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Watch: Banking Nature

Watch: Banking Nature

October 30, 2019

 

In “Banking Nature”, directors Denis Delestra and Sandrine Feydel document the growing movement to monetize the natural world, and to turn endangered species and threatened areas into instruments of profit.

2014. 90 minutes

This film investigates the financialization of the natural world.

PrintProtecting our planet has become big business with companies promoting new environmental markets. This involves species banking, where investors buy up vast swathes of land, full of endangered species, to enable them to sell “nature credits.” Companies whose actions destroy the environment are now obliged to buy these credits and new financial centres have sprung up, specializing in this trade. Many respected economists believe that the best way to protect nature is to put a price on it. But others fear that this market in nature could lead to companies having a financial interest in a species’ extinction. There are also concerns that—like the subprime mortgage crisis of 2008—the market in nature credits is bound to crash. And there are wider issues at stake. What guarantees do we have that our natural inheritance will be protected? And should our ecological heritage be for sale? [Source: Via Decouvertes Production]

Grand Prize of the City of Innsbruck nature film festival. Jury statement:

“Whoever thought that capitalizing natural resources could be a solution for our ecological crisis knows better now: thanks to the investigative approach of the directors. It is clear that the protection of endangered species should not be left to multinational companies and financial consultants. Although the topic is highly complex, the film remains exciting to the very end. The development to profit from nature as revealed by the film is frightening.”

9 AWARDS & 24 sélect. internationales

Voir la liste complète/To see the list

 

Listen: How to Sell a Pretend Climate Movement: Reading Act IV of Cory Morningstar’s Series on the NGO Industrial Complex

Listen: How to Sell a Pretend Climate Movement: Reading Act IV of Cory Morningstar’s Series on the NGO Industrial Complex

Ghion Journal

September 18, 2019

By Stephen Boni

 

 

About 43% of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were lawyers. After the establishment of the United States government, over a near 250-year period, the number of lawyers in Congress has, by-and-large, mirrored that original percentage. In fact, our current Congress is made up of 43% lawyers. This is a powerful voting block of like-minded people.

Additionally, it isn’t much of a secret how important legal expertise is to modern corporations and how many lawyers exist among their executive ranks. And America’s most prominent corporations represent the financial backing of nearly all members of Congress.

The way lawyers have been trained to think, the skills they possess, the way they maneuver, and what they maneuver for casts a massive shadow over what kinds of decisions get made for our society—and what kind of loose consensus (or acquiescence) gets achieved in order for those decisions to stick.

What I’m talking about is how those decisions are sold to us. Because, at this point, there are very few societal decisions that are made from the ground up by regular citizens.

As I sat in front of the Words of Others podcast mic this week to read Act IV of Cory Morningstar’s multi-part series on how the corporate elite are using a string of nonprofits, foundations and advocacy organizations to engineer a specific set of likely ineffectual responses to the climate and pollution crisis, I noticed how she highlighted elite use of nuanced language—language that smacks of lawyerly thinking—as one of the key methods members of the Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) industrial complex use to mask the basic assumptions behind the solutions they want the world to adopt.

It’s interesting to me that it was this aspect of Morningstar’s piece that jumped out. The issue of precise but deceptive language is not the focal point of the article. What her piece zeroes in on, actually, is the evidence of a coordinated, psychologically thought through marketing campaign cutting across the entire swath of NGOs currently inserting themselves into the climate crisis movement.

But a marketing campaign is about storytelling—and storytelling is, in large part, about the use of language. And the language used to sell us a movement is consciously connected by its salespeople to the language used to sell the movement’s solutions.

About a quarter of the way through the piece, Morningstar notes the use of a very specific phrase in the proposals of NGO-connected elites to define their specific goal for reducing carbon emissions: “Net Zero Emissions”.

As she explains, this is a very precise modification of carbon goals articulated by NGOs in previous years, and certainly a departure from what grassroots climate activists seek. Because “net zero emissions” doesn’t mean a massive reduction in the amount of carbon we’re pumping into the atmosphere:

Rather, it is the amount of emissions being put into the atmosphere being equal to the amount being “captured.”

To achieve that carbon capture, the NGO industrial complex is seeking huge investments for carbon capture storage technology, investments they don’t want to make with their own money but want to take from pension funds and our tax dollars. And, as Morningstar laid out in Act III of her series (which you can listen to here), they want to securitize these investments in green technology so they can become a series of financial products that invigorate growth in a now perpetually sluggish capitalist economy.

This tricky use of language as a sales technique is remarkably precise. It’s not just marketing-ese. It’s downright lawyerly. “Net Zero Emissions” sounds good, doesn’t it? But it doesn’t mean genuinely cutting carbon emissions, reducing consumption, or pollution, or anything, honestly, that would hinder corporate profits.

Since the biosphere has not a single care about what our economic system is, and is only reacting to our very physical waste, “net zero emissions” is no solution at all. There is nothing adaptive about it. It places perceived economic needs over the healing needs of the Earth—which we need healthy for our own precarious wellbeing. But you would only know that by digging into the phrase, and most of us don’t parse the world like that or have the time to think about such things too deeply.

These lawyerly manipulations are not only effective at diverting us from genuine adaptive solutions to climate change and pollution, they’re also tailor-made to make sense to the lawyerly sensibilities of Congress, which, as we remember, is made up of people who have a vested interest in pursuing “solutions” (and use of the public purse) that meet the needs of their corporate donors.

In both politics and astro-turfed movements, we see this linguistic move time and again. Barack Obama was one of the most gifted practitioners when he was campaigning to be president. He knew—as the elites who run the world’s NGOs know—that citizens understand instinctively that things are so bad that only some kind of systemic change will make them better. Since that type of change was not his goal, he concocted a rhetorical style so open to interpretation, so precise and conscious in its use of vague language, that he was able to convince most of the voting public that he was their voice for sweeping change.

Even thought he wasn’t.

That particular use of precision; precision as a way to conceal, is built in to marketing to be sure, but even more so, it’s built in to legal language. In our Constitution itself, written by men steeped in legal thinking, we can see the good and evil sides of legal language’s ability to both reveal and hide meaning.

We live in a complex, often faceless society. Inverted totalitarianism, as theorized by famed historian Sheldon Wolin, gets expressed through the anonymity of the corporate state. Large nonprofits, foundations, NGOs and their backers on Wall Street are an embedded part of that corporate state.

In her extensive research and her journalism, Cory Morningstar is not trying to shit on Greta Thunberg or the Extinction Rebellion activists currently shutting down parts of London. She’s trying to tear apart that legalese-influenced language so we can inoculate ourselves against propaganda—and pursue ground-up solutions that actually have a chance of ensuring us a healthier planet, a healthier society and a healthier life.

After all, wouldn’t it be interesting if those taking part in these movements, armed with a little knowledge on who’s running these organizations, turned on their putative masters and spun the movement out of their control?

Now wouldn’t that be a kick in the pants?

Incidentally, here’s how you can listen to the first three parts of Morningstar’s series:

Act I

Act II

Act III

As always, thanks for reading and thanks for listening.

 

[Stephen Boni is both Ghion Journal’s current editor and a contributing writer. His main interest is in analyzing the workings of empire and exploring ways to dismantle and replace systems of oppression. A conflicted New Englander with an affinity for people, music and avoiding isms, he lives in Oakland, California with his wife and young daughter.]

 

Listen: Making Money Off of Green Debt: Cory Morningstar Finds Corporate Wolves Behind Environmental Sheep

Listen: Making Money Off of Green Debt: Cory Morningstar Finds Corporate Wolves Behind Environmental Sheep

Ghion Journal

October 4, 2019

By Stephen Boni

“Listen: Making Money Off of Green Debt: Cory Morningstar Finds Corporate Wolves Behind Environmental Sheep”

 

 

Building through the privatization-friendly Reagan-Bush era of the 1980s, ramping up significantly with Bill Clinton’s signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in the 1990s, and solidified through the de facto repeal of the post-Great Depression separation between investment and commercial banks at the end of Clinton’s scandal-plagued final term in office at the turn of the millenium, the United States went through a very noticeable shift in how its economy functioned. Even people who didn’t pay attention to such things could feel it.

While the fundamentals of large-scale state capitalism remained—in which the U.S. government used debt and taxpayer dollars to provide the corporate sector with expensive research and development (the internet, for example), and offered crucial patent protection, favorable interest rates, extra cash in the form of subsidies, a wonderfully loophole-ridden tax code, near nonexistent enforcement of antitrust and environmental law, suppression of trade unions, and the stacking of government jobs and judicial appointments with pro-corporate professionals—the actual physical manifestations of the U.S. economy that those structures support were abandoned in ways they never had been before.

