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History’s Largest Mining Operation Is About to Begin. It’s Underwater—and the Consequences are Unimaginable.

History’s Largest Mining Operation Is About to Begin. It’s Underwater—and the Consequences are Unimaginable.

The Atlantic

JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2020 ISSUE

 

By Wil S. Hylton

 

Mining robots, such as these, will help unlock a subsea gold rush. Source: World Economic Forum

Unless you are given to chronic anxiety or suffer from nihilistic despair, you probably haven’t spent much time contemplating the bottom of the ocean. Many people imagine the seabed to be a vast expanse of sand, but it’s a jagged and dynamic landscape with as much variation as any place onshore. Mountains surge from underwater plains, canyons slice miles deep, hot springs billow through fissures in rock, and streams of heavy brine ooze down hillsides, pooling into undersea lakes.

These peaks and valleys are laced with most of the same minerals found on land. Scientists have documented their deposits since at least 1868, when a dredging ship pulled a chunk of iron ore from the seabed north of Russia. Five years later, another ship found similar nuggets at the bottom of the Atlantic, and two years after that, it discovered a field of the same objects in the Pacific. For more than a century, oceanographers continued to identify new minerals on the seafloor—copper, nickel, silver, platinum, gold, and even gemstones—while mining companies searched for a practical way to dig them up.

Today, many of the largest mineral corporations in the world have launched underwater mining programs. On the west coast of Africa, the De Beers Group is using a fleet of specialized ships to drag machinery across the seabed in search of diamonds. In 2018, those ships extracted 1.4 million carats from the coastal waters of Namibia; in 2019, De Beers commissioned a new ship that will scrape the bottom twice as quickly as any other vessel. Another company, Nautilus Minerals, is working in the territorial waters of Papua New Guinea to shatter a field of underwater hot springs lined with precious metals, while Japan and South Korea have embarked on national projects to exploit their own offshore deposits. But the biggest prize for mining companies will be access to international waters, which cover more than half of the global seafloor and contain more valuable minerals than all the continents combined.

Regulations for ocean mining have never been formally established. The United Nations has given that task to an obscure organization known as the International Seabed Authority, which is housed in a pair of drab gray office buildings at the edge of Kingston Harbour, in Jamaica. Unlike most UN bodies, the ISA receives little oversight. It is classified as “autonomous” and falls under the direction of its own secretary general, who convenes his own general assembly once a year, at the ISA headquarters. For about a week, delegates from 168 member states pour into Kingston from around the world, gathering at a broad semicircle of desks in the auditorium of the Jamaica Conference Centre. Their assignment is not to prevent mining on the seafloor but to mitigate its damage—selecting locations where extraction will be permitted, issuing licenses to mining companies, and drafting the technical and environmental standards of an underwater Mining Code.

Writing the code has been difficult. ISA members have struggled to agree on a regulatory framework. While they debate the minutiae of waste disposal and ecological preservation, the ISA has granted “exploratory” permits around the world. Some 30 mineral contractors already hold licenses to work in sweeping regions of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. One site, about 2,300 miles east of Florida, contains the largest system of underwater hot springs ever discovered, a ghostly landscape of towering white spires that scientists call the “Lost City.” Another extends across 4,500 miles of the Pacific, or roughly a fifth of the circumference of the planet. The companies with permits to explore these regions have raised breathtaking sums of venture capital. They have designed and built experimental vehicles, lowered them to the bottom, and begun testing methods of dredging and extraction while they wait for the ISA to complete the Mining Code and open the floodgates to commercial extraction.

At full capacity, these companies expect to dredge thousands of square miles a year. Their collection vehicles will creep across the bottom in systematic rows, scraping through the top five inches of the ocean floor. Ships above will draw thousands of pounds of sediment through a hose to the surface, remove the metallic objects, known as polymetallic nodules, and then flush the rest back into the water. Some of that slurry will contain toxins such as mercury and lead, which could poison the surrounding ocean for hundreds of miles. The rest will drift in the current until it settles in nearby ecosystems. An early study by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences predicted that each mining ship will release about 2 million cubic feet of discharge every day, enough to fill a freight train that is 16 miles long. The authors called this “a conservative estimate,” since other projections had been three times as high. By any measure, they concluded, “a very large area will be blanketed by sediment to such an extent that many animals will not be able to cope with the impact and whole communities will be severely affected by the loss of individuals and species.”

At the ISA meeting in 2019, delegates gathered to review a draft of the code. Officials hoped the document would be ratified for implementation in 2020. I flew down to observe the proceedings on a balmy morning and found the conference center teeming with delegates. A staff member ushered me through a maze of corridors to meet the secretary general, Michael Lodge, a lean British man in his 50s with cropped hair and a genial smile. He waved me toward a pair of armchairs beside a bank of windows overlooking the harbor, and we sat down to discuss the Mining Code, what it will permit and prohibit, and why the United Nations is preparing to mobilize the largest mining operation in the history of the world.

Until recently, marine biologists paid little attention to the deep sea. They believed its craggy knolls and bluffs were essentially barren. The traditional model of life on Earth relies on photosynthesis: plants on land and in shallow water harness sunlight to grow biomass, which is devoured by creatures small and large, up the food chain to Sunday dinner. By this account, every animal on the planet would depend on plants to capture solar energy. Since plants disappear a few hundred feet below sea level, and everything goes dark a little farther down, there was no reason to expect a thriving ecosystem in the deep. Maybe a light snow of organic debris would trickle from the surface, but it would be enough to sustain only a few wayward aquatic drifters.

That theory capsized in 1977, when a pair of oceanographers began poking around the Pacific in a submersible vehicle. While exploring a range of underwater mountains near the Galápagos Islands, they spotted a hydrothermal vent about 8,000 feet deep. No one had ever seen an underwater hot spring before, though geologists suspected they might exist. As the oceanographers drew close to the vent, they made an even more startling discovery: A large congregation of animals was camped around the vent opening. These were not the feeble scavengers that one expected so far down. They were giant clams, purple octopuses, white crabs, and 10-foot tube worms, whose food chain began not with plants but with organic chemicals floating in the warm vent water.

For biologists, this was more than curious. It shook the foundation of their field. If a complex ecosystem could emerge in a landscape devoid of plants, evolution must be more than a heliological affair. Life could appear in perfect darkness, in blistering heat and a broth of noxious compounds—an environment that would extinguish every known creature on Earth. “That was the discovery event,” an evolutionary biologist named Timothy Shank told me. “It changed our view about the boundaries of life. Now we know that the methane lakes on one of Jupiter’s moons are probably laden with species, and there is no doubt life on other planetary bodies.”

Shank was 12 years old that winter, a bookish kid in North Carolina. The early romance of the space age was already beginning to fade, but the discovery of life near hydrothermal vents would inspire a blossoming of oceanography that captured his imagination. As he completed a degree in marine biology, then a doctorate in ecology and evolution, he consumed reports from scientists around the world who found new vents brimming with unknown species. They appeared far below the surface—the deepest known vent is about three miles down—while another geologic feature, known as a “cold seep,” gives rise to life in chemical pools even deeper on the seafloor. No one knew how far down the vents and seeps might be found, but Shank decided to focus his research on the deepest waters of the Earth.

Scientists divide the ocean into five layers of depth. Closest to the surface is the “sunlight zone,” where plants thrive; then comes the “twilight zone,” where darkness falls; next is the “midnight zone,” where some creatures generate their own light; and then there’s a frozen flatland known simply as “the abyss.” Oceanographers have visited these layers in submersible vehicles for half a century, but the final layer is difficult to reach. It is known as the “hadal zone,” in reference to Hades, the ancient Greek god of the underworld, and it includes any water that is at least 6,000 meters below the surface—or, in a more Vernian formulation, that is 20,000 feet under the sea. Because the hadal zone is so deep, it is usually associated with ocean trenches, but several deepwater plains have sections that cross into hadal depth.

Deepwater plains are also home to the polymetallic nodules that explorers first discovered a century and a half ago. Mineral companies believe that nodules will be easier to mine than other seabed deposits. To remove the metal from a hydrothermal vent or an underwater mountain, they will have to shatter rock in a manner similar to land-based extraction. Nodules are isolated chunks of rocks on the seabed that typically range from the size of a golf ball to that of a grapefruit, so they can be lifted from the sediment with relative ease. Nodules also contain a distinct combination of minerals. While vents and ridges are flecked with precious metal, such as silver and gold, the primary metals in nodules are copper, manganese, nickel, and cobalt—crucial materials in modern batteries. As iPhones and laptops and electric vehicles spike demand for those metals, many people believe that nodules are the best way to migrate from fossil fuels to battery power.

The ISA has issued more mining licenses for nodules than for any other seabed deposit. Most of these licenses authorize contractors to exploit a single deepwater plain. Known as the Clarion-Clipperton Zone, or CCZ, it extends across 1.7 million square miles between Hawaii and Mexico—wider than the continental United States. When the Mining Code is approved, more than a dozen companies will accelerate their explorations in the CCZ to industrial-scale extraction. Their ships and robots will use vacuum hoses to suck nodules and sediment from the seafloor, extracting the metal and dumping the rest into the water. How many ecosystems will be covered by that sediment is impossible to predict. Ocean currents fluctuate regularly in speed and direction, so identical plumes of slurry will travel different distances, in different directions, on different days. The impact of a sediment plume also depends on how it is released. Slurry that is dumped near the surface will drift farther than slurry pumped back to the bottom. The circulating draft of the Mining Code does not specify a depth of discharge. The ISA has adopted an estimate that sediment dumped near the surface will travel no more than 62 miles from the point of release, but many experts believe the slurry could travel farther. A recent survey of academic research compiled by Greenpeace concluded that mining waste “could travel hundreds or even thousands of kilometers.”

Like many deepwater plains, the CCZ has sections that lie at hadal depth. Its eastern boundary is marked by a hadal trench. No one knows whether mining sediment will drift into the hadal zone. As the director of a hadal-research program at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, in Massachusetts, Timothy Shank has been studying the deep sea for almost 30 years. In 2014, he led an international mission to complete the first systematic study of the hadal ecosystem—but even Shank has no idea how mining could affect the hadal zone, because he still has no idea what it contains. If you want a sense of how little we know about the deep ocean, how difficult it is to study, and what’s at stake when industry leaps before science, Shank’s research is a good place to start.

Ifirst met shank about seven years ago, when he was organizing the international mission to survey the hadal zone. He had put together a three-year plan to visit every ocean trench: sending a robotic vehicle to explore their features, record every contour of topography, and collect specimens from each. The idea was either dazzling or delusional; I wasn’t sure which. Scientists have enough trouble measuring the seabed in shallower waters. They have used ropes and chains and acoustic instruments to record depth for more than a century, yet 85 percent of the global seabed remains unmapped—and the hadal is far more difficult to map than other regions, since it’s nearly impossible to see.

If it strikes you as peculiar that modern vehicles cannot penetrate the deepest ocean, take a moment to imagine what it means to navigate six or seven miles below the surface. Every 33 feet of depth exerts as much pressure as the atmosphere of the Earth, so when you are just 66 feet down, you are under three times as much pressure as a person on land, and when you are 300 feet down, you’re subjected to 10 atmospheres of pressure. Tube worms living beside hydrothermal vents near the Galápagos are compressed by about 250 atmospheres, and mining vehicles in the CCZ have to endure twice as much—but they are still just half as far down as the deepest trenches.

Building a vehicle to function at 36,000 feet, under 2 million pounds of pressure per square foot, is a task of interstellar-type engineering. It’s a good deal more rigorous than, say, bolting together a rover to skitter across Mars. Picture the schematic of an iPhone case that can be smashed with a sledgehammer more or less constantly, from every angle at once, without a trace of damage, and you’re in the ballpark—or just consider the fact that more people have walked on the moon than have reached the bottom of the Mariana Trench, the deepest place on Earth.

The first two people descended in 1960, using a contraption owned by the U.S. Navy. It seized and shuddered on the descent. Its window cracked as the pressure mounted, and it landed with so much force that it kicked up a cloud of silt that obscured the view for the entire 20 minutes the pair remained on the bottom. Half a century passed before the film director James Cameron repeated their journey, in 2012. Unlike the swaggering billionaire Richard Branson, who was planning to dive the Mariana in a cartoonish vehicle shaped like a fighter jet, Cameron is well versed in ocean science and engineering. He was closely involved in the design of his submarine, and sacrificed stylistic flourishes for genuine innovations, including a new type of foam that maintains buoyancy at full ocean depth. Even so, his vessel lurched and bucked on the way down. He finally managed to land, and spent a couple of hours collecting sediment samples before he noticed that hydraulic fluid was leaking onto the window. The vehicle’s mechanical arm began to fail, and all of the thrusters on its right side went out—so he returned to the surface early, canceled his plan for additional dives, and donated the broken sub to Woods Hole.

A 3-D model of the Mariana Trench
A 3-D model of the Mariana Trench, the deepest place on Earth. Most of what we know about its topography has been gathered by sonar. Only three crewed expeditions have reached the bottom. (Data Design Co)
The most recent descent of the Mariana Trench was completed last spring by a private-equity investor named Victor Vescovo, who spent $48 million on a submarine that was even more sophisticated than Cameron’s. Vescovo was on a personal quest to reach the bottom of the five deepest trenches in the world, a project he called “Five Deeps.” He was able to complete the project, making multiple dives of the Mariana—but if his achievement represents a leap forward in hadal exploration, it also serves as a reminder of how impenetrable the trenches remain: a region that can be visited only by the most committed multimillionaire, Hollywood celebrity, or special military program, and only in isolated dives to specific locations that reveal little about the rest of the hadal environment. That environment is composed of 33 trenches and 13 shallower formations called troughs. Its total geographic area is about two-thirds the size of Australia. It is the least examined ecosystem of its size on Earth.Without a vehicle to explore the hadal zone, scientists have been forced to use primitive methods. The most common technique has scarcely changed in more than a century: Expedition ships chug across hundreds of miles to reach a precise location, then lower a trap, wait a few hours, and reel it up to see what’s inside. The limitations of this approach are self-evident, if not comic. It’s like dangling a birdcage out the door of an airplane crossing Africa at 36,000 feet, and then trying to divine, from the mangled bodies of insects, what sort of animals roam the savanna.All of which is to say that Shank’s plan to explore every trench in the world was somewhere between audacious and absurd, but he had assembled a team of the world’s leading experts, secured ship time for extensive missions, and spent 10 years supervising the design of the most advanced robotic vehicle ever developed for deepwater navigation. Called Nereus, after a mythological sea god, it could dive alone—charting a course amid rocky cliffs, measuring their contours with a doppler scanner, recording video with high-definition cameras, and collecting samples—or it could be linked to the deck of a ship with fiber-optic cable, allowing Shank to monitor its movement on a computer in the ship’s control room, boosting the thrusters to steer this way and that, piercing the darkness with its headlamps, and maneuvering a mechanical claw to gather samples in the deep.

I reached out to Shank in 2013, a few months before the expedition began. I wanted to write about the project, and he agreed to let me join him on a later leg. When his ship departed, in the spring of 2014, I followed online as it pursued a course to the Kermadec Trench, in the Pacific, and Shank began sending Nereus on a series of dives. On the first, it descended to 6,000 meters, a modest target on the boundary of the hadal zone. On the second, Shank pushed it to 7,000 meters; on the third to 8,000; and on the fourth to 9,000. He knew that diving to 10,000 meters would be a crucial threshold. It is the last full kilometer of depth on Earth: No trench is believed to be deeper than 11,000 meters. To commemorate this final increment and the successful beginning of his project, he attached a pair of silver bracelets to the frame of Nereus, planning to give them to his daughters when he returned home. Then he dropped the robot in the water and retreated to the control room to monitor its movements.

On-screen, blue water gave way to darkness as Nereus descended, its headlamps illuminating specks of debris suspended in the water. It was 10 meters shy of the 10,000-meter mark when suddenly the screen went dark. There was an audible gasp in the control room, but no one panicked. Losing the video feed on a dive was relatively common. Maybe the fiber-optic tether had snapped, or the software had hit a glitch. Whatever it was, Nereus had been programmed to respond with emergency measures. It could back out of a jam, shed expendable weight, guide itself to the surface, and send a homing beacon to help Shank’s team retrieve it.

As the minutes ticked by, Shank waited for those measures to activate, but none did. “There’s no sound, no implosion, no chime,” he told me afterward. “Just … black.” He paced the deck through the night, staring across the Stygian void for signs of Nereus. The following day he finally saw debris surface, and as he watched it rise, he felt his project sinking. Ten years of planning, a $14 million robot, and an international team of experts—it had all collapsed under the crushing pressure of hadal depths.

“I’m not over it yet,” he told me two years later. We were standing on the deck of another ship, 100 miles off the coast of Massachusetts, where Shank was preparing to launch a new robot. The vehicle was no replacement for Nereus. It was a rectilinear hunk of metal and plastic, about five feet high, three feet wide, and nine feet long. Red on top, with a silvery bottom and three fans mounted at the rear, it could have been mistaken for a child’s backyard spaceship. Shank had no illusion that it was capable of hadal exploration. Since the loss of Nereus, there was no vehicle on Earth that could navigate the deepest trenches—Cameron’s was no longer in service, Branson’s didn’t work, and Vescovo’s hadn’t yet been built.

Shank’s new robot did have a few impressive features. Its navigational system was even more advanced than the one in Nereus, and he hoped it would be able to maneuver in a trenchlike environment with even greater precision—but its body was not designed to withstand hadal pressure. In fact, it had never descended more than a few dozen feet below the surface, and Shank knew that it would take years to build something that could survive at the bottom of a trench. What had seemed, just two years earlier, like the beginning of a new era in hadal science was developing a quixotic aspect, and, at 50, Shank could not help wondering if it was madness to spend another decade of his life on a dream that seemed to be drifting further from his reach. But he was driven by a lifelong intuition that he still couldn’t shake. Shank believes that access to the trenches will reveal one of the greatest discoveries in history: a secret ecosystem bursting with creatures that have been cloistered for eternity in the deep.

“I would be shocked if there aren’t vents and seeps in the trenches,” he told me as we bobbed on the water that day in 2016. “They’ll be there, and they will be teeming with life. I think we’ll be looking at hundreds or thousands of species we haven’t seen before, and some of them are going to be huge.” He pictured the hadal as an alien world that followed its own evolutionary course, the unimaginable pressure creating a menagerie of inconceivable beasts. “My time is running out to find them,” he said. “Maybe my legacy will be to push things forward so that somebody else can. We have a third of our ocean that we still can’t explore. It’s embarrassing. It’s pathetic.”

While scientists struggle to reach the deep ocean, human impact has already gotten there. Most of us are familiar with the menu of damages to coastal water: overfishing, oil spills, and pollution, to name a few. What can be lost in the discussion of these issues is how they reverberate far beneath.

Take fishing. The relentless pursuit of cod in the early 20th century decimated its population from Newfoundland to New England, sending hungry shoppers in search of other options. As shallow-water fish such as haddock, grouper, and sturgeon joined the cod’s decline, commercial fleets around the world pushed into deeper water. Until the 1970s, the slimehead fish lived in relative obscurity, patrolling the slopes of underwater mountains in water up to 6,000 feet deep. Then a consortium of fishermen pushed the Food and Drug Administration to change its name, and the craze for “orange roughy” began—only to fade again in the early 2000s, when the fish was on a path toward extinction itself.

Environmental damage from oil production is also migrating into deeper water. Disturbing photographs of oil-drenched beaches have captured public attention since at least 1989, when the Exxon Valdez tanker crashed into a reef and leaked 11 million gallons into an Alaskan sound. It would remain the largest spill in U.S. water until 2010, when the Deepwater Horizon explosion spewed 210 million gallons into the Gulf of Mexico. But a recent study revealed that the release of chemicals to disperse the spill was twice as toxic as the oil to animals living 3,000 feet below the surface.

Maybe the greatest alarm in recent years has followed the discovery of plastic floating in the ocean. Scientists estimate that 17 billion pounds of polymer are flushed into the ocean each year, and substantially more of it collects on the bottom than on the surface. Just as a bottle that falls from a picnic table will roll downhill to a gulch, trash on the seafloor gradually makes its way toward deepwater plains and hadal trenches. After his expedition to the trenches, Victor Vescovo returned with the news that garbage had beaten him there. He found a plastic bag at the bottom of one trench, a beverage can in another, and when he reached the deepest point in the Mariana, he watched an object with a large S on the side float past his window. Trash of all sorts is collecting in the hadal—Spam tins, Budweiser cans, rubber gloves, even a mannequin head.

