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Don’t Put a Price Tag on Nature

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March 11, 2016

by Richard Conniff 

 

The ‘ecosystem services’ idea devalues the natural world by trying to monetize it.

(Photo: Lena Trindade/Brazil Photos/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Not too long ago, Mexican free-tailed bats seemed like a perfect example of how conservationists could use the “ecosystem services” idea to save the natural world. These bats feed on insect pests in the Southwestern United States, and researchers have calculated that they provide a benefit to cotton farmers that was at one point worth about $24 million a year.

It would, of course, have taken a miracle worker to get the farmers to pay for a service they had always gotten for free. But before that could happen, technology and market forces intervened: BT cotton, a strain of cotton genetically modified to produce the insecticide BT, came on the market. The BT took over the job of controlling insect pests on cotton farms, and suddenly the free-tailed bats were like buggy-whip makers in the automotive age or newspaper reporters today. The value of their services plummeted by 80 percent.

Cases like this have led a lot of biologists to wonder, as the title of a recent article in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution put it, “Have Ecosystem Services Been Oversold?” These critics increasingly question the validity of the entire ecosystem services movement on practical and moral grounds. They ask, among other things: What happens when technological and market forces make the services a species provides, and thus the species itself, seem worthless? Is it even right to monetize and in some cases privatize nature, the ultimate public good?

The questions are worth asking because the ecosystem services idea is a movement, beloved by many conservation organizations, and the subject so far of more than 15,000 peer-reviewed articles in scientific journals. Schemes to pay for ecosystem services, such as REDD, are also a big deal in global financial markets. You might think REDD is a brand of apple ale with really stupid television advertising. But it’s an international program, arguably overhyped, called Reducing Emissions From Deforestation and Forest Degradation.

The idea behind REDD is twofold: Forests sequester carbon, harbor biodiversity, and otherwise provide ecosystem services. So why not get corporations, governments, and others to pay to protect those services, if only to offset their own carbon emissions or earn public relations bonus points? Thus Norway, a leader in the movement, has pledged $3 billion under REDD schemes to protect threatened tropical forests in Brazil, Indonesia, and other countries. This is serious money being put to work to protect natural resources, so you can understand why conservation groups might love the idea.

But much as was the case with the free-tailed bats, “there are no markets for many of the goods and services that ecosystems provide,” Jonathan Silvertown, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Edinburgh, points out in the “Oversold” article. The solution for ecosystem services proponents, he writes, has typically been to “invent a market” like the REDD scheme for carbon credits. Or they “pretend there is a market” and ask people how they would value ecosystem services in hypothetical situations. But “make-believe markets” are highly likely to fail when people are otherwise, he writes.

But make-believe markets are highly likely to fail when people are otherwise relentlessly focused on nickel-and-dime realities. The market mentality also degrades nature by attempting to turn it into a commodity. “People are not allowed to sell their organs or their children,” Silvertown writes, citing the 2012 book What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets. “These have intrinsic value that is beyond price.” That’s true of species and habitats too.

The attempt to sell nature went spectacularly wrong for the government of British Prime Minister David Cameron. When he came to power in 2010, he pushed to sell off the roughly 1,000 square miles of forest that until then had been owned and protected by the national Forestry Commission. The ecosystem services idea seemed to offer the new government a bright, shiny “technocratic rationale for the deployment of its natural capital,” Silvertown writes, with the added likelihood of putting bright, shiny millions into government coffers.

Some conservation groups went along, “taking the view that it is regulation” of the forests “and not ownership that matters.” But Cameron, a conservative, was slashing regulations at the same time. The response from the British public was furious. It turned out that no amount of money could make up for what it perceived as the loss of its forests, and no amount of monetizing could capture the value of simply being able to walk in the woods. Cameron quickly backed down, with one government source describing the whole idea as “a cock-up,” or what Americans might call a FUBAR: “We just did not think.”

So, let’s think. Where does all this leave the ecosystem services idea? Trying to “unbundle” all the things we get from the natural world and put a price on them cheapens nature, and it cheapens us. The people who first developed the idea in the mid-20th century meant that conservation could benefit from showing people how their lives depend, in all sorts of unseen ways, on the natural world: Intact wetlands save downstream cities from flooding, coastal marshes serve as nursing grounds for offshore fisheries, and that air you breathe? Yes, it’s an ecosystem service, provided by healthy forests and obscure ocean microorganisms.

This is the only sense in which the ecosystem services idea deserves to live—as a constant reminder of how utterly we all depend on the priceless blessings of the natural world.

 

 

[Richard Conniff is the author of House of Lost Worlds: Dinosaurs, Dynasties, and the Story of Life on Earth, and other books.]

Rainbow Sparkle Ponies

Culture of Imbeciles

February 9, 2016

by Jay Taber

sparkle pony 4

 

When it comes to political con artists like Bill Gates, Bill McKibben and Ricken Patel, two of the obstacles to Ponzi scheme pattern recognition by The Climateers are illiteracy and immaturity. Illiteracy obscures the fact that over-the-rainbow puffery (like the exaggerations exhorted by the financial elite at COP21) is doomed to come crashing to earth–like all pyramid schemes do; immaturity allows the gullible to be hoodwinked into believing that somehow this time it will turn out differently. Inevitably, though, there comes a day of reckoning, and while the illiterate and immature desperately want to believe that rainbow sparkle ponies will be in their Christmas stockings this year — even though they’ve always received a lump of coal in the past — many are prepared to enthusiastically offer themselves as prey to the next fraud that comes along.

 

sparkle pony 3

 

 

[Jay Thomas Taber is an associate scholar of the Center for World Indigenous Studies, a correspondent to Forum for Global Exchange, and a contributing editor of Fourth World Journal. Since 1994, he has served as communications director at Public Good Project, a volunteer network of researchers, analysts and journalists engaged in defending democracy. As a consultant, he has assisted indigenous peoples in the European Court of Human Rights and at the United Nations. Email: tbarj [at] yahoo.com Website:www.jaytaber.com]

Fundación Pachamama is Dead – Long Live ALBA Part VIII [Final Segment]

February 1, 2016

Part eight of an investigative report by Cory Morningstar with Forrest Palmer.

Fundación Pachamama Investigative Report Series [Further Reading]: Part IPart IIPart IIIPart IVPart VPart VIPart VII

guayasamin

“Maternidad” by Oswaldo Guayasamin

Cultural Imperialism, Trends & Expanding Markets

“Cultural imperialism is defined as the cultural aspects of imperialism. Imperialism, here, is referring to the creation and maintenance of unequal relationships between civilizations favoring the more powerful civilization. Therefore, it can be defined as the practice of promoting and imposing a culture, usually of politically powerful nations over less potent societies. It is the cultural hegemony [1] of those industrialized or economically influential countries, which determine general cultural values and standardize civilizations throughout the world.” [Source] In this way, Eurocentric NGOs serve as the faux social constructs avec philosophic roots as key instruments of social-class domination.

Cultural imperialism can take various forms, so long as it reinforces cultural hegemony. Ecotourism easily fills the role of an opaque vellum that attempts to cover cultural imperialism.

[C]ultural imperialism promotes the interests of certain circles within the imperial powers, often to the detriment of the target societies … or forms of social action contributing to the continuation of Western hegemony…. Cultural imperialism can refer to either the forced acculturation of a subject population, or to the voluntary embracing of a foreign culture by individuals who do so of their own free will…. According to one argument, the “receiving” culture does not necessarily perceive this link, but instead absorbs the foreign culture passively through the use of the foreign goods and services. Due to its somewhat concealed, but very potent nature, this hypothetical idea is described by some experts as “banal imperialism.” For example, it is argued that while “American companies are accused of wanting to control 95 percent of the world’s consumers,” “cultural imperialism involves much more than simple consumer goods; it involves the dissemination of American principles such as freedom and democracy,” a process which “may sound appealing” but which “masks a frightening truth: many cultures around the world are disappearing due to the overwhelming influence of corporate and cultural America. [Source]

One could quite easily make the argument that Pachamama Alliance is a specialized, elite tourist agency that employs brilliant, emotive marketing strategy targeting today’s wealthy spiritual capitalists – all under the guise of a tax-exempt NGO – in essence, what amounts to a bourgeois front and agreed upon alibi for the shared white guilt espoused by the white saviours.

Kaypocoke

We convince the Indigenous to participate in their own demise by encouraging and teaching them to replicate our models and become consumers. For, as we consumers (formerly known as citizens) lose what little remains (if anything) of our own culture, we seek to not just taste, but devour other cultures … because we, collectively as consumers, have become insatiable in an unprecedentedly ugly way. We long to devour what we have collectively destroyed.