No longer did large investment firms or the stock market spend their time rewarding companies that invested in their own development, equipment, channels of distribution, growth and productivity of their workforces, etc. NAFTA, with its incentive to move jobs to other countries (particularly Mexico, which has even fewer environmental protections and drastically lower labor costs), made much of that boring, analytical work unnecessary.

So what was the newly unleashed finance sector of the economy supposed to make real money off of? Sure, they could preside over the mammoth corporate mergers and acquisitions that Reagan had freed up. That brought in some cash. The newly released internet offered speculative benefits as well. But the real money turned out to be, ironically, in the absence of money. It turned out to be in debt. Corporate debt, which could be packaged up into securities and sold to investors, but even more, the debt (mostly mortgage-related) that regular citizens were racking up to maintain their lifestyles in a less welcoming economy. Now that….oh wow, the transmogrification of that shaky debt into securities was the true windfall.

All of this fiddling around with debt was the hallmark of an economy that now focused much of its energy on finance and imaginary “products” that had no real physical presence in the real economy. We all know what came of that in 2008. One of the best explainers of how and why our economy—and indeed the world economy—blew apart was Matt Taibbi who, in a colloquial and hilariously sarcastic series of articles in Rolling Stone, famously described the investment bank Goldman Sachs as a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.”

The Next Financial Frontier

All of this is old hat by now, right? Nothing about this current formation of our economy has really changed in the decade following the crash of 2008. Obama gave our money to the debt-ridden banks; a shit-ton of people lost their jobs and their homes; local tax revenues dried up; and the propped up and bloated finance sector simply found a new way to profit off citizen debt by creating securities out of student loan and car loan debt. Capitalism, in its current American form, could only really make money, easy money, fast money (for an ever decreasing slice of the population) out of made-up financial illusions.

Even if you subtract the recent and growing social unrest—seen through the brief flash of the quickly beaten down and co-opted Occupy and Black Lives Matter movements, the proliferation of white nationalist and xenophobic groups, and the explosion of voter political disobedience in the forms of the 2016 Sanders and Trump campaigns—American capitalism has clearly been running into a dead end. Right now, even the biggest fans of our current economy in the financial world are anticipating a train wreck in which the latest debt bubble, which also includes corporate debt, will explode, leaving even more people in desperate trouble as a result.

This is the context that Cory Morningstar is operating in with Act III of her multi-part series called “The Manufacturing of Greta Thunberg. For Consent: The Most Inconvenient Truth. Capitalism is in Danger of Falling Apart.”

You can listen to the piece here and I believe you can learn a lot from it.

And you can hear Acts I & II of the series through the Words of Others podcast.

As Cory documents through the various sections of her article—particularly in her exploration of the investor-backed and nominally African solar power provider M-Kopa—the goal of the Western corporate elites who are operating in the background of “climate strike” activists and the organizations with which they’re affiliated is not to find a way out of a dead ending capitalism. It is not to engineer a low-carbon, less consumptive, less polluted, more equal world. Not at all. They’re trying to engineer what is essentially a fantasy—a slightly less carbon producing, still consumptive, slightly less polluted, equally unequal world that maintains the current position of the elite capitalist class (a class they all belong to).

To make that happen, it’s all about inflating a new financial bubble. As Cory explores, using a variety of primary source material, if the debt of corporations and regular citizens could be turned into financial securities and sold as investments to hedge funds, pension funds and other institutions, then why not create a new form of debt related to greening the economy? And why not do it on the backs of the poor and the non-white? And why not prove the investment potential of that debt so it can be similarly securitized and sold by major financial firms? Capitalism rescued! At least for a little while longer.

This is what Al Gore and his cohorts are trying to unlock. This is their mission. And guiding inspirational movements led by relatable teenagers such as Greta Thunberg is how they gain the critical mass among the general population they need to grease the wheels of government and industry and make their banal dream a reality.

It’s this insight that make’s Morningstar’s series so important. She is trying to help you see the wolves and their sharp smiles peeking out from behind those cuddly lambs you want to help and support.

As always, thanks for reading and thanks for listening.

 

[Stephen Boni is both Ghion Journal’s current editor and a contributing writer. His main interest is in analyzing the workings of empire and exploring ways to dismantle and replace systems of oppression. A conflicted New Englander with an affinity for people, music and avoiding isms, he lives in Oakland, California with his wife and young daughter.]

A Letter From the Yankton Sioux Territory

A Letter From the Yankton Sioux Territory

A Native community suffers massive flooding, far from the eye of the media

 

Sierra Club

October 14, 2019

By Jacqueline Keeler

 

 

Photos by Jacqueline Keeler

 

On Tuesday, October 8, members of the media were held in rapt attention as Greta Thunberg, the Swedish climate change activist, visited the tribal lands of the Standing Rock Sioux, the Native American nation that three years ago spearheaded a historic campaign against the Dakota Access oil pipeline.

“The #FridaysForFuture movement stand [sic] in solidarity with your struggles and hardships,” the climate strike teenager announced in a tweet the day before, during a visit to the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, “and the struggles of all Indigenous peoples in protecting their land, water, and traditions.”

Thunberg’s expression of solidarity for the struggles of Indigenous peoples was no doubt heartfelt. Before visiting Pine Ridge and Standing Rock, Thunberg had rallied with youths in Iowa City, Iowa. On her way between Iowa and Pine Ridge, she drove right drove past the Yankton Sioux reservation, where the community of Lake Andes has been struggling to stay above water since a “bomb cyclone” hit the region in March. If Thunberg had wanted to see firsthand “the struggles of all Indigenous peoples,” she could have stopped at Lake Andes, where she could have born witness to the neglect still endured by so many Native American communities.

I visited the Yankton Sioux reservation in early October, and even I—a Native person used to seeing how Indigenous communities are poorly treated—was shocked by what I saw there.

Hundreds of Native children have spent the past six months living in homes flooded by water. The main road to town, Highway 18, just reopened in September. Then, just two weeks after the reopening, another epic storm brought 11 inches of rain in 24 hours. The new road washed out, and homes once again flooded. Residents now rely on a much longer and rutted dirt road to get to town and school. During heavy rains, runoff also makes that road impassable.

“Our community is literally drowning,” the tribe declared in an August 12 statement released even before the latest spout of rains, “due to State negligence and indifference to the health and well-being of our people.” But state and federal officials have offered little to no help. There’s a National Guard unit based on the reservation, just 20 miles away in the town of Wagner, where the tribal offices are located. Tribal members say the Wagner National Guard unit has extensive bridge-building and water-treatment equipment to deal specifically with water disasters, and a trip from Wagner to Lake Andes usually takes just 15 minutes. But when the tribe asked Governor Kristi Noem to mobilize the guard, the South Dakota governor refused the tribe’s request.

The Trump administration has also turned a blind eye to the humanitarian crisis on the Yankton Sioux reservation. After the most recent rains and flooding, the White House issued an emergency declaration for 25 counties in South Dakota, including the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. The Yankton Sioux Tribe and the county that contains the reservation, Charles Mix County, were not included. Some Yankton tribal members speculate that the lack of action by both the state and federal governments may be due to their active support of Standing Rock Sioux during the Dakota Access Pipeline fight.

“It’s like we live in a third-world country and we are forgotten,” Lauren Crowe, a Yankton Sioux resident of Lake Andes, told me. “No one cares.”

If Thunberg had visited Lake Andes, she would have seen that the children living at the tribe’s White Swan housing have skin ailments like ringworm and impetigo. The standing water in and around their homes has tested positive for E. coli. Local residents told me that one child has been treated for E. coli and another, a four-year-old, contracted MRSA, an antibiotic-resistant staph infection, at the hospital. Students from White Swan housing are being teased in school because, despite washing their clothes, other students can detect the smell of mold on them. In the past week, three families have made the difficult choice to abandon their homes because their children rely on nebulizers or have pneumonia and are having difficulty breathing.

On the Yankton Sioux reservation, the flooding of a home’s basement can be a major catastrophe. Many of the small homes are occupied by two to three generations, and before the flood the basements were used not only for storage but also as living quarters. As water seeped through the walls of the basements, furniture and beds were destroyed— a total loss for families who cannot afford to replace them. Since many families stored clothing in their basements, some children are now going to school without winter coats and boots.

As the black mold continues to grow in their homes, community volunteers suit up to clean the homes of elders or the disabled who cannot complete this task themselves. One resident returned home from the hospital after an organ transplant with his wife and seven kids to find black mold growing in the fridge.

Some residents are hesitant to turn on their basement furnaces, fearful they will release toxic mold spores into their homes. Yet winter has already descended upon the Great Plains. A snowstorm blanketed the western part of South Dakota earlier this month, and nighttime temperatures are now below freezing.

Since their homes smell of sewage, many Lake Andes residents prefer to eat meals together at the community center where neighbors volunteer to make meals three times a day. In the mornings, grandmothers gather early to drink their coffee together, unable to stand the smell of their homes.