Scientists are just beginning to understand the impact of trash on aquatic life. Fish and seabirds that mistake grocery bags for prey will glut their stomachs with debris that their digestive system can’t expel. When a young whale drifted ashore and died in the Philippines in 2019, an autopsy revealed that its belly was packed with 88 pounds of plastic bags, nylon rope, and netting. Two weeks later, another whale beached in Sardinia, its stomach crammed with 48 pounds of plastic dishes and tubing. Certain types of coral like to eat plastic more than food. They will gorge themselves like a kid on Twinkies instead of eating what they need to survive. Microbes that flourish on plastic have ballooned in number, replacing other species as their population explodes in a polymer ocean.

If it seems trivial to worry about the population statistics of bacteria in the ocean, you may be interested to know that ocean microbes are essential to human and planetary health. About a third of the carbon dioxide generated on land is absorbed by underwater organisms, including one species that was just discovered in the CCZ in 2018. The researchers who found that bacterium have no idea how it removes carbon from the environment, but their findings show that it may account for up to 10 percent of the volume that is sequestered by oceans every year.

Many of the things we do know about ocean microbes, we know thanks to Craig Venter, the genetic scientist most famous for starting a small company in the 1990s to compete with the Human Genome Project. The two-year race between his company and the international collaboration generated endless headlines and culminated in a joint announcement at the White House to declare a tie. But Venter’s interest wasn’t limited to human DNA. He wanted to learn the language of genetics in order to create synthetic microbes with practical features. After his work on the human genome, he spent two years sailing around the world, lowering bottles into the ocean to collect bacteria and viruses from the water. By the time he returned, he had discovered hundreds of thousands of new species, and his lab in Maryland proceeded to sequence their DNA—identifying more than 60 million unique genes, which is about 2,500 times the number in humans. Then he and his team began to scour those genes for properties they could use to make custom bugs.

Venter now lives in a hypermodern house on a bluff in Southern California. Chatting one evening on the sofa beside the door to his walk-in humidor and wine cellar, he described how saltwater microbes could help solve the most urgent problems of modern life. One of the bacteria he pulled from the ocean consumes carbon and excretes methane. Venter would like to integrate its genes into organisms designed to live in smokestacks and recycle emissions. “They could scrub the plant’s CO2 and convert it to methane that can be burned as fuel in the same plant,” he said.

Venter was also studying bacteria that could be useful in medicine. Microbes produce a variety of antibiotic compounds, which they deploy as weapons against their rivals. Many of those compounds can also be used to kill the pathogens that infect humans. Nearly all of the antibiotic drugs on the market were initially derived from microorganisms, but they are losing efficacy as pathogens evolve to resist them. “We have new drugs in development,” Matt McCarthy, an infectious-disease specialist at Weill Cornell Medical College, told me, “but most of them are slight variations on the ones we already had. The problem with that is, they’re easy for bacteria to resist, because they’re similar to something bacteria have developed resistance to in the past. What we need is an arsenal of new compounds.”

Venter pointed out that ocean microbes produce radically different compounds from those on land. “There are more than a million microbes per milliliter of seawater,” he said, “so the chance of finding new antibiotics in the marine environment is high.” McCarthy agreed. “The next great drug may be hidden somewhere deep in the water,” he said. “We need to get to the deep-sea organisms, because they’re making compounds that we’ve never seen before. We may find drugs that could be used to treat gout, or rheumatoid arthritis, or all kinds of other conditions.”

Marine biologists have never conducted a comprehensive survey of microbes in the hadal trenches. The conventional tools of water sampling cannot function at extreme depth, and engineers are just beginning to develop tools that can. Microbial studies of the deepwater plains are slightly further along—and scientists have recently discovered that the CCZ is unusually flush with life. “It’s one of the most biodiverse areas that we’ve ever sampled on the abyssal plains,” a University of Hawaii oceanographer named Jeff Drazen told me. Most of those microbes, he said, live on the very same nodules that miners are planning to extract. “When you lift them off the seafloor, you’re removing a habitat that took 10 million years to grow.” Whether or not those microbes can be found in other parts of the ocean is unknown. “A lot of the less mobile organisms,” Drazen said, “may not be anywhere else.”

Drazen is an academic ecologist; Venter is not. Venter has been accused of trying to privatize the human genome, and many of his critics believe his effort to create new organisms is akin to playing God. He clearly doesn’t have an aversion to profit-driven science, and he’s not afraid to mess with nature—yet when I asked him about the prospect of mining in deep water, he flared with alarm. “We should be very careful about mining in the ocean,” he said. “These companies should be doing rigorous microbial surveys before they do anything else. We only know a fraction of the microbes down there, and it’s a terrible idea to screw with them before we know what they are and what they do.”

The Clarion-Clipperton Zone is a deepwater plain wider than the continental United States. When the Mining Code is approved, more than a dozen contractors could begin commercial extraction there. (La Tigre)

Mining executives insist that their work in the ocean is misunderstood. Some adopt a swaggering bravado and portray the industry as a romantic frontier adventure. As the manager of exploration at Nautilus Minerals, John Parianos, told me recently, “This is about every man and his dog filled with the excitement of the moon landing. It’s like Scott going to the South Pole, or the British expeditions who got entombed by ice.”

Nautilus occupies a curious place in the mining industry. It is one of the oldest companies at work on the seafloor, but also the most precarious. Although it has a permit from the government of Papua New Guinea to extract metal from offshore vents, many people on the nearby island of New Ireland oppose the project, which will destroy part of their marine habitat. Local and international activists have whipped up negative publicity, driving investors away and sending the company into financial ruin. Nautilus stock once traded for $4.45. It is now less than a penny per share.Parianos acknowledged that Nautilus was in crisis, but he dismissed the criticism as naive. Seabed minerals are no different from any other natural resource, he said, and the use of natural resources is fundamental to human progress. “Look around you: Everything that’s not grown is mined,” he told me. “That’s why they called it the Stone Age—because it’s when they started mining! And mining is what made our lives better than what they had before the Stone Age.” Parianos emphasized that the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which created the International Seabed Authority, promised “to ensure effective protection for the marine environment” from the effects of mining. “It’s not like the Law of the Sea says: Go out and ravage the marine environment,” he said. “But it also doesn’t say that you can only explore the ocean for science, and not to make money.”The CEO of a company called DeepGreen spoke in loftier terms. DeepGreen is both a product of Nautilus Minerals and a reaction to it. The company was founded in 2011 by David Heydon, who had founded Nautilus a decade earlier, and its leadership is full of former Nautilus executives and investors. As a group, they have sought to position DeepGreen as a company whose primary interest in mining the ocean is saving the planet. They have produced a series of lavish brochures to explain the need for a new source of battery metals, and Gerard Barron, the CEO, speaks with animated fervor about the virtues of nodule extraction.

His case for seabed mining is straightforward. Barron believes that the world will not survive if we continue burning fossil fuels, and the transition to other forms of power will require a massive increase in battery production. He points to electric cars: the batteries for a single vehicle require 187 pounds of copper, 123 pounds of nickel, and 15 pounds each of manganese and cobalt. On a planet with 1 billion cars, the conversion to electric vehicles would require several times more metal than all existing land-based supplies—and harvesting that metal from existing sources already takes a human toll. Most of the world’s cobalt, for example, is mined in the southeastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where tens of thousands of young children work in labor camps, inhaling clouds of toxic dust during shifts up to 24 hours long. Terrestrial mines for nickel and copper have their own litany of environmental harms. Because the ISA is required to allocate some of the profits from seabed mining to developing countries, the industry will provide nations that rely on conventional mining with revenue that doesn’t inflict damage on their landscapes and people.

Whether DeepGreen represents a shift in the values of mining companies or merely a shift in marketing rhetoric is a valid question—but the company has done things that are difficult to dismiss. It has developed technology that returns sediment discharge to the seafloor with minimal disruption, and Barron is a regular presence at ISA meetings, where he advocates for regulations to mandate low-impact discharge. DeepGreen has also limited its operations to nodule mining, and Barron openly criticizes the effort by his friends at Nautilus to demolish a vent that is still partially active. “The guys at Nautilus, they’re doing their thing, but I don’t think it’s the right thing for the planet,” he told me. “We need to be doing things that have a low impact environmentally.”

By the time i sat down with Michael Lodge, the secretary general of the ISA, I had spent a lot of time thinking about the argument that executives like Barron are making. It seemed to me that seabed mining presents an epistemological problem. The harms of burning fossil fuels and the impact of land-based mining are beyond dispute, but the cost of plundering the ocean is impossible to know. What creatures are yet to be found on the seafloor? How many indispensable cures? Is there any way to calculate the value of a landscape we know virtually nothing about? The world is full of uncertain choices, of course, but the contrast between options is rarely so stark: the crisis of climate change and immiserated labor on the one hand, immeasurable risk and potential on the other.

I thought of the hadal zone. It may never be harmed by mining. Sediment from dredging on the abyssal plains could settle long before it reaches the edge of a trench—but the total obscurity of the hadal should remind us of how little we know. It extends from 20,000 feet below sea level to roughly 36,000 feet, leaving nearly half of the ocean’s depths beyond our reach. When I visited Timothy Shank at Woods Hole a few months ago, he showed me a prototype of his latest robot. He and his lead engineer, Casey Machado, had built it with foam donated by James Cameron and with support from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, whose engineers are hoping to send a vehicle to explore the aqueous moon of Jupiter. It was a tiny machine, known as Orpheus, that could steer through trenches, recording topography and taking samples, but little else. He would have no way to direct its movements or monitor its progress via a video feed. It occurred to me that if Shank had given up the dream of true exploration in the trenches, decades could pass before we know what the hadal zone contains.

Mining companies may promise to extract seabed metal with minimal damage to the surrounding environment, but to believe this requires faith. It collides with the force of human history, the law of unintended consequences, and the inevitability of mistakes. I wanted to understand from Michael Lodge how a UN agency had made the choice to accept that risk.

“Why is it necessary to mine the ocean?” I asked him.

He paused for a moment, furrowing his brow. “I don’t know why you use the word necessary,” he said. “Why is it ‘necessary’ to mine anywhere? You mine where you find metal.”

I reminded him that centuries of mining on land have exacted a devastating price: tropical islands denuded, mountaintops sheared off, groundwater contaminated, and species eradicated. Given the devastation of land-based mining, I asked, shouldn’t we hesitate to mine the sea?

“I don’t believe people should worry that much,” he said with a shrug. “There’s certainly an impact in the area that’s mined, because you are creating an environmental disturbance, but we can find ways to manage that.” I pointed out that the impact from sediment could travel far beyond the mining zone, and he responded, “Sure, that’s the other major environmental concern. There is a sediment plume, and we need to manage it. We need to understand how the plume operates, and there are experiments being done right now that will help us.” As he spoke, I realized that for Lodge, none of these questions warranted reflection—or anyway, he didn’t see reflection as part of his job. He was there to facilitate mining, not to question the wisdom of doing so.

We chatted for another 20 minutes, then I thanked him for his time and wandered back to the assembly room, where delegates were delivering canned speeches about marine conservation and the promise of battery technology. There was still some debate about certain details of the Mining Code—technical requirements, oversight procedures, the profit-sharing model—so the vote to ratify it would have to wait another year. I noticed a group of scientists watching from the back. They were members of the Deep-Ocean Stewardship Initiative, which formed in 2013 to confront threats to the deepwater environment. One was Jeff Drazen. He’d flown in from Hawaii and looked tired. I sent him a text, and we stepped outside.

A few tables and chairs were scattered in the courtyard, and we sat down to talk. I asked how he felt about the delay of the Mining Code—delegates are planning to review it again this summer, and large-scale mining could begin after that.

Drazen rolled his eyes and sighed. “There’s a Belgian team in the CCZ doing a component test right now,” he said. “They’re going to drive a vehicle around on the seafloor and spew a bunch of mud up. So these things are already happening. We’re about to make one of the biggest transformations that humans have ever made to the surface of the planet. We’re going to strip-mine a massive habitat, and once it’s gone, it isn’t coming back.”

 

[Wil S. Hylton is a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine. He has published cover stories for many outlets including The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, Esquire, Harper’s, Details, New York, and Outside.]

Greta Is Our MLK. That’s Not Necessarily a  Good Thing.

Greta Is Our MLK. That’s Not Necessarily a Good Thing.

Diversity of Tactics

January 21, 2020

B

 

 

Above: Arnold Schwarzenegger and Greta Thunberg in Austria, May 2019

In September of last year, a young girl stood in a Washington DC congressional building to give a speech. Audaciously, she professed to follow in the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.’s famed address to the March on Washington in 1963. “I also have a dream,” she intoned, “that governments, political parties and corporations grasp the urgency of the climate and ecological crisis and come together despite their differences…I have a dream that the people in power, as well as the media, start treating this crisis like the existential emergency it is.”

Greta Thunberg may not be an orator on the level of Dr. King, but there is something undeniably compelling about her. She’s an appropriate celebrity for the era of Bernie Sanders, where a lack of traditional charisma connotes authenticity. More importantly, the content of her speech was both learned and thoughtful, touching on everything from the techno-optimism of both the left and right, to the looming 12 year deadline to cut emissions to pre-industrial levels, to nasty “non-linear effects” which could hit us even before that deadline, to a global “climate justice” paradigm that recognizes the greater obligation that wealthy Americans have to solve the problem.

Legitimate criticism of Thunberg seems as unthinkable as criticism of Martin Luther King. One group of prominent supporters recently called her “unimpeachable” on all levels. Attacks are expected from the far-right of course—Indeed, another reason that Greta and MLK both draw immediate solidarity from progressives is the sense of protectiveness which they inspire. Thunberg has had to contend with crude jibes about her autism and inexperience. Dr. King faced slander, blackmail, and repeated threats on his life.

And yet Greta, like MLK, has prompted that unthinkable: Criticism from the political left which questions the soundness her methods and effect on the movement. As with King, Thunberg acolytes have attributed these critiques to jealousy, bigotry, vested interests, and even proto-fascism. Yet many harsh critics of Dr. King—Ella Baker, Malcolm X, Gloria Richardson, James Forman and others—were just as dedicated to social justice as he was, and took similar risks in their activism. Further complicating the narrative is that movement historians have studied the criticisms leveled at MLK by his colleagues and found many if not most of them to be legitimate. With that in mind, leftward salvos at Thunberg need to be taken seriously as well.

One of the recurring claims about both King and Thunberg is that they were aligned from an early stage with elite interests who were working against the activists’ own cause. Veteran civil rights organizer Ella Baker criticized MLK for being a corporate media darling who distorted both the image and goals of the movement. When she left a position at Dr. King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference (which she had helped found) to create a new group, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), she warned fellow activists about the phenomenon of the “charismatic leader…It usually means the media made him, and the media may undo him…such a person gets to the point of believing that he is the movement.”

There is nothing in Ella Baker’s critique of King that’s particularly exaggerated. In January 1957, when King had only been an activist for a year and a half, he was contacted by Clare Booth Luce, conservative mogul of the Time magazine empire, and offered a cover story. According to King biographer Taylor Branch, Luce rescued King from a state of “helplessness”. In the aftermath of the famous bus boycott and its apparent victory, the City of Montgomery had shut down all bus lines after the Ku Klux Klan began shooting at black passengers, and commenced to enact a whole new wave of segregation laws—an early manifestation of the Dixiecrats’ “Massive Resistance” campaign which blocked King’s nonviolent movement throughout the late fifties. Luce, who was also US Ambassador to Italy, was explicit that she wanted to show off King, at the height of the Cold War, to a skeptical global public who doubted that there was hope for racial progress in America.

Greta-A Schwarzenegger

Similarly, Greta Thunberg has been criticized for her comfortable relationship with the very decision-making class whom she pillories. Thunberg has repeatedly met with Arnold Schwarzenegger, the ardently green capitalist former governor of California. Arnold championed the state’s carbon cap-and-trade scheme, which ProPublica has exposed asallowing California’s biggest polluters to conduct business as usual and even increase their emissions.” Schwarzenegger’s entire record on the climate crisis has been one of empty promises—precisely the sort of empty promises Greta Thunberg claims she is here to confront. The young Swede’s carefully arranged meeting with Barack Obama isn’t any more reassuring. In several speeches Thunberg has rightly thrown shade at “economic growth” as a hinderance, not a help, to a climate stability. But not only is Obama a booster of capitalist growth, he is an unrepentant booster of fossil fuel extraction. “[US oil] production went up every year I was in office,” Obama boasted to a university audience less than a year before meeting Thunberg. “Suddenly America is the largest producer of oil! That was me, people.” The Environmental Integrity Project has reported that this oil and gas boom eliminates all of the net emission reductions which had been achieved through US coal plant closings. Greta declared she didn’t want any more pacifying doses of political “hope”, yet she’s embraced the most slippery merchant of hope in modern political history.

In his lifetime, Martin Luther King ‘s alliance with Nelson Rockefeller, one of his top funders, was often looked upon dimly. As Timothy Tyson demonstrated in his classic book Radio Free Dixie, Rockefeller and King worked in concert to suppress the radical but popular North Carolina leader Robert F. Williams, who advocated for armed self-defense against the KKK. King once claimed that Governor Rockefeller had ‘‘a real grasp and understanding of what the Negro revolution is all about, and a commitment to its goals.’’ The governor’s subsequent order of the worst state massacre of African-Americans in US history at Attica prison (“a beautiful operation” Rockefeller later boasted to Richard Nixon) and his authorship of some of the most racist drug laws in the country (a blueprint for the New Jim Crow) revealed a different agenda.

Rockefeller MLK large

During this time of year, the left often praises King for his anti-capitalism, but history shows that MLK’s turn to radicalism was hard won. “In some ways,” Michael Eric Dyson has written, “King’s change was even more startling and consequential than Malcolm X’s…what is little appreciated is how…an element of Malcolm’s thinking got its hooks into King.” Pre-1965, King was a public supporter of US foreign policy and capitalism who preferred to rely on traditional political maneuvers, even as he supposedly represented a movement built on direct action (MLK scholar Clayborne Carson notes that the reverend did not initiate the bus boycott, the sit-ins, or the Freedom Rides, and only participated in them reluctantly). This gradually changed due to relentless criticism and pressure put on King by militant activists associated with SNCC.  “His antiwar activity was motivated as much by moral and political pressure from key black colleagues as by conscience and commitment to nonviolence,” notes Dyson. King’s moderate tendencies had come from his association with Rockefeller and other One Percenters, who were supporters of the Vietnam War. One scholar does credit “King’s deft leveraging of power” in the relationship, but also notes that Rockefeller leveraged MLK expertly for political capital.

Leveraging political capital explains much about Greta Thunberg’s counterintuitive relationship with the World Economic Forum. Greta, of course, made a famous “impromptu” speech to the WEF meeting in Davos, Switzerland on January 24, 2019. She was credited by many commenters with making oligarchs feel “uncomfortable” by calling out people who are “making unimaginable amounts of money” from the destruction of the climate. Yet there’s substantial evidence that the Forum establishment wasn’t made uncomfortable at all, but welcomed the spectacle of dissent: A full day before Thunberg’s speech, the WEF was promoting a video of her speaking essentially the same words on their Twitter feed. In the months since, the WEF has not only not blacklisted the activist, but has praised her and welcomed her back.

Why would the World Economic Forum accept such a critique of itself? Because youthful, angry dissent against 21st century capitalism was not pioneered by Greta Thunberg. Indeed, in comparison with the riotous blockades that progressives and anarchists once launched against the WEF, being scolded by a lone 16 year old was a veritable picnic. “Swiss police have mounted their biggest security operation in decades to try to prevent protesters from disrupting the conference.” reported the Los Angeles Times in January 2001. “Four cars were set on fire during protests in Zurich by up to 1,000 demonstrators after many were prevented by police from traveling to Davos. Police responded by firing tear gas and rubber pellets.” The goal of these protests was abolition, not institutional reform: their slogan was “Wipe out the WEF!” European street militancy declined in the post-9-11 years, but has more recently surged again, including in relation to environmentalism. The 2015 Paris climate summit saw hundreds of green insurgents try to storm the conference area, even after a a state of emergency was imposed on the city. The upcoming generation of climate radicals will be diverted from taking such direct action however—Greta is already at the conferences to represent them. Within the overall context of the climate movement (which includes long-term blockades at Standing Rock and Unist’ot’en British Columbia, as well as insurrections against capital) even Thunberg’s “Friday for Future” strikes represent a clear de-escalation; a step forward only if you value quantity above quality.