In the book Ecotourism and Conservation in the Americas, Arnaldo Rodriguez remarks that the difference in principles between the community and private enterprise can be so conflicting that, at times, the community prefers to destroy the enterprise, even if it belongs, in part, to them, noting that communities in the Amazonian region are very hesitant to create enterprises where benefits are not distributed immediately and equally, making it very difficult for them to partner with private enterprise.

Rodriguez concluded that community?based ecotourism in the Amazon was subject to an overdose of enthusiasm and that the time and cost involved in partnering with communities is substantial.

One can imagine the difficulty a healthy capitalist would have in appreciating the concept of the sharing of all wealth equally. Private economic “solutions” (which protect the capitalist system at all costs) always protect the Eurocentric, white-privileged mode of life: market-based, deregulated, with ever-expanding commodification.

It is said that today, after a slow and difficult process, 70-86% (reports are conflicting) of the Kapawi Ecolodge (cooks, cleaners, waiters, boatmen and guides, i.e., service industry positions) are Achuar (“32 staff at the reserve and two at the urban offices,” Source). One must ask who holds the remainder of positions (30%). It is likely that the more prestigious, decision-making positions are held by foreigners (espousing and upholding Western ideologies) who are likely paid high wages, in stark contrast to what the Achuar are paid.

As an example, personnel who were contracted outside of the Achuar, such as Kapawi Ecolodge general manager Andres Ordoñez, still maintain their positions today. [Source]

Andres Ordoñez

Ronald Sanabria, Vice President of Sustainable Tourism, Rainforest Alliance (left), and Andrés Ordóñez, General Manager, Kapawi Ecolodge & Reserve Source: The Rainforest Alliance 2013 Annual Gala

One “cultural management challenge” for Canodros was that of time, an imaginary concept that keeps the West in a stranglehold of productivity: “In the first six months after the lodge first opened, the Achuar did not appreciate the importance of the concept of time to the guest of the lodge. When guests at the lodge book a tour, the tour guide is expected to be at the designated place at the agreed upon time. When the tour guide is not there, guest satisfaction declines precipitously. This problem was resolved through lots of meetings, and lots of explanation. Canodros provided watches to the employees, but ultimately time is a philosophical concept, and the Achuar could not understand why the outsiders were always in a hurry. Now the Achuar accept the outsiders’ philosophy of time and work within the philosophy….”

Here it is critical to note that the Achuar are/were a dream-based culture. That is, every aspect of their daily lives is lived through the interpretation of their dreams – meaning there is no sense of time, destiny, or fate in their beliefs. [Source] [emphasis added]

Many of the Achuar employed by the Kapawi development must travel several days by foot to get to the lodge. They then work for approximately one month before returning to their community. In a 1999 study it was reported that “[A]t Kapawi, employees work on a 22 day cycle, and off for eight days to help with families and community needs.” If one considers the travel to the lodge takes up to 3 days (one way), the eight days off to help with families and communities is in reality, tantamount to a mere 2 days per month.

Because of the long excursion (4 full days of travel to and from the lodge), it is reasonable to assume that eventually Kapawi employees may decide to purchase a canoe similar to the Kapawi’s motorized canoes (diesel engines and at least one solar: “our canoes are equipped with four-stroke outboard motors“) used for the tourists. Perhaps this is already occurring. It must be acknowledged that prior to the Kapawi development, there was no development whatsoever: no motorized canoes, no generators, no diesel. Upon opening the development, diesel (pollution) to transport, entertain (canoes) and serve (generators) the wealthy was introduced to the communities. The Canodros Tours website boasts that “in addition, the update and improvement of the photovoltaic system was made, which will allow a saving of 1,500 gallons of diesel consumption per year.” The actual consumption of diesel per year is not publicly disclosed. Solar provides 60% of the electricity as of December 2012.

Further to the introduction of diesel into an area formerly free of pollution, airplane flights were also introduced as each and every guest must fly in. The private flight (about one hour each way) over the rainforest is part of the exclusive allure. One blog writer comments that 5 planes were employed to transport her and her group to the Kapawi development.

Does anyone recognize the irony in the development of an “eco” resort that created and perpetuates a new dependency upon fossil fuels among the Achuar? In a development where 1800 visitors are required each year just to break even, the more “successful” the development, the more fossil fuels required to fly in the international tourists. Although the foundation for these developments is said to be “eco-tourism as an alternative economic model to the exploitation of oil,” the eco-tourist developments are in fact absolutely dependent on the further expansion of oil. These developments do not replace the market – rather, they participate in expanding the market.

The number of tourists to visit Kapawi is approximately 550-1000 per annum (the highest reported number found being 1500). The goal of the Achuar, now fully responsible for the corporation, is to increase the number of tourists to 2,000 per year. Perhaps they will achieve this. Perhaps they will achieve 3,000 per year. Yet does this constitute success? More oil, more diesel, more flights, more canoes, more lodges, more dependence on the purchase of outside supplies to accommodate the Euro-American tourist. This represents an unintentional, yet very real, strengthening of the very system annihilating our planet and her most vulnerable peoples; a strengthening of the very system that demands ever-expanding exploitation of pristine living ecosystems and locations such as Achuar territory.

Rainforest Alliance is just one NGO that openly works with capital in “reaching new markets.” In this conference (Innovations in Sustainability and Certification, sponsored by Citibank, May 15, 2013) on the discussion: “Innovations in Travel: Reaching New Markets – Panelists discuss consumer trends towards experiential tourism,” the stage is shared by Andrés Ordóñez, General Manager, Kapawi Ecolodge & Reserve, and a consultant for Rainforest Alliance.

Yet another new market (aside from environment markets, certification, REDD – Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, etc.) is the Ecuadorean Amazon’s “vast network of slow-moving, interconnected river ways.” Recognizing this market, a group is currently designing and constructing a system of solar-powered boats and recharge stations on the rivers of Achuar Territory. [“Our project will not only sustain the welfare of a nation and protect a biodiverse ecosystem, but will also provide an innovative model that can be replicated around the globe.”] To make this venture possible, the group is working with the Pachamama Foundation with a grant from the Foreign Ministry of Finland. Further development in formerly untouched and pristine territories (“new markets”) – as the world burns.

Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) is identified as one of the national and international funders that provided the Kapawi Corporation with the bulk of the finance capital for the development of this project, which resulted in the first solar engine canoe announced on June 14, 2012. GIZ is a federally owned organisation. It works worldwide in the field of international cooperation for sustainable development and its mandate is to support the German Government in achieving its development objectives. The GIZ has been criticized on various occasions for being engaged in funding projects and programmes that are violating the human rights of the people actually living in the countries being “developed.” In March 2013, it was criticized by human rights groups for its engagement with Namibia’s Land Reform programmes and policies, that are violating the rights of indigenous peoples as outlined in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, by dispossessing Himba people and Zemba off their traditional lands and territories. [Source]

Experiential tourism is a new product of the tourism industry. “Catering to the imaginations of experience-seekers, personalized, customizable or theme innovations that stimulate imagination or cater to fantasies are enticing consumers looking for uncommon experiences. The addition of an unconventional ‘experience’ piques interests and raises the perceived value of a good or service.” This new trend fits well with the 21st century trend of spiritual capitalism.

Recently, the Kapawi development has expanded with a secondary location in the village of Ti’inkias. In the Pachamama Journeys itinerary for June 7-19th, 2014,it states the following: “Head to the nearby town of Shell where we’ll take a 45-minute flight deep into the Amazon rainforest to the Achuar village of Chichirat. After a traditional Achuar greeting with their traditional beverage, nijaamanch (known as chicha) and visit with the local elder and his family, we’ll walk to the Bobanaza river for a beautiful motorized canoe ride down to the village of Ti’inkias.” The cost of this trip, per person, is $3,475.00 not including your flight to Ecuador. An additional charge of $10.00 (per guest) will go directly to the Achuar community.

Such ventures quench incessant desires not unlike heroin or any other self-indulgent drug: a self-absorbed search for the affirmation of one’s superiority. In the age of a starved and toxic Western commodity culture, induced by an acquiescent, pathological, collective insanity, even a taste will suffice.

In the US states of North and South Dakota, the land of the Lakota Indians is under siege due to the intense fracking boom in the Bakkens. And yet US Big Greens do not assist these communities. Why the need to travel thousands of miles to the jungles of the Amazon located in a sovereign state when the natives on the soil we walk upon are under siege? It’s simple: the Lakota are not “exotic,” they are not easily co-opted by the non-profit industrial complex. When Americans collectively acquiesce to the development of Bakken oil to continue rampant consumptive patterns, corporations/foundations/oligarchs need not destabilize their own governments whom they fully control and run.