But the community center, which also contains the gym and tribal police station, is a precarious refuge: It has flooded four times since March. Across the road is a sewage-treatment station, which has also been underwater and is now sandbagged. Tribal authorities watch it carefully; if it fails, sewage will back up and the entire community of 65 houses will have to be evacuated.

The ongoing flooding and displacement are, in a way, history repeating itself. The families that live in tribal housing at Lake Andes are mainly the descendants of the village of White Swan that once existed on the Missouri River. Like the town of Cannonball on the Standing Rock Reservation, it was flooded by the Army Corps of Engineers to build a hydroelectric dam in the 1950s. A series of dams were constructed under the Pick-Sloan Plan that selectively flooded and displaced Native American farmers and communities up and down the Missouri River. The Army Corps of Engineers later rebuilt Cannonball at Standing Rock. White Swan, however, was never rebuilt.

The Corps of Engineers did relocate the 19th-century, white clapboard Episcopal church of St. Philip the Deacon and hundreds of graves. But not all of the bodies were moved. In 1999, when water was lowered behind the Fort Randall dam, caskets and funeral objects were revealed to still be in place.

The water standing in the basements and pooling around the homes of Lake Andes likely also contains hazardous runoff from the intensive farming practices of the Native community’s white neighbors. The Yankton Sioux reservation is heavily “checkerboarded.” That is, after the Dawes Allotment Act of 1887, land was allotted per tribal member, and any land “leftover” was opened up to homesteading. (Famously, one of those homesteading families was that of novelist Laura Ingalls Wilder, whose family resided on Dakota land). So in many places on the Great Plains, land ownership alternates from between tribal and nontribal.

Driving across southeastern South Dakota from Iowa and Nebraska, a visitor sees neat and tidy farms stretching to the horizon—seemingly the realized vision of Thomas Jefferson’s dreamed-of agrarian republic. The price of this intensive farming of the formally wild prairie, however, is a poisoning of the lakes and groundwater with nitrates and phosphates from fertilizers and factory farms.

Lake Andes, once a popular resort destination, now experiences fish die-offs from algae blooms. Two winters ago, the lack of oxygen in the lake due to algae blooms killed many fish, which were then locked in winter ice—a haunting image that briefly took the Internet by storm.

Tribal members say they have been warned against allowing their dogs to swim in the lake water. Water from this same watershed is now filling people’s homes.

It’s too bad tribal leaders in Standing Rock did not look south to their relatives downriver on the Missouri and bring Thunberg to witness the suffering of Dakota children living in inundated houses.

During the epic battle against the Dakota Access Pipeline, the water protectors wore T-shirts and carried signs that said, “mni wiconi,” Lakota for “water is life.” While it’s true that water is life, it’s equally true that water can be death. America’s policies of displacement and “development” of our Dakota and Lakota homelands have turned water into a death sentence for our communities. As the Yankton Sioux tribal leaders put it, “we are literally drowning.”

 

 

[Jacqueline Keeler is a Diné/Ihanktonwan Dakota writer and contributor to The Nation, Yes! Magazine, Truthout, The New York Times, High Country News, and many other publications. She is the editor of Edge of Morning: Native Voices Speak for the Bears Ears and author of forthcoming Standing Rock to the Bundy Standoff: Occupation, Native Sovereignty, and the Fight for Sacred Landscapes.]

The Gift that Keeps on Giving To the Ruling Elite: Cognitive Dissonance

Solarian

October 12, 2019

By Guy Crittenden

 

 

It’s been interesting defending my article on Solarian.ca “Not This Kind of Green” on social media.

After I shared the article on Facebook a number of people attacked the post, invariably confounding my invitation that people read Cory Morningstar’s superb multi-part series “The Manufacturing of Greta Thunberg” with the idea that Morningstar or myself are somehow criticizing the young woman at the center of the recent media phenomenon.

This is ironic, as one of Morningstar’s arguments is that the young pig-tailed girl’s role in fronting the campaign — and her promotion to superstar status by the media and various NGOs, foundations, and political actors (when so many other activists have been sidelined or even jailed) — is to cause  and prevent meaningful debate.

This is a challenging subject to discuss; people come to the table with pre-existing world views, values and assumptions. In order to really grasp Morningstar’s intention, a progressive person (for example) might need to set aside the elements of their own confirmation bias in order to understand that the writer is not making common cause with right-wing reactionary criticisms of Thunberg and unpleasant attacks on the young woman from a personalized “hater” perspective but instead offers a savvy critique of monopoly capitalism and the contemporary network of non-profit agencies, lenders, military equipment suppliers, and deep state agencies that has cooperated on such projects as selling wars around the planet and making perpetual war a reality, expanding the surveillance state to Orwellian proportions, installing an explicitly Neo Nazi government in Ukraine, and a fascist government in Honduras (note that eight out of ten asylum seekers who show up a the US-Mexico border are from that country), and the attempted coups d’etat against socialist governments in Nicaragua, Venezuela, Syria and other countries.

It’s easy to throw sand in skeptical eyes, also, by deflecting to dead-end win/lose arguments about whether global warming is or is not happening, and the extent to which human activity is causing it. Slogans like “climate change denier” are useful agitprop in that regard; ergo, we have environmental specialists with Ph.D.’s who find they can’t converse about this without being shouted down, if their questions waver even slightly from the orthodoxy. I myself have a boundless interest in learning the truth (whatever it is); orthodoxies? Not so much. (To put it another way, I dislike orthodoxies even if they happen to be right about something.)

 

Protest signs at the Climate Strike action at Queen’s Park, Ontario. Photo by Guy Crittenden

Morningstar’s article series points out that an elite socio-political structure is poised to usurp the broad environmental movement at a critical juncture. No same person would argue we’re not in some kind of crisis. Ecological collapse is certainly underway, hence the disappearance of bees and the so-called “insect apocalypse.” This year the Pacific salmon fishery collapsed in a way that was eerily reminiscent of the Atlantic cod fishery. I could list many other situations, from overfishing and finning of sharks or the bleaching of coral reefs to the imminent extinction of orang-utans as their rainforests are converted into plantations for palm oil and other mono-culture crops. Manmade climate change is a significant narrative thread that’s interwoven with all these issues. An adult conversation is needed about exactly what’s happening and a broad and (very) democratic discussion is needed about optimal solutions — the kind of discussion that’s practically impossible in the current climate, especially with state and corporate media acting as stenographers for agencies like the CIA and the Pentagon.

Awareness is growing that we need to determine what will replace monopoly capitalism, for which the tragedy of the commons is practically baked in. This will involve close scrutiny of the decades of neoconservative and neoliberal policy that’s eroded civil society, enriched elites, inflicted financialization and austerity on domestic and foreign populations, converted much of the former industrial heartland of the United States and the UK into dystopias, and has refashioned the NATO countries (and others) into perpetual war economies. This is precisely the conversation that the aforementioned elites don’t want us to have. This is precisely the conversation against which a clever propaganda narrative is being constructed, utilizing the image of an idealistic young woman. And this is precisely the conversation Morningstar is attempting to instigate.

[John Pilger’s documentary film The New Rulers of the World (2001) meticulously examines how multinational corporations moved in on Indonesia and — in a pattern that’s repeated itself in countless countries from Greece to Jamaica, from Chile to Libya — looted the economy via extractive projects that benefit those companies and international lenders, while greasing the palms of the local ruling class, and do nothing for ordinary citizens who are stuck with staggering public and private debt, and in many cases live in shantytowns. The role of the non-profit sector and NGOs in austerity and neocolonial schemes is poorly understood by the public.]

And so, for that reason, I’m sharing this excellent article from artist and writer Hiroyuki Hamada. “In Defence of Cory Morningstar’s Manufacturing for Consent Series” supports Morningstar’s contention that oligarchic forces are seizing on the climate change narrative (and situation) to eventually implement policies, programs and technocratic solutions that constitute a Hail Mary Pass in perpetuating the very system that gave rise to the climate crisis in the first place.

We’ve all heard the old saying, “To a man with a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.” Similarly, to people mentally conditioned to accept the limited lines of reasoning and possibilities offered within hierarchical capitalism and neo-colonialism, with all their state-sanctioned violence, every environmental problem is a nail for which the obvious solution is an IMF/World Bank-funded megaproject, with bottom-up subsidies flowing to transnational corporations and authoritarian governments loyal to Washington. Australian journalist John Pilger made an excellent documentary — The New Rulers of the World — about how this all works, in the context of the economic colonization of Indonesia. If you like the mega projects described there, that benefited foreign companies and political elites while doing nothing for ordinary people (many of whom live in shantytowns and are now the subject of  austerity programs), you’re going to love what those same elites construct in the name of fighting climate change, all with your consent obtained via propaganda.