Much as Nelson Rockefeller sought to “save capitalism by softening its sharpest edges”, the founder of the WEF, Klaus Schwab, is now in the process of rebranding the earth-devouring global economy as “Stakeholder Capitalism.” According WEF documents, Schwab has had this agenda in place since the first Davos meeting in 1971, but he explicitly attributes its recent advance to what he calls the “Greta Thunberg effect.”

While J. Edgar Hoover and the far-right wielded the stick of the Red Scare against the civil rights movement in the 1960s, the center-right of Rockefeller and other foundation oligarchs wielded the carrot of patronage for MLK. Yet the reform proffered by One Percent is not an alternative to revolution—It’s an antidote to it. As in Dr. King’s era, the establishment is now in full co-optation mode: One half of the elite is pushing against change, while the other half—again led by Rockefeller progeny, who fund Greta allies such as the group 350.org—is pushing for it. But despite the rhetoric, it’s only change on capitalist terms. It will take ruthless criticism of those charismatic leaders held up to represent us if we wish to correct the ship towards true revolt and true justice.

Connecting the Dots

Dissident Voice

December 20, 2019

 

“Connecting the Dots”

 

Capitalists are no more capable of self-sacrifice than a man is capable of lifting himself up by his own bootstraps.
— Vladimir Lenin1

Many on the left seem to have forgotten that capitalism is actually bad. That the reason the planet sinks under the weight of pollution and militarism is because of capitalism. Nothing that works within the capitalist system is going to save anyone and will only reinforce the existing problems and further the suffering of the poor and disenfranchised.

Now allow to me first start with a few observations on writers published by leftist sites, in this case Counterpunch, actually. Louis Proyect titles his piece as a question, “If Time Magazine Celebrates Greta Thunberg, Why Should We?” The answer is if TIME celebrates something, if corporate media celebrate someone or thing, the response should logically be INVESTIGATE and be suspicious. Which is what Cory Morningstar has done. But Proyect spends the entirety of his pointless article attacking Morningstar — go figure. He also lies. Morningstar does not attack Greta, she investigates the forces behind Greta. For a guy who wears his Marxism-like placard around his neck, you would think Proyect might grasp the distinction. Cory Morningstar is almost certainly the most important living journalist in the world (next to Assange perhaps).

And just by way of cursory correction, when Proyect writes, “Just two months ago, (Jamie) Margolin joined other young people in suing Democratic Governor Jay Inslee and the State of Washington over greenhouse-gas emissions. Inslee depicts himself as a liberal, environmentalist governor. If Margolin is a Trojan Horse like Thunberg, her choice of a target hardly sounds like she is trying to make it in corporate, Democratic Party, environmentalist circles,” what he fails to recognize is that Margolin is already in the Democratic Party inner circles and served as an intern for Hillary Clinton.

But the bigger problem is that Proyect seems on board with all the activities of Thunberg and her cohorts. Proyect quotes Morningstar:

Today’s climate emergency mobilization must be recognized for what it is: a strategically orchestrated campaign financed and managed by the world’s most powerful institutions – for the preservation of capitalism and global economic growth. This is the launch of a new growth industry in the Global South coupled with the creation of new and untapped markets.

And then writes:

Yeah, who cares about icebergs melting and the Great Coral Reef disappearing? The real problem is capitalism—as if the two phenomena were not related.

The entire point of Morningstar’s work is to bring attention to the fact that Capitalism IS related, not just related but the primary cause of planetary destruction. How does massive PR and billions of marketing stop the death of coral reefs? But again, class analysis is the issue (and perhaps an inability to read carefully). Thunberg has enlisted corporate billionaire backers (well, they enlisted her). That was the goal. If Proyect thinks the capitalists behind Thunberg are about to bring radical change and challenge the status quo, he is for a rude awakening. But then Proyect calls Off Guardian a conspiracy-minded site. Such provincial disdain is all too representative. But more on conspiracy theory below.

Allow me to link to Morningstar’s investigation of We Mean Business, a project that gets the Proyect stamp of approval (We Mean Business, not Morningstar).

I ask the reader to consider the facts. (hint: class analysis, the rich are not there to help anyone but themselves).

Then we have Kirkpatrick Sale and an article (“Political Collapse: The Center Cannot Hold”) that might well have been written by the state department. In this hideously distorted piece Mr Sale also lies. The biggest of his falsehoods is that Venezuela is a failed state. Uh… maybe he has a different definition. But what Sale is really doing is excusing and providing cover for the Imperialist west. Yemen is listed as failed but the reasons for its failures are not really made clear. Global Warming? The correct answer is a vicious, several year long attack by the Saudi monarchy and the US and UK militaries. A genocidal assault that has resulted in mass death and pestilence (180,000 NEW cases of cholera were just reported by WHO). But Mr Sale never mentions that. Not a peep about western militarism. Not a single word. Nor about the orchestrated illegal covert CIA assault against Venezuela, and more recently and successfully, against Bolivia. Imperialism is not touched upon, even once.

Mr Sale writes:

At the moment, there are no less than 65 countries are now fighting wars—there are only 193 countries recognized by the United Nations, so that’s a third of the world. These are wars with modern weapons, organized troops, and serious casualties—five of them, like Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Somalia, and Yemen, with 10,000 or more deaths a year, another 15 with more than 1,000 a year—all of them causing disruptions and disintegrations of all normal political and economic systems, leaving no attacked nation in a condition to protect and provide for its citizens.

But he never explains the role of the US in any of this. Who made the weapons used in these wars? Well, the answer is largely the US, but also Russia, China, Israel and Brazil. But the vast majority are from the US. Also Syria was targeted by the US for a coup (referred to in polite company as regime change, a term created by the marketing arm of the Pentagon). Assad has openly been a target of the US. Who created and funded ISIS, in fact? Answer is the US and Saudi Arabia. Not a word about that fact either.

Here is another quote from Sale:

These include seven completely failed states—Congo-Brazzaville, Central African Republic, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan, and Venezuela—and another seven that are on the edge—Guinea, Haiti, Iraq, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, Chad, and the Sudan—plus 19 that are in an “alert” category, meaning that some but not all government functions have failed, 15 in Africa and 4 in Asia.

What do these nations have in common? They were targets of the Imperialist West (directly in the cases of Syria, Yemen, Somalia and South Sudan, and Iraq — not to mention the non failed Venezuela, or indirectly in the neo-colonial plunder of Congo, AFR, Guinea, and Haiti). And, as I pointed out, Venezuela is not failed, nor even close to failed. It’s a perfectly functioning country under sanctions by the US. Another fact Sale omits.

Why is Libya not on that list? You know, Libya, where the US destroyed the African nation with the highest standard of living on the continent and reduced it to a slave market run by traffickers.

All in all Sale is either about room temperature IQ or just a liar or politically aligned with the State Department and Pentagon. I have no idea which but I do wonder why his tripe is appearing in a leftist site like Counterpunch. Proyect I understand, because he wears that placard announcing he is a leftist, and because he sort of is an editor at CP. Sale doesn’t and isn’t, so I really do wonder at why this reactionary non article is published by anyone this side of the CATO Institute?

But that brings me to the next point, which is the narcotic like effect that the entire Greta story has had on mostly middle aged white men. If you cannot but see the obvious stage-managed aspect of the Greta story, the marketing and image control involved, then you are blind or possibly caught up in the cult like thinking of much new green activism yourself. For one example, just look at the photo TIME used for its cover. Greta in an oversized sweater, sans make-up —how old does she look? 13, or 14 I’d say. Well, she is, in fact, 17. Her sister is 15 and looks much older and certainly clearly into puberty or even past it. Greta is being presented as the virgin symbol of purity. Now this will be called an attack on Greta — by Proyect anyway. But I am sure there are many others. It’s not. She is simply the actor in all this (though actors are responsible for their choices, too). For her troubles she gets yacht rides and great dining with world leaders. Why wouldn’t she sign on. But the rest of the phenomenon is, in fact, global capital usurping the green movements and activists globally. And the coup in Bolivia is against the indigenous peoples of that nation, many of whom are environmental activists as was President Morales. Which is why the smear campaign (by the same people who help manage Greta) was designed to undermine his environmental work. The biggest thing environmentally that Morales did was to throw out the US military.

But the white men of the West are channeling their disappointments (because capitalism disappoints, at the very least, nearly everyone but the top 3%) into something that resembles a fairy tale narrative of a guardian flock protector (the white guy narrator) defending the honour of blond pre-pubescent teenager (in volkisch pigtails and large sweater). Greta is the virgin queen of the environment. What happens when she gets a boyfriend? I’ll be curious to see. Will the white middle-aged flock protectors feel betrayed? Seems possible. As my friend Hiroyuki Hamada noted, the white male defense of Greta is a reflection of patriarchy and that disappointments today are felt more acutely because they are more flagrant and there are fewer mitigating salves than in the past.

The point here is that why would any socialist or communist sign on to anything supported by the Royal Families of Europe, by global billionaires, and why can’t they see that photo ops with Obama and the Pope are not just accidental. Nobody ever granted Berta Caraces a photo shoot in Vogue. A genuine activist today is at risk of death by the rising tide (rising fast) of fascism. Look at the heroic defense of Bolivia by the indigenous peoples of that nation. So many of whom have fought off western mining interests. And the same in Brazil where today there is a wholesale war on the indigenous. Or the vast western mining interests in Africa, and the forced displacement of entire villages to accommodate those interests — enforced by western security forces.

Much of the climate consensus seems aligned with the ruling class in a fear of a black and Asian planet, and one that is fuelled by the spectre of eugenics (making the world safe for white people). And lest you think that at all hyperbole, just spend some time investigating the activities of the Gates Foundation. It’s curious to me why so many liberals froth in admiration of Gates.

Jimmy Wu writes:

Yet capitalism’s reach extends much further than its economic effects; it also shapes our ideology and how we perceive our place in the world. Modern-day capitalism, with its unshakable faith in deregulated markets, privatization of the public sphere, and austerity budgets, has of course contributed to our financial misery, leading to mass hopelessness and anxiety. But far from being confined to economic policy, contemporary capitalism (often called “neoliberalism”) also embodies a philosophical belief that self-interest and competition, not cooperation, should pervade every aspect of our lives. In short, our world is shaped in the image of the market. For those in distress, Margaret Thatcher’s oft-cited mantra, “There is no such thing as society,” sends the most disturbing possible message: You’re on your own.2

This is the psychology of advanced capitalism. And Hollywood and mass media drive home in obsessively repetitious fashion that message of individualism. Of a ruthless individualism. In the recent V Wars (vampire wars) on Netflix, a doctor struggles valiantly throughout the first season looking for a cure. He fails. His only son abducted. In the last scene we see him, presumably months later, doing chin ups, his rock hard abs and bulging biceps glistening with sweat. He turns to face the camera and slings an AK 47 over his shoulder. He stares at camera; he is ready for season two. And the message is, don’t be a panty waist doctor, they get nothing done. Be a violent sociopathic vigilante.

Richard Slotkin in Gunfighter Nation wrote: “1890, the moment when the landed frontier of the United States was officially declared ‘closed’, the moment when ‘frontier’ became primarily a term of ideological rather than geographical location.”

That remains the principle shaper of consciousness in the US today.

Joe Jones

Now one might ask why so many on the left view the Climate discourse without any class analysis. Do you not think that if Prince Charles is supporting a cause that one might be suspicious? I mean would he betray HIS class? Not fucking likely. Would Pierre Omidyar? Would Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, or Bill Gates?? The answer is no, of course not, and yet I see people lining up to sign on board projects that are endorsed by millionaires and royals. Why? Well, because, partly, of what Jimmy Wu wrote. And I will add another quote from Wu’s piece:

The psychological toll of this market-extremist thinking is ubiquitous and measurable. A long line of social science research has shown that unemployed people are much more likely to become depressed; after all, under the reigning ideology, our self-worth is measured by our economic output. Moreover, since the market is (we are told) a level playing field, with no single actor appearing as the obvious coordinator, those who happen to be losers in this global scramble ostensibly have no one to blame but themselves.2

The same logic applies to those throwing Maduro or Morales under the bus. Or for that matter Assad. Look, if you are a leader targeted by the US there must be a reason. And that reason is independence from the global neoliberal system — and independence is not allowed. Ask the people of Iran or the DPRK or Cuba. Ask Gaddafi. The US does not do things for moral reasons. They are not motivated by ethics or morality.

The rise of fascism is also a reflection of the same conditions that spawned the ‘Greta Defender’ symptomatology.

Fascism is attractive to those who fear being identified as losers. Fascism provides a sense of belonging, of unity and purpose. American democracy does not. The ideological frontier that Slotkin noted is what defines the consciousness of most Americans, certainly white Americans. That rugged individualism that Hollywood continues to spew forth in cop shows and spy shows and lawyer shows and even doctor shows is one that is not real. There is no space, materially or psychologically, for Daniel Boone today. Most of the empty spaces of western America are owned by the federal government.

Most land overall is owned by billionaires. Sixty-one percent of the surface land of America is privately owned. And most of that is empty. The government owns around thirty percent. The working class owns nothing, essentially.

Blacks (13% of the population) own under 1% as of 2016.

But over the past decade, the nation’s wealthiest private landowners have been laying claim to ever-larger tracts of the countryside, according to data compiled by the Land Report, a magazine about land ownership in America. In 2007, according to the Land Report, the nation’s 100 largest private landowners owned a combined 27 million acres of land — equivalent to the area of Maine and New Hampshire combined.
A decade later, the 100 largest landowners have holdings of 40.2 million acres, an increase of nearly 50 percent. Their holdings are equivalent in area to the entirety of New England, minus Vermont.3

80% of the people live on 3% of the land.

Ted Turner owns over 2 million acres. John Malone over 2 million. Stan Kroenke owns over a million-and-a-half acres. The Hadley family, the Galt family, the Lee family…these are the owners of America’s land. Or Anne Marion who owns the 260,000 acre Four Sixes ranch in Texas. Or the Collier family, or the Barta family in Nebraska. All own close to a million acres of land. There are essentially 75 families, maybe a few more, that own the vast majority of land in the U.S. Jeff Bezos owns half a million acres in Texas. The Irving family owns a huge percentage of Maine, or the Reeds, who own vast swaths of northern California and Oregon.

You and I own shit. We are the new serfs in the feudalism of advanced capital. So why defend those who represent the ruling class?

The racial disparity in rural land ownership has deep historical roots based not just in chattel slavery, but in the post-slavery period as well. After emancipation, black farmers tended to be tenants of wealthy white landowners working for sub-poverty wages and doing mostly subsistence farming. Average land ownership for black farmers peaked in 1910, according to the Agriculture Census, with about 16 to 19 acres. In contrast, black farmers owned just 1.5 million acres of arable land in 1997.

In many cases, the land African Americans lost over the 20th century was expropriated in one form or another and not sold freely. In the 2007 documentary, Banished, filmmaker Marco Williams describes numerous examples of white mobs forcing out African-American farmers and taking their land. This outright stealing, intimidation, and violence had a devastating impact on black wealth ownership.4

Just as white America feared black ownership of, well, anything, the white ruling class capitalists today fear the potential for a black planet. America has military bases in all the countries of Africa save one. France and Germany and the US continue to recolonize Africa. And now, the US is directing renewed attention to Latin America where they fear indigenous power and socialist movements.

The international financial institutions, all of them situated in Europe or the US, are the contemporary expression of colonialism, essentially. They discipline and punish the dark skinned peoples of Africa, South and Central America, and many Pacific Islands. And in many cases, too, those countries which were formally part of the Soviet Union.

If you want to grasp the work of Cory Morningstar, this is not a bad place to start for now.

One cannot separate climate change from imperialism. You cannot separate climate change from militarism. If change is going to try to correct global warming, or limit its impact (which honestly nobody knows) then one must learn to read how marketing works. One must question anything applauded by the Royal families of Europe, or by billionaires in general. Those billionaires will not betray their class, rest assured. The billionaires and corporate interests behind Greta Thunberg are not looking to help the poor and working class; they are looking for massive land grabs and further raids on pensions, social security, and what’s left of working class and socialist movements. Maybe Proyect can connect the dots between the coup in Bolivia, the opposition in Venezuela (that failed state per Sale) and the big money orchestrating the Thunberg phenomenon. The ruling class stick together.

Conspiracy theory used to be reserved for invisible helicopters and such, now it’s simply any class analysis. Anytime someone points out who is funding a project there are cries of conspiracy theory.

Why would any rational person look at the Greta phenomenon and not grasp that it is manufactured? There is a lot of money behind this girl. But the non-profit industrial complex, the UN, the World Bank and IMF — they don’t do things altruistically. Capitalism is investment, not virtue. Capitalism created the crisis, it won’t solve it. Greta also retweeted the now sort of infamous Minh Ngo tweet that was part of the smear campaign against Morales. She is linked and backed, additionally, by Purpose and Avaaz — both of whom are connected to US foreign policy in South America. But Morningstar has the details here.

She also endorses and tweets support for Hong Kong colour revolution leader Joshua Wong (yet another US asset). She is, as Club de Cordeliers put it (on twitter), ‘the ruling class poster girl’. And this is not even to get into her comments about holding disobedient leaders up against the wall. The infantilism of the western public is well prepared for child leaders. This is a canny gambit by the marketing apparatus and by all indications (and articles like Proyect’s) it is working to perfection.

Greta is not anti-capitalist. She may say a few things that suggest, vaguely, an anti-capitalist sensibility, but the reality (which is what Morningstar provides) is that she works for big money, corporations and FOR capitalism.

You know when Greta gave her last speech in the US — at the UN, in fact — (where she flubbed her lines, saying creative PR and clever accounting. It was meant to be creative accounting and clever PR, but learning lines is tough) she sailed back to Europe. The captain had been flown in to sail the yacht on its return voyage. The whole thing is so ludicrous and idiotic that one really does wonder if the West is not in some trance state. The inability to read marketing as marketing is at this point inexcusable in someone self identifying as a leftist. The system sails along, like a billionaire’s yacht, increasing profit at the expense of the everyone not of the top 2 or 3%. Greta is a manufactured distraction, and all those protests that her campaign managed to generate are not to help stop war and exploitation. They are pretty much as meaningless as choosing to drive a Prius.

I will end with a quote from Cory Morningstar (from social media):

You are about to get slammed by 2 globally orchestrated campaigns 1. #GlobalGreenNewDeal 2. #NewDealForNature & People
And when I say slammed – I mean slammed. Like a hammer over your head. Another campaign to assist both is #SuperYear2020.
Goal: obtaining the social license required to re-boot / save the failing global capitalist economy. To usher in a new unprecedented era of growth. The monetization of nature, global in scale (new/ emerging markets)(see past posts). That is, the corporate capture of nature. Those with money – will literally buy nature.

The pitch: The ruling class, corporations, capital finance – all those that have happily destroyed the planet in pursuit of relentless profit have learned their lesson.They have magically changed. Those that destroyed the biosphere will now save it. And save you. All they need is your consent. Forget that capitalism devours everything in its path. They can work around this inconvenient truth. But it’s going to take everyone. There are no class divisions, we are all in this “together”. Yesterday’s capitalists are today’s activists. Accept. Join hands.

  1. “Letters from Afar,”  March/April 1917.
  2. Jimmy Wu, “Capitalism is Dangerous for your Mental Health”, Medium, 2019.
  3. Christopher Ingraham, Washington Post, 2017.
  4. Antonio Moore,  Inequality org.
[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.]