While in theory (marketing/branding is perhaps more precise) Pachamama voices the necessity for the modern world to heed the vision of the Achuar, in reality they have transferred and continue to transfer Western ideologies, standardization, and values onto the Achuar – slowly altering the Achuar to reflect us. There are no signs whatsoever of the Achuar culture and knowledge influencing the Western mindset or culture in any meaningful way. At the end of the day, the white saviours – the foundations, NGOs and academia – believe that we understand how the world must work better than the Achuar, better than anyone.

If you want to help the Amazon rainforest and her peoples, then help. To name just a few tangible actions, get off the grid, use public transit, transition to a plant-based diet, plant a garden, and stop consuming – separating what is essential to a healthy life from mere wants that are not necessities whatsoever. One thing is certain. Flying to any luxury resort (in the name of ecology no less) will only escalate our accelerating planetary collapse. It is also certain that this kind of consumption guarantees and expands the exploration for and drilling of oil – the very fossil fuel we claim to wish to keep in the ground. Above all, say no to imperialism.

And finally, in an age of Western peak consumption/commodification, let us also share one of the most disturbing displays of our commodity culture, waste and decadence… yet which must be considered correct and beneficial from our perspective and pedestal of whiteness and superiority:

“The children of the Amazon according to their culture and beliefs did not celebrate Christmas, after the entrance of the Catholic Church, this has been changing but with a low impact, and as a company each year we organize a celebration for the children not focused in the Christmas celebration but dedicated to them, in the year of 2010 I had the opportunity to participate in the organization of the event with donations of friendly companies to give the Achuar children a small present. [Source] Dec 11, 2010

 

“On December 15th of 2012 we did at Kapawi Ecolodge & Reserve the Christmas party for all the communities, we had more than 250 people that belong to different communities which surround the hotel. It was a day full of emotion and joy, because we did many games not only for children but for adults too.” [Source]

One must wonder if the introduction of Christmas is to “give” to the Achuar or appease the wishes of the tourists.

ChristmasGifts

Photo: “With our co workers in Quito, we organized the program with many games, surprises and the distribution of gifts for the kids that went to Kapawi. After a formal invitation that is transmitted by radio to the communities, around 250 children came with their representatives. We were lucky to have with ourselves a television program cast called Vele Vele Vele helping us with the animation of this main event.” [Source]

Like a Greek tragedy, concerned and well-intentioned citizens (including the majority of self-proclaimed environmentalists and activists) seek the solutions for an unprecedented ecological crisis from the very institutions that have contributed the most to unparalleled ecological devastation, running hand in hand with the ongoing genocide of indigenous peoples on a global scale. The non-profit industrial complex makes palatable the unpalatable on behalf of the establishment, whom they answer to and depend upon for their existence.

Rather than break away from the unprecedented destructiveness of industrialized capital or Western culture, tragically and willingly, we in the North collectively contribute to its re-articulation.

Wealth for the Chosen (Predominantly White) Few

 

tourism

Ecotourism was and continues to be big business. Lead authors in this field have gone on to consult for influential organizations (such as the UN, the Nature Conservancy, USAID, state governments), lecture, found prosperous organizations and opened tourism-related businesses, and become senior fellows of prestigious institutes, professors, directors, and authors of best-selling textbooks and guidebooks. The International Ecotourism Society (TIES), founded in 1990, is the oldest and largest non-profit organization in the world “dedicated to making ecotourism a tool for sustainable tourism development worldwide.” [TIES was founded by Megan Epler Wood who founded the firm EplerWood International in 2003.]

In the mid-1990s, the TIES organization launched a national review of community benefits of ecotourism in Ecuador. Dr. David Western, TIES founding president/chairman, recently appointed as the new Director of the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), would insist on bringing his “international expertise” on ecotourism in Kenya to improve community ecotourism development methodologies in Ecuador. The conference that followed (Ecotourism at the Crossroads) was then both funded and managed by KWS in partnership with TIES. [Source] KWS is somewhat notorious for corruption and scandals as well as complicity in “conservation” deals, more recently, one in which Kenya’s Samburu peoples were violently evicted from their land.

Kenya Wildlife Services has become one of the more parasitic NGOs working in partnership with USAID and Nature Conservancy. (“The court has turned a blind eye to the pleas of the Samburu community and allowed these illegalities to subsist. The transfer [of the land to the KWS] is totally unlawful and it’s in flagrant violation of the interests of the Samburu community.” | Source)

“We decided that a national conference could galvanize interest from industry in more community involvement in development on community managed lands. This conference came to be known as Ecotourism at the Crossroads. It was funded by KWS and managed by KWS and TIES…. By the end of 1998, TIES had galvanized national forums on community benefits from ecotourism in two landmark countries, Ecuador and Kenya.” — Community Ecotourism on the Frontiers of Global Development Part 1, part of our special series Ecotourism Then and Now, commemorating the 20th anniversary of The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) |Source

Daniel Koupermann (Amazon guide at EcoTrek, later to be an executive at Canodros and Pachamama co-founder, see Part I ) has established Andean Paths, an Ecuadorian travel company. According to Ecuador Travel Vacations website, Koupermann was “one of the first developers of ecotourism in Ecuador. The designer and builder of Kapawi Eco-Lodge…” This statement is misleading to some extent considering that 140-150 men (the majority Achuar) devoted two years of their lives in building Kapawi. (“He has developed strong relationships with most of the leaders and the powerful shamans in Achuar territory. In addition, he has been involved with yacht operations in the Galapagos Islands, the development of a community-based tourism program on Isabela Island and the implementation of a condor-viewing program in Cajas National Park. He is President of Fundación Pachamama (www.pachamama.org.ec), the Ecuadorian arm of The Pachamama Alliance, (www.pachamama.org) which is a well-known non-profit organization that supports the indigenous groups in the Amazonian Region of Ecuador.”)

Soft Power: Eco-Colonial Tourism

“The historical legacy of colonialism frames tourism in a way that is based on an economy in which the host culture continues to be extracted. Culture tourism is a new form of extractive resource colonialism.” — Devon Peña

 

“The hardest part of the transition process is to change their way of thinking, their culture.” – Miguel Carrera, Kapawi Lodge [Source]

 

“The tremendous lack of communication and trust between indigenous groups and the private sector has been the foremost hurdle for development in Latin American countries. Indigenous organizations have seen private enterprises as abusive institutions eager to exploit indigenous culture and resources. The private sector, on the other hand, tends to consider indigenous people untruthful and indolent. If these misunderstandings are resolved, a new niche for socially responsible development will evolve….” — Arnaldo Rodriguez, Pachamama Founder, 1999

Tourism has always been culturally destructive and exploitative by nature. In most cases, if not all, this seems inevitable. The reality is that when a tourist meets the Achuar, the encounter is a commercial transaction. This cannot be disputed. As the commodity (and main selling feature) within the exclusive “package” being sold is the Achuar people themselves, it would be difficult to argue that the Achuar identity is being commodified, appropriated, and sold for consumption to the bourgeoisie classes.

The production and consumption that ecotourism embodies could only be considered sane in a world of planetary crisis where risk of total annihilation now appears a blasé certainty. The spectacle is of an unbridled privileged class for whom care and regard for future generations is secondary to fulfilling one’s own material desires and ego.

The global economic context of ecotourism is created on a foundation upholding centuries of colonialism, imposed slavery, misery, violence and ethnocentrism. While on the surface the rhetoric ratifies the claim that eco-tourism ensures local participation, autonomy, and global democracy, below the surface, critical social and environmental crises are not only simply and brilliantly re-articulated, they are also being perpetuated.

“It took time but now we are about to select the best [of the Achuar employed by Kapawi] and send them away to learn English and management skills” [Source]

“Equally, the Himba in Namibia survived everything that a hostile arid environment could throw at them for centuries until they became a tourist attraction in the 1970s. Their communities were overrun and many Himba are now beggars and alcoholics. These days, tribes are regularly diminished in the name of economic advancement. The refugee Burmese Kayan women in Thailand, who wear brass coils round their necks, each year attract thousands of tourists, who pay to visit them in their camps. Their communities are disintegrating as alcoholic dependency grows.” [Source]

Could such cultural degradation and disintegration happen to the Achuar?

coke1

2010: Amazon indigenous leaders in Quito to see “Avatar” on the big screen in 3D.

