capitalism, if necessary by promulgating a “climate alarm state”. As a result, the ecological crisis – which today is presented as a climate issue – becomes trivially political. Meanwhile, the environmental movement is infiltrated by agents of the multinationals and bought with funds of various origins, resulting in a political network of influences at the service of a new kind of capitalism. The same thing happened with the NGOs. At that moment, the purge of extremisms is necessary for the transformation of the green party of decomposition into an instrument of the dominant order. The message of moderation obedient to the little belligerent slogans would not reach the manipulable masses if the anti-system “fundamentalists” were not isolated as soon as possible, or as the informal hierarchies of ecologism-spectacle say, “bridged”.

Targeted demographics – Promotional illustrations/video for Green New Deal

The movement against climate change has given rise to a registered “brand”, Extinction/Rebellion, which covers the environmentalist flank of left-wing citizenry, giving it arguments in favour of state mediation of the crisis. Those who appeal to the state certainly cannot be branded as “radicals,” since while they are against “extinction,” they are not against capital. Nor against any concrete responsible; one of its principles reads as follows: “we avoid accusing and pointing at people, because we live in a toxic system”. No concrete individual (no leader) can be considered guilty of anything. For a climbing mentality, not all leaders, not all capitalists, are equal, and ecological reforms can even be beneficial to the majority. They are potential allies and benefactors. Thus, the declared objectives of eco-citizenship do not go that way. They limit themselves to pressuring governments to force them to “tell the truth to the citizens”, to take “decarbonizing” measures foreseen in the “energy transition” and to decree the creation of “supervising citizen assemblies”, true political springboards for the arrivists. Their weapon: the non-violent mobilization of 3.5% of the “citizens”. No revolutions, because they imply violence and do not respect “democracy”, that is, the system of parties and ranks. They do not want to put an end to the capitalist regime, they want to transform it, making it “circular” and “carbon neutral”. We will not overlook the fact that the majority of waste is irrecyclable and that the production of “clean” energies implies the consumption of enormous quantities of fossil fuels. The professionals of citizen ecology do not want to destroy the State either, the great tree under whose shadow their personal careers thrive and their placement strategies work. The ecological crisis is reduced by this captive ecologism to a political problem that can be solved by the heights thanks to a Roosevelt-style Green New Deal: a new pact for the global economy between the world’s ruling class, the political bureaucracy and its environmental advisors that imposes measures for the reduction of polluting emissions and the storage of atmospheric carbon dioxide that the multiple conferences on climate change have failed to impose. Something extremely suspicious, like everything that comes from the system. The “dual” citizen strategies are “symbiotic”, not ruptured. Ecosystems would be restored by harmonizing conflicting interests from within. Duality consists precisely in collaborating (acting in symbiosis) with the institutions on the one hand, and mobilizing the catastrophe-sensitive masses on the other. However, the mobilizations are nothing more than a spectacular display of purely symbolic support. They do not aspire to much, as they do not question the status quo, not saying a word about the symbiosis of governments to those who are pressured by markets, growth or globalisation.

It has been proven that since the Johannesburg summit in 2002, if not before, the capitalist world is aware that its uncontrolled functioning produces such a level of destruction that it is in danger of collapsing. It is more than evident that despite the resistance to regulation by countries whose stability and influence depend on hard extractivism or unhindered development, capitalism as a whole has entered a green developmental phase and is trying to establish controls (Agenda 21, creation of the Green Climate Fund, fifth IPCC report, Paris Agreement, the 24 different COPs). This explains the epidemic of realism and opportunism that has taken over the ecological media “in action” to the point of provoking an avalanche of demands for employment in the political-administrative field. The militants do not want to close their doors, especially when there is a good remuneration, so that all the ideals are kept in their pockets. In truth, it is not only the capitalists who would benefit from a state of alarm. The new subsidized ecologism follows in the wake of “green” developmentism based on “renewable” industrial energies, and sustains the alarmist leaders of capitalism against the negationists. All their efforts are devoted to adjusting the industrial and consumerist way of life with the preservation of the natural environment, despite the fact that the results have not been flattering until today: greenhouse gas emissions, far from being reduced as established by international agreements, have reached record figures. With the optimism of a newly enlightened novice, they want economic growth, necessary for the survival of capitalism, and the territory, necessary for the conservation of biodiversity, at least in appearance, to be marvelous, no matter how much the global temperature continues to rise and the climate is degrading. Incomparable advantages of the symbiotic method and the reformist narrative!


Pentagon Fuel Use, Climate Change, and the Costs of War, Neta C. Crawford, Boston University, June 12, 2019

Those responsible for global warming and pollution, and those responsible for precariousness and exclusion are the same, but those who fight them are often not. They are two battlefields, the one of imbalance and the one of inequality, which do not finish converging and not because a cohort of vocational bureaucrats appears under the stones, trying to carve out a future for themselves by acting as an intermediary. Aspiring leaders have their days numbered because ordinary people lose their meekness when their means of subsistence are affected and they no longer allow themselves to be domesticated with the ease of days of abundance in less aggressive climates. The weakness of world-capital lies not in the climate, not even in health, but in supplies. The day when the techno-industrial system – either from the markets, or from the State – stops satisfying the needs of a large part of the population, or in other words, when due to the climate or any other factor the supply fails, the era of insurrections will come. A failed system that hinders the mobility of its subjects and puts them in immediate danger of starvation is a corpse system. It is probable that in the heat of the protest, community structures will be recomposed, fundamental to ensure the autonomy of the revolts. If civil society succeeds in organizing itself on the margins of institutions and bureaucracies, then ecological struggles will converge with wage struggles, as reflected in the praxis of a unified social conscience. And that slogan heard in the French rebellion of the “yellow vests”: “end of the month, end of the world” will reveal all its meaning.

Miguel Amorós


Talks on 12 May 2019 at the book exchange fair in L’Orxa (Alicante) and on 18 May at the Biblioteca Social El Rebrot Bord, Albaida (Valencia).

WATCH: Victim of the WWF (World Wildlife Fund)

WATCH: Victim of the WWF (World Wildlife Fund)

ZEMBLA – Onderzoeksjournalistiek

Documentary published on May 24, 2019

New Documentary: Victim of the World Wildlife Funds

 

“ZEMBLA investigates the collateral damage of the World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) battle for nature conservation. ZEMBLA discovers that WWF promotes birth control programs that include contraception and even sterilization for men and women.

The fight against poachers is getting grimmer all the time. ZEMBLA travels to India, where local inhabitants are wrongly accused of poaching, are being tortured and sometimes even killed. On camera, guards from Kaziranga National Park state that they are allowed to shoot unwanted people.” [Source] [Running time: 39:52]

A New Volkisch Mythos

A New Volkisch Mythos

Counterpunch

May 23, 2019

By John Steppling

A New Volkisch Mythos

 

 

Greta is able to see what other people cannot see.  She can see carbon dioxide with the naked eye. She sees how it flows out of chimneys and and changes the atmosphere in a landfill.

— Malena Ernman, Scenes from the heart. Our life for the climate (mother of Greta Thunberg),May 3, 2019 

 

If you want to be more ecologically minded, good for you. But don’t be under the bizarre American illusion that your individual action is a substitute for collective action, for systemic change.

— Umair Haque, Medium, May 2019

 

“Capitalism is in danger of falling apart.”

– Al Gore

 

A psychotic world we live in. The madmen are in power. How long have we known this?

— Phillip K. Dick, Man in the High Castle, January 24, 2012

 

There is a clear problem with most environmental discussions or debates. The problem is, in short form, a lack of class analysis.

This is most evident in the manufacturing of the overpopulation argument. But it is prevalent in nearly all discussions about global warming or rising sea levels or most anything relating to planetary ecology, really.

What is bothersome here is that the voices I am hearing warning of mankind’s immanent demise are mostly ruling class voices.

Richard Leakey says:

I am increasingly convinced that in the tropics, and particularly in the poorer nations, protecting nature everywhere is an effort with diminishing returns. I believe that protected areas (that is areas of land set aside by governments and governed by national statutes) such as national parks and national forests are the best targets if nature is to be protected.

So give up on the poor, can’t save them.

And Leakey goes on:

Whilst state-owned wildlife land, designated as national parks, is vital, in some countries private land may also be secured by state laws that allow for private ownership of title. Thus an individual can use such land for wildlife and nature protection for the duration of the term of the title and this can be equally as secure as a national park.

Okay, so create spaces for the rich to be safe from the restive natives.

And finally Leakey writes:

Not all countries have constitutional provision for private ownership of land, and instead occupancy and land use are regulated by lease hold. In respect to conservation, this is certainly a better option than group-owned or community-owned land where in time wildlife could be untenable given governance arrangements on community-owned assets.

As a general trend what I am hearing is the validation of what amounts to royalist wisdom and the dangers of community control of anything. The message is ‘we can’t risk it, the danger is so extreme that the practical solution is to allow the elite class to control the planet in order to save it.’ The elites and/or corporate control. All the so-called New Green Deal solutions are there, it seems, to save capitalism before saving the planet.

Now, one of the curious contradictions in the climate discourse is the selective trust in certain institutions. The western based (and funded) NGOs have a pretty long track record now of craven support for U.S. government foreign policy decisions. Take Amnesty International’s (AI) recent comments on Venezuela.

Chuck Kauffman from Alliance for Global Justice observed vis a vis AI’s near fascistic litany of lies: “They don’t seem to even care about their credibility anymore.” The open naked Imperialist aggression against Venezuela, and the attendant propaganda slandering Maduro, is now a staple of all the candidates for the Democratic Party. And, Amnesty is also co founder of Global Campaign for Climate Action…a group that also receives monies from the Pew trust, the creepy AVAAZ, the World Wildlife Fund, and Union of Concerned Scientists. Now, just a quick word on the UCS. On the board sits William K. Reilly, former appointee by George Bush to head the environmental protection agency. There are also members that sit on the Council for Foreign Relations, a nuclear scientist who writes on security issues, a lawyer for the US Dept. of Energy.

And yet, many people rightly concerned about global pollution and over industrialization seem to have no problem accepting the word of these same western backed NGOs when it comes to issues of ecology. They know Amnesty lies, but if the topic is climate change, they leap onboard. Clive Splash (He currently holds the Chair of Public Policy and Governance at Vienna University of Economics and Business, appointed in 2010. He is also Editor-in-Chief of the academic journal Environmental Values) writes:

The existing institutions of modern economies are those supporting economic growth. The growth priority has been made clear by the over 3500 economists supporting a climate tax and opposing structural change. Similarly, Lord Stern is the academic figure head of the New Climate Economy, a concept created by members of the Davos elite, with its ‘Better Growth, Better Climate’ reports. Their explicitly stated concern is that: “In the long term, if climate change is not tackled, growth itself will be at risk.” Change is coming and the corporations and billionaires are fully aware of this. They have been actively lobbying on climate and environment since Johannesburg (Earth Summit 2002) and were a dominant force at Paris. They have also long been seeking to control the environmental movement for their own ends.

Again, we hear that echo of the ruling class (Lord ….LORD Stern?!) and the anti communist agenda at work here. Leave it to the elite class, the captains of Capital, to decide policy. And the first order of business is to save capitalism and that means to save growth. The poor are there to be slaves, not to decide policy. What one sees in Extinction Rebellion and in the Greta Thunberg brand is described pithily by Clive Splash…”When hegemonic power is threatened it captures the movement leaders and neutralises them by bringing them into the power circles and takes the initiative away from radical revolutionary change.”

One of the refrains I have heard (and have had directed at me) is, well, we can’t wait for socialism. This is a natural response from a very frightened populace. And it is exactly this response that the ruling class counts on. The infiltration of radical movements has a long sordid history. Ask the Black Panthers. Today the very real threats and dangers of global warming and over-industrialization are being funneled into places that shift the blame from the ruling two or three percent and onto its victims. This is, of course, exactly what the overpopulation alarm does. I see headlines such as *Humans Plunder the Planet* but not *Ruling Class Plundering Humanity AND the Planet*. I see books such as Climategeddon — amusingly penned by a former author of diet self help books and…wait for it….a high ranking Scientologist. But I have had people quote Wollersheim to me. Next stop the Sea Org.

More trenchant was this week’s bit of Imperialist green concern from war friendly candidate Elizabeth Warren, who expressed worry that global warming might effect the readiness of America’s military. (death of irony moment?) On twitter Club de Cordeliers noted…

Under Warren’s proposal, each murdered child will be stamped with the slogan: This Killing Achieved with Net Zero Carbon Emissions.

That the U.S. military is the greatest consumer of petroleum products worldwide seems beside the point. Or, let’s return briefly to Greta Thunberg — who can probably just be referred to as *Greta* these days without risk of confusion. She held up a cute homemade sign for a selfie …tweeting it to jillions of followers. The sign read ‘Let Russia Strike for Climate’. Apparently the *Greta* is getting good advice from Hillary Clinton or Bolton or Elliot Abrams, someone — who knows. She is certainly to be considered *NATO friendly* at this point. The visibility that Elizabeth Warren commands, and that which Greta commands now, too, is an indication that one should be highly credulous. The giant electronic telecom giants and the mainstream electronic media, social media, TV, all of it is in the hands of a relatively few people. These narratives, all of them, are vetted for ideological compliance with corporatism, Imperialism, and a de-facto racism or better put, white supremacy. Visibility is earned, and it’s not arbitrary. And if a *Greta* suddenly appears, rest assured she has handlers. I mean, it’s simply a given, and there are no exceptions.

So there are several problems looming that tangentially connect to overpopulation alarms. One of them is a recolonizing of Africa (and the recolonizing of former communist countries continues apace, as well). But here Africa, in particular, is viewed as a huge resource for raw materials sought after in the West. The re-colonizing takes several forms but here is a typical example.

As Cory Morningstar observed vis a vis this …“Can you imagine @WWF promoting the sterilization of women living around national parks in Europe or the US? The fact they consider it acceptable in India and Africa is racism, pure and simple.”

The white west (and Bill and Melinda Gates leading the charge) are rather unapologetically determined to stop the global south from reproducing. Sterilization and vasectomy suggestions (voluntary, of course) are to be found in countless U.N. sponsored (and USAID sponsored) pamphlets and directives for missions in Africa.

The new alarmist propaganda tends toward sensationalizing what are a few basic truths, sometimes half truths, and building a sort of screenplay to a disaster movie out of these. The influence of Hollywood apocalyptic film and TV cannot be over-emphasized, actually. For those films are both unconscious projections of the ruling class, and the audience embrace of this stuff speaks to unconscious fears as well. The elite producers of this crap fear the marauding masses (zombies) and the bourgeois audience fear black sites and Bloody Gina’s reprisals if they stray too far off message (like voting for a third party). A good deal of the new environmental panic is not based on the actual (and I hasten to emphasize real) problems and crises, but are more the conditioned response from audiences trained for thirty years, at least, to kitsch media entertainments. People see life unfold like an action movie. Sea levels can’t just rise and destroy infrastructure and crops, wash away beach front property, no, they have to completely submerge Baltimore, Oslo, and London. The sum effect of this is actually to have the real and severe problems in retreat.

Watch Madonna’s Eurovision performance (in Israel where she was never not going to perform), with lyrics like “not everyone is coming to the future, not everyone is gonna last.”

There is now coming out of Hollywood a near endless stream of dystopian ‘end of times’ films, which (as I have noted before) are reconstruction fables as well. But now the end of times includes the rehabilitation of Big Brother. The state emerges as a sort of necessary mechanism for culling the herd. Madonna was also sporting blond plaited hair and an eye patch. So maybe it’s just me but this new volkish imagery is growing and being used in ways that familiarize the public with fascist motifs.