The Price of Putting a Price on Nature

“Our oceans are worth at least $24 trillion, according to a new WWF report Reviving the Ocean Economy

Medium

“The Price of Putting a Price on Nature”

September 29, 2019

By Alexa Firmenich

Lacandon teenager, gazing at the Metzabok lake which has since gone dry // Alexa Firmenich

“The economic benefit of the rainforest if it’s conserved is $8.2 billion a year”

I read these sentences, and many similar ones frequenting headlines today, and I endear us to pause and consider their implications. Consider how this information actually makes you feel. Does knowing how much the oceans are worth evoke genuine care in you? I ask because when I care, my heart beats harder in my chest. When I “care”, I feel warmth, vitality, excitement, potential. When I care, my actions arise from a place deep within — the only place that sustains authentic long-term action. I don’t want my care to arise from an economic calculation of trade-offs.

I want to care because I actually care about the ocean.

The moment that my care has a price tag on it, I can be bought. What happens if the equation is subsequently calculated differently, and fish are now worth more dead than alive? What effect would that have on my care? What actions would that then justify?

If our civilisation and our leaders depend on the above metrics to convince us to protect the oceans — if we are even asking whether a forest is worth more alive or cut down — we are asking the wrong question in the first place.

Is our highest human potential really the ability to keep a forest on a life support machine just enough so that we can keep harvesting its organs appropriately to fuel our human world? Or, is our highest potential found in the myriad of ways we can collectively imagine how to live with that forest in right relationship, asking ourselves constantly how we can help enable the forest to thrive and evolve in all its splendour?

The outcome may look the same on the surface — the forest stays in the ground and trees don’t get cut down — but the guiding intention and energy behind both actions couldn’t be further apart.

It is to this intention I am called to draw attention to.

We should strive to be fully aware of the real motivations for doing what we do. Let’s not fool ourselves. The current breakdown in our systems is not really about short term versus long term profits, nor whether our cost benefit analyses accurately capture natural capital. It is not about shareholder versus stakeholder value, Business for Good or What is Our Purpose. These things are important, part of our journey, yes, but what is hurting lies a few layers underneath.

The real question for me is whether human beings have the right to put a price, a cap and trade, a bond or a derivative, on Nature and other sentient beings — ever. Is it in our place to put a price the joy of our children, as their faces light up in rapture watching a wave crashing on the beach or an eagle hunting at sunset? On the chorus of songbirds that rouse us from a summer slumber as a faint breeze tousles our blankets? On a forest so alive that to walk through it makes your very skin tingle with the crackling of dry leaves and the smell of pine?

I’ll state it simply. Nature never has been and never will be ours to own and measure, and as long as we continue do so, it is us who will pay a steep price. The world that exists ‘out’ there, right out there where the concrete breaks away, right there where the wet earth and vines tumble out, ‘out’ there, that world is of such exquisite and beatific complexity that it will forever defy human measurement. And Thankfully. No matter how well-intentioned our attempts to instrumentalise and quantify it, to reduce Nature’s complexity is to enter into dangerous territory. Let’s not mistake the woods for the trees.

And let’s remember, that when we debase someone or something, it is ourselves we debase.

Somehow, we have to make room and allow in for this other form of “care” that arises from deep within. Somehow, we must rediscover it, ready to come alive to pour through our veins. We must remember what we already know. I say we must, because otherwise we will forever be incomplete. I still believe with all my heart that every single person on the planet knows this care. The reduction of everything to objectified measurement is only part of our story. The question is not carbon credits or fossil fuel mitigation. Even if we succeed in staying under ‘two degrees’, let’s not stop there and rest on our laurels considering the book written. Something else is profoundly wrong in our relationship with the living world and those pages are still to be written.

Some might say that over time, utilitarian values crystallise into core life values. I don’t necessarily agree and history shows us otherwise. All I know is that I am much too heartbreakingly in love with this world not to at least try to push the edges of what I think is possible in our dormant potential to truly care.

[Alexa Firmenich is the co-founder of Atlas Unbound // Journeys into the Wild, Systems Thinking & Regeneration, Weaving Stories and Paradigms // www.alexafirmenich.com ]

 

Quelo, Greta & the Neoliberal Doctrine of Multiple Truth

The Pedant

January 22, 2020

 

 

 

For public consumption. December 6, 2019. Greta Thunberg arrives at COP25 in Madrid.

 

Inside COP25, Dec 11, 2019. No public consumption required. David Shukman, BBC, Twitter: “As we wait for Greta Thunberg it’s quite striking how many delegates have not turned up for this session.”

 

*Translated from Italian to English via Google Translator.

Introduction by author:

I propose below, slightly edited, a long article by the friend Pier Paolo Dal Monte appeared a few days ago on the blog Frontiere . The analysis – so far unique in its kind, except for my oversights – has the advantage of placing the latest emergence of the “climate” in the broader methodological framework dictated by the productive and social models that today dominate without alternatives, highlighting the contradictions and omissions from the ongoing debate a true mirror of the crisis of those models and the violence destined to ensue.

Except for a few details (for example on the feasibility of relegating the capitalist model to minor activities, or on the function of ” denial ” which I would distinguish more clearly from the gatekeeping activity , while both serving the same purposes) I deeply share the thesis presented and greetings in the work by Pier Paolo a very successful attempt to unravel and document the “red thread” often perceived in the articles and comments of this blog.


Superstructure and underlying

 

“There is a big crisis”, Quelo would say , that sort of parodic crasis of saint and telepreacher that was interpreted by Corrado Guzzanti.

The crisis, is the “disturbing guest” of our times, always accompanies any present, with an up and coming of many crises: The economy, Lecology, Lademography, Lemigrations, Lapoverty, Lepidemias, Inflation, Ladeflazione … a pressing of crisis that it reduces the poor human beings like so many punched boxers who, unable to react, receive all the blows that the media pour on their poor minds.

Obviously, we cannot now speak of all the crises brought to the fore by the inexhaustible cornucopia of the media; we will therefore concentrate on only one of them which, periodically (and now, also, overwhelmingly), is brought to the attention of public opinion, that is what is called “climate crisis” or “global warming” whatever you want .

This time, to create dismay in the victims of media mythology about this “ghost who wanders the world”, a scientist with an icy and slightly abstruse language was not used, not a politician imbued with Al Gore, or a Hollywood actor on a leash (which, you never know, could have been photographed driving a Lamborghini or on board a private jet). No, none of this. This time the screenwriters of the crisis creation units outdid themselves and pulled an ideal person out of the cylinder to excite the infantilized postmodern masses: a poor overdeveloped and autistic (albeit low-grade) girl who claims to perceive (it is not known with as sense organ) the increase of CO2 in the atmosphere (which is calculated in parts per million). In conclusion,

Hats off to the screenwriters: with such scarce ingredients, they managed to create a world-wide media delicacy, which gave rise to a “movement” of equal scope, the so-called Friday for Future (in short, a long weekend), spontaneous as can be the ease shown by those who try to cross a border with a suitcase of cocaine in the trunk. And so a new form of “Hurry up!” Has been created with a global reach, a cosmic “external bond”, a state of planetary exception to which to subordinate the policies of what was once called “the west”.

In truth, this “emergency” is not as emerging as the directors of today’s inclement weather would have us believe, since the phenomenon has been studied since the 1950s, when we began to talk about the impact of increasing CO2 on anthropogenic base [1] . The phenomenon became known to world public opinion in 1988, at a hearing at the United States Congress by James Hansen, climatologist of Columbia University, who raised an alarm about the risk of global warming due, in fact, to the increase in “greenhouse gases”. In the same year the IPCC was established by the UN. This alarm was quickly followed by the “denial” response of the giants of the energy industry (to which various product sectors joined), who created a study center, the Global Climate Coalition (1989-2001), [2] with the task to refute and contrast the conclusions of the IPCC, thus adopting the typical neoliberal strategy (this too will be elucidated later) of putting “science against science”. After the dissolution of the GCC, the baton was passed on to other entities, including the Heartland Institute .

In the second half of the 90s the issue of global warming was the subject of growing attention by the media, which intensified in the early years of the new century, suffering a sudden halt on the occasion of the financial crisis of 2007/2008 and the consequent economic recession. Ubi major, minor cessat and, in the capitalist system, the major is always tied to economic issues; of course this does not mean that the other problems are not considered tout court – after all, despite what Fukuyama’s simpleton asserted, the story is not over – but that should raise some questions as to why such a crucial issue, such as global warming, should only pop up periodically. And, mind you, we do not make it a question of merit, or whether there is a climatic emergency or not, but, always and only, a question of method : an emergency should always be such, i.e. compelling and improachable, whatever are the concurrent economic or political conditions. If, on the other hand, this emergency takes on an “intermittent” character, the suspicion arises that, coeteris paribus (that is, by not questioning its veracity), the main purpose of this periodic appearance is, once again, to direct the attention of the masses towards the direction desired by those who control the system (the famous “powerful of the earth” intimidated by the girl who perceives the increase in CO2).

The existence of serious environmental problems [3] (not only climatic) has been reported since the 1960s , and it has been the beginning of the next decade that economic activity has been colored with an “ecological” nuance, turning it green (color that was fine with everything, before the notorious Paduan populists took it), the so-called “green washing”, which is also defined, with a more elegant phrase, “sustainable development”, an ineffable oxymoron that has the advantage of playing a lot well and not mean anything, since the two terms of the phrase are not characterized by precise definitions. “Development” presupposes a téloslos , an end to turn to, while “sustainable” requires a term of comparison: sustainable for whom? For what? Compared to what? Like? And so on.

In the absence of these clarifications, only an epitomic motto of the politically correct remains which testifies to the wonderful ability of capitalism to transform everything, even apparently negative factors, such as pollution and the crisis of the biosphere, into new market niches: in this incessant mimetic and reifying work has managed to create even a study discipline called “Ecological Economics” (complete with a dedicated magazine) inspired by the studies of Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen [4] (and, subsequently by Hermann Daly) who tried to highlight the incompatibility of the thermodynamic parameters with the economic ones. Like all good intentions, these studies have done nothing but pave the ways of hell leading, on the one hand, to the search for a monetary value of the “ecosystem services” (Robert Costanza) and, on the other, as was said , in the creation of new market niches surreptitiously called “bio”, “green”, “eco”, or whatever you want.

All these “washing” operations have the purpose, not only of creating new commercial niches and of transforming the remaining parts of the world into goods and markets; but also that of diverting attention from the real theme, that which inevitably leads to all the particular problems affecting capitalism, that is, the conceptual and unavoidably factual immeasurability between economic parameters and the physical world which, as Marx is well understood, resides in the primacy of the exchange value over the use value (or, before him, Aristotle when he distinguished between oikonomia and crematistics). Since the foundation of capitalism rests on the exponential accumulation of monetary means (capital), which is virtually infinite, but which must manifest itself, necessarily, in an environment that has a quantity of matter that is given, it is easy to understand how this fact may come to cause some problems.

The epistemic cage of neoliberalism

Starting from these premises, we can now talk about how the above issues are inserted in the epistemic framework that characterizes today’s capitalism, whose shape has been shaped by what has been called “neoliberalism”. As Philip Mirowski [5] (and partly also Michel Foucault, though not so explicitly [6] ) has documented, the core of neoliberal thought is not as economic as epistemological and has historically gone to connote it as a real “Collective of thought”, as Dietrich Plehwe asserted [7] (inspired by the writings of Ludwik Fleck which described the scientific enterprise as formed by “a community of people who mutually exchange ideas or maintain an intellectual interaction”). [8] Therefore it does not make much sense to consider (as many do), this phenomenon as an economic orientation or, even less, to explain it with the obsolete categories of political thought of the last century (political right, conservatism, liberalism, etc.).

This misunderstanding largely explains the failure of the movements that criticize and try to contrast the current physiognomy of capitalism (which is called “liberalism” or “neoliberalism”), [9] in which the promises that seemed implicit in the “glorious thirty years” of the post-war period were not kept, when a progressive future of well-being and equality for all seemed inevitable (at least in the countries of the so-called advanced capitalism). Not only did none of this come true, but a sort of stationary state in which previous conquests had consolidated was not maintained either. Conversely, throughout the western world, there has been a progressive decrease in well-being which is leading to the disappearance of the middle class, a reduction in services and an ever greater polarization of wealth.

Most of the criticisms have limited themselves to considering the current state of our world-form as a kind of benign disease in an otherwise healthy organism whose therapy would consist of a sort of restoration of the status quo ante (confusing the means with the end), a sort of irenic rebalancing to be obtained thanks to a restoration of effective market regulations, to an economy that returns under the control of the States, in which the primacy of manufacturing over finance is reaffirmed (the myth of the “real economy”: another chimera made up of immeasurable domains but, above all, that “forgives debtors” (Greece, poor countries, etc.). This lack of analysis has meant that movements mentioned above, were lulled into the illusion that it was enough to stage protests that “arise from below” against the “cruel and distorted state of the world”, [10] to hope to effectively combat the status quo. On the other hand, what has happened in the realm of reality is that almost all these protest movements (from the no global movement to the various colored revolutions) have proved, over time, skilled maskirovka who have kept their discontent and obstacles under control more and more possibility of contrasting the system.

It is difficult for those who are driven by the idea of “changing the world” to believe that the “spontaneity” of such protests is, in reality, the staging of a script written by others, a product ready to be put on the market of ideas. But the world created by the neoliberal collective of thought works just like this: it was able to create an all-encompassing epistemology that permeates contemporary culture with a heap of multiple truths, all equally “true”, which are able to cover all possible alternatives: from conformism to nonconformism, from reaction to revolution, from system to antisystem. A kaleidoscopic and protean regime in which a real and sensible criticism of the status quo has no basis on which to base itself (difficult to fight against something that does not have a defined form, being able to take all forms). When the world is represented, in every aspect, with a distorted image, it is almost impossible to perceive this reversal: as in the Platonic cave, viewers are led to believe that the images projected on the walls correspond to the real world.

We will not address this topic in its entirety, but we will focus only on the problem of global warming, so that it can constitute an exemplary paradigm of the aforementioned manipulation.

The neoliberal utopia and global warming

As we have said, the neo-liberal collective of thought has been able to build an entire paraphernalia of epistemic and political proposals which, in fact, have occupied the whole space of possible alternatives. Of course we are not talking about the banal and false center-right / center-left dialectic, democrats / republicans, conservatives / laborers who, however, invades the whole parliamentary space of liberal democracies. No, we are talking about a much more widespread and pervasive occupation (obliteration, when this is not possible) of all forms of thought and action, even outside the “politicized politics”, which it has managed to pack, with the complicity of the beautiful souls of progressivism of all shapes and all ages, not only, create an all-inclusive catalog of “political” proposals, capable of covering the entire range of demand from the public, with short, medium and long-term objectives .

To fully understand this operation it is good to take a small step back and briefly explain a crucial point of neoliberal epistemology. It has always rejected the false dichotomy of the state- owned laissez faire classics versus the market as antithetical devices. Unlike the latter, the neoliberals do not consider the market a place of allocation of goods (material or immaterial), but an information processor, the most effective and efficient processor known, much better than any human entity (individual or collective). [11]

Secondly – also unlike classical liberal thought and its modern offshoots – neoliberal ideology advocates a strong state which, however, does not have as its main (and not even secondary, in truth) task to control the animal spirits of the market, but that of controlling himself , or, as Marx would say, acting as a “bourgeois business committee” whose purpose is to promote, safeguard and extend the areas of the market. To carry out this supreme task, the state must operate with all its prerogatives (including that of the monopoly of force) to build a sort of market totalitarianism (a telos potentially infinite) through an ever more extensive and widespread commodification of the existing.

Also with regard to global warming (which is ecological / thermodynamic in nature), we can note the difference in approach between neoliberal and classical liberals. For the latter, the problems of the biosphere are symptoms of market malfunction (market failure), the solution of which should lie in attributing a fair price to externalities (pollution, etc.), resources and so-called ecosystem services (approach of the Ecological Economics). For neoliberals, however, this type of problem is bound to arise inevitably due to the inextricable complexity of the interactions between society and the biosphere, to understand which human knowledge is inadequate. In reality, neoliberal thinking adopts this epistemological panoply in an entirely opportunistic way, using the complexity pro domo sua : since we cannot rely on human knowledge to understand and predict this multifaceted and becoming reality, there is a need for a sort of deus ex machina, of a little devil by Maxwell, of a rhetorical fiction passed off as truth: an idealized image of a perfect market, a spontaneous authorizing officer of the spontaneous order and a supreme processor of information, the motionless (but, in fact, mobile) engine to which it is addressed the task of finding solutions to any problem. Since, however, this “spontaneous” order is not given in political systems – and we would miss more! – all the strength of a strong state is needed which, with its empire, can spontaneously spontaneously what is not spontaneous (hence also the fiction of the “free” market).

At this point, the strategy appears somewhat circular: since we cannot rely on political decisions to tackle complex problems (of which climate change is certainly part), given that the cognitive ability of decision makers is fallacious by definition, then it is decision-makers need to take a step backwards, abdicating their task and entrusting to the market [12] with a political decision! – the task of deciding which are the best solutions. But sometimes the problem is rather reluctant to be channeled casually into market mechanisms, and that of global warming is certainly part of this category. In these cases, the strategy will have to follow a more complex plan and be unraveled according to various successive stages. Here we can identify a strategy composed of different stages characterized by different strategies of manipulation of public opinion: from the promotion of scientific “denialism” to the creation of phenomena such as Greta Thunberg or Friday for Future All sides of the same coin: the “neoliberal response” to climate changes. [13]

a) Scientific “denial”

The first stage generally consists of taking time to work out the next stages. In cases like this, the most effective technique is to instill doubt in public opinion that this type of problem is not related to the economic model of today’s society (overconsumption, pollution, overexploitation of the biosphere, etc.), in a nutshell: that the market is never guilty (in this regard it is useful to point out that, for example, in the countries of the Soviet bloc the ecological problems were much more serious, etc.).

The purpose of what has been called scientific “denial”, promoted mainly by the Global Climate Coalition and then by the Heartland Foundation, to which we have already mentioned, was to control public opinion which, alarmed by the problem of global warming could have put pressure on governments to face it with political decisions, or, as we said, to take time to develop appropriate solutions to bring the issue back into the market. The “denialist” solution, albeit of a temporary nature, had the advantage of being quickly deployable and cheap and of diverting the public’s attention from the appropriate arguments.

The strategy of the “neoliberal collective of thought” has it that the first response to a political challenge must always be epistemological: [14] it is necessary to question what constitutes the topic of this challenge, in this case, to deny the problem and delay indefinitely with sterile diatribes regarding merit (that is, whether or not there is global warming on an anthropogenic basis). The “market of ideas” must always be sprayed with doubt so that, as an effective herbicide, it can only develop the desired plants (ideas). This technique, described by the historian Robert Proctor under the name of , [15] has proved very effective over time.

Neoliberal doctrine formally defends anyone’s right to uphold any foolishness with equal right (the “wisdom of the masses”) [16] because, ultimately, the realm in which truth is established is always the market. The latter, however, is never free as he is passed off, but is controlled by those to whom it is convenient that he is passed off as free (and certainly not by that group of experts who represents “official science”). In fact, the neoliberal doctrine coincides perfectly with that of Quelo: “the answer is within you, and yet it is sbajata [unless it coincides with ours]”. [17]

This first stage, however, is far from sufficient to channel the problem into market mechanisms, therefore it is necessary to elaborate the subsequent stages making sure that they unfold through a product offer that is able to cover the entire spectrum of the “question “of” solutions”. It is also necessary that each of these implies the creation of a profit and, possibly, that extends the sphere of the market to areas never touched before.

b) The marketing of CO2 and accumulation by expropriation

After this first agnotological stage, the market has to enter at some point. In this case, market action unfolds along two main lines: the first is constituted by monetization and the consequent financialisation of ecosystem services, that is, by the creation of CO2 emission permits; the second, from what David Harvey called “accumulation by expropriation”.

The establishment of emission permit markets constituted a clever strategy to build a new commodity and financial sector, but also to convince political actors that the answer to the problem of climate change, that is, the decrease in the emission of greenhouse gases were to compete with markets instead of governments: something that should have been political was marketed . Of course, this “solution” did not lead to any result, for what was the stated purpose: in fact it did not prevent the emission of a single CO2 molecule. [18] On the other hand, this was certainly not the real purpose, which vice versa, was to use the excuse of global warming to create a new financial instrument out of thin air, a virtual commodity that commoditizes a physical data, moreover virtualized, a new derivative from enter the great forge of finance by providing operators with an additional speculative tool to be transformed into real currency.