Indeed, signs of disintegration showed themselves almost from inception. In 2004, disintegration was shared by Chalalan, Posada Amazonas, Kapawi (Achuar) representatives. Dire warning signs were documented in a 2003 study group paper titled Lessons in Community-based Ecotourism, funded by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF). CEPF is a joint program of l’Agence française de développementConservation International, the European Union, the Global Environment Facility, the Government of Japan, the MacArthur Foundation and the World Bank. [The role of WWF: In a 2 year study, WWF coordinated the preparation of an Ecosystem Profile for the Caucasus ecoregion with the help of 130 “international and regional experts”.] Private sector partners included De Beers Namaqualand Mines in South Africa, Kuapa Kokoo Farmers Union in Ghana and Unilever in the Philippines.

In the paper, the troubling signs (which aptly mirror a deteriorating Western society) were minimized by using the terminology “*perceived threats.” The very real threats/warnings, shared by the Indigenous participants, were documented as follows:

  • Less time with family
  • Distance from family, saving money and they go to the city to have fun instead of returning home to family
  • Less time for family work: in the chacra and house and so now there’s a need to contract labor
  • Customs about family gifts, such as food have disappeared. Family solidarity is missing.
  • The mingas before were more common in the community of Kapawi; now they want money for community work
  • Abandoned children
  • Tourism has taken time away from the Community Council to address other community matters
  • More drunkenness
  • There is a greater number of decisions to make but the process remains slow
  • Greater separation between parents and children
  • Because they work in the lodge, people believe they are richer and so they get charged more for things
  • Now we change money for communal work, with individual contracts, or, alternatively, we pay to get out of communal work obligations.
  • Greater neglect of families
  • Some engage in fewer everyday activities, such as hunting, fishing, farming and extraction because they are waiting for profits from tourism and other opportunities for work.
  • Some have misunderstood how much they were going to benefit from ecotourism, and so they do nothing.
  • Instead of tending to their chacra, etc., there are just waiting for tourism money.
  • Personal interests for developing ecotourism apart from the community enterprise

Aside from the Indigenous peoples in such “experiments” adopting aspects of neoliberalism (erosion of cooperation, rise of competition), we can safely assume that the manifestations of Western culture since this publication of this paper in 2005 have only further amplified.

“One of the main challenges of our work is finding a balance between respecting the Achuar culture and way of living, while at the same time having them respect the needs of the business. You have to be patient and have limits. Often things come up. Someone comes from community, misses his family, or needs to go hunting. They tell me, ‘You white people need money, but I don’t need it.’ Then they take a machete and just go in the forest. I’ve had cases when I have to go and do a job for them.” — Gabriel Jaramillo, longtime administrator at Kapawi

 

“No-one yet knows whether today’s children, armed with 21st century skills, will still want to preserve their traditional way of life.” [Source]

The socially appeasing terminology “monitoring impacts” has given licence to implement and study the further expansion of globalized markets under industrialized capitalism, Western influence and its effects on Indigenous populations and cultures – via NGOs.

“Eco-tourism is a transformative policy of inclusion and democratization, as well as a product of racialized justification for modernization, in which marginalized peoples are subject to a new dependency and a new colonialism.” – The PostColonial Exotic, Marketing the Margins

Competition to gain access to Western commodities (guns, etc.) has created tension, disputes and violence between neighbouring Indigenous tribes for many decades. It is telling that for almost two years after Canodros signed the contract with the Achuar, tensions and dissatisfaction arose due to a key misunderstanding. The Achuar were under the impression that Canodros was an NGO. (“The company assumed the role of an NGO, and people from the communities went for books and medicines.” “One of the first areas for disagreement was that the Achuar thought Canodros was a NGO and should provide health care and other services.”) Thus, the Achuar (in thanks to conditioning of the missionaries and non-profits) were expecting that “gifts” would commence after signing the contract. It took at least two years of dialogue before this misconception was resolved. This perhaps shows that it is merely healthcare and very basic services (education, agricultural support, etc.) that the Achuar/Indigenous desire. Indeed, one researcher estimated that the said need for monetary income was probably less than $300 per family, per annum (Rodríguez, 1996).

Perhaps the greatest threat to the oligarchs is that with left-leaning governments gaining power, these governments will be (and increasingly are) finally able to provide these basic needs – thereby making the acceptance and embracing of imperial non-profits and missionaries obsolete. No imperial NGOs/missionaries on the ground effectively means no access. Thus, ensuring people’s basic needs are met (which is only possible when states are sovereign and free from foreign interference) must be considered an invaluable and key tool against destabilization efforts by imperial forces.

If neocolonialism is defined as the practice of using capitalism, globalization, and cultural forces to control a country (usually former European colonies in Africa or Asia) in lieu of direct military or political control, then surely REDD and carbon market mechanisms fall under this definition. Further, if such control can be economic, cultural, or linguistic, by promoting their own culture, language or media in the colony, corporations embedded in that culture can make greater headway in opening the markets in those countries, so surely ecotourism can also fall under this term.

Going yet further, if neocolonialism can be considered the end result of relatively benign business interests leading to deleterious cultural effects, then surely this applies to Indigenous populations all over the planet that have, via good intentions and misplaced trust, tragically been manipulated, thus succumbing to the jaws of predatory institutions such as USAID, Conservation International, the World Bank, etc., and now live with the consequences slowly taking hold.

In the spirit of role-playing, once again, imagine this same scenario where it is the Arabs “helping” the Achuar. Imagine the Muslims were teaching the Achuar adults and children Arabic. It is safe to conclude that such a scenario would unleash an angry outcry from the Western world, where the falsehood of Euro-American superiority and racism are invisibly woven into the very fabric of society. This begs the question (or perhaps it answers the question) as to why these concepts/developments, initiated and guided by Euro-Americans, are embraced and applauded by the global community, with no objections to be found.

Let it be noted: we object.

The Irony

“So it is clear to us that imperialism is not a product of capitalism; it is not capitalism developed to its highest stage. Instead, capitalism is a product of imperialism. Capitalism is imperialism developed to its highest stage, not the other way around…. Finance capital, the export of capital, monopoly, etc., are all articulations of a political economy rooted in parasitism and based on the historically brutal subjugation of most of humanity…. This is not something that only happened a long time ago. The world’s peoples are suffering the consequences of capitalist emergence even now…. Today’s white left is also locked into a worldview that places the location of Europeans in the world as the center of the universe. It always has.” — Omali Yeshitela

The left does not wish to acknowledge that under an industrialized capitalist system, everything depends on infinite expansion of capital – capital with far higher value than the interests of the people. The supremacy of capital ensures alternative political processes (as we witness in ALBA states: Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Venezuela and several Caribbean countries) are counteracted on both the national and international level by international / corporate media, international capital, and the oligarchy that seeks to subdue sovereign states and lock them within the confines of imperialism.

Until there is a global conversation as to how we are going to achieve a true virtual zero carbon existence in the near-term future, judging Venezuela, Ecuador, or any other petro-state is nothing but denial, ignorance or bravado. All roads lead to the Global North and to the US specifically, with the entire infrastructure entirely dependent on oil, gas and coal. Vulnerable states can give up their resources with their own conditions, or by force. Citizens of the Global North are not about to give up their Western lifestyles, which is tantamount to giving up one’s privilege.

Consider that “America’s debt-to-GDP ratio is 105 percent. Ecuador’s debt-to-GDP ratio is 23 percent. The real problem lies in those who run the economy, who run the society, because they protect the interests of the financial capitalists. It’s the capital, financial capital in particular, that runs the economy. The real problem is that the capital owns the society, it owns the people.” [Source]

And as the US administration continues to demonize Venezuela, millions of US citizens have to choose between paying the heating of their homes or covering other basic needs. The irony is that in order to help, the government of Venezuela implemented a programme, in collaboration with state-owned oil company PDVSA’s largest subsidiary CITGO, which provides heat to 500,000 US citizens annually. The program was initiated in 2005. [Published on Dec 13, 2013 teleSUR] Video (running time: 1:28)

 

 

Coming full circle back to Pachamama Alliance’s co-founder John Perkins, the message from Perkin’s link on his Dream Change website to “buycott” is most profound:

“Have you ever wondered whether the money you spend ends up funding causes you oppose?”

For once we agree.

We consider the closure of the U.S. Fundación Pachamama by the Ecuadorian government a small victory against imperialism and a victory for all Ecuadorians. We applaud all governments taking measures to do the same. Anyone who is against imperialism / colonialism should support such efforts.

The future of capitalism (strengthened or dismantled?) will be determined by the collective resolve bound with struggle against parasitism and imperialism. Yet perhaps the best determining factor of whether or not we succeed in dismantling and obliterating capitalism will be our smashing of the pedestal within the ivory tower, upon which capitalism depends for its survival.