Thus, when we are talking about “völkisch” or “Überfremdung,” we are automatically producing images that are inevitably linked to a fascist past. “Überfremdung” describes the fear of being flooded with foreigners, a foreign infiltration. The Duden dictionary explained the term in 1934 as “the intrusion of alien races.” ( ) What is concerning about these “poor words” in the first place is the imagery inherent to them, one that conveys fascism without speaking it. Such words are racist in establishing a hierarchy of ethnicity and, in that way, they have the potential to createm or exacerbate, false divisions between and within societies. The word “völkisch” creates a sense of belonging, an imaginal feature to help distinguish between the in-group and the out-group. The word “Überfremdung” works similarly by implying that there is an abundance of strangers invading the ‘German race.’ What seems to have changed, however, is the definition of the out-group or the enemy. Promoted by PEGIDA and the AfD, the new threat are Muslim immigrants and the idea of the “Islamization” of the Western culture. Thus, this becomes a powerful example for the political myth of the clash of civilizations between Islam and the West.

— Alexa Lenz, Public Seminar, July 14, 2017

 

The ideological road to National Socialism was paved not by Nietzschean self-awareness and self-overcoming, but by völkisch self-congratulation.

Roderick Stackelberg, Idealism Debased: From Volkisch Ideology to National Socialism, March 1, 1981

The first volley in the reclamation of volkish language was Bush’s use of the word “Homeland” when he created a new security service. Quite a few people noticed the connection to the German word Heimat. The far right parties in Europe now appropriate a good deal of Nazi symbology, while the even more virulent racism of a Macron (or Sarkozy) is ignored. PEGIDA and the AfD, in Germany, are really pretty much openly using Nazi rhetoric and symbol (both of which are technically against the law).

Cassirer (1973) analyzed three potential techniques that enabled the myth of Nazism: the magical use of words, the use of rituals and, finally, the recourse to prophecy. Nazi politicians managed to charge words with feelings and violent passions, therefore transforming their semantic meaning to convey magical imagery.

—Alexa Lenz, (Ibid.)

I will only add here, as a sort of thought experiment, that one compare the TIME magazine cover of Greta, with the photos in, what Remco Ensel, in an excellent monograph on the Dutch “Heimat” portrait photography called *Dutch Face-ism”, an expression of Völkisch Nationalism circa WW2 and tell me there is no equivalence. (or the VICE lead photo, or even Greta’s facebook portrait).

Now I know there are many people who will perceive this as an attack on Greta. It’s not. I am certain this young woman has almost zero awareness of any of the implications of her exploitation. And remember, too, that one of the most common rhetorical tactics of fascist apologetics (pretending to be liberal) is to re-state your argument incorrectly and then to respond to their manufactured distortion. It’s a version of straw man arguing. Couple this with the convenient appellation *denier*. If you say, wait, there were no rape camps in Serbia. You are immediately labeled a denier. It matters not at all that you would be correct in saying this. The corporate ruling class take-over of many green movements has a sum effect of reducing rights. For that is the logic of fascism. Remove rights but create space for the self expression of resentments. Property rights will remain untouched.

The opportunistic proprietor class capitalist sees enormous profit in Green endeavours now. Just as Mike Pompeo sees melting arctic ice as an “opportunity”. Never underestimate the capacity for brutish insensitivity in the lower functioning humanoids that serve as representatives of the ruling elite. It is bottomless, in fact. Bolton, Pompeo, Abrams, Kushner, Biden…this is the Troglodyte political class.

Brian Davey wrote about Thunberg, vis a vis her appearance in Katowice at a climate gathering:

What’s more it is richest 5% of the planet that consume 50% of planetary carbon – so the very people who are promoting this campaign must cut back the most. Instead they want to expand the economy. But how is this to be made compatible with reducing carbon emissions?

 

It isn’t – but a careful looks at the language of nature financialisation refers to carbon neutrality, not zero carbon. This is “convenient language when one of the main pillars of the business model is the sale of carbon offsets – rationalizing a continuance of the same carbon based lifestyle by constructing a faux fantasy one, that anyone with monetary wealth, can buy into.

— Brian Davey, Credo; Economic Beliefs in a World in Crises, January 2015

This is a bit like buying indulgences in the Medieval Catholic Church. So perhaps what is needed is a Martin Luther of environmentalism.

The ruling class and its marketing apparatus recognized early on that Green language would serve as cover while they re-tooled their industries. Green took on those magical connotations. Cut to Greta’s mother explaining that her daughter was *different*; i.e. magical. She could *see* carbon dioxide. Trust me there will be green Angels, soon, helping further carbon neutrality.

But there is another issue cutting across much of this, and that is a strange new war on children (and on motherhood in the global south, and black mothers in the U.S.). Although *new* is the wrong word. Whether by design of just as a natural tendency in the residual Puritans of America, the media message has been of late to normalize cruelty to children. From tearing babies from the arms of immigrant mothers and dropping them into cages, or the arrest of suspension of due process in Israeli arrests of children and youth, to the spike in jail time for minors across the U.S. In the 1990s, incarceration of minors rose 311 %.

Across the United States, thousands of children have been sentenced as adults and sent to adult prisons. Children as young as eight have been prosecuted as adults { } Some 10,000 children are housed in adult jails and prisons on any given day in America. Children are five times more likely to be sexually assaulted in adult prisons than in juvenile facilities and face increased risk of suicide.

—Equal Justice Initative, Children in Prison 2018

The rates for youth have declined slightly over the last few years but mostly due to teenagers aging out of the statistics. That ANY child was ever tried as an adult is all by itself a horror. In the U.S. infants born to black mothers die at twice the rate of those born to white mothers. Poverty is the obvious first reason, but structural racism…the stress of increased contact with the criminal justice system also undermines the health of the newborn.

67 percent of black women who are incarcerated are incarcerated for nonviolent offenses. So the majority of black women and girls are not incarcerated for violent offenses…( ) There’s a large percentage of women who are single mothers. I’m fortunate to have a significant other that supports me and supported me when I was behind the walls. But most women don’t have that. So they’re forced to take care of their children alone. And so when you’re forced to take care of your children alone, you don’t have the type of credentials that you need in order to access a job that’s a livable wage. And that’s the type of wages that you can take your family on vacations, and enroll your kids in extracurricular activities, you tend to find some non-traditional ways to make money.”“67 percent of black women who are incarcerated are incarcerated for nonviolent offenses. So the majority of black women and girls are not incarcerated for violent offenses…( ) There’s a large percentage of women who are single mothers. I’m fortunate to have a significant other that supports me and supported me when I was behind the walls. But most women don’t have that. So they’re forced to take care of their children alone. And so when you’re forced to take care of your children alone, you don’t have the type of credentials that you need in order to access a job that’s a livable wage. And that’s the type of wages that you can take your family on vacations, and enroll your kids in extracurricular activities, you tend to find some non-traditional ways to make money.

— Nicole Hanson, Rattling the Bars, Real News Network

 

Neglect is often considered to be a failure, on the part of a caretaker, to provide adequate supervision, emotional nurturance, appropriate medical care, food, clothing, and shelter for a child. This definition also aligns with a definition of poverty, where poverty is considered to be inadequate food, shelter, and clothing.

— Australian Institute of Family Studies, 2014

Child neglect is then, almost by definition, synonymous with poverty. Those damn poor people just can’t take care of their kids. And yet they breed so much, ya know? Maybe it wouldn’t be such a darn bad thing if we clipped the men…know what I’m saying, Earl?

In fact, one of the side bar implications in Melinda Gates programs is to strongly associate pregnancy with disease (not for rich white people, of course). And the overpopulation argument feeds in this directly.

There is not enough space to even scratch the surface here to list the inequalities operative in racial hierarchies in the U.S. What is important here to start to recognize the codes at work. Walter Benjamin famously said that “The logical result of Fascism is the introduction of aesthetics into political life.” But more importantly, at the end of that same essay (Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction) he added…

Its (mankind) self-alienation has reached such a degree that it can experience its own destruction as an aesthetic pleasure of the first order.

Capitalism has abandoned humanity. A shamefully neglected infrastructure has exacerbated the effects of global warming. The loss of jobs, mostly to robots, engenders confusion and anxiety, but also deep resentment. And we are well past the time when anyone thinks robots provide superior service. The need to keep escalating conflict, both at home with a militarized and racist police apparatus, and abroad via a gargantuan military whose size defies all rational comprehension. The suffering inflicted on the world by the U.S. and its proxies (Saudi Arabia, Israel primarily) is so enormous that it is hard to grasp it in its totality. And this confusion breeds reaction. The confusion seems not, however, to breed questioning.

When capitalism reaches its point of diminishing return, it deliberately creates a crisis or an appearance of a crisis in order to stage a ritual of a rebirth. The crisis is designed to corner everyone to rely on the capitalist framework for survival. This functions to divide people into two groups: a group which sees through the mechanism and a group that insists on solving the “crisis” no matter how (meaning solving it according to the acceptable ways). The establishment destroys the anti-capitalist momentum while co-opting dissident voices, giving them credentials, awards, positions in the hierarchy. The process eliminates enemies while augmenting the capitalist hierarchy.

— Hiroyuki Hamada (in conversation with me)

The real problems of ocean acidification, plastic pollution of those same seas, and the endless over production of certain crops that destroy land and poison pollinating insects, these problems are simply the result of needless and pointless industrial growth, a growth that has no rational need driving it. Hunger exists in a world of surplus food. The engine is maximizing profit. And why do so many people seem to just reflexively trust *science*? Trust without even a cursory check on who funds the study, or the institution. And the manufacture of fear is a staple of the ruling class. Fear of germs (from Asia or Africa, of course), or asteroids, or the ignoring of obvious testing failures which goes back to thalidomide. That and the very imperfect world of statistical analysis (see Harvard and Yale sociologists circa 1986 and the spinster’s beware warning) etc. The point is only that while it is clear global warming and pollution present enormous challenges, ones that may change the way nearly everyone on the planet lives, there is also clarity that a crises in Capitalism is forcing an increasing propaganda machine to validate the class hierarchies, and which is rehabilitating the most obscene thinking of the colonial and Victorian era. People are being indoctrinated to experience domination as salutary. Junk science abounds everywhere (facial recognition anyone? blood splatter?) but when it comes to climate and Green issues the bourgeois populace simply does not want to hear it. Which leads me to the idea of a cultic group think going on. And maybe this is tied into the acute narcissism of the boomers. Because just anecdotally my experience is that they WANT disaster. It provides self importance. They demand action and responsibility, but the most dire warnings are received with a barely suppressed pleasure.

The liberal white American today cannot tolerate the world going on around them with people they have been trained to see as inferior. Fear of the dark skinned global south (I mean Melinda Gates actually has a brochure in one of her projects to teach African women how to hold their baby, because I guess, you know, that’s something they clearly don’t know about), they fear the numbers, they fear fecundity (something that has dropped precipitously in the advanced West), they fear being in close proximity to the poor, the ‘other’ (migration), and they fear exposing their children to this ‘threat’, most of all. Consider that there is a huge movement on the right to ban abortion. And yet, largely, these same people are thrilled with Bill and Melinda Gates work to stop African reproduction. So it’s clearly not too many people, it’s just too many black people.

The new Volkish body politic is conflating global warming and the poor.

…the “longing for myth” reflected the pervasive experience of “dislocation and disorientation” precipitated by industrialization, revolution, and the dissolution of community values in the abstract conception of secular society, compounded by the fragmentation of German society “along confessional, social, and territorial lines”; the splintering of traditional social and cultural bonds gave rise to the desire for an “aesthetic-religious imagery” that would “unite modern society just as Greek mythology had supposedly once united the polis.

— Nicholas Huzsvai (honors thesis, unpublished)

Over two million people languish in nightmarish prisons in the U.S. Most for non violent crimes. And today the target is increasingly children and women of colour. But people respond with arguments of distraction, just as they are narcotized by screen distractions. The children not targeted for jail are given anti depressants.

And Gabor Mate has written (following Robert Bly) that fathers and mothers both today work twice as long and with less security and for less money than they did three generations ago.

Quite the opposite is true now. Far from being helped, working women are actively penalized if they wish to extend the time they are at home caring for their children. For men, it is not even considered reasonable to think of “interrupting” their careers in order to share in that process. Society does little to establish expert and compassionate day care for those children during whose early years the parent(s), for one reason or another, cannot avoid the necessity of working outside the home. Poor women, especially in the U.S., are economically terrorized by the welfare system into entrusting their infants to appallingly inadequate care situations, and then must spend hours daily traveling to low-paying jobs that barely allow their families a subsistence income.

— Gabor Maté, Scattered Minds: The Origins and Healing of Attention Deficit Disorder,

Leading to what Bly called “the rage of the unparented”. This is America, then, today. Children are targeted by law enforcement — think of the use of gang injunctions, prop 21 in California — which, again, allowed for minors to be sentenced as adults. California has, in fact, been the leading laboratory for terrorizing youth.

The collateral consequences of an adult conviction are severe. An adult criminal conviction stays on a youth’s permanent record, which can prevent him or her from voting, securing housing, getting financial aid or public benefits, and finding a job. Further, the juvenile justice system is intended to be rehabilitative, whereas the adult criminal system is not. Youth tried in adult court lose the opportunity to access many of treatment and rehabilitative options available in the juvenile system.

— National Center for Youth Law

Poor women, and particularly black and latino women, have been zeroed in on by the justice system and now are the fastest growing segment of the carceral state. Their children are warehoused, usually chemically warehoused if they prove in the least disruptive. But this only mirrors in much harsher way the white children of the affluent. For even the petit bourgeois youth is afflicted by a culture of screen addicted distractions and coercive infantile propaganda and entertainments. And they are likely the children of parents who were also distracted and anxious. And the parents of those parents. Three or four generations now who have not been provided with any sense of community.

A quick glance at the statistics: Children 0 to 5 years, over 600,000 are on one of the following: ADHD medication, anti depressants, anti psychotics, and anti anxiety drugs. But if you look at kids 6 to 17, there are SEVEN MILLION being medicated. I was told by a friend that in the run up to the millennium, in a gallup poll, that a majority of people welcomed an apocalypse of some kind — and the reason given was a belief that nothing was going to get better. They were expecting only worse to come. And, of course, they were largely correct.

Hollywood has been normalizing a mix of the sadistic and the sexual for going on fifty years, only now the spectre of Big Brother looms over everything, and this is presented as a virtue. There is in this new mythos forming around end-times thinking, an erotic representation of duty to power, and it elicits a kind of frisson. Fascism is now being updated, and it serves up a menu of catastrophe and individualism. Daily life is a combination of drudgery, tedium, meaningless work, and insecurity. And parents are weary of their neurotic complaining children. In sum I think people in the West no longer dream Utopian.

 

[John Steppling is an original founding member of the Padua Hills Playwrights Festival, a two-time NEA recipient, Rockefeller Fellow in theatre, and PEN-West winner for playwrighting. He’s had plays produced in LA, NYC, SF, Louisville, and at universities across the US, as well in Warsaw, Lodz, Paris, London and Krakow. He has taught screenwriting and curated the cinematheque for five years at the Polish National Film School in Lodz, Poland. Plays include The Shaper, Dream Coast, Standard of the Breed, The Thrill, Wheel of Fortune, Dogmouth, and Phantom Luck, which won the 2010 LA Award for best play. Film credits include 52 Pick-up (directed by John Frankenheimer, 1985) and Animal Factory (directed by Steve Buscemi, 1999). A collection of his plays was published in 1999 by Sun & Moon Press as Sea of Cortez and Other Plays. He lives with wife Gunnhild Skrodal Steppling; they divide their time between Norway and the high desert of southern California. He is artistic director of the theatre collective Gunfighter Nation. Read other articles by John, or visit John’s website.]

 

Arundhati Roy: In This Blitzkrieg of Idiocy, Fascist Marches, Fake-news Coups, and What Looks Like a Race Toward Extinction – What is the Place of Literature?

Arundhati Roy: In This Blitzkrieg of Idiocy, Fascist Marches, Fake-news Coups, and What Looks Like a Race Toward Extinction – What is the Place of Literature?

Scroll India

May 18, 2019

 

https://www.facebook.com/wrongkindofgreen/publishing_tools/?section=DRAFTS&sort[0]=edited_by_descending

 

The following is an excerpt from the “Arthur Miller Freedom to Write” lecture delivered by Arundhati Roy at the Apollo Theatre in New York. ‘India is fighting for her soul’: Arundhati Roy on fascism, Modi and being a writer in today’s world -‘In this blitzkrieg of idiocy, fascist marches, fake-news coups, and what looks like a race toward extinction – what is the place of literature?’