The other arm of the medium-term strategy was that of accumulation by expropriation, which deserves a few words of explanation:

Marx’s description of “primitive accumulation” includes phenomena such as the commodification and privatization of the land and the expulsion from it of the peasant population; the conversion of various forms of collective property into private property; the commodification of the workforce and the elimination of alternatives to it; colonial or neocolonial appropriation processes of natural goods and resources; monetization of trade and taxation of land; slave trade; usury; public debt and the credit system. [19]

One might think that these types of accumulation are a legacy of the past, of the times of nascent capitalism and of those in which it began to assert itself in an ever more extensive and widespread manner.

For this purpose both legal and illegal methods are adopted […] Among the legal means include the privatization of what were once considered common property resources (such as water and education), the use of the power of expropriation for public utility, the widespread use of acquisitions, mergers and so on that lead to the splitting of company activities, or, for example, the evasion of social security and health obligations through bankruptcy procedures. The capital losses suffered by many during the recent crisis can be considered a form of expropriation that could give rise to further accumulation, since speculators today buy undervalued assets with the aim of reselling them when the market improves, making a profit.[20]

One of the most subtle forms of accumulation by expropriation is to surreptitiously drain public money, or directly from the pockets of citizens, to generate a private profit through ad hoc taxation , or to oblige the population to consume through the imposition decreed by the power of the State.

An example of the first type of practice is, without a doubt, that of renewable energy production plants (wind, photovoltaic, hydroelectric etc.) which are cases in which the energy produced is remunerated at a price higher than the market price (otherwise not would be economically viable). In this case, the surcharge is paid by general taxation or by an additional outlay in the electricity supply tariffs. Except for the small production (in terms of MW / h) of the plants for family use, most of the electricity generation from these sources comes from large plants for which the investment is supported by large investors, generally financial companies . [21]This is a case in which the State operates as a perfect market agent: instead of promoting, with direct action, the much-vaunted “energy transition”, it promotes a system in which the profits of financial companies are borne by citizens through an increase in energy costs or through general taxation.

Another example of this type of accumulation, even if a little more indirect, is that of vehicles used for road transport. In this case, the State intervenes by changing the regulations that regulate the emissions of vehicles (especially those of CO2) and by inhibiting circulation for those vehicles that do not respect the imposed parameters. This marketing technique conducted through the force of the law currently forces users to change vehicles through a sort of programmed obsolescence de jure, and opens the way to new market niches (electric vehicles, hybrids, etc.). Obviously, this is another trick to force citizens to pay money in a certain sense forced, without any benefit as regards CO2 emissions as such, if we consider that the production process of a car, is responsible for a production of CO2 that is, on average, higher than that which the same car will produce in its cycle of use (probably, from this point of view, it would be more ecological to keep the same car for a few decades, but this does not help the market). [22]

Of course, to impose this vision on the population without too many accidents (which, for example, has not succeeded in France), [23] it is necessary to prepare public opinion with massive moralizing campaigns, such as the one for which they are using the girl who intimidates those “powerful of the earth” who have everything to gain from the creation of new market niches. However, the inexhaustible cornucopia of ideas of the collective of neoliberal thought does not end here, but is always launched towards new horizons.

c) Geoengineering and other neoliberal dystopias

Given that the emissions permit system and the myriad of renewable energy systems are now outdated solutions, even if they served the purpose very well, which was to extend the dominance of the market or extract money from the pockets of the population and governments , it is time to overcome these relics of the past with the long-term neoliberal solution: geoengineering. Here we come to the very core of the Doctrine, which postulates that entrepreneurial ingenuity, if left free to manifest its drives of “creative destruction”, may be able to find market solutions to solve any problem. Ideas cannot be left unproductive. When there is a possibility, they should be included in the political discourse and pursued by all means. It is therefore time to open incredible new opportunities (!) To transform parts of the globe into goods and markets that no one thought could have had this destiny – and this destination. Geoengineering represents the futuristic and science fiction face of neoliberalism and, together with the delusions of genetic engineering and artificial intelligence, its most dystopian face.

“Geoengineering” is a sort of collective definition that identifies a wide range of large-scale manipulations aimed at modifying the climate of the earth, to “correct” climate change. It includes “solutions” such as the artificial increase of the planet’s albedo through various types of “management” of solar radiation (through the diffusion of reflective particles in the stratosphere, the installation of mirrors in the space orbit or the covering of deserts with reflective material); the increase in the sequestration of CO2 by the oceans through the stimulation of the growth of phytoplankton (fertilization of the oceans with nutrients, mixing of the layers) or of the mainland (burial of plant residues; introduction of genetically modified organisms, or, again, the extraction and confinement of CO2 directly to the point of emission). This sort of delusional ideation has rather close connections with the “collective of neoliberal thought” as several institutions that are its direct emanation, such as the American Enterprise Institute, Ii Cato Institute, the Hoover Institution and the Competitive Enterprise Institute, deal with active in the promotion of geoengineering. The academic temple of neoliberalism itself, the Chicago School of Economics, has publicly supported this delusion the Hoover Institution and the Competititive Enterprise Institute are very active in promoting geoengineering. The academic temple of neoliberalism itself, the Chicago School of Economics, has publicly supported this delusion the Hoover Institution and the Competitive Enterprise Institute are very active in promoting geoengineering. The academic temple of neoliberalism itself, the Chicago School of Economics, has publicly supported this delusion[24] .

Of course, these projects are only lysergic hallucinations brought to an institutionally recognized level : see under the heading: “says Lascienza”. But this amazing science, in these cases, can only assert hypotheses that have no chance of being tested experimentally. There is no way of verifying the hypothesized assumptions ex ante , let alone unwanted effects. Here the laboratory is made up of the whole world and the ex post could be a catastrophe of unimaginable proportions . But evidently these considerations do not have the power to scratch the adamantine determination of our apprentice sorcerers burned by the sacred fire of Prometheus. Ça va sans direthat these amazing proposals would act only on the effects and certainly not on the causes of the problem. On the other hand, acting on the causes would mean questioning the bases on which capitalism itself rests while according to the neoliberal epistème. If capitalism has caused problems, the solution is: more capitalism!

So, geoengineering solutions bring enormous advantages according to neoliberal criteria, because they do not limit consolidated markets (never let less Hallo Kitty or cheeseburgers be produced in the world, or that indoor skiing can no longer be done in Dubai! ), but expands market areas towards new horizons: nothing less than the privatization of the atmosphere and climate. Because, if it was not understood, the purpose is this, as well as putting the planet hostage of some private entities (those that develop patent-protected “solutions”), [25] so that they can profit from something that, magically , it can become a commodity with a few strokes of the pen, with the excuse of a global “hurry up!” because “the next generations ask us”.

***

This closes the circle. In the amazing world of Quelo and Greta, teknè is politicized through yet another circular reasoning, because the problems are too complex to be addressed with solutions that are not technical (the answer is within you, and yet it is sbajata), until completely obliterate the space of politics other than that of a mere “bourgeois business committee”. Because there is no alternative to the truths of a science that has become dogma and of a society that has abandoned any dogma that is not that of the market order, that according to which the “providence that governs the world” acts with an invisible hand so that the mystery of creation can be manifested.

The same science has abandoned any epistemic function to become a mere management paradigm and has no greater meaning, as far as knowledge of the world is concerned, than the rules of the Monopoly have. The order of the market remained the only praxis that guides human actions and the only tealos , autotelic and perpetually progressive, to which the gaze of what we once used to call civilization turns.

 


  1. The most relevant studies were conducted by Hans Suess, Gilbert Plass, Roger Revelle and Charles Keeling.
  2. United States Chamber of Commerce. Source: K. Brill, “Your meeting with members of the Global Climate Coalition”, United States Department of State, 2001.
  3. At least since the release of Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring (1962).
  4. In turn influenced by the studies of Frederick Soddy.
  5. In P. Mirowski, Never let a serious crisis go to waste , Verso, London-New York, 2013; P. Mirowski, D. Plehwe, The Road from Monte Pelerin , Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 2009.
  6. In M. Foucault, The Birth of Biopolitics. Lectures at the Collège de France 1978–79 , Palgrave McMillan, Basingstoke, 2008.
  7. In P. Mirowski, D. Plehwe, cit., P. 4 ff .; 417 ff.
  8. In L. Fleck, The Genesis and Development of a Scientific Fact , University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1979.
  9. Linguistic residue of the sterile diatribe between Benedetto Croce and Luigi Einaudi, which dates back to the late 1920s.
  10. In P. Mirowski, Never let a serious crisis go to waste , cit., Cap. 6.
  11. In P. Mirowski, “Naturalizing the market on the road to revisionism: Bruce Caldwell’s Hayek’s challenge and the challenge of Hayek interpretation”, in Journal of Institutional Economics , 2007.
  12. Which also includes the science that has proven its success in the “market of ideas”, which is also spontaneous as the drug dealer at the aforementioned customs.
  13. In P. Mirowski, Never let a serious crisis go to waste , cit.
  14. Ibid.
  15. In RN Proctor, L. Schiebinger, Agnotology. The Making and Unmaking of Ignorance , Stanford University Press, 2008.
  16. See FA Hayek, “The use of knowledge in society”, in American Economic Review , XXXV, No. 4, September 1945, pp. 519-30.
  17. “First and foremost, neoliberalism masquerades as a radically populist philosophy, which begins with a set of philosophical theses about knowledge and its relationship to society. It seems to be a radical leveling philosophy, denigrating expertise and elite pretensions to hard-won knowledge, instead praising the “wisdom of crowds.” It appeals to the vanity of every self-absorbed narcissist, who would be glad to ridicule intellectuals as ” professional secondhand dealers in ideas. “In Hayekian language, it elevates a” cosmos “—a supposed spontaneous order that no one has intentionally designed or structured — over a” taxis “—rationally constructed orders designed to achieve intentional ends. But the second, and linked lesson, is that neoliberals are simultaneously elitists: they do not in fact practice what they preach. When it comes to actually organizing something, almost anything, from a Wiki to the Mont Pèlerin Society, suddenly the cosmos collapses to a taxis. In Wikipedia, what looks like a libertarian paradise is in fact a thinly disguised totalitarian hierarchy “(in P. Mirowski, D. Plehwe,The Road from Monte Pelerin , cit., Pp. 425-426).
  18. The estimate is from the research office of the Swiss bank UBS, in a customer report of November 2011 (see https://www.thegwpf.com/europes-287-billion-carbon-waste-ubs-report).
  19. In D. Harvey, “The ‘new’ imperialism: accumulation by dispossession”, in Socialist Register , No. 40, p. 74.
  20. In D. Harvey, L’enigma del Capitale , Feltrinelli, Milan, 2011, pp. 60-61.
  21. Typically based abroad, if we refer to Italy or even to the so-called developing countries.
  22. See S. Kagawa, K. Hubacek, K. Nansai, M. Kataoka, S. Managi, S. Suh, Y. Kudoh, “Better cars or older cars ?: Assessing CO2 emission reduction potential of passenger vehicle replacement programs”, in Global Environmental Change , Volume 23, Issue 6, December 2013, pp. 1807-1818; M. Messagie, “Life Cycle Analysis of the Climate Impact of Electric Vehicles”, in Transport and environment , 2014; H. Helms, M. Pehnt, U. Lambrecht, A. Liebich, “Electric vehicle and plug-in hybrid energy efficiency and life cycle emissions”, 18th International Symposium Transport and Air Pollution, 2010.
  23. Recall that the factor that triggered the revolt of the Jaunes vests was precisely the tightening of the parameters for vehicle emissions. Of course, these mainly concerned vehicles of a certain age, which are those that guaranteed the mobility of the poorest population (in the presence of concomitant dismantling of public transport networks in the vicinity).
  24. See P. Mirowski, Never let a serious crisis go to waste, cit.
  25. See D. Cressy, “Geoengineering Experiment Canceled Amid Patent Row”, in Nature , No. 15, May 2012; M. Specter, “The Climate Fixers”, in The New Yorker , May, 2012.

 

The Orginal article in Italian can be accessed here.

State of the Empire: Reviewing 2019

State of the Empire: Reviewing 2019

Zero Anthropology

December 31, 291

 

The Insane Nexus of “Natural Capital” & the Rights of Nature

The Insane Nexus of “Natural Capital” & the Rights of Nature

January 3, 2020

By Michael Swifte

 

To my mind, the concepts the ‘rights of nature’ and ‘natural capital’ are counterposed. To me, Rights of Nature thinking supports the recognition of nature’s pricelessness, its intrinsic value, its interdependentness; whereas Natural Capital thinking supports, as Clive Spash says, “the commensuration of all values”.

Natural Capital proponents will always say that their concern is with conserving and protecting nature, but it is the process of ‘commensuration’ that transforms responsible stewardship into opportunities to exploit nature for profit. Nature is transformed from something of intrinsic value to be preserved and protected, to an asset class delivering ‘services’ for humans and great returns on investment.

Natural Capital and ecosystem services are the products of what Derrick Jensen in his 2015 Open Letter to Reclaim Environmentalism calls the “Conservation Industrial Complex”.

It is in the intersection of environmentalism and corporate conservation that I encountered the insanity of trying to engage simultaneously with two counterposed ideas.

3 Moments

I will outline 3 moments that left my head spinning. I will highlight moments when individuals and organisations that are deeply committed to Natural Capital thinking engage with individuals and organisations that are committed to promoting the intrinsic rights of mother nature. In these moments the fundamental contradictions between these 2 types of thinking did not become apparent to those involved. My concern is particularly with the absence of a contest of ideas. Surely those advocating for the Rights of Nature should be shouting out about the risks posed by further integrating our care for nature into the sphere of financial reckoning?

Context: Rights of Nature

People's Agreement of Cochabamba

People’s Agreement of Cochabamba

 

In 2016 the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund – International Center for the Rights of Nature prepared an historical timeline presenting key moments in the development of the Rights of Nature ‘movement’. While ideas were posited as far back as 1972, it wasn’t until the late 2000s that Rights of Nature were formally recognised under the provisions of local, state or national governments. Ecuador is the most often cited example having recognised the Rights of Nature in its constitution in 2008, but it wasn’t till 2010 that a collective voice was heard. [SOURCE]

In April 2010 the ‘People’s Agreement of Cochabamba’ presented an historic formulation and assertion of The Rights of Mother Nature:

In an interdependent system in which human beings are only one component, it is not possible to recognise rights only to the human part without provoking an imbalance in the system as a whole. To guarantee human rights and to restore harmony with nature, it is necessary to effectively recognize and apply the rights of Mother Earth. [SOURCE]

Rights of Nature as a position of environmental advocacy has been carried forward over the last decade by various organisations including the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, Australian Earth Laws Alliance and Mumta Ito’s Natures-Rights.org.

Context: Natural Capital

May 15, 1997

May 15, 1997

 

Natural Capital thinking finds its roots in the merging of economics and ecology that was started at the 1982 Wallenberg Symposium in Sweden which was themed ‘Integrating Ecology and Economics’. In attendance at the Wallenberg Symposium was before a brief stint with the World Bank where he advocated for “rights to pollute” within his ‘steady state’ framework. In 1997 Costanza had the dubious honour of being the first person to present a Natural Capital valuation of the whole earth’s “biosphere” at somewhere between US$16-54 trillion per year.

In her 2007 obituary of Ecological Economics co-founder AnnMari Jansson for the  International Society for Ecological Economics newsletter, Karin E. Limburg highlights the “chasm” between ecology and economics at the first Wallenberg Symposium:

Several days of intensive meetings brought home the philosophical chasm between these disciplines, but also made it clear that there was some common ground to be nurtured. [SOURCE]

All the most wealthy conservation organisations on the planet support Natural Capital thinking through various means; WWF, The Nature Conservancy, and Conservation International being prime among them. Collectively these organisations who are deeply engaged with corporations and governments, and in possession of unprecedented access to land and resources in the global south are represented by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Nature or Natural Capital is viewed by the Conservation Industrial Complex, embodied by the IUCN, as a “stock”, “producing value for people”. Under a policy motion prepared for the IUCN for the World Conservation Congress 2020 in Marseille the IUCN envisage their role as sustainable managers of nature to deliver “goods and services”. [SOURCE]

Mumta Ito, Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature

It’s hard to know what became of the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature’s (GARN) efforts to get the IUCN to operationalise recognition of the Rights of Nature. The trail goes cold in 2017 after an event hosted by Nature’s Rights in the European Parliament in Brussels. [SOURCE]

Between 2012 when the first Rights of Nature resolution was presented at the IUCN World Congress, and 2017 when the IUCN Global Programme 2017-2020 came into action, Rights of Nature advocates led by Mumta Ito put in significant efforts imploring the IUCN member organisations to incorporate nature’s rights in “all its initiatives”.

Between 2012 and now many IUCN member organisations have accelerated their efforts to push forward with the ‘natural capital approach’. The Natural Capital Coalition was formed in 2012 and the Natural Capital Protocol was launched in 2016.

Here is a quote from Conservation International CEO Peter Seligmann upon the launch of the Natural Capital Protocol:

The urgency of addressing climate change requires innovations across all sectors of society. This is why Conservation International strongly supports the innovations of the Natural Capital Protocol. Their breakthrough methodology provides Businesses with the tools to understand their dependency on nature and their impact on nature. This is essential if they want to achieve sustainability. It is a challenge that enlightened business leaders should undertake for their bottom line, as well as for the interest of humanity and the preservation of the benefits we all receive from nature: fresh air, clean water and food production. [SOURCE]

2012

The Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature (GARN) asked for nothing less than a deep commitment from IUCN member organisations. Here’s a selection from the resolution presented to the IUCN at the 2012 World Conservation Congress:

RECALLING that the Peoples’ World Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth held in Cochabamba, Bolivia, in April 2010, resulted in a Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth, announced and supported by indigenous peoples and social movements, who, as representatives of an active civil society call on their governments and the United Nations to include this topic in key debates such as those on climate change and biodiversity; [SOURCE]

2016

At the IUCN World Conservation Congress in 2016 the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature again asserted the need for a deep commitment from the IUCN.

We ask for your support in urging the IUCN to implement its 2012 Resolution on nature’s rights. WCC-2012-Res-100, “Incorporation of the Rights of Nature as the organizational focal point in IUCN’s decision making,” calls on the IUCN to adopt a Declaration of the Rights of Nature and incorporate nature’s rights into all its initiatives. Help us ensure the IUCN makes implementation of this Resolution a key action item in its 2017-2020 work program. [SOURCE]

In a TedXFindhorn talk in 2016 Mumta Ito argued for the implementation of the Rights of Nature “in law”. My concern is that her argument that implementing Rights of Nature is a “counterbalance to corporate rights” puts the cart before the horse. Corporate rights are being advanced through Natural Capital projects supported by the IUCN and its member organisations. GARN and Mumta Ito have implored the IUCN and its members to operationalise the Rights of Nature while the architecture supporting Natural Capital has rapidly expanded.

Rights of Nature proponents do not challenge Natural Capital thinking in their advocacy. Rights of Nature cannot act as a counterbalance against corporate rights unless it is operationalised. Merely promoting Rights of Nature without at least attending to the possible threats posed by Natural Capital thinking does nothing to contest the appropriateness of measuring and managing nature into the sphere of financial interests rather than into the interests of priceless nature. If Natural Capital thinking can coexist or supplement the operationalisation of the Rights of Nature then Mumta Ito and GARN ought to be on record somewhere making that case. The reality is that Natural Capital thinking, and the projects initiated and supported by IUCN members like The Nature Conservancy, WWF and Conservation International are barely given any consideration by Rights of Nature advocates.

Here I’ve transcribed a quote from Mumta Ito’s TedXFindhorn talk:

Establishing rights of nature in law is the first step to moving us to a holistic paradigm of ecological governance, and it’s also a very powerful counterbalance to corporate rights. It’s a game changer.[SOURCE]

The response by the French representatives to the inclusion of “the rights of nature” in the IUCN Programme 2017–2020 makes clear that no additional Rights of Nature have been conferred.