One could argue that the authors of this paper demonstrate paternalism in rejecting the notion that the Achuar were/are free in all decision-making capacity and have embraced Western values of their own free will. There is no doubt that these dynamic men, women and communities embody an ethical intelligence far exceeding any intellect claimed by the Euro-American. That being said, an ethical intelligence is no match for the pathology espoused by defenders of and believers in a predatory capitalist system dependent upon infinite growth, where white “values” embodied in the global economy are forever sacrosanct and must/will always dominate and prevail.

The colonization of Latin America has never ended. Like a chameleon, it simply changes its colours. Like a parasite, it simply changes its hosts.

One may argue that Western writers/thinkers/activists/citizens have no right to make judgments on whether or not such cultural influences and shifts, brought on by projects teeming with ethical and philosophical conflicts, are to be tolerated or accepted. Yet this line of debate effectively shuts down the urgent need to look at these interactions under a much needed critical light, thereby effectively securing and protecting the very hegemonic power structures that slowly erode and deteriorate autonomous nations via soft-power manipulation.

In real life, we call this well-orchestrated genocide.

+++

I hear you cry, “Save the Amazon!!!”

Yet if I tell you that capitalism must be defeated, you smirk and walk away.

I hear you cry, “Save the Amazon!!!”

Yet you acquiesce to the voice of the colonizer while you dismiss the Indigenous voice with an unspoken superiority.

I hear you cry, “Save the Amazon!!!”

Yet you accept that the words and thoughts of Indigenous Peoples must be conveyed by way of white mouths.

I hear you cry, “Save the Amazon!!!”

Yet I witness your acceptance of blatant, highly financed, white paternalism.

I hear you cry, “Save the Amazon!!!”

And I know you are a liar.

 

END

 

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

[Forrest Palmer is an electrical engineer residing in Texas.  He is a part-time blogger and writer and can be found on Facebook. You may reach him at forrest_palmer@yahoo.com.]

HEART OF DARKNESS

Wrong Kind of Green

January 22, 2016

By Jay Taber

New World Order—Same Old Crimes

Robinson-SG-COP21-NOV2015

November 2015: Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon with Mary Robinson and Ricken Patel, Executive Director of Avaaz at “One Heart One Tree: Lighting of the Eiffel Tower”. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

In terms of relevance to the indigenous nations often referred to as the Fourth World, the rollouts from the COP21 gathering of UN member states, Wall Street-funded NGOs, and the global financial elite resemble colonial initiatives undertaken as a result of similar 19th Century gatherings to carve up the world for capitalism. Then, as now, indigenous territories and resources were targeted for expropriation through coercion, with Africa being a prime target.

cop21

Photo: Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (fourth from left) and Christiana Figueres (centre), Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), meet with “Civil Society Leaders” at the Le Bourget-Paris exhibition site, for Cop21. From left: Jagoda Munic, Chairperson, Friends of the Earth International; Ricken Patel, President and Executive Director, Avaaz; Sharan Burrow, General Secretary, International Trade Union Confederation; Kumi Naidoo, Executive Director, Greenpeace International; May Boeve, Executive Director, 350.org; Wael Hmaidan, Director, Climate Action Network International; and Bridget Burns, Administrator on Climate, Global Gender and Climate Alliance.

As statements emanating from COP21 by Wall Street-driven entities like the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and the Breakthrough Energy Coalition were tailored to seduce the naïve into believing that First World consumption of indigenous territories and resources for luxury goods could continue unabated under the pretext of saving the planet, the agenda of the financial elite at Paris was to subsume human rights to the all-encompassing ‘clean energy’/New Economy regime.

Global Goals -PrivateProperty

A look at the ‘clean energy’ Ponzi scheme — led by magnate Bill Gates, and promoted by Havas – reveals two key attributes of the plan are 1. Expanding nuclear power development and 2. Privatizing public process and policy. Indeed, privatization of the planet, which led to the indigenous revolution in Bolivia and elsewhere, is a core component of the Natural Infrastructure for Business launched at COP21.

lithium mexico

“Clean” energy: Lithium mining in Mexico

While the allure of the ‘clean energy’ chimera is appealing to First World consumers of electronics and energy storage devices such as electric car batteries, the Fourth World reality in Africa, Asia and South America – where resources for these technologies are mined — is one of utter devastation. Indeed, it has been convincingly argued that the recent misadventures of AFRICOM, NATO, and the UN in Libya, Mali and the Great Lakes region of Africa are aimed at securing these minerals for the US and the EU.

mckibben patel AOSIS-Press-Conference

COP15, 2009: Bill McKibben of 350.org, Ambassador Antonio Lima of Cape Verde (Vice-President of AOSIS), and Ricken Patel, Avaaz Executive Director

The NGOs and PR firms behind the social engineering used to drum up support for Wall Street’s privatization plan — Avaaz, Havas, Purpose and 350 — are key to saving the planet for the financial elite. While their choreography of the climate drama has resulted in lots of moral theatrics, the failure of 21 years of lobbying and protesting suggests something more serious is needed. Organizing for political power requires challenging these Wall Street-funded fronts. ‘Civil society’ does not equal NGO.

Creating Failed States | Next up: Burundi

The White House

 

Office of the Press Secretary

 

For Immediate Release

 

November 23, 2015

 

“President Obama today issued a new Executive Order (E.O.) declaring a national emergency with respect to the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States posed by the situation in Burundi.”

Power and Kagame

Left: U.S. Ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power. Right: “Butcher of the Great Lakes”, Paul Kagame | “The US based Kagame lobbyists, including the US Ambassador to the UN – Samantha Power – are responsible for the crisis we see in Burundi.” – Dr. Charles Kambanda, Great Lakes Post

The African Great Lakes region (Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda) is rich in mineral wealth. East/West superpower competition for these minerals — used in consumer electronics — has prompted the United States military to arm rebels and dictators alike, as well as to increase the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) presence in the region.

Burundi tweet 3

On July 6, 2015, the U.S. State Department announced that Tom Perriello will serve as President Obama’s special envoy for the Great Lakes region of Africa. On November 6, 2015, the State Department announced that Perriello was alarmed by Burundi government violence.  On November 8, 2015, U.S. Ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, in response to the Burundi government offer of amnesty to insurrectionists, warned of Rwanda-like government massacres.

Samantha-Power-John-Kerry-68th-Session-UN-0OZG7CMnM5Ol

Above: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) speaks with United States Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power during the United Nations Security Council meeting (photo: (Sept. 18, 2014 – Source: Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images North America)

As noted by Charles Kambanda, a former professor at the University of Rwanda, what really is happening in Burundi is that multinational corporations are seeking to create a failed state — as they did previously in the Congo — in order to plunder the resources of the region. Avaaz*, an NGO co-founded by Perriello, has called on the UN, US and EU to send in the troops–much like it did in Libya and Syria.

*Avaaz was initially funded in 2006 by George Soros (a currency speculator convicted of insider-trading) through his Open Society Institute.

THE PURPOSE OF AVAAZ: CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY

Avaaz (initially financed by convicted inside trader George Soros) is the Blackwater of PSYWAR–mercenaries posing as missionaries. The non-profit Avaaz works closely with its for-profit arm and PR firm Purpose. As a social media NGO, Avaaz promotes campaigns to undermine governments hostile to US hegemony, especially in South America, Africa and the Middle East.

Perriello1

Avaaz co-founder and former U.S. Congressman Tom Perriello with war criminal, General David Petraeus (far left). Under this Flickr photo the caption reads: “Passing the Baton, United States Institute of Peace” [2009] [Photo: Jon-Phillip Sheridan | Source] [In July, 2011, “General David Petraeus was approved as CIA Director by both the Senate Intelligence Committee and then the full Senate, whose vote was an astounding 94-0, astounding because this is a man who was deeply implicated in war crimes, including torture.” Source]

The core cadre of Avaaz – Tom Perriello, Ricken Patel, Tom Pravda, Jeremy Heimans, David Madden, Eli Pariser and Andrea Woodhouse — have working relationships with the UN and World Bank, and coordinate with US-controlled institutions like the UN Security Council and UN Human Rights Council. When challenges to US hegemony arise — such as in Bolivia, Libya, Syria, Burundi and Congo — Avaaz and Purpose create campaigns to discredit and destabilize these independent governments.

tom p and kerry

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry releases the 2015 Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) outlining the strategic priorities to be pursued by the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) with USAID Acting Administrator Alfonso Lenhardt, Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources Heather Higginbottom, and Special Representative for the QDDR and Avaaz co-founder Tom Perriello at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, DC on April 28, 2015. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

With the US-controlled NATO as the de facto military enforcement arm of the UN, the interests of Wall Street merge with the Pentagon and U.S. State Department to thwart challenges from regional bodies like the African Union. Public support in the US and EU for murdering indigenous African leaders like Lumumba and Gaddafi is aided by Wall Street control of media, especially social media, which positions Avaaz as a key player in Neoliberal imperialism.