 

 

As the ice caps melt, as oceans heat up, and water tables plunge, as we rip through the delicate web of interdependence that sustains life on earth, as our formidable intelligence leads us to breach the boundaries between humans and machines, and our even more formidable hubris undermines our ability to connect the survival of our planet to our survival as a species, as we replace art with algorithms and stare into a future in which most human beings may not be needed to participate in (or be remunerated for) economic activity – at just such a time we have the steady hands of white supremacists in the White House, new imperialists in China, neo-Nazis once again massing on the streets of Europe, Hindu nationalists in India, and a host of butcher-princes and lesser dictators in other countries to guide us into the Unknown.

While many of us dreamt that “Another world is possible”, these folks were dreaming that too. And it is their dream – our nightmare – that is perilously close to being realised.

Capitalism’s gratuitous wars and sanctioned greed have jeopardised the planet and filled it with refugees. Much of the blame for this rests squarely on the shoulders of the government of the United States. Seventeen years after invading Afghanistan, after bombing it into the “stone age” with the sole aim of toppling the Taliban, the US government is back in talks with the very same Taliban. In the interim it has destroyed Iraq, Libya and Syria. Hundreds of thousands have lost their lives to war and sanctions, a whole region has descended into chaos, ancient cities – pounded into dust. Amidst the desolation and the rubble, a monstrosity called Daesh (ISIS) has been spawned. It has spread across the world, indiscriminately murdering ordinary people who had absolutely nothing to do with America’s wars. Over these last few years, given the wars it has waged, and the international treaties it has arbitrarily reneged on, the US Government perfectly fits its own definition of a rogue state. And now, resorting to the same old scare tactics, the same tired falsehoods and the same old fake news about nuclear weapons, it is gearing up to bomb Iran. That will be the biggest mistake it has ever made…

The books in question were not my novels (at that point I had written only one –The God of Small Things). These were books of nonfiction – although in a sense they were stories, too, different kinds of stories, but stories nevertheless. Stories about the massive corporate attack on forests, rivers, crops, seeds, on land, on farmers, labour laws, on policy making itself. And yes, on the post 9/11 US and NATO attacks on country after country. Most were stories about people who have fought against these attacks – specific stories, about specific rivers, specific mountains, specific corporations, specific peoples’ movements, all of them being specifically crushed in specific ways. These were the real climate warriors, local people with a global message, who had understood the crisis before it was recognised as one. And yet, they were consistently portrayed as villains – the anti-national impediments to progress and development. The former Prime Minister of India, a free-market evangelist, called the guerrillas, mostly indigenous people, adivasis, fighting corporate mining projects in the forests of central India the “Single Largest Internal Security Challenge”. A war called “Operation Green Hunt” was declared on them. The forests were flooded with soldiers whose enemies were the poorest people in the world. It’s been no different elsewhere – in Africa, Australia, Latin America.And now, irony of ironies, a consensus is building that climate change is the world’s single largest security challenge. Increasingly the vocabulary around it is being militarized. And no doubt very soon its victims will become the ‘enemies’ in the new war without end. Calls for a climate ‘emergency’, although well meaning, could hasten the process that has already begun.

And now, irony of ironies, a consensus is building that climate change is the world’s single largest security challenge. Increasingly the vocabulary around it is being militarized. And no doubt very soon its victims will become the ‘enemies’ in the new war without end. Calls for a climate ‘emergency’, although well meaning, could hasten the process that has already begun. The pressure is already on to move the debate from the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) to the United Nations Security Council, in other words, to exclude most of the world and place decision making straight back into the den of the same old suspects. Once again, the Global North, the creators of the problem, will see to it that they profit from the solution that they propose. A solution whose genius will, no doubt, lie deep in the heart of the ‘Market’ and involve more selling and buying, more consuming, and more profiteering by fewer and fewer people. In other words, more capitalism.

When the essays were first published (first in mass-circulation magazines, then on the Internet, and finally as books), they were viewed with baleful suspicion, at least in some quarters, often by those who didn’t necessarily even disagree with the politics. The writing sat at an angle to what is conventionally thought of as literature. Balefulness was an understandable reaction, particularly among the taxonomy-inclined—because they couldn’t decide exactly what this was—pamphlet or polemic, academic or journalistic writing, travelogue, or just plain literary adventurism? To some, it simply did not count as writing: “Oh, why have you stopped writing? We’re waiting for your next book.” Others imagined that I was just a pen for hire. All manner of offers came my way: “Darling I loved that piece you wrote on the dams, could you do one for me on child abuse?” (This actually happened.) I was sternly lectured, (mostly by upper-caste men) about how to write, the subjects I should write about, and the tone I should take.

But in other places, let’s call them places off the highway, the essays were quickly translated into other Indian languages, printed as pamphlets, distributed for free in forests and river valleys, in villages that were under attack, on university campuses where students were fed up of being lied to. Because these readers, out there on the frontlines, already being singed by the spreading fire, had an entirely different idea of what literature is or should be.”

 

[Arundhati Roy is one of the world’s great observers. In her writing is a raging activism that takes on unpopular, underwritten causes and is unafraid to challenge the ruling elite. Her first novel was published in 1997. The God of Small Things tells the devastating story of twins Rahel and Estha and in doing so, examines India’s caste system, its history and social mores. It explores the ways in which the ‘Untouchable’ caste is derogated and ostracised from society, and the consequences of breaching the caste’s longstanding codes. The narrative deftly illustrates how the personal is indeed political, and her writing style is searing in its beauty, delivering weighty truths about neglected societies.”][Source]

 

Read the full text of the PEN America Arthur Miller Freedom to Write Lecture delivered by Arundhati Roy on May 12 here.

Raising the Alarm – On the Capitalists Seeking to Profit from the Climate Crisis

Statement from the Wrong Kind of Green Collective

Raising The Alarm – On The Capitalists Seeking To Profit From The Climate Crisis

May 10, 2019

 

 

Over the past few weeks there has been much discussion among the online community concerning our six-act investigative series “The Manufacturing of Greta Thunberg”. Some have continued to question the veracity of the information compiled by Wrong Kind of Green (WKOG).

Our series sought to illustrate how Thunberg’s image is being both propelled and exploited by various entities interested in promoting certain projects and ideas that will benefit their stock portfolios and bank accounts under the guise of “saving the planet”. In this regard, WKOG felt compelled to respond to some of the allegations made about our work, specifically those in a recent article by Media Lens in which our work was presented as playing a prominent part in influencing public opinion alongside those who are trying to disparage Thunberg and her symbolic role at the heart of the youth climate movement.

The fact is that WKOG has never made any claims that Thunberg was knowingly or willingly complicit in the machinations of those who are utilizing her presence as the head of the youth climate movement for their own nefarious ends. As we have no information on which to make such a claim, it would be against journalistic principles for us to express such thoughts. Doing so would simply trivialize our work with baseless claims and false allegations.

Instead, WKOG merely presented the facts regarding Thunberg’s associations. Thunberg could be a mere dupe in these relationships, but there is no refuting the key points which reveal that these relationships do actually exist and are not figments of the imagination, or conspiracy theories. Ultimately, Thunberg has entered into an alliance with people and organisations who have ulterior motives.

The current mass mobilization of the youth and the “green movement” is being sensationalized and exploited. This has been described by members of the elite and organizers as the “herding of cats”. Their objective – the furthering of the goals and dominance of the ruling class. By any unbiased analysis of the information provided in the series, the primary concern is in securing the economy and financial system, with saving the planet via a benign capitalism, a mere afterthought. This can best be described as the equivalent of the old idiom in trying to “have your cake and eat it too”.

On a deeper note, as much of the online conversation resides around a critique of our motivation for publishing the series, WKOG must ask what is the motivation of those promoting the Green New Deal. Is the Green New Deal inclusive to peoples in the Global South who bear the brunt of Western carbon emissions? Are they to have the middle class lifestyles we hold as sacrosanct and proof of our social and cultural superiority? Will this Green New Deal bring modernization to the rest of the world when said modernization is still dependent on infrastructure built by fossil fuels, such as roads, houses, cars and manufactured goods. How is this going to benefit the victims?

As no one in the mainstream is asking pointed questions such as these, evidenced by the lack of any mention as to how this will serve the interests of the non-Western world, the Green New Deal is simply a means of maintaining the status quo from a material aspect between those in the Global North and its marginalized counterparts in the Global South.

This all being portrayed as some sort of altruistic answer which allows us to continue our resource-intensive lifestyles under the pretense that we can solve the carbon emissions issue at the root of this problem. This bears no semblance whatsoever to our biophysical realities, nor our planetary boundaries.

In merely attempting to address these broad questions by placing microscopic focus on the connections between Thunberg and the major players behind the Green New Deal, the financialization of nature, and other supposed benign technocratic instruments, WKOG takes umbrage at the casting of aspersions against our character and integrity, in particular when it comes to our group being a part of the climate denial trope that is a major part of the mainstream Western world. As WKOG outlined in the series, the panacea of green technology is a ruse to enrich a new section of oligarchs trying to join the other robber barons who have comprised the upper class of the capitalist system since its inception. WKOG has laid out in painstaking detail the stakeholders behind the financial instruments who are investing in ‘clean’ renewable energy which is supposedly going to address the global environmental problem worsening with each passing day.

In shining a light on all this, we are in no way doing the work of those who are climate deniers. As we have no control over what entities use our resources, WKOG is powerless in dictating who shares our exhaustive research. It is a sad state of affairs when such critically important work is embraced by those on the right and shunned by those on the “left”. If we had legitimate grassroots environmental and social justice groups leading a united movement, this would not be the case.

What the series represents more than anything else is that WKOG merely elicits the reader to ask questions, such as: Is it acceptable to do “something” even if you know that something isn’t good enough? Is it acceptable to encourage an alcoholic to lightly curtail his or her drinking when the condition is so far advanced that cirrhosis of the liver is still a certainty by drinking at all? Does it make sense to enable a grossly overweight person in making a facile attempt to eat better when the diet still consists of the unhealthiest items imaginable, such as a diet Coke with an extra large pizza? Hence, if we know the “solutions” will fail to solve the problem, then what good are we honestly doing in pretending that they will?

In that vein, WKOG is not here to force change on anyone. Our only goal is to enlighten the public and present the truth as to what is happening with as much evidence as we can find. This is not the truth as we see it; these are the facts and we simply share them for people to make of them what they will.

We were asked to respond to a statement made by Greta Thunberg regarding one of the relationships we highlighted in our series. [1] We wish to make clear that it is not our place to make an addendum to our article as though we had spread a falsehood. In essence, the author of this Media Lens piece is asking WKOG to print a quasi-retraction as if we had actually written something untrue about the relationship. If anything, the response by Thunberg constitutes proof that what WKOG published was based in fact. As journalists, it is not our place to defend or eviscerate Thunberg. The statement published on Thunberg’s Facebook page in response to the information that we provided, in fact, validated our work as far as its veracity. If “We Don’t Have Time” did something untoward to Thunberg, then it is their responsibility to apologize for their misstep, not WKOG. Hence, an addendum in an apologetic tone from WKOG would be an explicit admission that we did something wrong when that is far from the case.

WKOG stands by our reporting on this matter and we will continue to defend our work since we are in full agreement that there is no more pressing issue than the protection of Mother Earth, for the survival of life as we know it. If anything, our critique of all these various characters is proof of how seriously we take this matter. As we are now so far down the rabbit hole, the last thing we need is half measures and lip service from the people in power. We must also highlight how the public is being misled by those in power – even if the message falls on deaf ears, causes rancor among the masses and ultimately makes them disparage us instead of the ones who are leading them astray.

Finally, WKOG would like to thank everyone who supports the investigative series. We are always willing to engage in civil conversation about the content of our work and defend it vociferously. WKOG only requests that any allegations have merit and do not venture into baseless accusations. There has unfortunately been too much of the latter, based on emotion rather than legitimate criticism.

 

[1]

The Manufacturing of Greta Thunberg – for Consent: The Political Economy of the Non-Profit Industrial Complex [ACT I]

 

The Climate Movement: What Next?

Clive L. Spash: Social, Ecological Economics

May 2019

By Clive L. Spash

 

Joan Wong illustration for Foreign Policy [Source: Why Growth Can’t Be Green]

 

*Invited Comment for the Tellus Foundation [Note: This short commentary was written as a contribution to a Great Transition (Tellus Institute)roundtable discussion focused on the climate movement that started with an invited statement from Bill McKibben. The focus was on three questions: What is the climate movement’s state of play? System change, not climate change? Do we need a meta-movement?]

 

A CAPTURED ENVIRONMENTAL MOVEMENT?

The climate movement, like all environmental NGOs, has been subject to the influence of neoliberalism and corporate capture. Neo-liberals love to attack government while totally ignoring the corporate control of the economy. In the USA the extent of government capture is just ignored (from the President down and not just the most recent President either). There is a general failure to link the social and economic to the ecological. Political analysis is lacking, social theory is absent and there are a dearth of substantive ideas as to alternative economies from the existing paradigms of economic growth and price-making markets.

Hence the climate movement promotes price incentives (taxes, carbon trading), innovation and new technologies, commodification of Nature (ecosystems as goods and services, natural capital), offsetting losses of biodiversity and greenhouse gas emissions, and new quantitative measures of growth as progress.

TECHNO-OPTIMIST CAPITALISM, GREEN GROWTH AND GREEN NEW DEALS

Cutting past the personal anecdotes, Bill McKibben’s GT piece appears to promote systemic change, but does it really? The piece includes the following:

• “the divestment movement […] with commitments from endowments and other portfolios worth about $8 trillion”
• “Seventy-five years from now, we will run the world on sun and wind because they’re free.” [unlike coal, gas and oil?]
• “we can’t make change happen fast enough”
• “student Climate Strikes now underway thanks to the inspiration of Sweden’s Greta Thunberg”
• “the incredibly exciting fight for a Green New Deal”
• “If we replace fossil fuels with sun and wind, the effect will inevitably lead to at least some erosion of the current power structure.”
• “There will be solar billionaires”
• “The extremely rapid fall in the price of renewable energy and electric storage is one indication that the necessary conditions for rapid change are now in place.”

The aim is for a large shift in financing towards new energy sources, which is basically the mainstream (neoclassical) economic argument that substitutes exist and the price mechanism will supply them. This relies on the belief that price mechanisms send the right signals and actually reflect resource costs rather than being determined by power relations, rules and regulations, subsidies and public infrastructure. If its cheap it must be good. There is little or no connection to politics, resource extractivism or biophysical limits (e.g., on the resources required for electric technologies), nor the need for demand control rather than supply increase. Technology will save us, markets work and there will be ‘free’ electricity for all.

The mythical innovative capitalist entrepreneur of neo-Austrian economics and neoliberal ideology appears to be lurking in the background of such claims. The Green New Deal is similar, subject to being hi-jacked by the entrepreneurial ‘billionaires’. In the USA special rules are proposed to take the trillions outside political process to be placed into the hands of a ‘special committee’, and you can expect the standard vested interests behind the scenes. The French regulation school describe how capitalism has historically adapted in response to the crises it creates; enabling with changes in the controlling minority but maintaining a power bloc that rules over the majority. Karl Polanyi, long ago, noted the way in which crises leads to social payback (e.g., ‘new deals’) to prevent total breakdown, civil unrest and potential rebellion. When that fails it uses authoritarian force, as seen with securitisation and the rise of the political right.

Contrary to McKibben’s claim, there is nothing in the ‘new technologies’ that inevitably changes the political and economic power relationships. Indeed, the trillions being requested are for investment in the growth of the economy via increased ‘green’ industrial energy and market product supply. What stops the money going to the B-Team (that Hans Baer mentions)? Where are the new institutions to prevent funds being funnelled through the usual financial channels and into the hands of the existing power players? Technology does not create institutions, it requires them!