If you find this suggestion offensive, if you can’t get past your love of Greta Thunberg to seriously entertain these ideas, consider that perhaps the propaganda is working as intended.

 

 

[Guy Crittenden is an environment and business journalist and award-winning book author (The Year of Drinking Magic: Twelve Ceremonies with the Vine of Souls, Apocryphile Press) based in Innisfil, Ontario, Canada and Principal of Crittenden Communication. Contact Guy at guy@crittendencommunication.com]

Global Netwar 2019

Global Netwar 2019

mill u

October 24, 2019

By Jay Taber

 

 

INTRODUCTION

In 1994, an indigenous movement emerged that would forever change the face and the language of resistance. The Zapatista were arguably the first grassroots movement to utilize the full potential of a decentralized communications structure known as “netwar”, which is shorthand for networked psychological warfare.

Effective netwar as demonstrated by the Zapatista relies on the strategic use of all available forms of communication–including street art, public gestures, signage, text and audio/visual expressions, all of which relate to an overall theme that is apparent and memorable. Such communications must also stand in sharp contrast to those of the opposition, in order to clearly distinguish your values from theirs.

Mobilization of netwar is more complex. It relies on time and place, the kinds of resources you have, and the challenges in front of you. Through their own mobilization, the Zapatista were able to maintain a discourse that would not be replaced by the opposition.

The most profound outcome of the 1999 WTO protests is the appearance of the netwar construct in American politics. The “Battle in Seattle” was fought not only in the streets, but also in the infosphere. The WTO protests were the first to take full advantage of the extremely dense and wide-reaching alternative media network which uses the internet. The use of “media special forces” is one of the hallmarks of netwar and informational conflicts.

The WTO protests were the Chiapas insurrection come to America. Like the Zapatista netwar, the conflict was one of networks versus markets. 

On January 1st, 1994, to coincide with implemetation of the NAFTA free trade agreement, the then unknown Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) launched an armed insurrection in Chiapas state against the Mexican government.

The flexible and improvised communications infrastructure used by the Direct Action Network was a significant feature in the protests. One of the dictums of netwar is that netwar actors have a much greater interest in keeping communications working, rather than shutting them down. The dense and diversified communications used by the Direct Action Network could not have been significantly harmed by any action less than a total media and communications blackout in Seattle. Not only is such an action impossible for the economic and social costs which would result, but a blackout of the required magnitude would be the informational equivalent of unconditional surrender by the establishment. Future protests will be even more information intensive. Both protesters and their opponents will have to come to terms with the implications of netwar and the struggle for information, understanding and “topsight.” Because the ultimate prize in a netwar conflict is understanding, not opinion, it is the quality of information, not the quantity, which determines the final outcome.

The essential conditions for victory in a netwar conflict are also the conditions which make waging netwar possible: the shared understanding of a situation which demands direct action. In many ways, the victory of the Direct Action Network was implicit in the fact that so many people understood the conflict and were willing to act on that understanding.

The streets of Seattle showed what democracy looks like.

NETWORKS

In 2001, RAND analysts David Ronfeldt and John Arquilla wrote in their seminal paper Networks and Netwars and the Fight for the Future, that the deep dynamic guiding their analysis is that the information revolution favors the rise of network forms of organization–the next major form of organization to come into its own to redefine societies–and in so doing, the nature of conflict and cooperation. The rise of networks, they argued, means that power is migrating to nonstate actors, and that whoever masters the network form stands to gain the advantage.

In 2003, their colleague Paul de Armond, research director for the Public Good network, observed,

“We are on the cusp of the biggest movement of social transformation that has hit this country in a generation. Among other things, that means the number of potential recruits is more than we’ve seen since the 1960s.”

Building on the work of Ronfeldt, de Armond, and Arquilla, I remarked in my 2005 book War of Ideas, “The challenge for those devoted to training and nurturing agents for social change is in providing programs that focus on the specific tools these agents will need–to develop research and analysis capacity in a manner similar to intelligence and security capabilities conducted during military warfare.”

With the hostile takeover of all mainstream media by private equity investors early in the 21st Century, investigative journalism died in mainstream newsrooms. This void in mass communication has since been supplanted with propaganda created by public relations (PR) firms hired by transnational corporations.

To counter this demise of reporting on vital issues, volunteer citizen journalists and a handful of independent reporters have taken up this essential task. Simultaneously, activist scholars turned to blogging about social conflict online. The challenge for these volunteers and independents is learning the principles of communications in conflict, which is not taught in journalism school, nor commonly understood.

As an example, citizen journalists, reporters and bloggers routinely violate the core principle of social conflict, which is to never repeat the talking points of your opposition. For some reason, they almost always begin their articles by stating their opposition’s talking points, and then refute them. Unfortunately, this means that everyone is discussing their opponents’ position—not theirs. Long story short, repetition sinks in.

NETWAR

  • Storytelling is of special significance to network organizations because it is the means by which they encourage members to identify with and act on behalf of the network.
  •  

  • When network organizations compete in storytelling with other organizations, they engage in narrative netwar.
  •  

  • In traditional wars, if one disables the leadership or normal channels of communication, the war is won. In netwar, the network adjusts quickly, continuing on the offensive on some fronts, and establishing alternative channels of communication.
  •  

    The central feature of informational conflicts is the struggle for understanding and knowledge, as opposed to more traditional conflicts which focus on controlling territories or resources. Netwar conflicts are struggles for understanding and information. The more inaccurate the assessment of opposing forces, the greater the advantage to the side which possesses “top-view”—comprehensive and realistic understanding.

    Netwar refers to social conflict in which the protagonists use network forms of organization and related doctrines, strategies, and sometimes technologies. Netwar players are likely to consist of dispersed organizations, small groups, and individuals who communicate, coordinate, and conduct their campaigns in a consultative and collaborative manner without a central command.

    Netwar is inherently less violent than other forms of conflict, particularly when it involves non-governmental organizations dedicated to human rights and peace causes. One of the first full-blown manifestations of netwar was the Zapatista conflict in Chiapas. The networked intervention of international groups placed very real limits on the use of violence by the Mexican government in suppressing the insurrection.

    Research separates facts from misinformation by finding the evidence that enables judgment. Information is the facts that matter; knowledge is information in a framework. Research and analysis is using what you do know to find out what you don’t.

    The use of political diplomacy for purposes of constraining political violence is not only ineffective; it is inappropriate and signals those who use violence that their opponents lack the moral disposition to counter aggressiveness.

    Misguided or cowardly reformers who engage them thus, do so at grave risk to a community.

    PUBLIC HEALTH MODEL

    In the body politic, social pathogens of aggression that surface in the form of such things as racism, fascism, homophobia, and xenophobia can be viewed and approached in a manner similar to public health.

    Each of these ideological diseases have origins, histories, distinct characteristics, and can be studied, monitored, and analyzed asking the same basic questions used by the Centers for Disease Control and the Institutes for Public Health:

  • Where does it come from?
  • What conditions allow it to prosper?
  • How is it transmitted?
  • What is its life cycle?
  • What causes it to become dormant?
  • Can it be eradicated?
  •  

    To make room for democracy, it is first necessary to circumscribe political violence. The Public Health Model of community organizing defines political violence as the suppression of free and open inquiry. The remedy of rendering ineffective the agents who practice political violence requires both training and structured reflection.

    INTELLIGENCE STRATEGY & TACTICS

    Concerned citizens and good government groups are frequently blind-sided by an opposition playing by a different set of rules. Part of this is put down to the fact that the models they bring to these situations don’t work. Often, their response to a problem is in a complete vacuum of information. While it’s real easy to get a lot of people involved in a community response, it’ll usually be ineffective because they don’t know what they’re up against.

    Research provides the facts and builds a knowledge base. That knowledge is filtered through analysis to determine strategy. Operational research guides the tactics used to accomplish the strategy. In netwar, multiple groups adopt their understanding of the situation to develop the strategy and tactics most favorable to their situation.

    The creation of discursive monoculture—intended to dominate all discussion of vital issues—is the result of a strategy by the power elite to prevent counter-power narratives from entering mainstream consciousness. Through hostile takeovers of government, media, and the non-profit industrial complex, the financial sector in the last decade has accomplished what official censorship and political repression could not: the mobilization of progressives in support of neoliberal fascism.

    The financial sector capture of media, academia, and civil society indicates a future of diminishing consciousness—a future where fantasies about political power enable the murder of indigenous activists and unembedded journalists with impunity. In A World of Make Believe, I elaborated on the fact that privatized mass communication now dominates public opinion to such a degree that all public discussion of vital issues is choreographed by PR firms.