Avaaz Hate Campaign

Above: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad demonization campaign by Avaaz. Avaaz The Behavioural Economics of Hatred: SYRIA: Avaaz, Purpose & the Art of Selling Hate for Empire

This conspiracy to commit crimes against humanity is well-documented, but not well-known. Most consumers of social media are under the illusion that the UN is an honest broker, and that the Wall Street fronts Avaaz and Purpose are somehow ‘grassroots’. Working with increasingly corrupt NGOs like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch — essentially owned by Soros — Avaaz and Purpose create the illusion of advocating for human rights, which, in turn, serves as pretext for economic sanctions by the IMF and military invasions by NATO.

Ironically, the mass murders and warlords that NATO and the UN use as justification for invasion are often armed by the US and EU, which begs the question—Who is really committing crimes against humanity, the gangsters on the ground, or the manipulators of public opinion?

Imperial Social Media: Avaaz and the Arms Merchants

avaaz burundi

Avaaz Hones In On Burundi as Next U.S. Fait Accompli

Promoting the imperial social media fad of equivocating on US and NATO invasions that destroy entire societies, ostensibly because the current head of state is ruthless or corrupt, Avaaz apologists neglect the growing list of countries where these invasions have made things worse. Indeed, I am at a loss to find a country in my lifetime (1952-present) where US military aggression — either directly or through proxy mercenaries and US-financed and trained death squads — made things better.

Of course, if you look at militarism as a market-oriented strategy, then making war or creating armed mayhem is just part of doing business. With the crippling financial sanctions available to the US through the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, invasion is just for show — part of the expected social spectacle — that routinely transfers wealth from the U.S. Treasury to Wall Street and the military industrial complex.

Given the US influence at the UN Security Council, any country seeking to conduct its governance, diplomacy and trade independent of the US and EU risks destruction. The evidence can be seen in the chaotic, murderous aftermath reigning in these unfortunate societies, and in the tsunami of refugees seeking asylum. Meanwhile, the revolving door between the arms merchants, the Pentagon and the State Department is now open to NGOs like Avaaz and its PR firm Purpose.

Obama&Perriello

Image: U.S. President Barack Obama with Avaaz co-founder and former U.S. Representative Tom Perriello

burundi map

The Empire’s War against Burundi: War Propaganda in Preparation for an R2P “Humanitarian Intervention”

Kerry & Tom P

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry releases the 2015 Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) with USAID Acting Administrator Alfonso Lenhardt, Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources Heather Higginbottom, and Special Representative for the QDDR (and Avaaz co-founder) Tom Perriello at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, DC on April 28, 2015. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

Annihilating Tribal Society

West Pap. Tribes 1

Modern states, through international institutions (i.e. International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and NATO), routinely annihilate peaceful tribal societies. As the dominant modern state, the United States combines these institutionalized enforcement tools with its war-making capacity to expropriate tribal territories and resources for the benefit of the market sector (i.e. energy, consumer electronics, and the military industrial complex). This collusion between US and EU-dominated institutions and markets is what led to the genocides in the Great Lakes Region of Africa (Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Rwanda) as well as in the Balkans.

If fascism is defined as a rationalization of theft through coercion, then it fits the US/EU model exercised in Central and South America, Africa and Asia, where tribal societies (i.e. Maya, Hutu, and West Papuans) are annihilated or displaced to facilitate access to their resources. Aided by imperial social media networks (i.e. Avaaz, Purpose, and Amnesty International), war against tribal societies and independent states now manipulates public opinion to support this institutionalized aggression.

Tom P and Kagame

Meeting with Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame (R) and Tom Perriello, US Special Envoy for Great Lakes Region- Kigali, 19 August 2015

Kagame Obama

Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame (R) walks past US President Barack Obama (2nd R) as US Secretary of State John Kerry (L) and National Security Advisor Susan Rice (C) look on during a “Peacekeeping Summit” at the United Nations headquarters on September 28, 2015 in New York. AFP PHOTO/MANDEL NGAN

John+Kerry+Paul+Kagame+President+Obama

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry gives the thumbs-up to participants in the “Leaders’ Summit on Peacekeeping” with National Security Advisor Susan Rice (R), U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power and Rwandan President Paul Kagame during the 70th annual UN General Assembly at the UN headquarters September 28, 2015 in New York City. Source: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

THE REIGN OF THE INTERNET

In the 1973 film The Society of the Spectacle, Guy Debord described the total domination of the industrialized capitalist economy over the psyche of 20th Century humankind, and the resulting separation of modern urban society from reality. Represented in images projected by the bureaucratic state, the assumption of this unreal role of urban consumers enables the ruling class to control consciousness. Today, that separation from reality is so complete that the economy of war – including genocide and mass displacement of indigenous peoples – is largely unchallenged, despite the fact that consumer demand created by the spectacle of advertising is complicit in these crimes against humanity.

War for the resources required to fulfill consumer demand of luxury goods like automobiles and electronics is now accepted as normal, shrugged off by hyper-consumers as an unfortunate but inevitable consequence of progress. Unlike the spontaneous resistance by students and marginalized sectors of urban society to this total bureaucratic domination in the 1960s, consumer reaction to mass murder and dispossession in the 21st Century is itself choreographed by the ruling class. Controlling consciousness through mass communication via the Internet has created what the French philosopher Debord described as A Culture of Imbeciles, “in which advertising has become the only factor”.

The ongoing social disintegration of industrial civilization that produces pseudo-citizens signing online petitions created by ruling class entities like Avaaz, Purpose and 350, is indicative of the unbridled power of seamless spectacle, begun in the era of television, and culminated in the reign of the Internet. Controlling Consciousness through public relations has generated a ‘discursive monoculture’, where self-organized democratic renewal is unimaginable. Communication in this environment has become what the American cultural critic Neil Postman described in 1985 as Amusing Ourselves to Death. Thirty years later, and contrary to Postman’s assertions, technology has substituted itself for human values.

 

 

 

[Jay Thomas Taber is an associate scholar of the Center for World Indigenous Studies, a correspondent to Forum for Global Exchange, and a contributing editor of Fourth World Journal. Since 1994, he has served as communications director at Public Good Project, a volunteer network of researchers, analysts and journalists engaged in defending democracy. As a consultant, he has assisted indigenous peoples in the European Court of Human Rights and at the United Nations. Email: tbarj [at] yahoo.com Website:www.jaytaber.com]

 

Fundacion Pachamama is Dead – Long Live ALBA [Part VII of an Investigative Report]

The Art of Annihilation

February 9, 2015

Part seven of an investigative report by Cory Morningstar with Forrest Palmer

Fundación Pachamama Investigative Report Series [Further Reading]: Part IPart IIPart IIIPart IVPart VPart VIPart VII


A Playground for the Rich

“No other industry so flagrantly prospers off of colonialism – none penetrates and threatens Indigenous cultures so deeply.” — Is the Sacred for Sale: Tourism and Indigenous Peoples

  zoe2013-10-04-amazontan

Above: Zoë Tryon, ambassador for Amazon Watch and Fundación Pachamama. Photo from the article “Escape From the Amazon: A Gringo Adventure,” October 7, 2013

Zoe went on to explain that she had done the ritual with over 100 people. ‘What people?’ I asked. ‘Mainly Jewish bankers who had come to exorcise their Wall Street demons and mommy issues,’ she replied in a matter of fact wayA glimpse into further insanity and the western commodity culture that now permeates the Achuar ethnicity is beyond embarrassing. June 6, 2008, The Daily Mail: “Looking at Zoë (Tryon), she is the physical embodiment of this linking of worlds, dressed today for our three-hour canoe ride to the Achuar village in a designer dress by Wheels and Dollbaby (an Australian label she is keen to let me know is stocked in Harvey Nichols), wellington boots and chunky jungle-made jewellery. The respect she has gained among the Indigenous people is remarkable; the Achuar president tells me that he regards Zoë as his people’s ambassador: ‘She is our mother and our sister. We want her to prick the conscience of the world and awaken them to the importance of the rainforest and its people.'”