The existing institutions of modern economies are those supporting economic growth. The growth priority has been made clear by the over 3500 economists supporting a climate tax and opposing structural change. Similarly, Lord Stern is the academic figure head of the New Climate Economy, a concept created by members of the Davos elite, with its ‘Better Growth, Better Climate’ reports. Their explicitly stated concern is that: “In the long term, if climate change is not tackled, growth itself will be at risk.” Change is coming and the corporations and billionaires are fully aware of this. They have been actively lobbying on climate and environment since Johannesburg (Earth Summit 2002) and were a dominant force at Paris. They have also long been seeking to control the environmental movement for their own ends.

The ‘smart’ money already supports Extinction Rebellion and Greta Thunberg. Greta is lauded and praised, hosted by the international and Davos elite, and they hope can be used to help spring the trillions of funding. She can expect prizes and awards, as long as she plays the game. Ask yourself how a child is suddenly propelled into the international media limelight and given access to the most powerful people on the planet, and then ask yourself why? Why was she not just ignored like all the protesters saying exactly the same things for decades?

Clearly, as a new superstar environmentalist, a single person, she is useful to circumvent other organisations; useful as long as she attacks the right people (e.g. politicians, ‘government’) as the wrong doers (diverting attention from corporations), and supports funding of the ‘New Economy’ based on innovation, technology, new markets and economic growth. Media can downplay and cut anything critical of the system and the growth economy and report only what serves financial interests. If she turns ‘political’, expect her to be dropped like a hot potato.

Extinction Rebellion (XR) is similarly useful. It claims no political agenda, which is obviously a disingenuous, if not fraudulent, claim. They are engaged in a power struggle, but on whose behalf? Pushing a ‘climate emergency’ that seeks trillions for whom and under what political process of allocation? Claiming the need for a ‘civic forum’, but representative of whom and to endorse what? The honest concern and sincerity of individuals joining XR does not have to be questioned any more than that of Greta. However, there are clearly political games going on here of which its members appear almost willfully ignorant. Who is Extinction Rebellion opposing and where is their political analysis of the power structure that needs to change? What exactly is the change they are seeking? Rebelling against extinction not corporate and state capitalism!?

What is happening right now appears to be a classic case of a passive revolution. When hegemonic power is threatened it captures the movement leaders and neutralises them by bringing them into the power circles and takes the initiative away from radical revolutionary change. In addition, the aim is to split movements and their demands by separating the pragmatic from the radical, forming new alliances with the pragmatic wings and thereby incorporating radical movement language with their own ‘pragmatic’ demands. The threatened elites create captured movements and leaders, adopting the language of the rebels and claiming to address their concerns. Those joining them can claim to be more ‘pragmatic’ because they are connected to the powerful and see how to save the system. None of this is any different from the decades of NGO capture and new environmental pragmatism, but the latest moves are more overt because the stakes are getting higher.

WHAT NEXT?

The climate movement runs along a knife edge between re-establishing another phase of competitive economic growth, and making radical economic and political reform a reality through social ecological transformation. The current thrust is to the former and will remain so as long as the potential forces for change operate via corporations and remain committed to productivism, equitable materialism and nationalism. The climate movement is a real threat to powerful elites and that is exactly why it is being infiltrated and invited to have ‘a seat at the table’. Climate change has been and is being used to wipe off the agenda all other environmental issues and to impose singular ‘solutions’ to systemic problems.

Any ENGO, like any economists, that claims to be free of politics is either totally naïve or totally untrustworthy, and possibly both. Can the Green New Deal be made into a degrowth/post-growth deal which is not controlled by an elite? Can the well-meaning environmentalists campaigning for neoliberal solutions, and going to prison for the wrong reasons, be educated about corporate manipulation and political power?

Activism and academia need to be integrated far more. Solidarity could start with seeking some common understanding of the structure of the political and economic system. Connecting that understanding to biophysical reality also means deconstructing the growth economy not re-establishing it as ‘Green’ based on mythical free energy sources and the benevolence of billionaires.

Yours,
Clive L. Spash
6th May, 2019, Vienna

 

[Clive L. Spash is an ecological economist. He currently holds the Chair of Public Policy and Governance at Vienna University of Economics and Business, appointed in 2010. He is also Editor-in-Chief of the academic journal Environmental Values. He has been working on climate change as an economist since the late 80s and engage on environmental issues since 70s. His personal website is https://www.clivespash.org/]

 

Greta Thunberg, PR and the “Climate Emergency”

Feasta – The Foundation for the Economics of Sustainability

May 6, 2019

By Brian Davey

Greta Thunberg, PR and the “Climate Emergency”

 

30 March 2019, Berlin: The Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg gives autographs to the waiting fans when she arrives at the Golden Camera award ceremony. The award ceremony will take place at Berlin’s disused Tempelhof Airport. Photo: Christoph Soeder/dpa (Photo by Christoph Soeder/picture alliance via Getty Images)

 

Preliminary remarks –

Some notes on terminology:

Climate Emergency – a human-induced increase in atmospheric greenhouse gases like CO2 and CH4 leading to rising global temperatures with impacts such as droughts, floods and heatwaves, crop failures, rising sea levels etc

“Climate Emergency” (in inverted commas) – a declaration by politicians that they are taking the climate emergency seriously and that we can trust them to do something effective about it (which can be judged as being for real or as empty rhetoric depending on what happens.)

Because of comments about the first edition of this article I wish to make clear that I am not opposed to wind, solar and renewable energy generation. What I am opposed to is the illusion that wind, solar and other forms of renewable energy can sustain a growth economy and the continuance of the consumer lifestyle in rich countries.

Renewable energy can have a limited place in the future but the priority is degrowth – with energy and materials conservation by sharing more – because the global economy of the rich world has overshot the carrying capacity of the planet and this is very dangerous. In any case there are currently no affordable ways to buffer fluctuations in renewable energy generation between seasons and nor are these likely for a long time, if ever. I am also very opposed to the financialisation of nature for the reasons that I describe here briefly, and at more length in my book Credo which is available for free download (see the references).

Finally, I learned a lot from the articles by Cory Morningstar but my politics and hers should not be taken as identical.

Brian

+++

Icame across a linked series of articles one of which is mentioned on the Moon of Alabama website. They are titled “The Manufacturing of Greta Thunberg – for Consent” and written by an investigative journalist by the name of “Cory Morningstar”. When I started reading them I was at first suspicious that this was another ad hominem attack on Greta Thunberg. However as I read further, to use the Biblical expression, “the scales fell from my eyes”.

This is by far the best overview of global environmental and climate politics at this time – or what is behind the appearance that you will get if you only read and watch the mainstream media.

The articles show the main actors in the drama, how they are connected to, or part of, major factions of the global corporate elite – and how they are pursuing what is in effect a global public relations campaign to “lead the public into emergency mode” – an emergency where the public will call for action and this part of the global elite will then have a mass backing and be able to deliver.

But deliver what, exactly?

In fact the agenda is to sell the need for a fourth industrial revolution…..

I repeat that again – part of the global elite will deliver a green new deal or, as it is sometimes described, “a fourth industrial revolution”. This group of people are networked in organisations like the World Economic Forum, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Rockefeller Institute as well as 20 not for profit NGOs who are backing the idea like the World Resources Institute, Avaaz and its offshoot Team B, Greenpeace…and others.

To these should be added other organisations and movements like 350.org which are part of the influencing environment for the people who set up Extinction Rebellion, influencing XR’s limited statement of its aims.

At first sight all of this seems great, really encouraging – but only if the way that this network intends to follow through to address “the emergency” would actually work.

Yet there are good reasons to believe that their approach won’t work – although they will be an enormously generous gift to the corporate aristocracy and some NGOs – they won’t solve the emergency. They will make it worse.

This is because they want to address the global climate and environmental crisis to “save nature” by turning it into a huge money spinner. The policies that have been developed are intended to be an engine for re-kindling failing economic growth by “financialisating nature”. Natural processes are to be designated as “natural capital” and natural capital is to be priced and tradable on financial markets.

The key idea here is that, in order to protect nature, you must incentivise nature protection with money. You must pay to protect so called “eco-system services”. The idea is that if we want to prevent extinction we need a system that makes it pay in money terms and we will need a system that will bring about a whole new set of technologies – so called “clean tech”.

What’s wrong with financialising nature?

Indigenous people often regard nature as kin – for example, people in the Andes refer to ‘mother earth’. They protect mother earth just as they would protect their own mother because it gave them life, because they came from it. They know how nature works where they live because that is handed down to them from their ancestors and they hold it in trust for their children and descendants. They don’t expect cash payments – it is a duty not to overuse the earth and that is an ethic they live by. That ethic has been maintained by people living and working on natural commons over centuries before they were stolen by an elite during the enclosures. In commons there is a collective responsibility not to over-use resources – or not to harm the lived in environment to which people feel loyalty and attachment.

Our society lives by different ethics. If we want something doing we must pay money – including not driving the entire ecological system to collective death. That’s mainstream economics for you. In our society the rich see nature as a store of resources – trees are timber which has a money value but the untouched forests do not. If we want to protect the forest then the money junkies tell us that the forest must be given a money value too. Then if someone wishes to cut down trees for timber they have to pay for the loss of the forest too – the eco-system services that would be lost, like absorbing CO2, like the role of the forest in rainfall and the water cycle. Indeed, the new argument is that whoever owns the eco-system services of the forest should get a payment for protecting.

If we are going to think of nature as being like your mother then think of it like this. Say your mother is under threat, the key thing is how much is she worth and how much money can you pull together to protect her? Well it’s like that with nature. If your mother’s not worth tuppence and you’ve got no money anyway, you might as well sell her into slavery. It’s the same with nature. In this regard you sell into the financial markets, because banks can create any amount of money as loans to people who want to buy bits of nature, while other bits of the financial markets can make money organising the exchanges to trade on.

But there are problems with this. For example think of the protection of forests. Forest peoples have been protecting forests for centuries, only harvesting sustainably. They never had to be paid to do this – they understood how to live sustainably in the forests and were not greedy, so stopped forest resources being over-used. These kind of people will now be turfed out. They don’t have certificates of ownership purchased on the financial markets. The new owners will be the people in the financial markets who make money decisions about ecological issues. Will they protect the forests better from their offices? This is the doubtful logic of this new kind of green colonialism.

This is the way the money junkies think. There is a reversal of means and ends in their minds. The ends of the players on the natural capital markets is to make money – and, supposedly, making money is achieved by means of protecting nature.

Yet the experience of schemes like this is that money-making wins over nature because there is no obvious price for eco-system services, or for biodiversity loss or for carbon emitted. There is far too much uncertainty and a real ethical and conceptual question about whether you can or should value the carbon emissions, or the lives of people, species or eco-systems (eco-system services). What’s more there are all sorts of practical problems with coming up with prices – for example people are keen to protect pandas with a high price but less keen to pay a high price to protect creepy crawlers, snakes and spiders, even though they are an integral part of the ecosystem. Most people haven’t a clue how eco-systems work, how the climate works – and nor could they have. So how can they “value them”?

Decisions about climate, vital ecosystem functions and species should not be market decisions, they should be political ones – taken democratically by those affected.

In any case, we know that what happens in such markets is that the actors game the systems to make as much money as possible by scams and frauds. That has already happened on a massive scale during carbon trading. Everyone involved in carbon trading knew it was one massive scam. Nevertheless the religion of the modern world is economics, in the service of the great God money and so:

“The development of the Natural Capital Protocol Project was made possible with generous funding from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, International Finance Corporation (World Bank) with the support of the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Government of Netherlands, The Rockefeller Foundation, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and the UK Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). The Coalition is hosted by The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW). Other funders include; World Wildlife Fund, The Nature Conservancy, the Google Foundation, the Inter-American Development Bank, Unilever, The David and Lucile Packard Foundation, U.S. Department of Defense and the World Bank.”

 

“World Resources Institute provided the technical insights and review for the Natural Capital Protocol. The protocol was developed by Conservation International, The B Team, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Sustain Value, ACTS, Management (ERM), Imperial College, ISS, Natural Capital Project, Synergiz, WWF, Accenture, Arcadis, eftec, Environmental Resources CDSB, Deloitte, Dow, eni, GIST Advisory, Kering, LafargeHolcim, Natura, Nestlé, Roche, Shell, and The Nature Conservancy. The protocol was led by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) consortium.”

. …but back to Greta Thunberg. How did she become an eco-star?

How the Greta Thunberg phenomenon was fostered – the “We Don’t have time” consultancy

Please note that although the title of these articles is “The Manufacturing of Greta Thunberg”, they are not saying that Greta Thunberg is a simple puppet doing what she is told. She’s obviously a smart young woman. But she would not have got a place in the World Economic Forum and at the United Nations FCC COP in Katowice, had she not been very well connected and had her rise to eco-stardom not been stage-managed from early on. Her mother had an award from the corporate friendly environmentalists in the World Wide Fund for Nature and she was promoted by an organisation that works with Al Gore and important parts of the Silicon Valley elite.

Greta Thunberg was an adviser to a foundation established by a Swedish business called “We don’t have time”. So what is this business “We don’t have time”?

“We Don’t Have Time is mainly active in three markets: social media, digital advertising and carbon offsets. [“In the US alone estimated market for carbon offsetting amount to over 82 billion USD of which voluntary carbon offset represents 191 million USD. The market is expected to increase in the future, in 2019 estimated 15% of all greenhouse gas emissions to be associated with any kind of cost for offsetting.”] As the company is a niche organization, social networks are able to provide services tailored to platform users. The startup has identified such an opportunity by offering its users the ability to purchase carbon offsets through the platform’s own certification. This option applies to both the individual user of the platform, as well as whole organizations/companies on the platform.

 

“One incentive of many identified in the start-up investment section is that users will be encouraged to “communicate jointly and powerfully with influential actors.” Such influencers are Greta Thunberg and Jamie Margolin who both have lucrative futures in the branding of “sustainable” industries and products, if they wish to pursue this path in utilizing their present celebrity for personal gain (a hallmark of the “grassroots” NGO movement).” (Further reading here.)

A nice little earner then…and that’s the philosophy of the people at the top who are leading this process. In their world view you have to make it pay to protect nature.

If you are not paying attention this looks like a child doing it all herself and getting a fantastic amount of attention – starting a snowball. Indeed the process is snowballing with big support. That was the idea and it was very successful – but what actually is the agenda of the elite faction behind all of this?

Here’s a quote from Cory Morningstar about how it started:

“The ‘one kid immediately got twenty supporters’ – from a Swedish network for sustainable business. What is going on is the launch of a global campaign to usher in a required consensus for the Paris Agreement, the New Green Deal and all climate related policies and legislation written by the power elite – for the power elite. This is necessary in order to unlock the trillions of dollars in funding by way of massive public demand.”

The industrial agenda

“These agreements and policies include carbon capture storage (CCS), enhanced oil recovery (EOR), bio-energy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS), rapid total decarbonisation, payments for ecosystem services (referred to as “natural capital”), nuclear energy and fission, and a host of other “solutions” that are hostile to an already devastated planet. What is going on – is a rebooting of a stagnant capitalist economy, that needs new markets – new growth – in order to save itself. What is being created is a mechanism to unlock approximately 90 trillion dollars for new investments and infrastructure. What is going on is the creation of, and investment in, perhaps the biggest behavioural change experiment yet attempted, global in scale. And what are the deciding factors in what behaviours global society should adhere to? And more importantly, who decides? This is a rhetorical question as we know full well the answer: the same Western white male saviours and the capitalist economic system they have implemented globally that has been the cause of our planetary ecological nightmare. This crisis continues unabated as they appoint themselves (yet again) as the saviours for all humanity – a recurring problem for centuries……”

When Thunberg goes off message

That does not mean that Greta Thunberg necessarily understands or believes the entire elite agenda. At Katowice she made a speech part of which was off-message – perhaps she got the ideas from Professor Kevin Anderson whom she met there. Anderson is a climate scientist who argues that the economy must contract to meet climate goals. He also argues that it is the rich who must bear most of the burden of this.

Here is a part of Thunberg’s speech:

“You only speak of the green eternal economic growth because you are too scared of being unpopular. You only talk about moving forward with the same bad ideas that got us into this mess, even when the only sensible thing to do is pull the emergency brake.”