France supports the IUCN Programme 2017–2020. Concerning the inclusion of “the rights of nature” in Programme Area 2 (Objectives 14 and 15), France interprets the terminology used in the Programme as creating no additional rights to those that France recognises in its national legislation and within the framework of the United Nations.[SOURCE]

The ‘IUCN Programme 2017-2020 Draft 2’ suggests that the IUCN will spread the word about the Rights of Nature. The text of the only reference to the “rights of nature” in the 2017-20 programme  suggests that Rights of Nature will be used to inform certain approaches to conservation, but it does not suggest anything like operationalisation. Aiming to “secure” Rights of Nature is not the same as adopting the ‘Declaration of the Rights of Nature’.

IUCN also aims to secure the rights of nature and the vulnerable parts of society through strengthening governance and the rights-based approach to conservation. Knowledge is disseminated widely and is taken up widely by the Union itself, the international system, governments, the donor community, the business sector, individual scientists and practitioners. [SOURCE]

2017

In March of 2017 Nature’s Rights held an event at the European Parliament in Brussels titled ‘Nature’s Rights Conference: The Missing Piece of the Puzzle’. This event seems to be the last hurrah for the Rights of Nature.

I keep coming back to this particular moment in my research and I wonder where the battle went from here. I suspect Rights of Nature have been disintegrated into the “rights-based approach” referred to in the 2017-2020 programme.

Luc Bas, Director, IUCN European Regional Office was non-committal in his response to pressure to support a Universal Declaration of the Rights of Nature:

Being a science-based and evidence-based organisation, IUCN will continue to explore and evaluate the benefits of such an initiative, [SOURCE]

2020

The IUCN have 128 motions listed for their 2020 World Conservation Congress. None contain any reference to the “rights of nature”. [SOURCE]

Here is a quote from ‘IUCN World Conservation Congress 2020 – Motion 062: Towards a Policy on Natural Capital’.

Natural capital is defined in these Principles as the stock of natural ecosystems on Earth including air, water, land, soil, biodiversity and geological resources. This stock underpins our economy and society by producing value for people, both directly and indirectly. Goods and services provided to humans by sustainably managed natural capital include a range of social and environmental benefits including clean air and water, climate change mitigation and adaptation, food, energy, places to live, materials for products, recreation and protection from hazards. [SOURCE]

Robert Costanza and NENA 2017

Robert Costanza was one of the guests at the New Economy Network Australia (NENA) annual conference 2017. NENA was founded and is directed by the founder and convenor of Australian Earth laws Alliance (AELA), Dr Michelle Maloney. AELA are the most active proponents of Rights of Nature in Australia having partnered with Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) on a 2018 campaign for Rights of the Great Barrier Reef. [SOURCE]

Costanza sits on the Earth Economics – Advisory Group along with Herman Daly, Annie Leonard (Greenpeace USA) and former Gund Institute colleague Joshua Farley. The Gund Institute are members of the New Economy Coalition and played a leadership role in the development of the Natural Capital Approach that is at the heart of the Natural Capital Project which is a partnership between The Nature Conservancy, WWF, and Stanford University. The Natural Capital Approach is defined here with crucial input from Natural Capital Project partners and the Gund Institute:

A means for identifying and quantifying the natural environment and associated ecosystem services leading to better decision-making for managing, preserving and restoring natural environments. [SOURCE]

I sat outside The Edge conference hall in Brisbane as Robert Costanza presented to the New Economy Network Australia conference in 2017. I tweeted furiously to the conference hash-tags while Costanza offered his 1997 valuation of the earth’s biosphere. I received zero replies.

I cannot comprehend how the conference organiser Dr Michelle Maloney reconciled herself with the imperatives and networks behind Natural Capital thinking while trying to promote Rights of Nature thinking.

You can view Costanza’s slide presentation here:

The Reforms Needed to Build an Ecological Economy

Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, Deep Green Resistance and Spencer Beebe

"After a century as a hub for the goods of the industrial economy, our building has become a focal point for a new economy in which “Natural Capital” — the flow of goods and services from nature — is our measure of prosperity and resilience."The 70,000-square-foot Natural Capital Center also houses Ecotrust's headquarters and a mix of nonprofit and business tenants gathered around the themes of ecological forestry and fisheries, green building, technology and financial investment. Patagonia, the outdoor clothing company known for its environmental ethic, is our retail anchor, working in its largest retail outlet anywhere."

“After a century as a hub for the goods of the industrial economy, our building has become a focal point for a new economy in which “Natural Capital” — the flow of goods and services from nature — is our measure of prosperity and resilience.” “The 70,000-square-foot Natural Capital Center also houses Ecotrust’s headquarters and a mix of nonprofit and business tenants gathered around the themes of ecological forestry and fisheries, green building, technology and financial investment. Patagonia, the outdoor clothing company known for its environmental ethic, is our retail anchor, working in its largest retail outlet anywhere.”

Image: [Source] [Source] [Source]

When the Community Legal Defense Fund and Deep Green Resistance lawsuit against the State of Colorado was summarily dismissed in October 2017 I started to look at the environmental organisations that engage Natural Capital thinking in regard to the Colorado River Basin. I found that Earth Economics had completed an assessment of “nature’s value” in the Colorado River Basin in 2014. The identified/key stakeholders in the Colorado River Basin were utilities and irrigation companies. Here is a quote from ‘Nature’s Value in the Colorado River Basin’:

Based on the ecosystem services examined and treated like an asset with a lifespan of 100 years, the Colorado River Basin has an asset value between $1.8 trillion and $12.1 trillion at a 4.125 percent discount rate. [SOURCE]

When I looked at the staff and advisory board membership of CELDF I found connections to both Derrick Jensen’s ‘Open Letter to Reclaim Environmentalism’, and the Conservation Industrial Complex. I also wondered how it was possible that DGR and CELDF did not give consideration to environmental organisations that employ Natural Capital thinking in the Colorado River Basin. Surely a key component of the risk assessment for a significant law suit would include consideration of the economic stakeholders in the Colorado River Basin?

Thomas Linzey is the founder and senior legal counsel of CELDF as well as a signatory to Jensen’s open letter. On the advisory board with Jensen is Spencer Beebe, the founder of Ecotrust. It is Beebe’s career in the Conservation Industrial Complex that I will unpack here.

Beebe could be said to be the embodiment of the Conservation Industrial Complex. He spent 14 years working with The Nature Conservancy before becoming the founding president of Conservation International.

He developed the Ecotrust headquarters in Portland with a 2 million loan from the Ford Foundation and named it the ‘Natural Capital Center’.

our building has become a focal point for a new economy in which “Natural Capital” — the flow of goods and services from nature — is our measure of prosperity and resilience [SOURCE]

Ecotrust clearly treat nature as an asset class, a set of ecosystem services to be valued, data captured, and capital to be managed. A biography written by Aaron Reuben in 2014 outlines the engagement of the financial sector in the work of Ecotrust:

Early on, Ecotrust partnered with ShoreBank to form a community development bank, ShoreBank Pacific (now Beneficial State Bank), to support small and natural resource-based businesses with sustainability goals, including fishing, farming and redevelopment enterprises. Beneficial State now manages $500 million in sustainability-minded assets across the Pacific Northwest. Ecotrust also started the world’s first forest ecosystem investment fund, with the goal of generating profits for investors through the sale of forest products, like timber, and ecosystem services, like wildlife habitat and carbon sequestration. In all, according to the organization, Ecotrust has “converted $30 million in grants into more than $1 billion in capital assets at work for local people, businesses, and organizations from Alaska to California.” [SOURCE]

In 2016 Ecotrust partnered with Earth Economics on a ‘Pure Water Partnership’ with Eugene Water and Electric Board (EWEB) who have dams and power stations on the McKenzie River.

The following quote is from a news item titled ‘Eugene’s Incentive Based Approach to Protecting Water Supply’ posted to the Earth Economics website in November 2016:

The work has involved partnership with other key organizations – Ecotrust, our primary partner, provided all of the GIS mapping and biophysical data, including collecting shade and carbon data.

Early in 2017 the utility EWEB announced that it was beginning a rehabilitation and modernisation project. It’s clear to see that the utility was the primary beneficiary of Ecotrust’s work in collaboration with Earth Economics.

The Eugene Water & Electric Board (EWEB) announced beginning March 27, and continuing for the next five years, it will begin a US$100 million rehabilitation and modernization project at its 114-MW Carmen-Smith hydroelectric facility along the upper McKenzie River, about 70 miles east of Eugene, Ore. [SOURCE]

Long term plans for the McKenzie River are to be led by the utility. Here are 2 quotes from a document titled ‘McKenzie River Sub-basin Strategic Action Plan for Aquatic and Riparian Conservation and Restoration, 2016-2026’:

McKenzie Collaborative: This group was formed in 2012 to develop new programs that protect water quality and protect and restore habitat. The Voluntary Incentives Program (VIP) and the McKenzie Watershed Stewardship Group are products of the Collaborative. Member organizations are CPRCD, Earth Economics, Ecotrust, EWEB, LCOG, MRT, MWC, MWMC, OSU, The Freshwater Trust (TFT), UO, USFS, and UWSWCD. The group is led by EWEB and meets monthly on the second Friday.

 

Ecosystem Valuation and the Economic Benefits of Source Protection EWEB recognizes that the McKenzie Watershed is an extremely valuable asset. Although the natural services that it provides are not financially accounted for in traditional economic models, new methods are being developed attempt to place value on this ‘natural capital.’ In 2010, EWEB hired Earth Economics to conduct a watershed valuation, which estimated the annual value of McKenzie Watershed ecosystem services at between $248 million to $2.4 billion. Services include things such as water supply, flood mitigation, soil erosion control and many other ecosystem services. [SOURCE]

No Contest

The proponents of the Rights of Nature are failing to contest the greatest threat to the achieving their objectives. The integration of the measurement and the management of nature and natural resources,  and watersheds and carbon sinks into our existing systems of corporate finance continues unabated. Promoting the Rights of Nature through entreaties to collective bodies and legal actions against governments does not necessarily function as a challenge to Natural Capital thinking. Former Managing Director at JP Morgan and Capital Institute founder John Fullerton has integrated Natural Capital thinking in his ‘regenerative capitalism’ concept. John Elkington, B Corporation boss and corporate responsibility ‘leader’ has a new book coming out called ‘Green Swans: The Coming Boom In Regenerative Capitalism’. The commensuration of all values is taking place at speed under the #NaturalClimateSolutions hash-tag underwritten by the leading lights of the Conservation Industrial Complex. Proponents of the Rights of Nature need to take account of the language of ‘assets’, ‘investments’ and ‘services’ used by the proponents of Natural Capital thinking and their clients.  Rights of Nature proponents need to name the problem and contest the ideas presented by those individuals and entities who are promoting dangerous and counterposed thinking. The Rights of Nature is a revolutionary demand requiring a clear and uncompromising response. Natural Capital thinking only offers capitalist reform which only ever leads to business as usual.

 

Notes:

*The following notes provide some background to the work of Conservation International in its first year of operation under the leadership of Spencer Beebe and Peter Seligmann. Debt-for-nature swaps were a vital tool for the penetration of conservation organisations into the developing world and establishing the groundwork for the implementation of Natural Capital thinking.

1.‘Eco Rover: It’s Hard to Pin Down Spencer Beebe’ By Aaron Reuben

1987, in search of a more nimble organization, he and fellow Yale alum Peter Seligmann co-founded Conservation International (CI) to pursue the same goal, global biodiversity conservation, through more innovative means. (One of CI’s first actions was to complete the world’s first “debt for nature swap,” buying foreign debt from Bolivia in exchange for the creation of a three million acre nature reserve).

https://environment.yale.edu/news/article/eco-rover-its-hard-to-pin-down-spencer-beebe/

2.‘Tropical Rain Forests: Bolivia’

In 1987 Conservation International initiated the first “debt-for-nature” swap when it purchased $650,000 worth of Bolivian debt for only $100,000.

https://rainforests.mongabay.com/20bolivia.htm

3.‘A Challenge to Conservationists’ By Mac Chapin

*It took Conservation International 1 year to engineer the world’s first debt for nature swap.

Conservation International began in dramatic fashion in 1986. During the previous several years, TNC’s international program had grown rapidly, and tension with its other programs had mounted. When TNC’s central management tried to rein it in, virtually the entire international staff bolted and transformed itself into CI. From the start, the new organization was well equipped with staff, contacts, and money it had assembled before-hand.  In  1989,  it  brought  in  yet  another  group  of defectors—this time from WWF—and began expanding with the help of an aggressive fundraising machine that  has  become  the  envy  of  all  of  its  competitors. However, a substantial portion of its funding comes from just  four  organizations:  the  Gordon  &  Betty  MooreFoundation,  the  MacArthur  Foundation,  the  World Bank,  and  the  Global  Environment  Facility  (GEF).

https://redd-monitor.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/WorldWatch-Chapin.pdf

4.‘Profiles of Impact: Swapping Debt for Nature in Bolivia’ By Maria Rodriguez

In 1987 — the year that both Conservation International (CI) and Vanguard Communications were founded — CI undertook the first-ever “debt-for-nature” swap between Citicorp and the government of Bolivia. Vanguard publicized the groundbreaking deal, wherein CI purchased a portion of Bolivia’s foreign debt in exchange for the protection and management of nearly 3.7 million acres in the Beni Biosphere Reserve.

[]

Conservation International is also turning 30 this year, and now employs more than 1,000 people and works with more than 2,000 partners in 30 countries. Vanguard President Maria Rodriguez caught up with CI’s CEO, Peter Seligmann, to discuss how this groundbreaking deal paved the way for CI and the work it does today. 

  1. What’s your best memory of that July day back in 1987 when you announced the first debt-for-nature swap?

 “A couple of things stand out. First, it was so powerful to demonstrate that foreign debt accrued by countries impacted the health of tropical forests and there was a way to solve that problem. We were able to do something truly worthy that impacted the ultimate health and well-being of a nation.

 “Second, the announcement was essentially the coming-out party for Conservation International, since we’d just opened our doors at the end of January of that same year. What an impactful way to gain attention for our mission to link conservation of nature with finance and economics. Through the incredible media attention garnered by the debt-for-nature swap, we illustrated that solutions to environmental problems have to be sensitive to the livelihoods of people.”

https://www.vancomm.com/2017/02/01/swapping-debt-nature-bolivia/

5.’Overview of Debt for Nature Swaps and Description of the Structure of Debt for Nature Swaps’ By Romas Garbaliauskas

Why do NGOs like Conservation International, the Nature Conservancy, KEHATI, and WWF participate? There is a cost here. We pay 20% of the debt forgiveness. One is that, invariably, we always work in the countries where we participate in these debts for nature swaps. I believe that has always been the case. It would be hard to understand why an NGO would participate in a debt swap for a country where they are not working. We get to basically help establish conservation priorities.

http://redd.ffpri.affrc.go.jp/events/seminars/_img/_20150203/234_D2S2_04_Mr.%20Garbaliauskas%20_final.pdf

6.‘New impact investment instrument aims to restore degraded cloud forests and improve energy security in Latin America’

“Cloud forests are among the most water-productive of any tropical forest ecosystem, are uniquely biodiverse and deliver a multitude of clear benefits, but finance for conserving and restoring forests has fallen short of the need,” said Justus Raepple, Conservation Finance Lead for TNC’s Global Water division. “There aren’t many connections in nature like this, where the benefits are so profound to a single beneficiary that the restoration actions can potentially pay for themselves.”

“Restoring cloud forests helps hydropower operators reduce significant sedimentation management costs, and also prolongs the life of the plants, so it avoids having to build more dams, or finding the energy in less environmentally friendly ways,” explained Romas Garbaliauskas, Senior Director of Conservation Finance at Conservation International.

https://www.conservation.org/press-releases/2018/09/27/new-impact-investment-instrument-aims-to-restore-degraded-cloud-forests-and-improve-energy-security-in-latin-america

7.‘Hydropower threatens Bolivian indigenous groups and national park’ by Eduardo Franco Berton/RAI

Torewa in the Tsimané (also called Chimane) language means “place of enchantment.” This is a community of 46 indigenous families, located in an area of 300 hectares within the forests of the Integrated Management Natural Area and Madidi National Park. Combined, the natural area and the park cover nearly 1.9 million hectares. Torewa is one of 17 communities that could potentially be affected by the construction of two dams planned in the El Bala and El Beu canyons on the Beni River.

https://news.mongabay.com/2016/10/hydropower-threatens-bolivian-indigenous-groups-and-national-park/

8.‘Bolivia announces plans to develop hydropower in Grande River basin’

In October 2018, HydroWorld reported that Bolivian energy authorities were in the process of identifying about US$2 billion in financing for early stage hydro and wind power generation projects. This included Rositas.

https://www.hydroreview.com/2019/07/30/bolivia-announces-plans-to-develop-hydropower-in-grande-river-basin/

9.‘Bolivia’s ENDE awards contract to Chinese firms for Rositas hydroelectric plant’

The deal comes with an initial US$1 billion in financing from the Export-Import Bank of China and will see China Three Gorges Corp. and China International Water & Electric engineer and construct what is expected to be a 500 MW to 600 MW project.

https://www.latinamericahydrocongress.com/en/news-en/bolivia-s-ende-awards-contract-to-chinese-firms-for-rositas-hydroelectric-plant

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

WATCH: The Global Climate Ghetto – The Environmental Crisis from the Perspective of the Global South

WATCH: The Global Climate Ghetto – The Environmental Crisis from the Perspective of the Global South

December 14, 2019

Transcript by Geraldine Ring

 

“And the third group, are the anti-ecological environmentalists. They who love trees, forests and organic food, but find no inconsistency between their environmentalist ideology and discrimination, racism and colonialism. In their conceit, they believe that they can be anti-fascist and hate blacks, Asians, immigrants and embracing discriminations against women, the working class and the poor. And you howl Coltrane, as he asks simply with Diana, Dylan, Mali, Masekela, ‘Where are you? Sing me a song of consolation and ascension, send me to Google at the river Congo to find dead souls in the Amazonian forest, take me on a sudden Guernica trip to hear them black bodies singing.’ They’re burning flesh.”

In this lecture, Ambassador Lumumba Di-Aping, Chair of Rights of Future Generations Working Group, voices a critical analysis of the impact of climate change, especially on non-emergent poor countries of the South. [Hosted by the V&A Museum in conjunction with the Sharjah Architecture Triennial and the Royal College of Art London. October 4, 2018]

 

Transcript

Introduction

Adrian Lahoud, Dean of the School of Architecture at the Royal College of Art, London:

Let’s start in 2009 during the Copenhagen climate conference. Lumumba is the Sudanese ambassador to the United Nations and chair of the G77 plus China group of 132 developing nations. For the first time in the history of that group the chair has forged an agreement between them that they will negotiate as a single block. The crowds waiting outside of the Vela Centre in Copenhagen are seized by a concern. Will an accord be signed in the wake of Kyoto, and what will be the agreed global average temperature increase. Will it be 1.5 degrees, 2 degrees, etc.?

Unbeknownst to everyone else the G20, a group of the most powerful economies on the planet, had been meeting in secret with a proposal that they had agreed upon to commit the planet and its people to an average 2 degree temperature increase. Then somebody leaked the text to Lumumba Di-Aping.

And so with President Obama flying back to Washington content in the notion that the secret G20 agreement had been sealed and would soon be adopted by all the other Earth’s nations, Lumumba called a press conference – you can hear a fragment of it in the piece next door – and delivered an extraordinary speech, shattering the callous façade of agreement that northern countries were preparing for their poorer neighbours. I have no doubt it will be remembered as one of the greatest, and most significant, political interventions in our lifetimes.

So at great personal risk and sacrifice, Lumumba broke with all the protocols of diplomatic speech – the secrecies, the silent disparities, the resigned subjugations. He spoke truth to power. He described the text as climate genocide, and indeed it was. He accused the G20 of trying to colonize the sky, as indeed it was. For hidden in the scale of the global average temperature increase were the differentiated hazards and vulnerabilities of climate impact. As Lumumba said, it would have meant certain devastation in Africa. Lumumba did something else that is extremely important. He connected the language of numbers in climate negotiation to an existential calculation: a calculation of life and death. We should heed his lesson. Lumumba has been an incredible inspiration to many people. Please join me in welcoming him to the stage tonight.