A glimpse into some of those who visit the Achuar territory can be easily accessed via the internet. In one such article, a guest of “the honorable” Zoë Tryon’s tribal journeys (Tryon formerly resided with Pachamama co-founders, Lynne & Bill Twist) is refreshingly both candid and vulgar, summarizing the full ignorance of an average American traveler. The very traveler we are to believe will be “transformed” by their experience and have their conscience “pricked” (Awakening the Dreamer so to speak) prior to flying back home to save the world. On October 1, 2013, Zoë’s guest to the jungle writes:

“Nick was a billionaire real estate mogul from LA who was going through a divorce from his actress wife…. He told me that his trip to the jungle was a ‘spiritual’ quest…. I told him I was there on a spiritual quest to boost my Facebook and Twitter ‘cred’ and that I hoped to get a bikini shot underneath a waterfall. Zoe went on to explain that she had done the ritual with over 100 people. ‘What people?’ I asked. ‘Mainly Jewish bankers who had come to exorcise their Wall Street demons and mommy issues,’ she replied in a matter of fact way…. The next morning, the shaman got in his canoe and paddled home…. ‘I need to get out of here.’ ‘Where do you need to go?’ she laughed. ‘Back to Quito. To a mall. I need a manicure. A pedicure. I need ice cream. I need Zara and diet coke.’ She looks at me like I’m not serious and then realizes I am totally serious. We organize a plane and I anxiously wait at the end of the dirt runway until it got there. Four hours later we were finally eating ice cream and having our nails done.”

In 2012 Tyron established her own non-profit, One of the Tribe, establishing partnerships with U.S. based Amazon Watch, Fundación Pachamama and Creative Visions. Tyron also serves as an Ambassador for Amazon Watch and Fundación Pachamama.

CK-ZOE59

Above: Zoe Tyron relaxing at Kapawi Eco Lodge. Photograph:Clare Kendall

The rare exclusiveness, for those who can afford it, is not lost on the elite, rather it is marketedContact with the Earth’s last remaining and most isolated Indigenous peoples must be considered an extraordinary privilege. One could argue that for the elite few who experience such a rare “encounter,” there is little to differentiate between this encounter and most all other colonial conquests in Earth’s history. The rare exclusiveness, for those who can afford it, is not lost on the elite, rather it is marketed: “We will have the rare privilege of interacting with the Achuar People in the early stages of their contact with the modern world.” [Source] The exclusivity and desire of the Euro-American elite is heightened with the understanding that they are among the chosen few to experience, perhaps for the last time, what little remains of pristine nature and Indigenous cultures. The very same pristine nature and Indigenous cultures the West has been destroying for centuries via predatory industrialization and the rabid genocide of Indigenous peoples. Such tourists, having just stepped into the Anthropocene, comprise the very, very few who will encounter the exotic and bear witness to the living vanishing prior to planetary ecological collapse. Not unlike witnessing the last rhino on Earth or any other last remaining species to walk the planet – this “rare privilege” of interaction must be considered one of many ultimate accomplishments for the bourgeoisie’s own personal “bucket list.” The more rare the spectacle, the higher the cost, the more coveted the experience becomes.

As citizens who were spoon-fed the myth of American exceptionalism, it seems likely that collectively, we as Euro-Americans have become so desperate to escape ourselves, we now find ourselves attempting to latch onto Earth’s last authentic living/breathing cultures. Simply for no other reason than we can no longer tolerate who we have become. The atrocities committed in our names have become far too egregious for any respectable citizen to further hide behind a feigned ignorance and blindness. Thus, starved for true meaning, the “otherness” of Earth’s living ecosystems and authentic Indigenous cultures is not internalized or understood – rather, it is voraciously consumed.

It is critical to note that interaction between foreign women and local men has been known (and documented) to cause community conflicts (Tapuy, 1996). One can safely assume bikini-clad foreign women being guided in canoes (by Achuar men) for leisure creates such conflict (and most likely intense jealousy) considering it has been documented that valuable time spent away from families and family responsibilities causes stress and conflict amongst many of the Achuar families/communities. Further, it has been documented that the Achuar are very jealous people, which is said to be a common trait in their culture. To understand the emotions that such selfish actions will undoubtedly evoke, yet still choose to fulfill one’s own personal wants and interests, is beyond the pale.

Cannibal Tours

Cannibal Tours

“[The film] affords a glimpse at the real (mostly unconsidered or misunderstood) reasons why ‘civilised’ people wish to encounter the ‘primitive.’ The situation is that shifting terminus of civilisation, where modern mass-culture grates and pushes against those original, essential aspects of humanity; and where much of what passes for values in western culture is exposed in stark relief as banal and fake.” — Dennis O’Rourke

Of course one does not have to read hundreds of papers via academia (another sector targeted and utilized by foundations/oligarchs) in an attempt to understand how members of isolated tribes might actually feel as fetishized “subjects” of fascination by the middle/upper class, predominantly white tourist. In some rare instances, the “subjects” speak for themselves with their thoughts, insights and feelings, unedited – shared by way of film. Such is the case in the understated masterpiece “Cannibal Tours” in which the interview of a village elder by the name of Camillus is woven throughout the film. Director Dennis O’Rourke (now deceased) communicates the commodification of human interactions (and relations) by simply filming people in their natural state. The raw honesty captured, in particular the thoughts of Camillus (unknown – 1987), is so tender and veracious, the film is almost unbearable to watch. Feelings of confusion, discontent and frustration as felt by the local native people are transparent; the superiority and ignorance of the tourist, demonstrated in effortless candour, is ugly and biting.

 “The commodification of human relations is highlighted through such photography of the locals, whereby the tourists (‘equipped with their essential “weapon”-camera’) assign monetary values to the interactions with the locals by payments. This action also introduces the element of power inequality between tourists and the natives, whereby the tourists are viewed as the one with monetary power, and the power to ‘control’ the locals, even to the extent that the locals, in the attempt to meet the tourists’ expectations, will alter certain elements of their cultures or rituals just to cater to the tourists’ likings. Through such examples, the notion of ‘re-colonisation’ can be seen whereby the whites (tourists) are seen as the wealthy and powerful group, whereas the locals are seen as the powerless with little wealth, that they have to rely on the money gained through tourism to keep their economy going.” — Commodification of culture and human relations [Source]

Although the documentary is filmed in Sepik River in Papua New Guinea (released in 1988), almost 30 years later we can recognize parallels. Note the scrappy Coca-Cola truck situated in the village (27:20). Just as Coca-Cola, having conquered the globe, has ventured into isolated jungles in the quest to unearth new untapped markets (as market share must grow indefinitely), industrialized/globalized and parasitic capitalism, having also conquered the globe, must also find new markets. As a response to this predatory economic system, we witness the targeting and sophisticated seduction of the last peoples remaining in isolation – within pristine natural settings, ripe for commodification. Note the face-painting (formerly reserved for traditional ceremonies), turned into a marketing component and an exotic novelty for the Euro-American tourist. Today, Indigenous peoples are rapidly abandoning their enviable subsistence economies – in exchange for impromptu, makeshift markets on the airstrips as the wealthy tourists descend. In a desperate attempt to sell their wares, they are in pursuit of the greenback – the greenback, backed by nothing.

“[A] Luxury top class tourist lodge with opportunity to encounter Achuar culture” — Trip Advisor Website

One could argue that since the filming of this documentary, the Euro-American has become more enlightened, with ecotourism NGOs and managers more cognitive of “politically incorrect” behaviour. Yet New York Times art critic Ken Johnson disagreed with such an assumption. Johnson once stated that if Voltaire were still around to tell the story of globalization, two of his principal character types would be “the enlightened, transnational citizen of the world and his imbecilic twin, the tourist.” It is crystal clear which character type the movie Cannibal Tours captures, yet what is not clear is the fact that under the system of industrialized capitalism, in tandem with Western ideologies of privilege and consumerism sweeping the globe, the choice of which type of traveller one wishes to emulate has already been decided.

“O’Rourke’s camera shoots the whole of a social relation that is taking over the world, the relation between the seeing and the seen. This double anthropology subtly shows how connoisseurship and condescension are linked, and how little the Western tribe of tourists understand their own culture.” — Camera Work Website

Cannibal Tours – Dennis O’Rourke’s 1988 documentary (Running time: 1:08:06)

Cannibal Economics

“The desire for profit without exploitation runs so strong, like that for ‘true love,’ even intellectuals can trick themselves into finding it where it does not exist, where… it can never exist.” — Cannibal Tours by Dean MacCannell

Consider the following study notes on Posada Amazonas eco-lodge, built in 1998. It is owned by the Indigenous Ese-Eja community of Infierno (Peru) in partnership with Rainforest Expeditions:

“[A] capitalist mindset has not only been introduced to Infierno but […] it also in some ways has been imposed upon them… this paradigm shift among community leaders whose conversations now include discussions of cost benefit analyses, product quality control, and marketing niches. The ethnographic literature also suggests a connection between ecotourism and the adoption of the Ecologically Noble Savage paradigm… this paradigm shift stemming from the commodification of the rainforest where the previous practical traditional use has been transformed into an instrumental tool for conservation and commodification for sale…. [There is] evidence not only of the adoption of the Ecologically Noble Savage stereotype in the Community, but the people’s active appropriation of it.” [Source: Take a Picture with a “Real Indian”: (Self-) Representation, Ecotourism, and Indigeneity in Amazonia, 2011]

In other words, evidence suggests that today, many formerly isolated Indigenous have learned (taught via the Euro-American) to successfully exploit the West’s idea/stereotype of the “ecologically noble savage” and effectively manipulate the tourists thereby fulfilling the exact function of branding and marketing agencies. In effect, the ecologically noble savage persona/stereotype is a growing commodity created specifically for foreign consumption, via ecotourism.