 

“But I don’t care about being popular. I care about climate justice and the living planet. Our civilisation is being sacrificed for the opportunity of a very small number of people to continue making enormous amounts of money.”

Thunberg talked about making enormous amounts of money and she talked about growth – but this is the part of the message that Avaaz cut from their reporting of Thunberg. Cory Morningstar comments: “It is not surprising Avaaz would strike Greta’s comments considering a primary function of Avaaz is to promote market solutions that accelerate “green” economic growth – in servitude to “a very small number of people to continue making enormous amounts of money.””

In conclusion

The series of articles linked to below shows how elite environmentalists want to revive the Paris Climate Agreement and how the Green New Deal in the USA is supposed to become a global process brought about by having the public clamouring to declare climate emergencies and that to achieve all of this strategic NGOS and campaign movements and new emerging celebrities like Greta Thunberg and Extinction Rebellion have been supported and their leaders partially co-opted.

By writing this piece I do not mean here to deny that there is an ecological crisis, and nor that there is a climate emergency and that urgent action is needed. Rather it is to show that there is a sophisticated PR campaign behind what is happening and the agenda is that of a major faction in the global elite. This agenda will not work – indeed it will complete the destruction of nature and the eco-system.

How can I claim that with complete conviction and certainty? Because this is an expansionary programme and ecological footprint analysis has already established that the biosphere is being consumed as if there were 1.7 planets. All serious approaches to resolving the ecological crisis recognise that the global economy must contract back to a one planet level. The economy must degrow.

What’s more it is richest 5% of the planet that consume 50% of planetary carbon – so the very people who are promoting this campaign must cut back the most. Instead they want to expand the economy. But how is this to be made compatible with reducing carbon emissions?

It isn’t – but a careful looks at the language of nature financialisation refers to carbon neutrality, not zero carbon. This is “convenient language when one of the main pillars of the business model is the sale of carbon offsets – rationalizing a continuance of the same carbon based lifestyle by constructing a faux fantasy one, that anyone with monetary wealth, can buy into.”

To conclude this story with another quote from Cory Morningstar: in the quote below, she makes reference to Edward Bernays, the master of Public Relations and Marketing. In the 1920s he helped the tobacco industry achieve a massive new market – women.

Sensing the mood of many young women, Bernays got photos of young women smoking in prominent publications as an expression of their liberation and as an act of defiance and cultural rebellion. It was a fantastic success – for the tobacco industry, though not for women’s health. By engineering a feeling of emergency and rebellion – and channelling public concern and anger to what is an elite agenda for the environment long in preparation, it is hoped to pull off support for a massive policy coup for a section of the elite.

“The ten-year social engineering effort also led to a transition from environmentalism into full-blown yet undetected anthropocentrism. Over a ten year span, “environmentalism ” moved from that of protecting nature, to demanding a roll-out of green technology, industrial in scale, that would further plunder nature. The natural world became irrelevant as the desire for green technology superceded environmental protection. Wind turbines and solar panels replaced images of trees and insects as the new symbols of our natural world. Saving the industrial civilization that is killing off all life became paramount to saving the ecosystems that all life depends on. These ideologies slowly took hold until “movements” become nothing more than lobby groups for green energy. Volunteers marching for capital, global in scale. To suggest that Edward Bernays would be impressed would be an understatement. Such is the beauty of social engineering and behavioural change.”

Afterword

After finishing writing this article I read a very interesting article on the same blog – about the appearance of an “XR Business Blog” which revealed some of the business interests behind Extinction Rebellion. Given the controversy it caused this part of the XR blog rapidly disappeared. Several of the named individuals are venture capitalist funders – looking to make money from what they claim to be “sustainability” and very much within the green growth camp. I doubt that many of the companies named, including Unilever for example, would embrace degrowth, the revival of the commons, co-operatives or other types of institutions for sharing so needed for economies which contracting back to the point of one planet living. Above all it seems to bear out the suspicion that for some of its leaders and initiators the XR Rebellion was seen as part of the planned PR offensive to build support for the phony Green New Deal….

For Reference – “This changes nothing: The Paris Agreement to Ignore Reality” – Clive Spash https://www.clivespash.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/2016-Spash-This-Changes-Nothing.pdf

Brian Davey – Credo: Economic Beliefs in a World in Crisis Chapters 26 and 27 on the sale of “ rights to pollute, biodiversity loss and the valuation of nature” and Chapters 45 and 46 on climate economics – free to download at http://www.credoeconomics.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/credo.pdf

Featured image: ‘finance growth’. Source: https://www.freeimages.com/photo/finance-growth-concept-3-1236227

Note: Feasta is a forum for exchanging ideas. By posting on its site Feasta agrees that the ideas expressed by authors are worthy of consideration. However, there is no one ‘Feasta line’. The views of the article do not necessarily represent the views of all Feasta members. 

 

[Brian Davey trained as an economist but, aside from a brief spell working in eastern Germany showing how to do community development work, has spent most of his life working in the community and voluntary sector in Nottingham particularly in health promotion, mental health and environmental fields. He helped form Ecoworks, a community garden and environmental project for people with mental health problems. He is a member of Feasta Climate Working Group and former co-ordinator of the Cap and Share Campaign. He is editor of the Feasta book Sharing for Survival: Restoring the Climate, the Commons and Society, and the author of Credo: Economic Beliefs in a World in Crisis.]

Between the Devil and the Green New Deal

Commune

Issue 2, Spring 2019

By Jasper Bernes
 
 

We cannot legislate and spend our way out of catastrophic global warming.

 

From space, the Bayan Obo mine in China, where 70 percent of the world’s rare earth minerals are extracted and refined, almost looks like a painting. The paisleys of the radioactive tailings ponds, miles long, concentrate the hidden colors of the earth: mineral aquamarines and ochres of the sort a painter might employ to flatter the rulers of a dying empire.

To meet the demands of the Green New Deal, which proposes to convert the US economy to zero emissions, renewable power by 2030, there will be a lot more of these mines gouged into the crust of the earth. That’s because nearly every renewable energy source depends upon non-renewable and frequently hard-to-access minerals: solar panels use indium, turbines use neodymium, batteries use lithium, and all require kilotons of steel, tin, silver, and copper. The renewable-energy supply chain is a complicated hopscotch around the periodic table and around the world. To make a high-capacity solar panel, one might need copper (atomic number 29) from Chile, indium (49) from Australia, gallium (31) from China, and selenium (34) from Germany. Many of the most efficient, direct-drive wind turbines require a couple pounds of the rare-earth metal neodymium, and there’s 140 pounds of lithium in each Tesla.

It’s not for nothing that coal miners were, for much of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the very image of capitalist immiseration—it’s exhausting, dangerous, ugly work. Le Voreux, “the voracious one”—that’s what Émile Zola names the coal mine in Germinal, his novel of class struggle in a French company town. Capped with coal-burning smokestacks, the mine is both maze and minotaur all in one, “crouching like some evil beast at the bottom of its lair . . . puffing and panting in increasingly slow, deep bursts, as if it were struggling to digest its meal of human flesh.” Monsters are products of the earth in classical mythology, children of Gaia, born from the caves and hunted down by a cruel race of civilizing sky gods. But in capitalism, what’s monstrous is earth as animated by those civilizing energies. In exchange for these terrestrial treasures—used to power trains and ships and factories—a whole class of people is thrown into the pits. The warming earth teems with such monsters of our own making—monsters of drought and migration, famine and storm. Renewable energy is no refuge, really. The worst industrial accident in the history of the United States, the Hawk’s Nest Incident of 1930, was a renewable energy disaster. Drilling a three-mile-long inlet for a Union Carbide hydroelectric plant, five thousand workers were sickened when they hit a thick vein of silica, filling the tunnel with blinding white dust. Eight hundred eventually died of silicosis. Energy is never “clean,” as Muriel Rukeyser makes clear in the epic, documentary poem she wrote about Hawk’s Nest, “The Book of the Dead.” “Who runs through the electric wires?” she asks. “Who speaks down every road?” The infrastructure of the modern world is cast from molten grief.

Dotted with “death villages” where crops will not fruit, the region of Inner Mongolia where the Bayan Obo mine is located displays Chernobylesque cancer rates. But then again, the death villages are already here. More of them are coming if we don’t do something about climate change. What matter is a dozen death villages when half the earth may be rendered uninhabitable? What matter the gray skies over Inner Mongolia if the alternative is turning the sky an endless white with sulfuric aerosols, as last-ditch geoengineering scenarios imagine? Moralists, armchair philosophers, and lesser-evilists may try to convince you that these situations resolve into a sort of trolley-car problem: do nothing and the trolley speeds down the track toward mass death. Do something, and you switch the trolley onto a track where fewer people die, but where you are more actively responsible for their deaths. When the survival of millions or even billions hangs in the balance, as it surely does when it comes to climate change, a few dozen death villages might seem a particularly good deal, a green deal, a new deal. But climate change doesn’t resolve into a single trolley-car problem. Rather, it’s a planet-spanning tangle of switchyards, with mass death on every track.

It’s not clear we can even get enough of this stuff out of the ground, however, given the timeframe. Zero-emissions 2030 would mean mines producing now, not in five or ten years. The race to bring new supply online is likely to be ugly, in more ways than one, as slipshod producers scramble to cash in on the price bonanza, cutting every corner and setting up mines that are dangerous, unhealthy, and not particularly green. Mines require a massive outlay of investment up front, and they typically feature low return on investment, except during the sort of commodity boom we can expect a Green New Deal to produce. It can be a decade or more before the sources are developed, and another decade before they turn a profit.

“There is an infinity of worlds in which the GND fails—a million President Sanderses or, with more urgency, Ocasio-Cortezes presiding over the disaster.”

Nor is it clear how much the fruits of these mines will help us decarbonize, if energy use keeps climbing. Just because a United States encrusted in solar panels releases no greenhouse gases, that doesn’t mean its technologies are carbon neutral. It takes energy to get those minerals out of the ground, energy to shape them into batteries and photovoltaic solar panels and giant rotors for windmills, energy to dispose of them when they wear out. Mines are worked, primarily, by gas-burning vehicles. The container ships that cross the world’s seas bearing the good freight of renewables burn so much fuel they are responsible for 3 percent of planetary emissions. Electric, plug-in motors for construction equipment and container ships are barely in the prototype stage. And what kind of massive battery would you need to get a container ship across the Pacific? Maybe a small nuclear reactor would be best?

Counting emissions within national boundaries, in other words, is like counting calories but only during breakfast and lunch. If going clean in the US makes other places more dirty, then you’ve got to add that to the ledger. The carbon sums are sure to be lower than they would be otherwise, but the reductions might not be as robust as thought, especially if producers desperate to cash in on the renewable jackpot do things as cheaply and quickly as possible, which for now means fossil fuels. On the other side, environmental remediation is costly in every way. Want to clean up those tailings ponds, bury the waste deep underground, keep the water table from being poisoned? You’re going to need motors and you’re probably going to burn oil.

Consolidating scientific opinion, the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report projects that biofuels are going to be used in these cases—for construction, for industry, and for transport, wherever motors can’t be easily electrified. Biofuels put carbon into the air, but it’s carbon that was already absorbed by growing plants, so the net emissions are zero. The problem is that growing biofuels requires land otherwise devoted to crops, or carbon-absorbing wilderness. They are among the least dense of power sources. You would need a dozen acres to fill the tank of a single intercontinental jet. Emissions are only the most prominent aspect of a broader ecological crisis. Human habitation, pasture and industry, branching through the remaining wilderness in the most profligate and destructive manner, has sent shockwaves through the plant and animal kingdoms. The mass die-off of insects, with populations decreasing by four-fifths in some areas, is one part of this. The insect world is very poorly understood, but scientists suspect these die-offs and extinction events are only partially attributable to climate change, with human land use and pesticides a major culprit. Of the two billion tons of animal mass on the planet, insects account for half. Pull the pillars of the insect world away, and the food chains collapse.

To replace current US energy consumption with renewables, you’d need to devote at least 25-50 percent of the US landmass to solar, wind, and biofuels, according to the estimates made by Vaclav Smil, the grand doyen of energy studies. Is there room for that and expanding human habitation? For that and pasture for a massive meat and dairy industry? For that and the forest we’d need to take carbon out of the air? Not if capitalism keeps doing the thing which it can’t not keep doing—grow. The law of capitalism is the law of more—more energy, more stuff, more materials. It introduces efficiencies only to more effectively despoil the planet. There is no solution to the climate crisis which leaves capitalism’s compulsions to growth intact. And this is what the Green New Deal, a term coined by that oily neoliberal, Thomas Friedman, doesn’t address. It thinks you can keep capitalism, keep growth, but remove the deleterious consequences. The death villages are here to tell you that you can’t. No roses will bloom on that bush.

_____

Miners in Chile, China, and Zambia will be digging in the earth for more than just the makings of fifty million solar panels and windmills, however, since the Green New Deal also proposes to rebuild the power grid in a more efficient form, to upgrade all buildings to the highest environmental standards, and lastly, to develop a low-carbon transportation infrastructure, based on electric vehicles and high-speed rail. This would involve, needless to say, a monumental deployment of carbon-intensive materials like concrete and steel. Trillions of dollars of raw materials would need to flow into the United States to be shaped into train tracks and electric cars. Schools and hospitals, too, since alongside these green initiatives, the GND proposes universal health care and free education, not to mention a living-wage jobs guarantee.

Nothing new in politics is ever truly and completely new, and so it’s as unsurprising that the Green New Deal hearkens back to the 1930s as it is that France’s gilet jaunes revive the corpse of the French Revolution and make it dance a jig below the Arc de Triomphe. We understand the present and future through the past. As Marx notes in The Eighteenth Brumaire, people “make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.” In order to make new forms of class struggle intelligible, their partisans look to the past, “borrowing from them names, battle slogans, and costumes in order to present this new scene in world history in time-honored disguise and borrowed language.” The “new” of the Green New Deal must therefore express itself in language decidedly old, appealing to great-grandpa’s vanished workerism and the graphic style of WPA posters.

Above: 2019 GND poster

This costume-play can be progressive rather than regressive, insofar as it consists of “glorifying the new struggles, not of parodying the old; of magnifying the given task in the imagination, not recoiling from its solution in reality; of finding once more the spirit of revolution, not making its ghost walk again.” On the contrary, in the wake of the revolutions of 1848, when Marx was writing, the symbology of the French Revolution had the effect of suffocating whatever was revolutionary about the moment. Napoleon Bonaparte’s nephew, Napoleon the III, was a pure parody of the liberator of Europe. What Europe needed was a radical break not continuity:

The social revolution of the nineteenth century cannot take its poetry from the past but only from the future. It cannot begin with itself before it has stripped away all superstition about the past. The former revolutions required recollections of past world history in order to smother their own content. The revolution of the nineteenth century must let the dead bury their dead in order to arrive at its own content. There the phrase went beyond the content – here the content goes beyond the phrase.

We would do well to keep these words in mind over the next decades, to avoid recoiling from real solutions and insisting on fantastic ones. The project of the Green New Deal is really nothing like the New Deal of the 1930s, except in the most superficial ways. The New Deal was a response to an immediate economic emergency, the Great Depression, and not a future climate catastrophe: its main goal was to restore growth to an economy that had shrunk by 50 percent and in which one out of every four people was unemployed. The goal of the New Deal was to get capitalism to do what it already wanted to do: put people to work, exploit them, and then sell them the products of their own labor. The state was necessary as a catalyst and a mediator, setting the right balance between profit and wages, chiefly by strengthening the hand of labor and weakening that of business. Aside from the fact that it involves capital outlays that are much larger, the Green New Deal has a more difficult ambition: rather than get capitalism to do what it wants to do, it has to get it to pursue a path that is certainly bad for the owners of capital in the long run.

Whereas the New Deal needed only to restore growth, the Green New Deal has to generate growth and reduce emissions. The problem is that growth and emissions are, by almost every measure, profoundly correlated. The Green New Deal thus risks becoming a sort of Sisyphean reform, rolling the rock of emissions reductions up the hill each day only to have a growing, energy-hungry economy knock it back down to the bottom each night.