    In Controlling Consciousness, I observed that the donor elites that set the civil society agenda benefit from Wall Street’s vertical integration of controlling consciousness, allowing them to fabricate news, as well as to integrate advertising with government propaganda. In order to maintain credibility, the non-profit PR firms subservient to the power elite, i.e. Avaaz, need to first establish a noble reputation, often using the tried-and-true method of poverty pimping—an effective and largely undetected tool in the art of social engineering.

    As I remarked in R2P: The Theatre of Catastrophe, under the neoliberal model of global conquest, social media marketing agencies like Avaaz, Purpose, and Amnesty International function as stage managers for the power elite in choreographed productions where neoliberal heroism can be enacted. These constructed events–that urge neoliberal military interventions in countries like Mali and Burundi—then draw in civil society as participants of moral catastrophe, where they actually become complicit in crimes against humanity.

    The ulterior strategy of Avaaz as the ‘Great White Hope’ in other venues, subsequently allowed this social media marketing agency to easily herd so-called progressives to line up behind the neoliberal imperial campaigns in Libya and Syria–where Avaaz literally designed and managed the PR campaign for NATO and the US–in order to present the Al Qaeda affiliate Al Nusra as the good guys in ‘white helmets’. Networked psychological warfare (Netwar) is not hard to grasp; it just isn’t discussed anywhere, making communication the invisible environment.

    CONCLUSION

    In 1991, Amnesty International eagerly acquiesced to the $11 million Wag the Dog public relations campaign–devised for the Pentagon by the Hill & Knowlton PR firm–to generate support for the US invasion of Iraq, and in 2012, AI was an enthusiastic cheerleader in support of the escalated bombing of Afghanistan by NATO.

    In 2015, Amnesty International–in one of the most egregious examples of the nihilism that now characterizes the human rights industry–endorsed the organized crime initiative to freely engage in human trafficking of women and children for sex slavery through the decriminalization of the prostitution industry–rather than choosing to support the Nordic model of decriminalizing the victims, but not the perpetrators.

    In 2015-2016 Amnesty International supported–and continues to support—US and NATO military aggression in countries like Libya and Syria, which is bolstered by the public relations campaigns of Avaaz and Purpose–Wall Street-funded marketing agencies with deep ties to the very heart of the military industrial complex. By unthinkingly supporting AI, these ‘peace and justice’ centers become complicit in these war crimes and crimes against humanity.

    Many so-called ‘peace and justice’ centers in the United States are still oblivious to the ongoing betrayal of human rights by Amnesty International (AI), which—like Human Rights Watch– has become increasingly corrupt over the past two decades. This brief overview is intended to help dispel the mistaken notion that AI is sacrosanct, and to prompt the pious poseurs–that comprise the purity networks in the US–to begin basing their policies, programs and associations on facts, rather than on outdated fantasies about the Human Rights Industrial Complex.

    In order to transition from these preconceived fantasies to research-based reality regarding human rights, these ‘peace and justice’ centers will need to reorient themselves to doing research related to digital netwar, rather than reflexively responding to press releases by Amnesty International, or to the social media propaganda by AI public relations associates Avaaz and Purpose. Until these local nodes of ostensibly noble causes do research, they will remain a notably unconscious milieu—infantile consumers, rather than informed and engaged citizens.

     

    For further reading, see The Zapatista Social Netwar in Mexico.

     

     

    [Jay Thomas Taber is a retired journalist whose investigations exposed institutional corruption, organized crime, and media complicity. In 2000, he was presented the Defender of Democracy award for his work that led to the convictions of Christian Patriot militia members in Seattle for making bombs to murder human rights activists.

    Jay received his MA in Humanities and Leadership at New College of California, where he designed the graduate program Activism and Social Change. He was a contributing editor of Fourth World Journal from 2005-2017, and communications director of the Public Good network (US and Canada) for 22 years.

    Jay is the author of Communications in Conflict–published by IC magazine in 2013–and Anti-Indian Movement on the Salish Sea, a six-part special report published by the Center for World Indigenous Studies in 2018. Shining a Light, an interview with Jay for SHIFT magazine (Australia), was published in 2015. He is the creator of INSiGHT.]

    Listen: What Do We See When We See Earth? Reading Act II of Cory Morningstar’s Research into the NGO Industrial Complex

    Listen: What Do We See When We See Earth? Reading Act II of Cory Morningstar’s Research into the NGO Industrial Complex

    Ghion Journal

    September 18, 2019

    “Listen: What Do We See When We See Earth? Reading Act II of Cory Morningstar’s Research into the NGO Industrial Complex”

     

    By Stephen Boni

     

     

    The planet Earth; the strange, beautiful, indifferent, often brutal, often tender home we inhabit, exists in a way that’s so much bigger, so much more complex, so much more mysterious than any civilization human beings can set on top of it.

    When you step out of whatever shelter you’ve got each morning, all of that astonishing simply presented timelessness is just there. In all its IS-ness. On the land and in the air. I’ve written this before in other essays. If you’re really dialed in, you can feel the whole thing breathe. The pure being of this place, even with all of the concrete, fumes and trash we’ve imposed on it, is an enormous overwhelming pulse. It is it’s own inspiration, in a sense.

    Despite cars and computers and nuclear fission and human beings, Earth itself remains stubbornly, ahistorically, gloriously uninterested in what we’re up to.

    I used to believe this. I used to believe this was at least a piece of the ultimate truth that would necessarily live beyond my ability to comprehend.

    But climate change has taught me something else. Earth reacts to what we’ve lain on top of it, underneath it and above it. It’s reacting right now. It’s been reacting for centuries. It’s not indifferent; not in the way I previously thought. And it’s heated reaction to our pollution, our war, our methane, and our ever-increasing carbon emissions is killing some of us—and may kill a whole lot more of us down the line.

    . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

    There’s a scene from the much-maligned Zabriskie Point, the 1970 counterculture film by Italian director Michaelangelo Antonioni, in which an American family, tourists, drive up to the edge of an extraordinary canyon. A geological testament to Earth’s paradox of constant change and absolute stillness. And the father of the family gets out of the car to look at this sublimity and says something to the tune of “wow, honey, this would be a great spot for a restaurant and a gift shop. We could make some real money up here.”

    It’s a quick scene. The voices of the actors are muffled by the naturalistic sound design, the interference of car and wind. But it lands like a mule-kick. Antonioni set the film in the U.S. for a reason. In 1970, as now (though dwindling), we’re the hegemon. It’s our culture that sees nature as a chance to make a buck, and thus afford us luxuries that take us further away from the Earth on which our feet are planted (and what gives us life in the first place). He gives America too much credit, of course. The logic of capitalism is a near worldwide phenomenon and the United States is perhaps the current greatest devotee.

    In Act II of her 6-part series about what lies behind today’s deceptively youth-driven climate justice movements, the independent investigative journalist/activist Cory Morningstar delves into non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the members of the corporate elite who conceive them, run them, and use them to redirect the passionate energies of young people, who want us to get off this toxic carbon carousel, towards profit-making projects.

    You can listen to The Words of Others podcast to hear a reading of Act II, The Manufacturing of Greta Thunberg: The Inconvenient Truth Behind Youth Co-Optation.

    What Morningstar gets at in her research is this: the wealthy philanthropists, marketers, economists, politicians and corporate players are merely more well-heeled versions of the middle-class family man looking out and finding a way to unsee the massive canyon in Zabriskie Point. Although they understand that climate change is real, that the choking of earth’s ecosystems through waste and pollution is real, they don’t gaze upon this destruction as an impetus to abandon capitalism as a system. They don’t kneel down in shame and gratitude and rejoicing that we yet can remake our relationship to our home, this Earth.

    Instead, they see it as a way to make a buck.

    But they can only make a buck off of this rolling catastrophe if they shove a quiet, thoughtful teenager in front of us. Galvanize us through heart and empathy. And redirect our tender emotions not into collective ecosystem restoration, but rather into “make-a-buck” solutions that will only serve to reproduce our separation from this home, from one another, and from the ineffable meaning that could nurture our brief time here.

    And I can’t help thinking how paltry it all is.

    When you read about kids across the country getting off school to take part in the climate strike, pay attention to who stands behind brave Greta Thunberg. Pay attention to who talks after her.

    Who is waiting there to channel your energy to heal this place into the weightless unmeaning futility of make-a-buck?

    As always, thanks for reading and thanks for listening.

     

    [Stephen Boni is both Ghion Journal’s current editor and a contributing writer. His main interest is in analyzing the workings of empire and exploring ways to dismantle and replace systems of oppression. A conflicted New Englander with an affinity for people, music and avoiding isms, he lives in Oakland, California with his wife and young daughter.]