+++

Lumumba Di-Aping:

Good evening, good evening. It is a real honour to stand in front of you to deliver these remarks on the tectonic challenge of climate change. As you all know, this tectonic challenge is man-made. It is a civilizational, moral and existential challenge – to humanity today, tomorrow, and for the future generations. If not addressed properly, the effects of this ecological challenge will be catastrophic to all future generations. Be they from the west or from the south, be they white, black, yellow or in-betweens. These remarks are thus driven by a certain consciousness. And an enduring determination and a vigilant critique of anti-ecological knowledge, immaturity and environmental dis-enlightenment, bent on not only denying science, but one that has marshalled successfully so far a grand strategy to render impotent any moral, social, economic and political, or categorical transformative leadership.

These remarks are against the haunting suffering of 99% of the human family. They are personal outrage against horrid violence inflicted against humanity. I represented the Global South as their chief negotiator in the trenches of Copenhagen in 2009. These remarks am I telling it like it was. A naked experience. They are remarks aimed at igniting, for the interests of the future generations of the world for a robust, truthful and just discourse on climate change.

But before I proceed, let me take this opportunity for a world of dedication to my family Ulysses Henry Epping and Sonja D. Epping and to Dom Henry Walsborough of Ampleforth. May your wings be strong. May your days be long. Safe be your journey. Each of you bears inside of you a great gift of love which you have given me abundantly. May bring you light and warmth and the pleasure of giving, as you have always done. Eagerly savour each day the taste of its warmth, of its mouth. Never lose sight of the thrill and the joy of living. Son, may you grow up to be true, may you always know the truth, and see the lights surrounding you. May you always be courageous. We stand upright and be strong and may you stay forever young.

Now, now if you were born in Africa. If you went to school there and if you were fortunate, or perhaps unfortunate enough to have had a British Council sent English teacher who admired and taught you Charles Dickens, COP15 would have descended upon you the way a thousand ton of slab of concrete nightmare have done. A diluvial desolation, a hell of other implacable global injustice and bull everywhere.

You would have seen COP15 chairperson, the Honorable Prime Minister of Denmark, presiding over the UNF Triple C Court of Chancery, which – to paraphrase Dickens – gives to the many might the means of abundantly wearing out the right and the downtrodden global poor, the means of exhausting patience, courage and negating hope, and the means to deject, close the minds and overthrow the brains, and break the hearts, and the means to force them to succumb and sign an accord and a pact that not only denies their humanity, but cages them to watch helplessly their entire nation, countries and state drowning slowly under water, savaged by the extreme hurricanes, rains, heatwaves, droughts, fires and getting torched red and scorched yellow – and ultimately incinerated like Giacometti’s men and women and you needn’t recall Eichmann.

There is not one honourable man, woman among the UNF Triple C Chancery lead negotiators. And developing countries have known, have been experiencing, and witnessing the world that is to come. The new normal to arrive. Desolation. In that UNF Triple C Chancery, dominated by G8 plus China and India and India’s delegation, it was all pretence. And you ask, “On a 2 degree Celsius pathway? Are you serious?” And they come down the slinging, with their prepared answers, “The perfect, the perfect is the enemy of the good”. You come to your senses. There is not one honourable man, woman among the UNF Triple C Chancery lead negotiators. Their well-rehearsed sermon was “Two degrees on a legally-binding plate. Call it a pact. Mitigation and adaptation – pledges without any commitment to emission reduction targets. No technology transfer, no finance.” They repeated this sermon ad infinitum and sang it like a hymn and, as it turned out it, it was one, from a secret text – known only to them. And thank God, it was leaked by a rat, as the Guardian put it, years later.

See, the UNF Triple C have been turned into an attrition arena, a holding spectacle purposely – purposely intended to preclude forever any attempt to reduce ambitions forever, or until perhaps 2030, 2050, when the burden shifts to advanced developing countries in the future generations. See the UNF Triple C, COPS, have been turned into “this is spectacle, historically”. And they kept giving this atrocious, vicious, malice co-ordinated against all demands for deep emission cuts, all negative emissions.

This belligerent animosity towards developing countries, in general, has always come from three groups in the alliance – and this is very important. The first group is the quintessential Western establishment type with their apologist among the intelligentsia, particularly their juris economistas aided by journalists and editors. And the second group are the clevers, the ID 77 insiders and members. They are adept diplomats, sophisticated, delicate and dexterous representatives of the new economically superior emergent block in cahoots with developing countries, fossil fuel heavyweights. They apply their finance for infrastructure muscles in Asia, Africa and Latin America to force their will. They have become the poor countries’ and LDCs’ main trading partners. And the third group, are the anti-ecological environmentalists. They who love trees, forests and organic food, but find no inconsistency between their environmentalist ideology and discrimination, racism and colonialism. In their conceit, they believe that they can be anti-fascist and hate blacks, Asians, immigrants and embracing discriminations against women, the working class and the poor. And you howl Coltrane, as he asks simply with Diana, Dylan, Mali, Masekela, “Where are you? Sing me a song of consolation and ascension, send me to google at the river Congo to find dead souls in the Amazonian forest, take me on a sudden Guernica trip to hear them black bodies singing.” They’re burning flesh.“The first group is the quintessential Western establishment type with their apologist among the intelligentsia, particularly their juris economistas aided by journalists and editors..”

But Copenhagen continues. The game is on and it’s the only game, the only one in town, so be, shape up. You remember Ruth’s first words in her seminal work, ‘The Barrel of a Gun’. For I count myself an African and there is no cause I hold dearer. Be, or the only legacy you live. Ulysses your son is a burden of absolute unforgettable, unforgivable shame, the burden of having signed to the total destruction of his world, the future generations’ world. It’s 3 o’clock. You are holding an espresso, double shot. You remember Mahmoud Darwish. You aim the sea, sky and earth at me, but you cannot root that continent out of me. You cannot root my son out of me, and not his generations – never. And time goes on, negotiating. It’s midnight now. You are in Copenhagen. The negotiation texts are over a thousand page. And it’s freezing cold. So you say to yourself, two degrees is four degrees, three degrees and they simply feast, two degrees the riches are theirs. Two degrees, we are dead and they are not. Two degrees, do they care? Four degrees, and we don’t live and they won’t live. Do they know? Shouldn’t they care? We will rise and they will wise. We can rise and they won’t rise. Five degrees, we are shades and they are hues. Six degrees and the world is fire. We are on fire. Our breath is gone. We are done and the world end done. Six degrees, we are all done. Done. Done.

Diplomatically, the G8 in the leadership of the US, China and India where the main culprit diplomatically, the USA, negotiated on the basis that what of society does wrote the wars of Sparta and Athens. The powerful exact what they can and then we have to comply. In such a world, it is no use that the destitute poor of the South must suffer what they must. And Africa has a peculiar position in climate change negotiations as a non-industrial bloc of nations that has contributed near zero emissions since the heralding of the Anthropocene, the geological age of man-making.

Since the 15th century Portuguese endeavours in despised islands to the advent of the Industrial Revolution in England in 18th century, Africa has, had been a colony, denied the dignity of being human, denied freedom and free will, justice and development. And thus to understand the predicament of an African negotiator, or the African negotiators, one has to first recall that until mid-1950s Africa was not part of the global affairs – the global affairs and politics of the multilateralism. Until 1950s, African states were colonies, not equal member states in the global scene. A non-white, and in particular the African was deemed sub-human, a useless harmful stock of a Negro race whose temperament and capacity were peculiarly suited to hard labour, not least because they were significantly less susceptible to physical pain than white man. And further, it was common perspective among the elites that slavery was, is, and will be needed for the regeneration of contemporary European cultures. And, of course, all of this was justified and justifiable for the incomplete humanity of the state. Thus, if colonies demise, they become freedom, then the metropolis gives herself the right to be the new robbers, the ravagers. As long as they cannot rule, cannot be rulers and owners, they are men of knowledge after all.

In a recent article by Sir Robert Tony Watson, a distinguished and respectable scientist and a former director of the United Nations, inter-IPCC, three degrees, he said the following, “Three degree warming is the realistic minimum. Four degrees, Europe in permanent drought. Vast areas of China, India and Bangladesh claimed by desert.” And he goes on, “The prospect of a five degree warming has prompted some of the world leading climate scientists to warn of the end of the human civilization.” This elegantly-phrased paragraph embodies profound truth about the challenge and calamity of the climate change in what it states and what it curiously omits. A curious omission in that important passage which forces us to ask, “What does science say about the climate change in Africa?, what is the state of affairs on climate in Africa? And what bearing did it have on its position on Copenhagen and Paris Agreement?

The conclusion of the fourth assessment report by IPCC is that in all four regions, in all seasons, the median temperature increase lies between three degrees and four degrees Celsius – roughly one point five times the global mean. But as African we knew that is the real situation, the actual reality we live. Africa is already suffering from climate change – even with the admission of IPCC itself, which is a highly respectable report. “Africa’s major economic sectors are vulnerable to current climate sensitivities with huge economic impact and this vulnerability is exacerbated by existing developmental challenges such as enduring poverty, complex government, institutional dimensions, limited access to capital including markets, infrastructure and technology, ecosystem degradation and complex disasters and conflict”. And this brings us to some very important considerations. I want to highlight here. What limit on warming does this require globally? And the answer is simple. Keeping temperature increase in Africa to below 1.5 degrees Celsius requires a global goal of less than 1 degrees Celsius. Keeping it below 2 degrees Celsius requires a global goal of less than 1.3 degrees Celsius. And we are asked to sign for 2 degrees. Further, what emission reduction that is required for 2050. The answer again, “Limiting temperature increase requires limiting GHG concentrations and emissions. Limiting concentrations to 350 ppm CO2 yields. 350 ppm yields 14% chance of exceeding 2 degrees Celsius globally, and a considerable chance of exceeding 1.5 degrees Celsius.” Even temperatures and risks of these levels are arguably unacceptable to Africa. To limit concentrations to 350 ppm CO2 emissions must be limited to 750 Gigaton CO2, and that is between 2000 and 2050. And of this amount 330 Gigatons has been used between 2000 and 2008, leaving the world with 420 Gigatons.

Lesser level of ambition have been misleadingly presented as consistent with keeping warming below 2 degrees Celsius. And we are reading the same report of the IPCC. “In particular, developed countries have called for a 50% global ambition reduction by 2050 from 1990 levels. This, however, entails a risk of more than 50% exceeding the 2 degrees Celsius, and it would not be reasonable therefore to characterize this as a 2 degrees pathway. Even if you were to say it’s a 2 degree pathway, it’s not. Even an 85% global cut by 2050 entails the risk of exceeding 2 degrees Celsius of around 25%.”

We go to the question of allocation. How should the budget of this global resource then be allocated? We call for a sustainable approach. And a sustainable approach to climate change requires the Earth’s emission budget to be set at levels that avoid dangerous climate change. An equitable approach to climate change requires the Earth emissions budget to be allocated fairly, because part of the critical issues that we face are related to issues of economic inequality. An equitable approach to climate change was thus the central issue. And Nicholas Stern stated, “If the allocations of rise to emit any given year took a greater account both of history and of equity, in stocks rather than throughput flows then rich countries would have rights to emissions levels, which were less than two tonnes per capita. The negotiations of such rights involve substantial financial allocations at $40 per tonne CO2. A total world allocation of 30 Gigaton would be worth 1.1 trillion.” Mind you, in 2009, a barrel of oil was priced as 100-115 euro. Will asked Annex I countries to take an allocation of 390 Gigaton CO2, based on their population ratio, 20% of the world population and non-Annex I would be allocated a 1,270 Gigaton. And the basis of this is the concept of contraction and convergence so that Annex I would actually use 640 Gigatons. More than their fair allocation. Whether it’s borrowing, or the inevitable – the West, obviously, until there is a new way of producing energy would need significant allocation.

Let me proceed, and bring to your attention another issue. And that would be around the goals for mid- and long-term cuts for Annex I. The scenario we assumed in 2009 was that Annex I countries would cut their emissions by at least half by 2017, and become neutral by 2050. We are in 2018. Nothing has been done. None. On this scenario, the 20% of the world’s population in Annex I countries would still have used 640 Gigaton. That’s more than 60% of the total global budget and more than 40% of the remaining global budget. In a fairer world, they should have compensated, or should compensate developing countries for their overuse of a trillion-dollar resource, providing some financial and technology transfer, but of course that was not to be. On that issue. non-Annex I countries would still need to cut emissions drastically, if global emissions are to remain within the budget of the 350 ppm. But, of course, as I have said, the clevers were having none of it.

We wanted developed countries to have ambitious cuts, but then Annex I countries have to accept less of the burden of cutting their own emissions. On technology, there are a number of issues that are important. The level of technology and financing required by non-Annex I depends on, one, the number of tons of GHG to be reduced, and the cost per tonne of reducing emissions. The cost in total was around 489 billion euro. That is, if the average cost per tonne is 60 euro, which was then huge discount, because if you compare it with the barrel oil, the barrel of oil was 115. If we use the 100 euro as the base, the total financing required for the deal was 814 billion euros. I think that table gives you the full calculation.

What I would say, is that recent estimates put cost and damages from climate change into trillions. One recent study by Allianz Insurance suggests that, the value of assets at risk from sea level rise in port facilities alone by 2050 could exceed 22 trillion dollars. And you ask yourself, if the value at risk of inaction in a sum just for those cities is 22 trillion, and the value of action of a real solution is a trillion why would you choose that pathway? Other issue that was contested was the issue of adaptation cost. We cannot adapt without deep emission reductions by Annex I countries, without major financing technology transfer for emissions reductions by Annex I countries, major financing of producing actual opportunity cost. And I think, even speaking about adaptation was not acceptable for them. The final issue that bedeviled the negotiations was the issue of the institutions.

Achieving climate change resolution requires new institutions for mitigation, adaptation, technology transfer and finance. It would require a major mobilization to help people address inevitable damage associated with current and permitted work, and it will require a major effort to deploy technologies in all countries within the next five to ten years. We are talking about 2009. As others have said, that was the essence of the position of the African group. That’s the perspective I tried to persuade Annex I, the major polluters, and the major polluters from the South. In our view, this was an equitable framework for global climate policy, a policy that is transformative and does not hide behind economics of the 1% who control the global economy and their ideologies – its skepticism, denialism, all the rest. Ascriptions of radicalism, derision and vilification were the answers we received from Annex I countries, particularly after they managed to convert Prime Minister Meles Zenawi to abandon the African position which was approved on the 12th African Union summit and in the Algiers declaration an African common platform to Copenhagen. In that spirit, originally Zenawi on the 3rd of September 2009 announced that, “We will never accept any global deal that does not limit global warming to the minimum unavoidable level, no matter what levels of compensation assistance are promised to us. If needs be, we are prepared to walk out of any negotiations that threaten to be another rape of the continent.” Those the words of the Prime Minister of Ethiopia.

“Fanon said, ‘The colonized man will manifest his aggressiveness against his own people.'” And, of course, the EU managed to persuade Meles Zenawi to abandon the agreed African Union position. On the 15th of December 2009. Zenawi issued a joint press release with President of France Nicolas Sarkozy. Sure you all remember him. Which declared that the African Union’s position on Copenhagen was a 2 degrees Celsius temperature target, 10 billion dollars in fast-track financing, 100 billion euros in long-term financing. We were shocked. We condemned the position as a betrayal of Africa. Archbishop Desmond Tutu said, “The two-degree target condemns Africa to incineration and no modern development.” And when I asked President Sarkozy in the negotiation, he said to me, “Ask Meles”. So I asked Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, and he said, and I quote, “I want cash, not SDRs (Special Drawing Rights).” Later on it transpired that he secured 1 billion US dollars to fight terrorism in Somalia. Fanon said, “The colonized man will manifest his aggressiveness against his own people.” I will stop.

“And so you ask yourself, why talk about damage when we know we are really talking about mortality, death, social degradation, and annihilation.”Copenhagen has thus failed because of three reasons, and these three reasons will continue destroying any attempt to stop ecological degradation. The first reason – sorry, I mean two reasons. The first reason: the problem embedded in Article 2 of the United Nations Convention on Climate Change. And it states, “The ultimate objective of the convention is to achieve a stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.” The truth is that climate change has already reached dangerous levels, dangerous levels that makes this stabilization impossible. Second, is the fiction of the plausibility of two degrees Celsius pathway. The two degrees Celsius pathway, the dictated perspective of the EU is a repetition of what I would deem a eurocentric perspective that dominates its occidentalism, the basis of its scientific moral and economic approaches to the climate change challenge. It is fully consistent with position and practices in world history. It is a perspective that defines what the maximum tolerable temperature on the basis of what it perceives to be acceptable levels of damage, rather than avoidance of all damage. And so you ask yourself, why talk about damage when we know we are really talking about mortality, death, social degradation, and annihilation. In view of that, the African position in the negotiations called for 45 degrees emission reduction by developed countries by 2020. That’s now gone. Finance for adaptation of 150 billion immediately as SDRs (Special Drawing Rights) from the IMF, and a global 500 billion in fast-track financing and another 5% of developing countries GNP in longer term financing and transfer of technology. Our logic was very simple. Countries like United States had then a budget of over 3.7 trillion dollars and they spent annually five to six hundred billion in defence alone. The 2008 bailing of Wall Street, you would recall, was well above a trillion. And they are questioning, or they’re claiming, that climate change is not financeable.

We have to reject the signing of Copenhagen Agreement for all those reasons. And of course with the collapse of Copenhagen we come to the reality of the Paris Agreement which is what we are facing now, or dealing with now. My own perspective. The Paris Agreement, which entered into force in 2016, had been hailed as a major diplomatic success. It is indeed a tour de force, a rhetorical one that requires careful, critical and sign-centric reading. The Agreement reads as follows, “This Agreement aims to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change in the context of sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty.” And the question is, “how?”. And I read again, “first by holding the increase in the global average temperatures to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial levels.” The strategic intent of Paris response would have been truly noble, if not for the sad fact that it was killed off by the fraternity of the ”shoulds”. There’s nothing legally binding in Paris Agreement. It’s all “shoulds”. Second, the reality and magnitude of existential crisis that we face as Africans is straightforward: keeping temperature increase in Africa to below 1.5 degrees Celsius requires a global response of less than 1 degrees Celsius. Keeping the temperature below 2 degrees Celsius requires a global goal of less than 1.3 degrees Celsius, and we are holding as a great achievement a non-committal position of maybe 1.5 degrees Celsius.

“What Paris Agreement begat us thus is a median temperature increase that lies between 3 and 4 degrees Celsius in Africa – roughly 1.5 times of the global average.”What Paris Agreement begat us thus is a median temperature increase that lies between 3 and 4 degrees Celsius in Africa – roughly 1.5 times of the global average. You calculate. It is therefore academic to talk of other purposes of the Paris Agreement. What is the use of dissecting intentions of increasing the ability to adapt to adverse impacts of climate change and foster climate resilience and low greenhouse gas emissions development in a manner that does not threaten food production? What food production if you are in the territory of a 4 degrees Celsius? What poverty reduction? Africa is already buried 20 metres under poverty threshold. What sustainable development if we can’t survive? But, it had to be done in Paris, elegantly. COP20 had to yield and succumb to this end. This is because all the COPs, ever since the very beginning, have been largely a concerted effort to exclude the authority and the legitimacy of genuine science.

When they talk policy, they basically leave science alone. This rejection of science and scientific evidence has led to the systemic marginalization and former exclusion of the African continent, the small island states and the global poor South and 80% of humanity from Earth’s future. The Paris Agreement vision, strategic intent remains a normative high note that was disembowelled by history. It would have been a stellar ground-breaking outcome had it been adopted in 1950s. Furthermore, even if we discount the science and the plight of the poor who constitute more than 80% of the world population, its purpose, moral aim and ambitions lack the necessary delivery mechanisms. Because by deregulating its own climate contributions, it institutionalises the tragedy of the Commons. Which, in the first place, led to the crisis chain, and which will now further fail its strategy.

And this is what has been provided by IPCC fifth report. Climate change is already having negative impacts on Africa. It is impacting the health of land and marine-based ecosystems and the health of food security, of many of the regions and most vulnerable people. This rejection, is not only against the poor, it is also against future generations who have right and moral obligations against the current generations. We are thus obligated, morally, to make sacrifices for common good of humanity, but equally on behalf of posterity. And in truth, these obligations are not intolerable, as some economies want to convince us. And in the context of climate change these obligations can be achieved by freeing ourselves from fossil fuel addiction, by moving fully towards a renewable energy, an ecologically sustainable world and economy. Our challenge is rampant individualism, and not scientific or technological challenge anymore. And there is no economic or financial difficulties here.