Advocates of green growth promise an “absolute decoupling” of emissions and growth, where each additional unit of energy adds no CO2 to the atmosphere. Even if such a thing were technologically possible, even if it were possible to generate zero- or low-emissions energy not only adequate to but in excess of current demand, such decoupling would require far greater power over the behavior of capitalists than the New Deal ever mustered.

FDR and his coalition in Congress exerted modest control over corporations through a process of “countervailing power,” in the words of John Kenneth Galbraith, tilting the playing field to disempower capitalists relative to workers and consumers, and making new investment more appealing. The state did undertake direct investment—building roads, bridges, power stations, parks, and museums—but did so not in order to supplant private investment but to create “forever a yardstick against extortion,” in FDR’s high-toned phrasing. Government power plants would, for example, disclose the true (lower) price of electricity, barring energy monopolies from price gouging.

Green New Dealers flag this aspect of the New Deal, since it’s ostensibly so close to what they propose. The Tennessee Valley Authority, a public power company still in operation eighty years later, is the most famous of these projects. Public infrastructure, clean energy, economic development—the TVA brought together many of the elements essential to the Green New Deal. Building dams and hydroelectric power stations along the Tennessee River, it provided clean, cheap electricity to one of the most economically depressed regions of the country. The hydroelectric plants were, in turn, linked up to factories producing nitrates, an energy-intensive raw material needed for both fertilizer and explosives. Wages and crop yields rose, power costs fell. The TVA brought cheap energy, cheap fertilizer, and good jobs to a place previous known for malaria, poor soil quality, incomes less than half the national average, and alarmingly high unemployment.

The problem with this scenario as a framework for the Green New Deal is that renewables are not massively cheaper than fossil fuels. The state cannot blaze the trail to cheap, renewable energy, satisfying consumers with lower costs and producers with acceptable profits. Many once thought that the depletion of oil and coal reserves would save us, raising the price of fossil fuels above that of renewables and forcing the switch as a matter of economic necessity. Unfortunately, that messianic price point has drifted farther into the future as new drilling technologies, introduced in the last decade, have made it possible to frack oil from shale and to recover reserves from fields previously thought exhausted. The price of oil has stayed stubbornly low, and the US is, suddenly, producing more of it than anyone else. The doomsday scenarios of “peak oil” are now a turn-of-the-millennium curiosity, like Y2K or Al Gore. Sorry, wrong apocalypse.

“The problem with the Green New Deal is that it promises to change everything while keeping everything the same.”

Some will tell you that renewables can compete with fossil fuels on the open market. Wind and hydroelectric and geothermal have, it’s true, become cheaper as sources of electricity, in some cases cheaper than coal and natural gas. But they’re still not cheap enough. That’s because, in order to bankrupt the fossil capitalists, renewables will need to do more than edge out fossil fuels by a penny or two per kilowatt-hour. There are trillions of dollars sunk into fossil energy infrastructure and the owners of those investments will invariably choose to recoup some of that investment rather than none of it. To send the value of those assets to zero and force energy capitalists to invest in new factories, renewables need to be not only cheaper but massively cheaper, impossibly cheaper. At least this is the conclusion reached by a group of engineers Google convened to study the problem. Existing technologies are never going to be cheap enough to bankrupt coal-fired power plants: we’d need stuff that is currently science-fiction like cold fusion. This is not only because of the problem of sunk costs, but because electricity from solar and wind is not “dispatchable” on demand. It is only available when and where the sun is shining and the wind is blowing. If you want it on demand, you’re going to have to store it (or transport it thousands of miles) and that’s going to raise the price.

Most will tell you that the answer to this problem is taxation of dirty energy or an outright ban, alongside subsidy of the clean. A carbon tax, judiciously applied, can tip the scales in favor of renewables until they are able to beat fossil energy outright. New fossil sources and infrastructure can be prohibited and revenue from the taxes can be used to pay for research into new technology, efficiency improvements, and subsidies for consumers. But now one is talking about something other than a New Deal, blazing the way to a more highly productive capitalism in which profits and wages can rise together. There are 1.5 trillion barrels of proven oil reserves on the planet, according to some calculations—around $50 trillion worth if we assume a very low average cost per barrel of thirty-five dollars. This is value that oil companies have already accounted for in their mathematical imaginings. If carbon taxes or bans reduce that number tenfold, fossil capitalists will do everything they can to avoid, subvert, and repeal them. The problem of sunk costs again applies. If you slaughter the value of those reserves, you might, perversely, bring down the cost of fossil fuels, encouraging more consumption and more emissions, as oil producers scramble to sell their excess supply in countries without a carbon tax. For reference, there is about $300 trillion of total wealth on the planet, most of it in the hands of the owning class. The global Gross Domestic Product, the value of all the goods and services produced in a year, is around $80 trillion. If you propose to wipe out $50 trillion, one-sixth of the wealth on the planet, equal to two-thirds of global GDP, you should expect the owners of that wealth to fight you with everything they have, which is more or less everything.

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Like a thousand-page novel with a MacGuffin or stylistic outrage on every page, the Green New Deal presents a challenge for critics. There are just so many levels on which it will never work. There is an infinity of worlds in which the GND fails—a million President Sanderses or, with more urgency, Ocasio-Cortezes presiding over the disaster. One might write an entire essay, for example, about its political impossibility given the complete saturation of the US state by corporate interests and a party-system and division of powers that lists badly to the right. Another essay about how, even if it were politically possible, outlays on the order of several trillion dollars per year would most likely wreck the dollar, driving up projected costs. An essay about vested interests and the war they’d wage. An essay about how, even if you cleared both those hurdles, the history of recent monetary interventions into the economy–$4.5 trillion injected into the economy during Obama’s tenure by the Fed’s quantitative easing, $1.5 trillion for Trump’s cuts—indicates that the Green New Deal will struggle to encourage corporations to spend this money as intended, on investment in green infrastructure, rather than funneling it straight into real-estate and stocks, as has happened in all these prior cases.

It’s easy to get lost in the weeds here and lose sight of the essential. In each of these scenarios, on each of these sad, warming planets, the Green New Deal fails because capitalism. Because, in capitalism, a small class of owners and managers, in competition with itself, finds itself forced to make a set of narrow decisions about where to invest and in what, establishing prices, wages, and other fundamental determinants of the economy. Even if these owners wanted to spare us the drowned cities and billion migrants of 2070, they could not. They would be undersold and bankrupted by others. Their hands are tied, their choices constrained, by the fact that they must sell at the prevailing rate or perish. It is the class as a whole that decides, not its individual members. This is why the sentences of Marxists (and Marx) so often treat capital as agent rather than object. The will towards relentless growth, and with it increasing energy use, is not chosen, it is compelled, a requirement of profitability where profitability is a requirement of existence.

If you tax oil, capital will sell it elsewhere. If you increase demand for raw materials, capital will bid up the prices of commodities, and rush materials to market in the most wasteful, energy-intensive way. If you require millions of square miles for solar panels, wind farms, and biofuel crops, capital will bid up the price of real estate. If you slap tariffs on necessary imports, capital will leave for better markets. If you try to set a maximum price that doesn’t allow profit, capital will simply stop investing. Lop off one head of the hydra, face another. Invest trillions of dollars into infrastructure in the US and you’ll have to confront the staggeringly wasteful, slow, and unproductive construction industry, where laying a mile of subway can be twenty times as expensive and take four times as long. You’ll have to confront the earthen monsters of Bechtel and Fluor Corp., habituated to feeding at the government trough and billing fifty dollar screws. If this doesn’t chasten you, consider the world-historical inefficiency of the US military, the planet’s biggest oil consumer and, unsurprisingly, also the planet’s main oil cop. The Pentagon is an accounting black hole, into which the wealth of the nation is ploughed and from which no light emerges. Its balance sheet is a blank.

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I suspect many advocates of the Green New Deal know all this. They don’t really think it will happen as promised, and they know that, if it does happen, it won’t work. This is probably why there’s so little concrete detail being offered. Discussion so far has largely revolved around the question of budgeting, with the advocates of Modern Monetary Theory arguing that there is no upper bound on government spending for a country like the US, and tax-and-spend leftists firing back with all sorts of counter-scenarios. The MMT advocates are technically correct, but they discount the power that owners of US debt have to determine the value of the dollar, and therefore prices and profits. Meanwhile, critics of the Green New Deal confine their discussion to the least problematic aspects. Don’t get me wrong, budget items on the order of tens of trillions of dollars are a big deal. But securing the bag is hardly the biggest problem. Implementation is where it really dies, and few advocates have much to say about such details.

The Green New Deal proposes to decarbonize most of the economy in ten years—great, but no one is talking about how. This is because, for many, its value is primarily rhetorical; it’s about shifting the discussion, gathering political will, and underscoring the urgency of the climate crisis. It’s more big mood more than grand plan. Many socialists will recognize that mitigation of climate change within a system of production for profit is impossible, but they think a project like the Green New Deal is what Leon Trotsky called a “transitional program,” hinged upon a “transitional demand.” Unlike the minimal demand, which capitalism can easily meet, and the maximal demand which it clearly can’t, the transitional demand is something that capitalism could potentially meet if it were a rational and humane system, but in actuality can’t. By agitating around this transitional demand, socialists expose capitalism as an extraordinarily wasteful and destructive coordinator of human activity, incapable of delivering on its own potential and, in this case, responsible for an unimaginable number of future deaths. So exposed, one might then safely proceed to do away with capitalism. Faced with the resistance of the capitalist class and an entrenched government bureaucracy, officials elected around a Green New Deal could safely, with the support of the masses, move to expropriate the capitalist class and reorganize the state along socialist lines. Or so the story goes.

I’ve always despised the transitional program concept. I think, for starters, that it’s condescending, presuming that the “masses” need to be told one thing in order, eventually, to be convinced of another. I also think it’s dangerous, with the potential to profoundly backfire. Revolutions do begin, often, where reforms fail. But the problem is that the transitional demand encourages you to build institutions and organizations around one set of goals with the hope that you can rapidly convert them to another when the time comes. But institutions are tremendously inertial structures. If you build a party and other institutions around the idea of solving climate change within capitalism, do not be surprised when some large fraction of that party resists your attempt to convert it into a revolutionary organ. The history of socialist and communist parties is reason for caution. Even after the Second International betrayed its members by sending them to slaughter each other in the First World War, and even after a huge fraction split to form revolutionary organizations in the wake of the Russian Revolution, many members of the party and its network of unions continued to support it, out of habit and because it had built a thick network of cultural and social structures to which they were bound by a million and one ties. Beware that, in pursuit of the transitional program, you do not build up the forces of your future enemy.

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Let’s instead say what we know to be true. The pathway to climate stabilization below two degrees Celsius offered by the Green New Deal is illusory. Indeed, at present the only solutions possible within the framework of capitalism are ghastly, risky forms of geo-engineering, chemically poisoning either the ocean or the sky to absorb carbon or limit sunlight, preserving capitalism and its host, humanity, at the cost of the sky (now weatherless) or the ocean (now lifeless). Unlike emissions reductions, such projects will not require international collaboration. Any country could begin geo-engineering right now. What’s to stop China or the US from deciding to dump sulfur into the sky, if things get hot enough and bad enough?

The problem with the Green New Deal is that it promises to change everything while keeping everything the same. It promises to switch out the energetic basis of modern society as if one were changing the battery in a car. You still buy a new iPhone every two years, but zero emissions. The world of the Green New Deal is this world but better—this world but with zero emissions, universal health care, and free college. The appeal is obvious but the combination impossible. We can’t remain in this world. To preserve the ecological niche in which we and our cohort of species have lived for the last eleven thousand years, we will have to completely reorganize society, changing where and how and most importantly why we live. Given current technology, there is no possibility to continue using more energy per person, more land per person, more more per person. This need not mean a gray world of grim austerity, though that’s what’s coming if inequality and dispossession continue. An emancipated society, in which no one can force another into work for reasons of property, could offer joy, meaning, freedom, satisfaction, and even a sort of abundance. We can easily have enough of what matters—conserving energy and other resources for food, shelter, and medicine. As is obvious to anyone who spends a good thirty seconds really looking, half of what surrounds us in capitalism is needless waste. Beyond our foundational needs, the most important abundance is an abundance of time, and time is, thankfully, carbon-zero, and even perhaps carbon-negative. If revolutionaries in societies that used one-fourth as much energy as we do thought communism right around the corner, then there’s no need to shackle ourselves to the gruesome imperatives of growth. A society in which everyone is free to pursue learning, play, sport, amusement, companionship, and travel, in this we see the abundance that matters.

Perhaps breakthrough decarbonizing or zero-emissions technologies are almost here. One would be a fool to discount the possibility. But waiting for lightning to strike is not a politics. It’s been almost seventy years since the last paradigm-shifting technology was invented—transistors, nuclear power, genomics, all date from the middle of the twentieth century. Illusions of perspective and the endless stream of apps notwithstanding, the pace of technological change has slowed rather than accelerated. In any case, if capitalism suddenly finds it within its means to mitigate climate change, we can shift to talking about one of the other ten reasons why we should end it.

We cannot keep things the same and change everything. We need a revolution, a break with capital and its killing compulsions, though what that looks like in the twenty-first century is very much an open question. A revolution that had as its aim the flourishing of all human life would certainly mean immediate decarbonization, a rapid decrease in energy use for those in the industrialized global north, no more cement, very little steel, almost no air travel, walkable human settlements, passive heating and cooling, a total transformation of agriculture, and a diminishment of animal pasture by an order of magnitude at least. All of this is possible, but not if we continue to shovel one half of all the wealth produced on the planet into the maw of capital, not if we continue to sacrifice some fraction of each generation by sending them into the pits, not if we continue to allow those whose only aim is profit to decide how we live.

For now, a revolution is not on the horizon. We’re stuck between the devil and the green new deal and I can hardly blame anyone for committing themselves to the hope at hand rather than ambient despair. Perhaps work on legislative reforms will mean the difference between the unthinkable and the merely unbearable. But let’s not lie to each other.

*Note: An earlier version of the essay stated the emissions of shipping as 17 percent. Thanks to Alyssa Battistoni for the correction.

[Jasper Bernes is Managing Editor of Commune. He is the author of The Work of Art in the Age of Deindustrialization (Stanford, 2017) and two books of poetry: We Are Nothing and So Can You, and Starsdown. He lives in Berkeley with his family.]

Extinction Rebellion Training, or How to Control Radical Resistance from the ‘Obstructive Left’

May 6, 2019

By Cory Morningstar

 

 

“New Power” – “The ability to harness the connected crowd to get what you want”

– Jeremy Heimans, co-founder Purpose/Avaaz, B Team Expert

 

Above: XR local coordinator training document. Diagram: The “US” circle on the top signifies Extinction Rebellion. The middle circle identifies “mostly obstructive” political activists (“hard left”) that must be bypassed in order to reach the bottom circle. The bottom circle represents the non-political citizens, the target audience of XR.

Background

Extinction Rebellion (XR) officially launched on October 31, 2018. On November 2, 2018, a video was uploaded to the Extinction Rebellion YouTube account. The video documents the training session held by XR co-founder Roger Hallam: “This was filmed at the Extinction Rebellion Local Coordinator training in Bristol. Roger Hallam explains some the key dynamics of building a mass movement from the level of personal resilience to creating system change.”

Here, it is critical to remind oneself, that this is the XR mass organizing model for the mobilization of a global citizenry. Consider between the official launch on October 31, 2018, in the UK, to December 6, 2018, it grew to over 130 groups, across 22 countries. By January 29, 2019, the Extinction Rebellion groups spanned across 50 countries. On April 27, 2019 XR reported they were nearing 400 branches globally.