     

    Listen: Don’t Take Movements at Face Value: Reading Cory Morningstar’s Research into Environmental Activist Greta Thunberg

    Listen: Don’t Take Movements at Face Value: Reading Cory Morningstar’s Research into Environmental Activist Greta Thunberg

    Ghion Journal

    September 5, 2019

    By Stephen Boni

     

     

    A few years back, I was working on a writing and interview project for a national nonprofit in which I spent time with professionals who focused on sustainability. I wasn’t hanging out with Julia “Butterfly” Hill or the descendants of Edward Abbey. These were people who were firmly part of the professional class and operating inside the system to varying degrees. Not everyone’s a radical and I found many of my interview subjects to be fascinating individuals who had accomplished worthwhile things.

    However, one issue threw me for a minor loop. During a discussion with a guy who was involved in the financial end of foundation work on climate change and ecosystems, he termed the natural processes occurring in ecosystems as “ecosystem services” that need to be quantified monetarily. “That’s weird”, I thought, so I probed and he enthusiastically explained how financializing the functioning of ecosystems would help the foundation he worked for create “deals” to structure the ways in which they would use their resources to help preserve or restore ecosystems in various parts of the world.

    His explanation made a certain amount of sense at the time, but the framing of natural processes to fit within a concept of markets and payments troubled me. On a planet undergoing constant (albeit often barely perceptible) evolutionary change, as well as continual stress due to the massive impact of capitalist economic models enacted on its ‘body’, I wondered how helpful it was to frame the millions-of-years-old interdependently balanced functioning of ecosystems as, essentially, an enterprise. Enterprises within capitalism seek growth at all costs. Ecosystems and the atmosphere don’t conform to or care about these constructs, so what was this financialization effort really all about?

    In the years since I conducted that interview, I’ve continued to look askance at the idea that we can avoid catastrophic ecosystem collapse by conceptualizing earth’s materials, relationships and processes as nothing more than a new set of markets within capitalism.

    With this uncomfortable feeling remaining near the surface of my consciousness, earlier this year I discovered the investigative journalism of Cory Morningstar (an admittedly late discovery, since she’s been writing for 10 years or more), who does in-depth research into the connections between nonprofits, startups, marketing, movement building, and the long-range planning of politicians and the capitalist class. Her series, the Manufacturing of Greta Thunberg, has helped me get a lot more concrete about the disquiet I experienced as I interviewed sustainability professionals.

    With the backdrop this week of the AOC-allied climate group ‘The Sunrise Movement’ praising presidential candidates like Elizabeth Warren (who has done next to nothing for the climate during her time as Senator) for environmental plans she discussed on a recent televised town hall, I thought it would be helpful to continue our podcast reading series—recently given the title “The Words of Others”—with the first section of Morningstar’s 6-part investigation into media celebrity Greta Thunberg and the climate organizations to which she’s connected.

    Morningstar’s work (all six pieces have also been compiled in book form) may prove instructive as those of us who are concerned about our survival on this planet try to focus on what activity can genuinely make a positive difference for the climate, the atmosphere and the health of our ecosystems.

    Listen here:

     

     

    [Stephen Boni is both Ghion Journal’s current editor and a contributing writer. His main interest is in analyzing the workings of empire and exploring ways to dismantle and replace systems of oppression. A conflicted New Englander with an affinity for people, music and avoiding isms, he lives in Oakland, California with his wife and young daughter.]

    I’ll Tell You Why The 99% Is Not In Revolt

    I’ll Tell You Why The 99% Is Not In Revolt

    Popular Resistance

    October 16, 2019

    By Cliff Willmeng

    “I’ll Tell You Why The 99% Is Not In Revolt”

     

    The Natural Capital Coalition, that seeks the assigning of monetary value to nature, global in scale, promotes the Green New Deal.

    The Natural Capital Coalition, that seeks the assigning of monetary value to nature, (the financialization of nature) global in scale, promotes the Green New Deal.

     

    A Response to Ralph Nader

    We do the work.

    Well-known political commentator and activist Ralph Nader was recently featured in a Truthdig article titled, “Why Aren’t the 99% Revolting?”. The points made in the article sharply illustrate the scale of growing crisis and conflict across the US and globally. It covered issues as wide-ranging as medical care, climate change, and the titanic disparity of global wealth distribution. It concluded with the following, hollow statement. “I could go on and on. Pick up the pace, readers. Senator Elizabeth Warren has correctly called for “big structural changes.”

    Of course, we are all asking ourselves the same thing. How bad does it have to get before widespread rebellion? How many unarmed people of color will be gunned down by police? How many civil rights are going to be stripped? How rich can the elites get off of our labor? How much pain do we all need to feel before we rise up? It’s a natural question to ask by anyone suffering the nature of US capitalism. Unfortunately, Nader’s article rings tone-deaf. Like so many liberal arguments, it places the burden of rebellion on working class people while ignoring the mechanisms that kill revolt wherever and whenever it threatens to spark into life.

    Although the elements that prevent substantial rebellion are many, they really boil down to just three. They are the not for profit industry, the leaders of what is currently mislabeled as, “The union movement”, and the Democratic Party. These three elements, all loyal to each other and working in unison, act as the front-line protective mechanism for US capitalism and the political class that serves it.

    Many of you will be tempted to flail at this stage of the discussion. Aren’t the Republicans so much worse? Why would anyone attack the forces that are on our side after all they have done, even if they have some traits we may disagree with? The answer is quite simple. These forces are not allied with the types of changes our world desperately needs. They are not there to build, nor even prepare the ground for those types of changes. They act, instead, as the professional brokers of negotiated surrender for communities, workforces, and the environment. They are not building movements; they are preventing them.

    What is a Movement?

    What is a movement anyway? We hear the term tossed about as often as references to Martin Luther King Jr in every venue from the election of politicians to online petitioning. Although movements have changed the course of US politics for centuries, the essential qualities of movements are nearly forgotten today. In the 50 years that have passed since the civil rights and antiwar movements of the 1960s, the definition of “movement” has become the possession of the same institutions that have been most consistent in keeping new movements from forming.

    Let’s look at some basic qualities of movements throughout history:

    1. Although movements may build their own leadership, they do not look for change to come from above. Instead, movements build politically independent power from below.
    1. Movements understand that injustice is not an accidental or coincidental outcome of the political system, but the system working according to design.
    1. All movements, recognizing the systemic nature of the problem, will organize ways to break the rules of that system, not simply appeal to it.
    1. Through building independent political power and organized mass disobedience, movements force the system to do things it was otherwise unwilling to do.

    All of these qualities, synonymous with victories and grassroots power historically, are omitted from the dominant and promoted activism of today. Let’s take a look at who is writing the current narrative.

    The Not For Profit Industrial Complex

    Alongside any injustice taking place nationally, a cottage industry of professional activists and organizations arises. This occurs as soon as any outrage, protest, or other grassroots formation builds to the point of exerting even a minor amount of uncontrolled political power. As soon as sufficient people and attention are involved, not for profit organizations will be dispatched to commandeer, tame, and control the process. The not for profits are funded by foundations, dark money donors, or otherwise politically connected individuals. It’s easy to see why communities or other efforts fall into their influence. They have staff, networks, and resources that we don’t normally possess at the grassroots level. But in the end, they will lead people into the predictable forms of activism that have been the hallmark of the last 50 years of retreat before Wall Street and Washington D.C. The not for profits help you feel better about negotiating the terms of your defeat. They will not lead an effort, however, that threatens the political and economic elites in any meaningful way.

    The Union Leadership

    The US working class has been on a downward spiral for generations. Once a power that shook the ground and terrified the rich, and sent their politicians scrambling for ways to save US capitalism, the unions have seen decades of defeated strikes and retreat. Today, despite historic popularity, unions continue to lose strikes and membership, all the while handing hundreds of millions of dollars of hard-earned dues money over to politicians. What happened to the thunderous power of the labor movement? Was this what rank and file workers wanted?

    After record-setting strikes in the 1930s and 1940s, US financial interests were able to gain dominant influence within union leadership. Throughout the 1950s revolutionaries were expelled from locals as the labor bureaucracy strengthened its ties and acceptance of the generalized dominance of the rich and powerful. The unions became a force that negotiated better conditions of exploitation and traded their power for a comfortable relationship with the bosses and political class. It became so dominant of a strategy that union officials coined the Orwellian term, the “Team Concept”, which promotes the idea that CEOs and workers can overcome their opposing interests and work together. It has meant ruin for the American working class and an unparalleled race to the bottom for workers globally.

    Today the strategies of major victory are all carefully avoided within the union hierarchy. Even when places like Puerto Rico show definitively the effectiveness of efforts like a general strike, any discussion around such an idea is opposed by union leaders in the US. Why? Because it would risk the relationship of the union leaders and the owners of industry and government.

    The result is that 13 million union members, who could collectively bring the functioning of the largest capitalist economy to a halt, have been reduced to scripted measures and political spectatorship.