The world has produced so much material wealth, so much knowledge that it can today – if governments were supportive and full range of renewable technologies were deployed that renewable energy could count for almost 80% of the world’s energy supply within four decades. By the way, that was the IPCC Renewable Energy report in 2011. It was announced in Abu Dhabi. And the necessary investment in renewables would cost only one percent of the global GDP. One percent of global GDP can in four decades generate 80% of our energy needs globally. This approach could keep greenhouse gas concentrations less than 450 ppm (parts per million). That level IPCC thinks is safe level beyond which climate change becomes catastrophic or irreversible. There is nothing radical in this. It is not as radical for example as Bill Gates mission to Microsoft in 1980. A computer in every desk and every home. 1980. Today, everyone of us has at least two three devices. If there is a will, it can be done.

And this brings me to a critical aspect of this tectonic challenge. Leadership, or lack of it. Recently, the Secretary General of the United Nations said that climate change is moving faster than we are. If we don’t change course by 2020, we risk missing the point where we can avoid runaway climate change with disastrous consequences for people and all natural systems that sustain us. I would say to the Secretary General: Your Excellency, urgent action and leadership is what is needed, because – as you have rightly said – we have the moral and economic imperatives to act, as the ferocity of this summer’s wildfires and heatwaves shows the world is changing before our eyes. At least, the West have started to experience and see what we have been living with since 1950.

“The world needs a real solution and it is not Paris Agreement. What we need therefore is a UN to act to stop ecological degradation, because with that taking place there cannot be peace with a runaway climate change, there can be no peace.”If that’s the case and we agree with the Secretary General, what is critically needed is a critical review of the Paris Agreement, because it has not addressed the reality of the dangerous situations we are in. We must have the courage to call a spade one. The world needs a real solution and it is not Paris Agreement. It is within your powers, and your mandate, and your character – and I am speaking here to the Secretary General – to act  to fulfil the purposes of the United Nations in Article 1. Article 1 of the United Nations Charter says that the purposes of United Nations is to maintain international peace and security, and to that end to take effective collective measures for prevention. What we need therefore is a UN to act to stop ecological degradation, because with that taking place there cannot be peace with a runaway climate change, there can be no peace.

So let me conclude in humility. Let me say the Prime Minister of this country, Theresa May. Because yesterday she made a very important speech, referring to honourable Diane Abbott. There are billions of Diane Abbotts and their children out there whose rights to survival and their very humanity are being denied by the position of the UK in climate change which is fundamentally cynicism and ecological denialism in practice. So lead by the example. There can be no freedom which the UK speaks of champion. There can be no freedom, no democracy and upholding of fundamental rights if your policies deny the women of the South and their children their very right to existence and equity. And I would say the same thing to the Labourite and the Labour and to honourable Corbyn, there is nothing progressive and there is everything reactionary in a Labour Party that continues to follow Ed Miliband’s neoliberal pathway of 2 degrees Celsius that condemns Africa and small island states into drowning. There is nothing progressive in that climate neoliberal colonialism. There can be no justice at your home turf without global justice. You and McDonnell and Momentum would in full class consciousness, would have become another climate Trumpiskite. So let’s stand up. Let’s stand up for the rights of future generations, for the rights of earth, for rights of humanity.

 

+++

Climate Crimes

“Adrian Lahoud’s large-scale immersive video installation, [] explores the complex relationship between air pollution and the migration of refugees. It illustrates how atmospheric particles originating in the wealthy nations of the global north – Europe, USA, China, and others impact the global south, contributing to desertification and migration.

The research builds on an event that took place during the 2009 UN climate change conference, where Sudanese diplomat Lumumba Di-Aping argued that industrialisation in these regions in the global north was contributing to ‘climate genocide’ in Africa.” [Source]

“There is a strange sympathy between the atmospheric particles that float through the sky and the human beings who migrate across the ground and then across the sea. Each body sets the other into motion: the particle bodies flow from north to south; the human bodies move from south to north.”

 

— Adrian Lahoud

 

 

WKOG Response to the Slander & Empty Accusations Made by the Scientists Warning Group

WKOG Response to the Slander & Empty Accusations Made by the Scientists Warning Group

WKOG

December 12, 2019

 

 

“I’m going to tell it like it is. I hope you can take it like it is.”

— Malcolm X

Collection of images, TIME, December 11, 2019

 

Foreword:

While Greta Thunberg is considered the consummate pristine vessel of youthful purity, Wrong Kind of Green’s steadfast position has not changed since we published the first segment of our series in January of this year. Considering we have never said anything disparaging against Miss Thunberg personally, we need to ask why are those surrounding this young person allowing her image to be used by the most nefarious of individuals and groups? … Barack Obama using Thunberg as a photo op for his chosen political party to attach her popular visage to its hopeful success in the coming 2020 elections? … Al Gore using his symbolic embrace of Thunberg to promote his ideology of “green capitalism” that will both enrich him personally and his descendants while at the same time supposedly saving the planet? … Leonardo DiCaprio, a symbol of privileged white male avarice if there ever was one from an ethnic, gender and class perspective, using Thunberg’s camaraderie as a sign of his laughable attempt at saving the Earth and his aforementioned privilege at the same time? … And as these various personages comprise the upper class from any type of unbiased analysis, a legitimate question to ask is why do the adults who are allegedly looking out for the best interests of Thunberg personally and, even more importantly, the professed message she is attempting to convey which is conservation of the planet for the entirety of humanity, allow her to congregate with the enemies against the actual implementation of her message? Those are legitimate questions if nothing else with all the evidence at hand.

In an analogy of what this kind of blind hero worship can elicit when not questioned, WKOG would like to proffer the previous mainstream adoration of the quintessential cherub of yesteryear named Shirley Temple. This child was in a total of four films with the black tap dancer and entertainer, Bill ‘Bojangles’ Robinson. In these films, Bill ‘Bojangles’ played the cinematic man servant reminiscent of the house slave to the young madam of the manor during chattel slavery times on the plantation. In fact, Robinson actually did play a slave to Temple’s “innocent” slave master even at that young age in the film “The Littlest Rebel”. And even given the argument that Shirley Temple was a cute child, the fact of the matter was that she was used as a tool to foster the emotional and psychological support of white supremacy as a benign component of the acceptable social dominance of one people over another. As she was a child at the time, Temple’s use from a social aspect is more than likely not representative of particular placement in these films as a personal choice. But, it must be asked at some juncture as to when and where she stopped being a mere tool, and actually became a purveyor of this same ideology she was used as a symbol of in her youth. Hence, as she was an octogenarian over a decade ago when she died, Shirley Temple continued to benefit personally from her usage as an infant from that time until the end of her days, even though it was personally disavowed to her death. As Temple’s memory is still utilized as an unquestioned sign of youthful purity from an ethnic aspect, it is seen as an assault against her personally to intellectually question her visage – not only back then, but even today as a continuous symbol of white supremacy.

Even though the aforementioned cinematic relationship was fictional in nature, the emotional response from those in current mainstream society, “coincidentally” comprising those who have absorbed the efficacy of “white supremacy” at a conscious and even a reflexively subconscious level, is reminiscent of the past atmosphere that presently cloaks the mere presence of Greta Thunberg in a cocoon of compromised and unquestioned fealty. As no person’s presence on the planet can go unquestioned regarding the various ways that an individual’s placement by the people in power may be utilized to their advantage, it must always be asked why certain people are allowed to reside in the hallowed ground in which they inhabit, and any legitimate questioning of said residence elicits the most toxic response imaginable by the majority.

Our direct responses to the slanders and accusations put forth by Scientists Warning are as follows:

Scientists Warning: “Why Some So-Called Adults Are Attacking A Child – Greta Thunberg, the now famous Swedish child and prominent environmental activist who has focused the world on the risks posed by global warming, is being attacked by climate deniers, right wing politicians, major conservative media outlets like Breitbart, even President Trump and random bloggers like Lord Monckton, Miranda Devine, Cory Morningstar, climate skeptic Bjørn Lomborg, and many others.”

WKOG response: Our series published on WKOG in early 2019 (which Scientists Warning deliberately chooses not to link to) contains no attacks whatsoever on Greta Thunberg. To anyone who refutes this, we would ask for a specific example to be provided. Our only question relates to the SYMBOLISM of her presence and not her as an individual.

Scientists Warning: “This misogyny and defamation may be expected from the far right, but things have also been amok at far left wing media outlets as well. Wrong Kind of Green recently posted a blog asking Is Greta Thunberg a sock puppet for green capitalism? by Cory Morningstar who has repeatedly attacked Thunberg’s activism, while riding her coattails and even writing a for-profit book about Thunberg that further assaults Greta’s family and choices.”

WKOG response: The level of gutter journalism here is quite breathtaking. 1) The post titled “Is Greta Thunberg a sock puppet for green capitalism?” (June 16, 2019) was not published by Wrong Kind of Green, or by Cory Morningstar. It was published by the blog “Situations Vacant”, to which we have zero affiliation. We have never referred to Miss Thunberg as a “sock puppet”, nor do we ever have any intention of doing so. 2) Morningstar can hardly be accused of riding young Thunberg’s “coattails” having been an activist and independent journalist for just under two decades. Further, the series, volumes I and II, are accessible to all with no charge and no advertising on the WKOG website, which is run with zero funding in a volunteer capacity by a small working collective. A self-published book of the first volume is available for those who prefer reading offline. The book was also created by a volunteer. As for the accusation that the book (the series in book form) “further assaults Greta’s family and choices”, the author has been careful not to make any personal attacks, instead focusing on how genuine concerns are being exploited by vested interests. In fact, in one passage of the book Miss Thunberg is described of beautifully articulating her thoughts. If we are serious about tackling the root causes of climate change and ecological devastation, it is imperative that we all call out those seeking to profit from our concerns. Those offering false solutions which will only aggravate the crises we face, and more importantly only result in a boon for wealthy industrialists who increasingly drive policy decisions at a time when capitalism is in crisis while impoverishing further those groups least responsible for climate and ecological breakdown.

Scientists Warning: “Cory Morningstar’s take on Greta is part of a wider world view shared by Morningstar and others who reduce global events to the actions of the big powers over pipelines, and treat the masses as dupes and pawns without agency. This a fake left conspiracy theory that lumps eXtinction Rebellion (XR) and Greta together with other ‘actors’ who are supposedly manipulated and duped by powerful elites into defending capitalism.” – Redrave

WKOG response: This is a common trope administered by many in trying to lump that which is left activism and misconstrue it as “extremist” leftism with no basis in reality or fact and placing it in the same bucket of conspiracy theory that can at times be found on the right or admittedly on the left. In that vein, it is a facile attempt to denigrate the countless hours of research invested into the series by Cory Morningstar and a handful of volunteers who assisted her in this painstaking endeavor. This is a blatant attempt at marginalization for those who are unable to find anything wrong with the actual research. Hence, it is easier to question the motives of the work and even more easily, that of the author. In that regard, WKOG would just ask that anyone point to any conspiracy narrative that is in any portion of the work. Short of that, WKOG stands by every scintilla of the research and takes umbrage at the slander of conspiracy theory directed at the work by those attempting to marginalize it by such unfounded accusations.

“It never ceases to amaze me how many journalists today still don’t realise that calling someone a ‘conspiracy theorist’ is admission of having nothing intelligent to say to them!”

 

Tim Hayward, professor of environmental political theory at the University of Edinburgh and director of the university’s Just World Institute, Who’s Afraid of Conspiracy Theory?

Scientists Warning: “Morningstar and Wrong Kind of Green followers are sometimes called “collapsitarians.” Near-Term Human Extinction (NTHE) groups (encouraged by Guy McPherson) also fall into this category.  Anti-natalist groups are also sometimes joining forces here. These groups desire devastation and collapse. Thus, they direct commentary in a well-maintained subterfuge campaign rife with psychological warfare techniques that barely camouflage the promotion of human extinction. In carefully contrived subtexts, they proffer extinction as the only solution for humanity (which they see as parasitic) in what has become a kind of popular, post-modern malaise-faire nihilistic doomer trope.

These groups have multiple hidden agendas. They rally behind inaction, defeatism, destruction, and ultimately avoidance of the issue through distraction and deflection. They assail Greta Thunberg while hypocritically claiming to support her. They often begin their attacks with virtue signalling and sociopathic distancing statements like “I fully support the 16-year old activist.” But then they proceed to openly marginalize Greta Thunberg’s activism by connecting it to neoliberal greenwashing or troubled political campaigns like the Green New Deal (GND) which they conveniently see as too little, too late. But they fail to notice that Greta Thunberg herself has criticized the GND as well, and they forget that Greta constantly reminds us that she is neither a politician nor a scientist; she’s a child activist.”

WKOG response: A common misconception is that those who are considered “doomers” are people who are one, the cause of the ongoing environmental catastrophe (that merely INCLUDES climate change, but is not the entirety of the problem) and two, the impediment to actually addressing climate change or any and all other environmental issues. “Doomers” are those who look at all of the intersecting planetary issues and are simply not willing to embrace the so-called solutions offered by the mainstream. Solutions which ultimately fail to address the root cause of  the problem and a desire to simply kick the can down the road. Corporate solutions to a problem caused in large part by corporate power represent a blatant attempt to continue to foist today’s problems upon coming generations, so that those groups who have caused the most damage can abdicate any responsibility to deal with the issues immediately, because doing so would ultimately hurt their bottom line. Thus, “doomers” are simply unwilling to set aside the truth in order to appease those around them for personal comfort and acceptance.

WKOG has never written anything about what particular people, group, organizations and/or legislation Greta Thunberg does or doesn’t support other than what has been documented through Thunberg’s own words or chosen affiliations. We have made no insinuations as to Thunberg’s positions outside of her own verbal positions carefully ensuring we do not put words in her mouth or trying to decipher her thoughts on things through clairvoyance. We have simply documented her presence and acceptance by individuals and institutions that support legislation which will not solve the climate crisis and only enrich a handful of people, groups and corporations with the price being the continued destruction of the planet.

Here we must also note that the lack of full disclosure by Scientists Warning. The fact that the We Don’t Have Time tech company is prominent member of Scientists Warning is one that readers deserve to be aware of. As We Don’t Have Time was the primary focus of investigation in the first segment of the series, this relationship  must be considered relevant. Further, Scientists Warning founder Stuart H. Scott maintains a personal relationship with Greta Thunberg and family, having made the arrangements for Thunberg and her father to attend COP-24 in Katowice Poland. [Source]

In conclusion
:

Scientists Warning present themselves as an austere and fervent group of academics and experts. The list of team members and advisory board members suggests that this is the case. It is advised by well networked people in positions of public regard, people such as Richard Heinberg from the Post Carbon Institute and the Scientists Warning founder Stuart H. Scott who played a role in supporting Greta Thunberg’s rise. The publication of anonymous, poorly referenced and gross mischaracterizations presented as “debunking” is well beneath the standards of journalism expected of any group of “scientists” or academics. Scientists Warning ought to rise above the editorial turpitude that is so abundant among the ecological and leftist media, and provide authorship details for their debunkings. Most importantly, Scientists Warning should identify and commit to journalistic standards that reflect their commitment to good science and honest academic research. Smears and mischaracterizations only serve to defend narratives, and at this time in history we need the truth.

Ten Years Ago Today: The Most Important COP Briefing That No One Ever Heard

Ten Years Ago Today: The Most Important COP Briefing That No One Ever Heard

December 11, 2019

 

COP15, 2009: Lumumba Di-Aping of Sudan

One of the most inspiring leaders present at the COP15 was the ever so eloquent Lumumba Di-Aping, chief negotiator of the G77. (The G77 bloc is the major group of developing countries, many of which are among the most threatened by effects of climate change, as well as the largest developing country bloc represented at the COP15.) Although  was Sudanese by birth, his parents (who called themselves “Lumumbist”) named Di-Aping after the famous Congolese leader Patrice Lumumba. (Lumumba, the anti-colonialist democratically-elected prime minister of the Congo, was assassinated in 1960 having been deemed a severe threat by the U.S. due to his uncompromising ideas of freedom and African unity. He played a leading role in the struggle for the liberation of Africa and all of Africa’s resources.)

At the historic press conference which took place on November 11, 2009 in Copenhagen, Di-Aping addressed the international NGO community. The conference room was packed with representatives of the non-profit industrial complex and corporate media complex, which includes the so-called progressive media. In a most direct approach, Di-Aping asked NGOs to support the demand that developed countries cut emissions 52% by 2017; 65% by 2020; and 80% by 2030 (based on a 1990 baseline). Further, Di-Aping asked the NGOs to demand GHG emission cuts well above 100% by 2050, which would (perhaps) keep the global temperature from exceeding a rise of no more than 1.5ºC. These targets, if met, would perhaps allow Africa to merely stay alive.

A 2ºC rise in global temperature, which the non-profit industrial complex campaigned upon, would mean a 3.5ºC rise for Africa. This temperature is certain death for the African peoples – certain death for billions. In addition, a 2ºC global temperature rise guarantees a minimum 4ºC+ global temperature for future generations. In the film footage provided below, one bears witness to Di-Aping speaking directly to the Climate Action Network (International) representatives.

One must note the disturbing irony. After the press conference was finished, a standing ovation erupted. The room shook with an audience both inspired and enraptured. Depending on one’s depth of understanding of foundations, corporate power structures and the non-profit industrial complex, one may or may not be surprised at what happened afterwards, which was, quite simply, nothing. The white ivory towers, ever so acquiescent to their hegemonic rulers, wrote off the African people by continuing their “demand” for “a fair, ambitious, binding agreement.” In other words: “Sorry about your bad luck, Africa. Enjoy your future of hell on Earth … and fuck you.”

The non-profit industrial complex, with CAN and TckTckTck at the forefront, stuck to their 2ºC and other suicidal (non)targets. The climate justice groups dared on occasion to demand that temperatures not exceed 1.5ºC, while any discussion demanding that 1ºC be supported and campaigned upon sent this faction, too, running scared like frightened field mice. Climate justice amounted to nothing more than a branded trademark. Silence and compliance reigned as the champagne circuit discussed career options over cocktails.

Below are excerpts from the only transcript that exists.

“The second issue is the issue of reductions of emissions. There must be radical reductions of emissions starting from now. In our view, by 2017 we should cut, developed countries must cut by 52%, 65% by 2020, 80% by 2030, well above 100 [percent] by 2050. And this is very important because the more you defer action the more you condemn millions of people to immeasurable suffering. So the idea that you start from 4% today and you achieve 80 or 50 in 2050 simply means that you do not care about the lives of those who will be devastated in this period, until you pick up the pace.”

 

“… and I will say this to our colleagues from Western civil society — you have definitely sided with a small group of industrialists and their representatives and your representative branches. Nothing more than that. You have become an instrument of your governments. Whatever you say, whether you think it’s because it’s tactically shrewd or not, it’s an error that you should not continue to make.”

 

“So ask yourself, are your executive branches climate skeptics, notwithstanding their addresses like the prime minister of the UK that the cost of inaction on climate change is irreparable. His actions say he’s worse than the worst of climate skeptics. If he had asked bankers to pocket 300 billion dollars because of ‘incentivizing’ profit-seeking activities and he says 500 million is the maximum that the United Kingdom government can afford to pay to support climate change, what are we saying? What are you saying? I wonder what the distinguished colleagues from CAN are saying about that.”

 

“Many of you equally, and I will say this, and I would have never thought that one day I will accuse a civil society of such a thing. Dividing the G77, or helping divide the G77, is simply something that should be left to the CIAs, the KGBs and the rest [not the NGOs].”

 

“It’s mind boggling, and I say this having been the beneficiary of absolute support from civil society. Many of you may not know this, I come from southern Sudan. We’ve been through wars for almost 90% of our lives since independence, so I’m not sure what happened exactly to the civil society that I do know or at least knew.”

 

“If you have received help that enabled you to rebuild your economies and to become prosperous, how come suddenly you have turned mean? Because that 2.5 billion dollars is definitely what some of the big western industrialists lose without a sleep over a trade [lose over a trade without losing any sleep].”

Raw Footage, Lumumba Di-Aping, December 11, 2009 [Running time: 12:30]

 

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