The global expansion is being led by Margaret Klein Salamon [Source], founder of The Climate Mobilization, who launched the Extinction Rebellion US Twitter account on October 31, 2018 – the same day as the launch of Extinction Rebellion in the UK. The Extinction Rebellion demands are not only complementary to The Climate Mobilization’s emergency strategy now in motion; they are a mirror image of it with the slogan, “Tell the Truth”. [Further reading: The Manufacturing of Greta Thunberg – for Consent: The House is On Fire! & the 100 Trillion Dollar Rescue, ACT IV]

Training the XR Local Coordinators

Above: Extinction Rebellion co-founder Roger Hallam

During the training session, Hallam draws a chart with three circles. The small circle on the top signifies Extinction Rebellion – people that want to get things done. The middle circle is quickly identified as the contentious one. This circle identifies the “mostly obstructive”, highly political, a “hard left”, which must be bypassed in order to reach the bottom circle. The bottom circle, the largest in size, represents the non-political citizens, the target audience of XR: “The people who’re shitting themselves and want something to be done but aren’t highly political.” [Source: XR Local Coordinator Training]

Hallam:

“I’m just going to finish on something that’s a bit of a taboo subject, okay? But it’s another major issue you’re going to find when you organize, which is difficult, political people.

 

Okay, so I’m going to do a little chart here.

 

You usually find, like most of us people in this room, that are really political, but we’re really practical because we want to get some things done. Okay?

 

And then below us, in inverted commas, there’s another group of people that are really political and don’t want to get things done, because they’re so political. (lots of laughter). I will separate those people out in a minute.

 

And then below that, this is like a thousand times bigger, they really want to do something well there actually not political, you see what I mean.

 

These people really want to get things done. Then they go down here and try to involve these people, and these people basically grind it to death.”

Hallam speaks of the dangers posed by the “extreme hard left” viewpoints, “extreme intersectionalism” (“we need to be all perfect and that sort of stuff”), extreme desire for diversity, “extreme veganism”, etc. His examples are deliberately misleading and ridiculous. His mention of anarchism provokes more laughter.

Hallam concedes “and often they’re right” yet has zero interest in empowering this group to further empower the bottom “non-political” masses targeted by XR. Rather, his aim is to recruit the ones that can be persuaded into adopting pragmatism, while silencing those that refuse to conform.

In the Rebellion business, ethics isn’t a driving force, rather it is a detriment:

“Look, all the most effective movements have a central concept and that concept is balance. Balance the pragmatic need and the ethical imperative to change society versus the need to be eternally ethical.”

The message is clear – target the practical and pragmatic. Distance yourself from the self-centered “purists”.

“They’re [the 20%) not actually interested in political effectiveness. They’re interested in a political approach that makes them feel good.”

Although XR claims, “We are working to build a movement that is participatory, decentralised, and inclusive” – this runs in stark contrast to XR’s own conduct:

“The name of the game is to bypass these people, or at least recruit the little bit of them that get it … and go down here. And that’s how we’ve managed to mobilize thousands of people in three months. By having a public meeting. And if the public meeting is constructed around participative principles, you won’t have the SWP [Socialist Workers Party] guy standing up at the end. Everyone’s feeling good and he does a rant about how it has to be socialist, otherwise it’s rubbish. Which brings everybody down. It happens over and over again. And how we do that, we don’t have a Q & A. Q&A’s encourage nerdy people and absolutists, (laughter), we all know this, right? I mean you can have a Q&A if you’re super confident and you’re in a group of people that are generally like, in the real world, but if you have a public meeting 8o% of the people will be normal people, who are basically interested in the issue, and 20% of the people will be political absolutists. And they will there to appropriate your energy.”

And this ideology upheld by Hallam is the very foundational ideology being taught, encouraged and nurtured by Extinction Rebellion. Hallam: “This is how you mobilize lots of people.”

This , in essence, forms the key strategy of Extinction Rebellion. To isolate radical voices and to dominate the narrative. While targeting the non-practical and pragmatic. A narrative and an orchestrated campaign that serves the ruling class. To give a faux sense of inclusion, while mocking those who have, first and foremost, an allegiance to the Earth. Framing those who recognize that the very capitalist system destroying all life on our finite planet, will not and cannot be magically reformed to save us, as “political absolutists”. As Hallam effectively frames those identified in the middle circle as not “normal”, he seeks assurances from his students by ending sentences with a pleasant “yeah?” and “okay?”, at which point – largely due to the power of conformity in a group setting – they agree. Laughter ensues. There is no challenge to Hallam’s diatribe. The deliberate framing of those that do not conform as “obstructive” is effective social engineering.

Although Extinction Rebellion takes no position against capitalism, Hallam has no issue with taking a swipe at socialism. Using the Mondragon experiment in Spain as an example, Hallam explains that the central concept must be balance, “not socialism or anything”.

These are the main points captured by/for the XR Local Coordinators:

“They’re [the middle group] not interested in political effectiveness, they’re interested in things being perfect and good. This is not a personal judgment, but it won’t help.”

 

The majority, to be herded like cats (GCCA/TckTckTck – Global Call for Climate Action) are “[T]he people who’re shitting themselves and want something to be done but aren’t highly political.”

 

“Don’t have a Q & A. This allows the extreme people who want it to be one way to bring everyone else down.”

 

80% are normal people [and] 20% political absolutists. There to appropriate your energy.”

 

“It’s not about climate change information, it’s about the emotional way that we say it – needs to create that emotional response, personal reactions are incredibly powerful.”

For XR leadership, the enemy of Rebellion is not corporate dominance such as Unilever or Volans (as recently confirmed by XR Business). The enemy of Rebellion is not the capitalist economic system devouring everything in its path. The enemy of the Rebellion is the radical activist, prepared to defend the Earth “by any means necessary”.

 

Pacifism as Pathology

“In certain situations, preaching nonviolence can be a kind of violence. Also, it is the kind of terminology that dovetails beautifully with the ‘human rights’ discourse in which, from an exalted position of faux neutrality, politics, morality, and justice can be airbrushed out of the picture, all parties can be declared human rights offenders, and the status quo can be maintained.” —  Arundhati Roy, How to Think About Empire

Hallam recommends to his students that they study: “The Psychology of Persuasion“, “The Radical Think Tank” (“How to Win“), and “This is an Uprising” by Mark Engler (with glowing forewords by 350.org’s Bill McKibben and Naomi Klein).

Here, is another orchestrated and ongoing effort to further pacify the working class in servitude to the state. One would be wise to toss “This is an Uprising” and instead read “Bloodless Lies: Book Review of This is an Uprising” (November 7, 2016). This is an excellent example of what those enmeshed in the non-profit industrial complex do not want you to read.

Rather than educating citizens why it is paramount that we become revolutionaries in order to protect the last vestiges of the natural world, Hallam encourages his newly-minted coordinators to embrace the role of “generalists”. [XR Generalists: “run meetings, be good with people, know how society changes, etc.; Revolutionary theorists – hard work is already done!; Books to read – This is an Uprising (Mark Engler)”] [Source]

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The Elites in Service to Capital

As touched upon in the conclusion of the Manufacturing Greta Thunberg for Consent series, ACT VI, Extinction Rebellion ties to some of the world’s most powerful NGOs at the helm of the non-profit industrial complex (Avaaz, 350.org, Greenpeace et al.). A largely white-led movement serving white power.

XR co-founder Gail Bradbrook, is also highly influential with decade-long ties to the tech industry. In his workshop, Hallam chuckles when he laments, “Like Gail, she’s got these connections with the elites. She’s on the phone with George [Monbiot]”. Bradbrook’s “connections with the elites” is no exaggeration. Featured in “The Financial Times”, the prestigious publication writes of Bradbrook: “Clad in a crimson coat and matching hat as she dashes between fundraising discussions with a London hedge-fund owner and meetings to rally Extinction Rebellion volunteers…” Indeed, “activism” has never been so en vogue, and a £50,000 donation by a hedge-fund owner to Extinction Rebellion [Source], raises no eyebrows whatsoever. It is safe to say that the hallowed out remnants of Western environmentalism have reached a new stage of commodification and normalization of such. This is not rebellion. This is business. Of course Bradbrook is not the only elite at the helm.


Above: Farhana Yamin at the prestigious Extinction Rebellion headquarters [Photo: Vice]

Farhana Yamin is “one of the movement’s leading voices” in Extinction Rebellion (Financial Times). Yamin who “spent 27 years in UN climate negotiations” and “helped midwife the 2015 Paris Agreement to curb greenhouse gas emissions” serves as a board member/trustee to Greenpeace. [Source: The rise of Extinction Rebellion, The Financial Times, April 12, 2019]

“Yamin, the international lawyer, who is also a trustee of Greenpeace UK and will soon take up an advisory role at the World Wildlife Fund, wants to build a bridge with existing organisations to forge a much bigger “movement of movements”. “We need to tap into the new form of leadership that’s being asked of us now,” she says. [Source: “Extinction Rebellion, inside the new climate resistance”, The Financial Times, April 10, 2019]

Former Vogue “climate warrior” (2015), Yamin is the founder and CEO of Track 0: “Track 0 is an independent, not-for-profit organization serving as a hub to support all those transitioning to a clean, fair and bright future for future generations around the world compatible with the goals set out in the Paris Agreement. We convene leaders and provide strategic research, training, advice, communications and networking support to governments, businesses, investors, philanthropies, communities and campaigns run by civil society.”

Partners of Track 0 include GCCA (TckTckTck), CAN (Climate Action Network), Avaaz, ClimateWorks (The Climate Group, We Mean Business), The Rockefeller Foundation, E3G (founder of GCCA), The Prince of Wales Corporate Leaders Group, European Climate Foundation and Chatham House. [Full list]

Advisory members of Track 0 include Sharon Johnson, “CEO Havas Media Re:Purpose”. This is incredible yet not surprising as Havas created the 2009 TckTckTck campaign a decade ago. Other advisory members include Betsy Taylor (served on boards of One Sky which merged with 350.org, Ceres, The Climate Mobilization, etc.), and Bernice Lee, Director, Climate Change at World Economic Forum.

One can glance through the Track 0 “Individuals & Organizations on Track” section to understand who is considered “on track” for “net zero” by Yamin et al. Certainly not those obstructionists found in Hallam’s middle circle.

In addition to founding Track 0, Yamin is an associate fellow at Chatham House and a member of the Global Agenda Council on Climate Change at the World Economic Forum.

Above: Track 0, Twitter

Yamin served as an adviser to the European Commission on the emissions trading directive from 1998-2002, later serving as special adviser to Connie Hedegaard, EU Commissioner for Climate Action. “She is lead author of three assessment reports for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on adaptation and mitigation issues. She continues to provide legal, strategy and policy advice to NGOs, foundations and developing nations on international climate change negotiations under the UNFCCC.” [Source]

As discussed in “A Decade of Strategic and Methodical Social Engineering”, while the International Policies and Politics Initiative and GCCA controlled the “movement” at COP15,  the same forces also controlled the message via the Carbon Briefing Service (CBS). The news service was launched by Jennifer Morgan (WWF, WRI, Greenpeace,etc.) and Liz Gallagher (E3G) in late 2014 with additional funding by the ClimateWorks Foundation, the Hewlett Foundation, the Oak Foundation, the Villum Foundation and Avaaz. [Source] Yamin was a participant of the invitation only group. [Source]

In 2015 Yamin attended a week-long retreat hosted by Avaaz. [Source]

Those who have read my past work as well as the Greta series, will know Greenpeace and World Wildlife Fund are both founders of GCCA (TckTckTck) – and are both at the helm of this faux movement. These NGOs and others at the helm of the non-profit industrial complex are tasked with creating another “Paris moment” momentum needed for the coming financialization of nature to be implemented in 2020 (#NewDealForNature) – as well as the unlocking of monies needed for the fourth industrial revolution (to save capitalism itself).

Above: Track 0, Twitter

Above: Avaaz endorsement by Christiana Figueres [Source: Avaaz website]

Above: Track 0 highlights, September 24, 2014

Here we witness the social-organizational psychology experts grooming tomorrows “new champions“, “global shapers” and “new power” “thought-leaders” as determined and ultimately dictated by the world’s most powerful elites. In the 21st century, psychology is not only an extremely important tool in influencing public opinion, it is now considered to be perhaps the single and most important tool. The necessity to comprehend the mental processes, desires and social patterns of the populace at large cannot be understated. Working in lock-step with controlled media and the best marketing executives foundation money can buy, today’s faux activists, thought-leaders and media lapdogs are the very mechanisms of modern-day perception.  – The Pygmalion Virus in Three Acts [2017 AVAAZ SERIES | PART II]

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[Further reading: The Manufacturing of Greta Thunberg – A Decade of Social Manipulation for the Corporate Capture of Nature, ACT VI – Crescendo]

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In 1966, Stokely Carmichael stated: “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?”

This is the real question facing legitimate activists today. Are we tearing down the institutions, or keeping them propped up? Extinction Rebellion has been tasked with the propping up of the very institutions we must dismantle. There is a reason manufactured “environmentalists” and celebrities are recognized as key influencers. It is a deliberate undertaking that Hallam recommends “Rules for Revolutionaries” (based on US Senator Bernie Sanders’s presidential run), rather than highlighting true revolutionaries such as Marilyn Buck, Malcolm X, or the land defenders on the frontlines today. The ones who often receive no press (until they are murdered). The ones that would belong to Hallam’s middle circle. It is a burying of radical political resistance. A reframing of resistance – into an obedient compliance. Note that Rules for Revolutionaries is written by Zach Exley, current advisor to US congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. It is notable that praise for the book, from a bevy of authors includes Robert B. Reich, author of Saving Capitalism.

The influencers for the ruling classes are worth their weight in gold.

We Mean Business – Top Ten Climate Change Influencers, Twitter

British actress/celebrity Emma Thompson, Extinction Rebellion festivities, April 19, 2019

Emma Thompson for Global Optimist. The Climate Optimist campaign was launched in 2017 by The Climate Group in partnership with Futerra

Emotion – Not Information

Another critical imperative Hallam highlights for mass mobilization is “emotion – not information”. Hallam laments that the people who will lead the “rebellion” will be young people:

“The last thing to reiterate is the emotion – not the information … so the people that are going to lead this rebellion are going to be young people, 14 & 15 year olds …omg – a 14 year-old is in tears, right?, on television, about what’s happening…”

Thus, a key strategy for XR was (and continues to be) “How to engage with younger people – youth mobilisation, talks in schools/colleges, figuring out how to engage on ‘youth’ social media.” [Source]

We Mean Business is ecstatic over the climate strikes. As is Christiana Figueres.

Figueres, an anthropologist, economist and analyst having studied at London School of Economics and Georgetown University presided over the negotiations that led to the 2015 Paris Agreement. For this achievement Ms. Figueres has been recognized as “forging a new brand of collaborative diplomacy”. With almost four decades of experience in multilateral negotiations, high-level national and international policy, coupled with extensive involvement in the corporate/private sector, in 2016, TIME magazine named Figueres one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

Today, Figueres serves as vice-chair of the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy; member of the board of directors of ClimateWorks; World Bank Climate Leader; B Team leader, leader of Mission2020 (“exponential transformation” focusing on six sectors that will play a key role in municipal governments and “Green New Deals”); and board member of the World Resources Institute.

Christiana Figueres (top right corner) podcast series: It’s Going To Be Tremendous

When the oppressor and the oppressed find themselves cheering as one, this is indeed “tremendous” for the elites. Yet, as the designs of the ruling elites take hold, which is already well under way, we will soon recognize that the citizenry themselves were grossly manipulated to usher in a nightmare that would only further their own demise.

[Further reading: So who exactly is Christiana Figueres?]

Above: The We Mean Business newsletter, April 30, 2019

April 30, 2019: “Welcome to the April edition of the We Mean Business coalition newsletter…Amid fresh waves of protests demanding accelerated climate action, more and more businesses and policy makers are stepping up and delivering the level of systemic change required to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.”

We Mean Business – “a coalition of organizations working with thousands of the world’s most influential businesses and investors.” The founding partners of We Mean Business are: Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) (full membership and associate members list), CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project), Ceres, The B Team, The Climate Group, The Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group (CLG) and World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD).

The Climate Group was incubated by Rockefeller Brothers Fund as an in-house project that later evolved into a free-standing institution.