    The Democratic Party

    All resources, assets, time, labor, money, ideas, organizing and initiative are offered to and consumed by this dominant organization of US business interests. The Democratic Party, we are informed, is the alpha and omega of our efforts to organize for justice. The power of the Democratic Party is so accepted that conventional activism has come to mean a simplified lobby effort aimed to influence their operations or talking points. No movement in history started out with the hope that electing the right politicians would save us. No movement ever exploded onto the world stage with the position that powerful interests were open to moral persuasion. But this is the promoted conclusion and focus leveraged upon all grassroots formulations.

    When we accept this conclusion, that we can’t build a movement independent of the Democratic or Republican parties, by what force do we expect that they will change? And, even more, if we accept that the Democratic Party is our only political path forward, what specifically are the costs of maintaining that relationship? Given the nature of the Democratic Party, its owners, its ability to co-opt and control entire populations, what is the opportunity cost to staying within its good graces? It can only be one thing: The disarming of our power and any real threat of revolt. That is the price to ride.

    The consequences of this are not academic nor intellectual. Simply look at the state of the environment, the conditions in any major city, the US prison population, the decline of the working class, the wars, systemic racism, poverty and deepening crisis everywhere and you will see the objective consequences of a people outsourcing our power to politicians.

    The potential for forceful and effective revolt will be defined by its relationship to these three political forces. The more ties that exist between threatened rebellion and these forces, the more predictable and inert that rebellion will become.

    Is There Any Other Way Forward?

    Yes. Organized revolt has built occupations, urban insurrections, general strikes, and formed politically-independent organizations throughout history. The labor movement, the abolitionists, and the civil rights struggles all created political power sufficient to throw the system onto its heels and compel deep changes to government and industry. The examples aren’t confined to history either. In places like Kentucky and Virginia, rank and file teachers defied all convention and organized statewide strikes resulting in historic wage increases. Within the last five years, rebellion against racism and police brutality erupted in cities after the killing of Mike Brown in Ferguson. Standing Rock saw a historic assembly of First Nations to protect the water of the Missouri River from the Dakota Access Pipeline. Just this year a general strike in Puerto Rico removed Gov. Ricardo Rosselló from power. And let’s not forget that the work stoppage of rank and file airline attendants that defeated Trump’s attempt to keep the US government closed. It took all of 48 hours for that victory.

    In every moment throughout history, forces from below threaten to find expression. It means the system has had to develop elaborate mechanisms to keep these forces in check, predictable, and historically inert. The role of regular people then, the working class, has to be to recognize how we are being maneuvered and by whom, and to overcome those mechanisms so we can build something powerful, independent and existentially threatening to the old order. If we can achieve that, revolt is only a moment away. And when it happens, it will rise to the level of the crisis that compelled it.

    References:

    Ralph Nader: Why Isn’t the 99% Revolting?

    https://www.truthdig.com/articles/ralph-nader-why-isnt-the-99-percent-revolting/

     

     

    [Cliff Willmeng is a registered nurse, writer, and activist in grassroots labor and environmental struggles. Born in Chicago, Cliff co-founded the Chicago Direct Action Network after participating in the historic uprising against the World Trade Organization in Seattle, 1999. As a union carpenter in UBC Local 1, he was in the leading body of Carpenters For a Rank and File Union which organized successful fights for building trades members across Chicago. After moving to Colorado, Cliff was at the center of the fight against oil and gas drilling known as “fracking”, and helped to found Labor For Standing Rock in 1996. He ran for Boulder County Commissioner as an independent socialist and union official in 2018, receiving nearly 13,000 votes. Cliff lives with his wife and two children today in Minneapolis, Minnesota.]

     

    Perfect Distractions and Fantastical Mitigation Plans

    Perfect Distractions and Fantastical Mitigation Plans

    October 19, 2019

    By Michael Swifte

     

     

     

    The recent UN Climate Action Summit in New York delivered both spectacle and much ignored signifiers of political will. I would say it was a failure in terms of any meaningful or effective action to deliver anything like a fossil fuel phase out. At the centre of the spectacle was Greta Thunberg, the perfect distraction, urging us to honour Paris targets, recognise ‘the science’ and act on climate. Greta laments inaction from world leaders like most of us do – this is a continuing theme. And like most of us, Greta sees inaction as a result of the political will failing to deliver on decades of rhetoric. Sadly though, the mitigation plans of the powerful, the key signifiers of political will for continued relentless extractivism never enter the public conversation.

    Perfect distractions come with talking points and bring framing to the issue they come to embody. Like the Extinction Rebellion leaders, and Green New Deal proponents, Greta, under advice from a range of experts, leaves the fantastical assumptions in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) mitigation plans well alone. Kevin Anderson, who has given Greta advice in the past, despairs at the “technical utopias”, unfathomable quantities of biomass burning, and as-yet-not-invented air capture machines that fill three of the four IPCC mitigation ‘pathways’. I’m astonished that even the one pathway commissioned by the IPCC that could be called a ‘degrowth’ pathway is also rarely discussed.

    While the IPCC present fantastical mitigation plans supposedly representing the global consensus but with little basis in reality; the statements, networking activities, and research & development investments of fossil fuel giants tell another story. Events held, messages provided, and statements released during the UN Climate Action Summit show that the oil and gas industry are getting exactly what they want. Relentless extractivism in service of the consumer economy was the big winner around which climate action plans will be built.

    Political will and the UN Climate Action Summit

    On September 22, the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI) met for a dinner at the Gramercy Park Hotel. Emily Atkin reported on this event in her ‘Heated’ newsletter providing a transcript of a message presented by the Special Adviser to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

    The transcript of Guterres’ message is the primary source for a significant moment. It wasn’t till the next day, the same day Greta was giving her “how dare you” speech that the substance of the OGCI mitigation plans was revealed.

    Chris Lang from Redd-Monitor laid out how the summit failed saying “Obviously, none of the “action plans” involved leaving any fossil fuel in the ground.”, and noting that the OGCI also support the #NaturalClimateSolutions (NCS) campaign promoted by George Monbiot and Greta Thunberg.

    The International Energy Agency’s Clean Energy Ministerial made public an embargoed media release from the OGCI at 12.01am on September 23 announcing their “Kickstarter” initiative in partnership with the OGCI to “unlock large scale investment” in CCUS with an emphasis on “low carbon industrial hubs” for CO2 export. [SOURCE]

    Oil and Gas Climate Initiative

    Oil and Gas Climate Initiative

     

    On September 19, just in time for the summit George Monbiot and Greta Thunberg became spokesfaces for #NaturalClimateSolutions on the Guardian News, YouTube channel.

    Stephen Corry from Survival International responded to the new video in worthy style pointing to the corporate relationships and big philanthropy behind the hashtag. In a September 20 Twitter thread, Corry takes Monbiot to task pointing to corporations that partner with the Big Conservation NGOs behind the NCS campaign.

    On September 21, International Day of Struggle Against Monoculture Tree Plantations, Gary Graham Hughes from Biofuelwatch and Souparna Lahiri from Global Forest Coalition sounded a warning to Greta and those who would meet under the banner of #NatureBasedSolutions at the summit. They made their position, a challenge to Greta and summit attendees very clear saying “Acres of monoculture plantations, bioenergy, and offsets are false solutions – bad for climate, undermining real solutions and bad for humanity.”

    On September 26, Cory Morningstar published her detailed write up of the the extensive networks behind #NaturalClimateSolutions. The networks explicated demonstrate the deep connections between the corporate world, big conservation, environmental NGOs, media, governments and the global consensus apparatus of the United Nations.

    Any well resourced emissions wonk at the summit would have known what the fossil fools want to do. Our global corporate energy leaders reveal certain details of their plans and they have to spruik their plans to particular people in particular ways. I suspect they’re grateful for the lack of scrutiny from the mainstream media and the NGO aligned press who routinely fail to report or unpack the political will.

    When the Atlantic Council hosted the 2019 Global Energy Forum in January, it was made very plain that CCS was necessary for any future energy plans. A panel discussion included representatives of the International Energy Agency, OGCI, Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences, The Institute of Energy Economics-Japan, and Saudi Aramco. Saudi Aramco’s Chief Technology Officer, Ahmad Al Khowaiter, made a statement at this panel discussion that really stuck out for me. “CO2 is a valuable feedstock, we should not forget that”. It’s a statement that acknowledges a barely understood reality: the oil industry has retained latent demand for liquefied CO2 for decades. [SOURCE]

    It stands to reason that the oil industry would fight to access liquefied CO2 as the best means to do enhanced oil recovery to get the last remaining drops of oil from depleted oil fields and get paid a subsidy to sequester CO2 in the process. The global consumer market demands throughput of oil for the full range of products derived from oil, not merely the transport fuel products.