Together, these groups represent the most powerful – and ruthless – corporations on the planet, salivating to unleash trillions of dollars for the fourth industrial revolution. This, coupled with the financialization of nature, will create new markets, reboot global economic growth, and most importantly, rescue the global economic capitalist system that is destroying our biosphere.

We Mean Business, February 20, 2019: “People are desperate for something to happen.” Twitter

Christiana Figueres, B Team Leader [Source]. The B Team is a founder of We Mean Business

Emotion To Mask Information: BioEnergy Carbon Capture Storage

“The Institute has a unique and unrivalled membership including governments, global corporations, private industry and academia. Amongst its representation, are the governments of the United States, the United Kingdom, China, Japan and Australia, and multinationals such as Shell, ExxonMobil, Toshiba, Kawasaki and BHP.” — The Global CCS Institute, website

In the May 3, 2019 Extinction Rebellion newsletter (#20), the subject line reads “Parliament meets our first demand!” In the body of text: “There’s plenty of more obvious good news, though – most prominently Parliament’s declaration of climate and environment emergency.” What XR does not share with the public is that the UK CCC climate legislation was a victory for the carbon capture and storage (CCS) industry. In similar fashion to the financialization of nature, carbon capture legislation and projects are making huge strides behind closed doors – with zero opposition.

Global CCS Institute, May 2, 2019, Twitter:

“The Institute welcomes @theCCCuk report, which recommends that the UK commits to cutting its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to net-zero by 2050 and highlights the crucial role #carboncapture and storage needs to play to achieve this goal.  #NetZeroUK #climateaction”

A zero emissions industrial civilization is not possible. For the continuance of industrial civilization, CCS is a necessity.  This is the promise of unabated business as usual. The future of energy will be dominated by the burning of our remaining forests, coupled with CCS. Akin to the depleted uranium left for future generations to contend with, CCS will inject the increasing CO2 into the ravaged Earth. This is the gift to be left to Greta Thunberg and the youth she inspires.  A gift to span generations.

More than this, “net zero” does not mean zero emissions. And it never did. Yet another inconvenient truth is that ‘The terms ‘net zero emissions’ and ‘carbon neutrality’ are interchangeable. This is the beauty of language and framing.

“Carbon Neutral is a term used to describe the state of an entity (such as a company, service, product or event), where the carbon emissions caused by them have been balanced out by funding an equivalent amount of carbon savings elsewhere in the world.” Carbon neutrality is most often sought/achieved through carbon offsetting (purchasing offsets, trading and projects).

Question by Richard Branson’s The Elders NGO to Farhana Yamin (2014): How is carbon neutrality different to ‘net zero emissions’?

Answer by Yamin: “The terms ‘net zero emissions’ and ‘carbon neutrality’ are interchangeable.”

Q: Global News, Dec 3, 2018: What is net-zero emissions?

A: Catherine Abreau, executive director of the Climate Action Network: “In short, it means the amount of emissions being put into the atmosphere is equal to the amount being captured.”

Militarism – as one of the key drivers of climate change, ecological devastation, and death of millions, remains a non-issue. The global “green new deals” guarantee further imperialism and an escalation in wars. These realities have been deliberately and successfully removed from the conversation. They are buried in the 20% circle with the purists.

“The evidence makes it clear. CO2 needs to be removed from the atmosphere, known as carbon dioxide removal (CDR), using negative emissions technologies (NETs) to meet global warming targets. Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) is emerging as the best solution to decarbonise emission-intensive industries and sectors and enable negative emissions.” — March 14, 2019, Bioenergy and Carbon Capture and Storage, The Global CCS Institute

 

“[F]or BECCS technology to be truly effective in reducing CO2 emissions, massive tracts of arable land need to be cultivated and these are not always available, or easily utilised.” The Global CCS Institute

Emotion to Mask Information: The Financialization of Nature

The next phase for the implementation of the financialization of nature commenced April 29, 2019 with the IPBES Global Assessment gathering (the IPCC for Biodiversity).

The “first global biodiversity assessment in 14 years”, will be released on May 6, 2019, with the expected “summary for policymakers” section. We can expect a top “scientific endorsement” for a full package of financialization of nature policy tools, including global metrics for valuation, commodification and offset schemes.

The five-day gathering was held last week at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, ending on May 4, 2019.

There were no protests.

Above: John Elkington: Co-founder of Volans, B Team expert (founded by Richard Branson, The B Team is a co-founder of We Mean Business), member of the WWF Council of Ambassadors, and Extinction Rebellion Business signatory (along with Gail Bradbrook, co-founder of Extinction Rebellion)

Together, these deals read like the biggest land grab since Britannia ruled the waves. This is the big deployment of measurement and financial instruments that the corporate sector, finance and ruling classes have developed. Every little bit of sequestration will be used to further satisfy natural capital ambitions under the guise of climate protection.

The public face of this grotesque undertaking are the campaigns “New Deal For Nature” and “Voice For The Planet”. These are being led by WWF – co-founder of GCCA. The NGOs comprising the GCCA have played the lead role in orchestrating the global mobilizations for climate change over the past decade, in full servitude to their funders.

The “Voice For the Planet” is especially egregious, as it is presented by the World Economic Forum “Global Shapers” youth group.

The gross exploitation of youth for capital expansion rivals only the gross exploitation of Indigenous peoples. The appropriation and utilization of Indigenous imagery to promote market solutions is long documented.

The world’s most powerful corporations and NGO partners appropriate Indigenous culture imagery for emotive branding as they unleash and uphold market “solutions” which further displace Indigenous peoples. They undermined the 2010 Indigenous led People’s Agreement and then buried it. They speak of Indigenous protection – while they actively promote “green” marketing schemes and “green new deals” that will further displace Indigenous peoples. That will further accelerate the ongoing genocide of Indigenous Peoples.

Promotional illustrations/video for Green New Deal by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis for support of the New Green Deal

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They exploit the global youth to steal the natural world the beneath their feet.

They exploit the love for nature – to further enslave nature.

As GCCA co-founder WWF aids and abets Indigenous displacement, beatings and deaths, under the guise of conservation, GCCA partners are silent. This is the normalizing of a continued colonization repackaged under the guise of conservation and “green”.

Industrial civilization – is the enemy of the natural world. We defend industrial civilization – or we defend the planet. This is the choice. The question is, which side are we on?

And the answer to that question is perhaps the most terrifying thing of all.

 

“No One Believed in Capitalist Schemes and Promises Any More” part of the new “Scenes from the Revolution” series. Acrylic on canvas, 30″x30″, Artist: Stephanie McMillan

 

 

[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 and Counterpunch. Her writing has also been published by Bolivia Rising and Cambio, the official newspaper of the Plurinational State of Bolivia. You can support her independent journalism via Patreon.]

 

Further resources:

“Trees don’t grow on money – or why you don’t get to rebel against extinction”, by Tim Hayward

Climate Capitalists, by Winter Oak Press

“This Changes Nothing, The Paris Agreement to Ignore Reality”, by Clive Spash

Video: Selling Extinction, by Prolekult

Between the Devil and the Green New Deal

“New Power” – “The ability to harness the connected crowd to get what you want” – Jeremy Heimans, co-founder Purpose/Avaaz, B Team Expert

Trees Don’t Grow on Money – or Why You Don’t Get to Rebel Against Extinction

Tim Hayword 

April 29, 2019

 

Money doesn’t go on trees, and although people can make money out of trees, they cannot make trees out of money. This much may seem platitudinous, but it is worth keeping in mind.

What is true of trees is true of the natural world as a whole, including the human beings that are part of it. Nature is real; money is an abstraction. If money seems real that is because our institutions and practices are so deeply premised on beliefs in it. There is an important sense in which those institutionalized beliefs – in crediting it with a certain value – make money real; but it is not real in the way the natural world is real. If a bank goes bust, if a whole economy crashes, the social upheaval that follows may be immense, but life goes on – people will pick themselves up and start again (and some people, meanwhile, will likely have found a way to profit from it!). By contrast, if a species goes extinct, if an ecosystem collapses, then there is no prospect – certainly not on human timescales – of a recovery. The threat of extinction to our own species is the ultimate threat.

Extinction Rebellion has given publicity to critically important concerns of our time – the ecological crises as exemplified by dangerous climate change and biodiversity loss.[1] But it also gives rise to some perplexity.

A circumstantial puzzle is how an apparently spontaneous social movement of protest comes to have the energetic backing of big business interests and even to receive notable support from influential sections of the corporate media.

On deeper reflection, what does it even mean to stage a rebellion against extinction? Rebellions usually involve a group of people rising up to protest or overthrow another group that wields unjust or illegitimate power over them. How can you ‘rebel’ against extinction? It is not as if you can choose to disobey the laws of nature.

The website that asserts the copyright © Extinction Rebellion, states certain demands directed at government.[2] The moral clarity of their seemingly simple message, however, could be deceptive.[3]

Two key demands are: “halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025.”

These may sound like goals that any ethically rational person could wholeheartedly endorse, and yet, as a recent critical study by Cory Morningstar has demonstrated, what their pursuit entails does not necessarily correspond to what people might imagine.[4]

First, reducing greenhouse gas emissions to net zero does not mean eliminating emissions, or even necessarily reducing them at all. It refers to the possibility of engaging in other activities to offset them. The offsetting may be accomplished by various means of  technological fixes and/or accounting innovations, but what these means have in common is that they will be profitable to engage in. As was made explicit some years ago in the influential Stern Review of climate economics, a policy approach allowing emissions offsetting creates great opportunities for businesses and the financial sector.

‘Capital markets, banks and other financial institutions will have a vital role in raising and allocating the trillions of dollars needed to finance investment in low-carbon technology and the companies producing the new technologies.’ (Stern 2006: 270)

‘The development of carbon trading markets also presents an important opportunity to the financial sector. Trading on global carbon markets is now worth over $10bn annually’. (Stern 2006: 270)

By attaching a price to carbon, a whole new commodity is created over which the distribution of rights represents a new income stream. So it’s good for shareholder profits, but what about nature? How confident can we be when its protection relies on a new multi-billion dollar market involving the same people responsible for the global financial crisis?

The other key goal, to halt biodiversity loss, sounds like one that should not allow wriggle room for profiteers to game it. And yet, consider for a moment how one might propose – even with the best and purest of intentions – to bring biodiversity loss to a halt. The sheer extent of activities around the world that are undermining habitats and ecological systems is so great and complex, it is hard to conceive what exactly could and should be done, even given determined political will to do it. The proposed policy in reality, therefore, is not literally to stop doing everything we are currently doing that compromises biodiversity. Instead, it once again centres on putting a price on the aspects of nature that market actors attach value to. The premise is that if we accept it is not possible to halt the destruction of biodiversity in some places, it is still possible to protect and even re-create biodiversity in others. Thus, just as with carbon emissions, the ideas of substitution and compensation play a pivotal role: biodiversity loss may not be literally halted, but it can be offset.

And how is biodiversity loss to be offset?[5] Here comes the familiar move: in order to weigh the loss in one place against a putative gain in another they must be subjected to a common scheme of measurement. Biodiversity being something of value, the way to record how much value any instance of it has is taken to be by reference to monetary price. Hence we learn that ‘biodiversity conservation and the related concept of “natural capital” are becoming mainstream. For instance, the Natural Capital Coalition is developing the economic case for valuing natural ecosystems and includes buy-in from some of the biggest players in business, accountancy and consulting. And the financial industry is moving toward more responsible investing.’[6]

Yet this unidimensional quantification of value completely disregards the point that biodiversity is a complex and quintessentially qualitative phenomenon. It is of the essence of biodiversity that its biotic components and their environments are diverse. Being diverse means being different in ways that cannot be reduced to the measure of a single common denominator. Hence the essence of biodiversity is an irreducible plurality of incommensurables. The idea of ‘compensating’ for loss of biodiversity of one kind by the protection or enhancement of biodiversity of another kind elsewhere means disregarding the very meaning of biodiversity.[7]

The idea of biodiversity offsets, then, does not have its rational basis in ecological concern but in the expansionary logic of capitalist profit seeking.

A rebellion that really has any prospect of fending off disaster for our biosphere and ourselves needs to be based on a proper understanding of who and what needs to be rebelled against.

Extinction Rebellion publicity material says that it is apolitical. Yet there is nothing apolitical about the real struggle that is required for people to seize the power currently concentrated in the hands of plutocrats. And to those who say – rightly – that ecological issues are greater than mere politics, it may be responded that this is why we cannot let it be “dealt with” by those who currently so misuse their political power.

Asking governments to enact policies that corporate and financial backers are lining up to draw massive profits from is not what the people protesting against impending ecological disaster have in mind. It needs therefore to be clear that you can’t actually protest against disaster. You need to take on those who are driving us towards it. So you need to know who they are and how they are doing it. It’s a good idea to look carefully at who is shaping the demands you are being enlisted to make, and what exactly they entail.

land-savings

[1] For other, less discussed but no less significant problems, see Rockström et al. (2009).

[2] Why they are directed at government without reference to the central role of powerful corporations is not completely obvious, and nor is the reason why the site also says the protest is ‘apolitical’, a question to be returned to.

[3] We humans, especially the worst off – and not even to mention members of other species we share the planet with – certainly have powerful reasons for concern at the ecological crises being provoked by our collective global exploitation of the biosphere. But what “we” can do about that is nothing like as clear.

In fact, there is no “we” that can act as a collective. There are multifarious different people, groups, tribes, classes, and nations that have competing interests. “We” are not organized to respond in a concerted, ethical and rational manner.

On the other hand, a very small group of people – who alone command as much of the world’s aggregate resources as half the rest of the world’s population put together – is very well coordinated. At the highest levels of corporations and financial institutions they hold great power. With their immense wealth comes control over those – including politicians, journalists and various “thought leaders” – who exercise greatest influence over publics. Their power to manipulate public perceptions vastly exceeds most people’s awareness of it.

So we – ordinary members of the public, whether old or young – can protest and engage in symbolic actions and go green in aspects of our lifestyle, yet to real little effect. In our heart of hearts we may know this, and yet we may still believe it important to try and to act as we think all should. So when the makings of a real social movement appear, we energetically embrace the opportunity it appears to present for making some more noticeable impact. Hence the enthusiastic welcome of Extinction Rebellion, in which school kids and pensioners have united around the moral and existential cause.

But what sort of ‘rebellion’ is it that is conjured into action by a consortium of corporate-backed organizations and given extensive positive coverage in the corporate media? The commitments and beliefs of the multifarious individuals and groups on the ground are various and sincerely held, and they do tend to converge around something like the headline goals stated in the publicity material ©Extinction Rebellion. But the exact goals being endorsed focus on two very specific demands: “halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025.” And in this post I am arguing that it is very easy to be misled into thinking these capture what we really want to achieve, whereas in reality they may in fact capture our acquiescence in the further extension of corporate power over the natural world and our own lives.

[4] Morningstar’s set of six articles makes for somewhat demanding reading, and her purposes have sometimes been misunderstood or misrepresented on the basis of apparently rather casual perusal. Certainly, this has been noticeable in comments on Twitter, so I tried to distil some of her key points, without her detail or her critics’ distractions, in a Twitter thread: https://twitter.com/Tim_Hayward_/status/1120748645069021185

[5] Some useful introductory sources are World Rainforest Movement: http://www.wrongkindofgreen.org/tag/green-economy/; Clive Spash 25 minute talk: https://vimeo.com/33921592; and the collection of material here: http://naturenotforsale.org/author/berberv/

[6] Richard Pearson, ‘We have 15 years to halt biodiversity loss, can it be done?’, The Conversation, 26 Oct 2015 https://theconversation.com/we-have-15-years-to-halt-biodiversity-loss-can-it-be-done-49330.

[7] For a pithy presentation of the basic ideas here see the short video ‘Biodiversity offsetting, making dreams come true‘ https://vimeo.com/99079535.

References

Rockström, Johan et al. (2009), ‘A Safe Operating Space for Humanity’, Nature 461: 472–75.

Stern, Nicholas et al. (2006), Stern Review: The Economics of Climate Change, London: HM Treasury.