    National Defense Authorization Act

    On April 10, I watched the C-SPAN live stream of the Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW) as it met to discuss and vote on the Utilizing Significant Emissions with Innovative Technologies Act (USE IT Act). The USE IT Act is crucial to the expansion of the 45Q tax credit which is an effective subsidy for CO2 enhanced oil recovery and the full gamut of carbon capture and storage projects including ‘clean coal’ and ‘clean hydrogen’.

    The meeting began with chair John Barrasso outlining the purpose of the meeting before offering an opportunity for members to comment on the bills before the committee. Ranking member Tom Carper spoke to the bills before John Barrasso called a recess so that Democrat members could make quorum at which point Tom Carper said “I’ve asked my staff to reach out far and wide to get as many  Democrats here as quickly as we can so thank you for your patience.”

    While C-SPAN may provide livestreamed content, the archive of video, audio and transcripts available on the their website is subject to the discretion of the individual committee chairs. The EPW committee did not provide video to the C-SPAN archive preferring to post an edited video to their YouTube channel and archived webcast on their website. They did however provide audio of the complete proceedings of the April 10 meeting. [C-SPAN audio] [Archived webcast]

    In April, a WKOG member called the EPW Committee office to check the attendance records for both the February 27 and April 10 meetings. They discovered that on February 27, three of the Green New Deal cosponsors were in attendance, but Bernie Sanders was absent. None of the three Green New Deal cosponsors spoke to the USE IT Act on February 27. On April 10, all four Green New Deal cosponsors were absent. This means that Bernie Sanders was absent for both meetings. Was the absence of the four Green New Deal cosponsors the cause of the recess called by John Barrasso at the April 10 meeting? Were the four Green New Deal Resolution cosponsors absent to manufacture the eventual unanimous vote for the USE IT Act?

    On June 27, the USE IT Act passed the Senate 86 votes to 8 as part of S. 1790 National Defense Authorization Act 2020. The four Green New Deal cosponsors, Ed Markey, Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand and Bernie Sanders voted against the bill.

    In an amendment to S. 1790 before it was voted up in the House of Representatives on September 17, Sec. 6001 which contained the USE IT Act provisions was removed.

    [SOURCE]

    On August 30, the Carbon Capture Coalition sent a letter to the chairmen and ranking members of the Senate Committee on Armed Services asking that USE IT Act provisions be included as an amendment to HR. 2500. National Defense Authorization Act 2020.

    It is time to pass this important and widely-supported climate and energy legislation, and the NDAA provides an appropriate opportunity to do so.

    [SOURCE][SOURCE]

    The vote on the House of Representatives NDAA will likely take place on November 20 or 21.

    If the USE IT Act provisions pass then it will unleash an unstoppable wave of CCUS projects including fossil hydrogen projects and CO2 enhanced oil recovery projects. The success of the USE IT Act provisions will ensure the success of the 9+ bipartisan bills designed to deliver R&D, new pipelines and a raft of bureaucratic measures to support the implementation of 45Q tax credits. Cory Morningstar outlines most of these bills in her detailed investigation into the ‘Design to Win’ philanthropies.

    Mitigation plans and technology

    The truth about the mitigation plans of the powerful is masked in the public discourse by language, conflated logics and expansive silence. The political will that has been demonstrated for carbon capture and storage for fossil fuel extraction and refining should be held in contrast to the ‘pathways’ developed through the global consensus building processes of the IPCC.

    Three of the four IPCC pathways rely heavily on what are called ‘negative emissions technologies’ (NETs). The ‘technology’ on which the IPCC rely most heavily is called BECCS, or biomass with CCS applied. Biomass is currently being used in Europe in place of coal, and is regarded by some as a ‘renewable energy’. Biomass is used as an offset against emissions created when it is burned in place of coal as it is regarded to have sequestered carbon when it was part of a plant. When you read articles about renewable energy beating out fossil fuel energy in the UK or Germany, you can be sure biomass offsets helped. The implementation of BECCS will require access to geological storage of CO2, the preserve of fossil fuel extraction companies like Equinor, Chevron, Woodside and Shell.

    A ‘negative emissions technology’ is not a technology as such, but rather it is a collection of processes that upon the application of certain accounting can be said to have produced zero emissions. Geological storage of CO2 is a crucial process in transforming biomass burning into a negative emissions technology. If any implementation of the IPCC pathways were to take place any time soon then access to geological storage of CO2 would be absolutely necessary for BECCS to be effective.

    On September 5, the Norwegian Minister of Petroleum and Energy Kjell-Borge Freiburgh called for “international support” to amend the London Protocol to allow for under sea geological storage and export infrastructure to support the implementation of CCS. The full title of the London Protocol is the ‘London Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter’. It is an international agreement to assist in making regional agreements. Amendments to the London Protocol have long been seen as the last regulatory hurdle to large scale under sea storage of CO2. [SOURCE]

    The IPCC has three working groups covering three key areas: science and carbon budgets, social and ecological impacts, and mitigation. As observed by Kevin Anderson on Twitter, Greta Thunberg does not speak about the mitigation pathways presented by Working Group 3 on mitigation, rather she focusses on Working Group 1 on “physical science”. Having followed the discourse on mitigation pathways following Thelma Krug’s unheralded presentation at last year’s GHGT-14 conference in Melbourne, I can say with certainty that none of the four pathways have ever been discussed by XR leaders, Greta Thunberg or Green New Deal proponents. Indeed, the climate justice friendly media mouthpieces have rarely if ever examined the IPCC pathways.

    [SOURCE: Thelma Krug]

    Kevin Anderson is Professor of Energy and Climate Change, holding a joint chair in the School of Engineering at the University of Manchester and in Centre for Sustainability and the Environment at Uppsala University

    Kevin Anderson is Professor of Energy and Climate Change, holding a joint chair in the School of Engineering at the University of Manchester and in the Centre for Sustainability and the Environment at Uppsala University

     

    One of the unexamined pathways presented by the IPCC Working Group 3 is called P.1. or Grubler et al ‘Low Energy Demand’ scenario, which is the only degrowth scenario they provide. Grubler LED is also the only scenario/pathway not reliant on BECCS. Jason Hickel writing in Real-World Economics Review outlines degrowth as a radical and positive strategy for tackling climate targets. It is highly significant that so very little has been said about the Grubler LED pathway as it is the only pathway that provides any opportunity to deliver a fossil fuel phase out, which is, at least through suggestion, a principle objective of all climate justice groups including XR leaders and Green New Deal proponents.

    People should study what Kevin Anderson has to say about IPCC scenarios. He is very concerned about the abundance of negative emissions technologies. He can’t see how the three BECCS and carbon dioxide removal (CDR) ‘technologies’ can deliver enough mitigation in time. In a video entitled ‘Delivering on 2 degrees,’ he notes that the IPCC scenario data base is loaded with NETs reliant scenarios.

    In his response to the UK government’s “net zero” proposal following its declaration of a ‘climate emergency,’ makes it very clear that the fantastical quantities of BECCS and reliance on undeveloped air capture machines were already damaging the possibility of decisive action.   

    Already the tentative potential of NETs is being used to undermine the requirement for immediate and widespread decarbonisation, passing further unacceptable burdens and risks onto the next generation.

    [SOURCE]

    Shortly after announcing a ‘climate emergency’ the UK’s Committee on Climate Change indicated that they would much prefer to produce ‘clean’ hydrogen from steam reforming LNG than through renewable energy and electrolysis with water. Steam reforming is a process where fossil gas is coverted into hydrogen and other gases producing a stream of pure liquefied CO2 for enhanced oil and gas recovery, geological storage or other commercial applications. Clearly the renewable option was being discarded by the Committee on Climate Change, but this was not a concern for the XR leaders who don’t appear to be doing what it takes to keep fossil fuels in the ground.  

    Our scenarios assume that hydrogen production at scale is done via gas-reforming with CCS rather than electrolysis

    [SOURCE]

    Here is a remarkable interview with the Coordinating Lead Author of Chapter 4 (on mitigation) of the IPCC AR6 Special Report, Heleen de Coninck. It is remarkable because it reveals how the language and framing of technologies and extractive processes has shifted around carbon capture and storage over several IPCC reports. The interviewer was compelled to ask a rather absurd sounding question that highlights how IPCC reports have framed and reframed technologies and extractive processes in producing mitigation scenarios.

    Ah, so you’re saying in AR3, CCS was still weird?

    [SOURCE]

    Rob Urie is one of the few writers to take an honest look at the technologies that the IPCC modelling requires. I think this is one of the most important pieces of writing that any informed person can read to understand where we are right now and where we are likely to be heading in the near future.

    Three of the four scenarios to keep the rise in global temperatures at or below 1.5 degrees Celsius presented by the IPCC in their 2018 paper require ‘negative emissions’ technologies—methods of actively removing carbon from the atmosphere. Some of these, like reforestation, are superficially attractive to the environmentally inclined. The problems come both through the fine print and the focus on climate rather than the environment.

     

     

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