Kapawi: A Gift of Debt

“Neither the travel company nor the Achuar made a profit, and in 2008 Canodros transferred ownership of the lodge back to the Achuar. The future of this eco-jewel is now at risk.” [Source]

“Allí está el progreso, confía, sin embargo, por ahora extrañan el aporte mensual que Canodros les entregaba puntualmente hasta el 2007, por el arriendo de su territorio.” — April 18, 2010

“It has been enormously successful as a social experiment, and as a means of attracting external funding for conservation, health, communications, transportation and education, but not as a money-making venture….” [1]

According to a World Bank resource document (written by Nature Conservancy in partnership with USAID), the Kapawi development commenced with a stunning initial investment of USD $1.8 million by USAID.

While the document states clearly that “logging, oil exploitation and intensive agricultural projects had not been developed in the area when the Kapawi project was initiated in 1994 (Koupermann, 1997),” it is also quite clear from existing documents that many Achuar were convinced/came to believe that the ecolodge was the only way forward if the tribes were to resist oil development from destroying their communities.

“As my Achuar friend Domingo Peas said, ‘We are not business people, we never did it in the past… but we must learn in order to protect our territory and our forest,’ says Paulina Rodriguez, operations manager of the Kapawi Ecolodge and Reserve.”

There is no doubt that the descriptive and emotive text coupled with the sensual, prototypical rainforest imagery (utilized to “sell” Kapawi) conveys to the audience that it is only by way of ecotourism, and ecotourism alone, that the Achuar can continue their mission of conservation. This is in stark contrast to the fact that the Achuar practised truly sustainable conservation for centuries before colonization began only decades ago. This constructed message is also in stark contrast to the fact that tourism has greatly contributed to and continues to exacerbate an ever accelerating planetary climate crisis.

According to the El Universo newspaper (ironically founded by El Universo heir Perasso who conceptualized the Kapawi development with Kouperman):

“Pachamama, a vital ally: Pachamama Foundation, dedicated to accompany the Indigenous peoples in defense of their territory, is supporting the tourism operation in Kapawi since its inception eleven years ago. ‘We will continue to work with them when they take control of the ecolodge, for which they provide training and alternatives for sustainable development,’ said Belen Paez, executive director of the Ecuadorian arm of this entity headquartered in San Francisco (California, USA). In addition, the German Reconstruction Bank allocated 3.5 million euros (about $ 4.9 million) to the sustainable development of the Achuar people, a portion of which will be for Kapawi.” [El Universo, October 21, 2007, Source. Emphasis added.]

It is not clear where or how the 3.5 million euros designated to the sustainable development of the Achuar people (a portion for Kapawi) by The German Bank for Reconstruction (Kredietanstalt für Wiedraufbau – KfW) was spent … or how it was/is to be re-paid. [Note that the bulk of this loan appears to be for “the zoning and protection of Indigenous territories, via Fundação Nacional do Índio (FUNAI) applied in the framework of ‘debt-for-nature swaps’ (e.g., in Ecuador).”] It is critical to note that the normalized concept of “debt-for-nature swaps” – “offered to” the very resource rich/poverty stricken states who have suffered under centuries of colonization and gross exploitation – must be considered the most nefarious of injustices. [From 2004-2011, KfW funded €3.58 million for the Tropical Forest Conservation Morona-Pastaza project in partnership with the Ministry of Environment and the Nacionalidad de los Achuar en Ecuador (NAE). Source]

 “The western economy has eroded the traditional economy. An example is in the sale of chichi [a homemade drink]. Now, many Achuar are less inclined to work or support each other without pay.”

The Kapawi development appears to have transitioned from a Western-perceived independence and freedom, to a global and very real indebtedness, liability and perpetual servitude. Considering that the results mirror our very own entrapment within the industrialized capitalist system, it is safe to assume that this was the plan from inception.

“With up to 45% of their total income coming from direct employment in Kapawi and a further 21% deriving from handicraft sales (Rodriguez 2000:3), ecotourism is now a vital factor in the local economy. The problem is that while the community may eventually be able to control the enterprise, it has no control over the market. If Canodros, the company managing and financing Kapawi, with its experience and connections in the travel business, cannot bring in the tourists it needs in order to break even, it is unlikely the Achuar will be able to, especially when faced with growing competition from other operations in the region and in neighboring countries.” [1]

It is publicly stated of the Kapawi development that “the initiative’s board is composed of five people – representatives of Achuar com­munities both from the province of Pastaza and from the province of Motona Santiago, and a President of the Achuar Nation of Ecuador (NAE) – all of whom are Achuar. The board meets every six months to carry out an analysis of the project.” [Dec 20, 2012] However, again, the reality appears to be somewhat different.

“Mr Crespo is also on the board of the Kapawi Lodge, an internationally famous, pioneering tourism project. Deep in the Ecuadorean Amazon, rainforest warriors from the Achuar people now manage a luxury ecotourism resort, supported by the board.” World Finance Website

On The Business Year website, it is disclosed that economist and director general of Analytica, Ramiro Crespo, is currently Vice-President of the Paideia Foundation and Director of the Kapawi project. [“After receiving a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland, Ramiro Crespo went on to pursue a Master’s in Economic Development at Georgetown University. He was an economic commentator for four years at Radio Bolívar. In addition to holding the position of Director General of Analytica, he is currently Vice-President of the Paideia Foundation and Director of the Kapawi project.” The Business Year – October 2012 | Bio]

Analytica is an investment bank in Ecuador specializing in debt restructuring, research, mergers and acquisitions, and trading. Analytica also sponsors a university in Quito, Universitas Equatorialis, offering degrees in environmental engineering, with Fundación Natura, the local chapter of the World Wildlife Fund.

“Analytica is among the hundred most important companies in the world in 2010 according to British magazine World Finance. Recognition ‘World Finance 100’ list rigorous nomination and selection, Analytica places with companies like Apple, BMW, ING Bank, Citigroup, Coca-Cola and Toyota. Between 35 institutions worldwide including HSBC, Deutsche Bank and Citigroup, Analytica is the only company in the list of a country in Latin America specializing in financial services. The merit of the professional team of Analytica evidence the increasing sophistication of regional financial sector. The premiere was announced in Davos, Switzerland, during the World Economic Forum meeting held in late January 2011. The annual list of the best companies and individuals in the year, ‘World Finance 100’ accompanies the publication of the World Finance Magazine, January / February 2011, essential source for global investors with its look to emerging markets.” Analytica Website

The amount of debt that Kapawi has incurred (so it appears) could be staggering even by Western standards. Consider that Pachamama administers Aerotsentsak, the airline corporation created, operated and eventually to be owned by FINAE. The costs associated with maintaining an airport, airplanes and an airstrip, even if small, must be intense. What of the original loan ($1.9 million) by USAID? What of the money invested by Conodros Tourism Corporation? What of the 3.5 million euros allocated by the German Bank for Reconstruction (KfW)? Was this withdrawn as initially agreed upon when the project was “given” fully to the Achuar approximately four years ahead of schedule? [“After this period, Canodros will withdraw all investment and the Achuar will manage the entire operation.”][Source] As part of the contract that would allow Canodros to transfer full ownership to the Achuar four years earlier than originally agreed upon, Conodros agreed to create a two-year trust fund and pay for extensive upgrades/renovations. [2] That Conodros would invest a further substantial amount of money in Kapawi – in order to terminate a contract – suggests that ending the partnership, even at a significant cost, was still a far better business transaction than maintaining the contract for four more years.

A sad irony is that the bulk of the monies received [3] from the Kapawi development (before being “given” full ownership) were spent on the never-ending maintenance of the airstrip and the school/education (“The School of Ecotourism”). Further, for four full years, the little monies allocated to the Kapawi communities were taken by one family. [“Because of the poor use of funds (40% for the community of Kapawi), and because of people who took advantage of the Achuar trust, good faith and naiveté, there is money [missing] from four years, and no one knows how or on what it was spent.”][Source]

“Meager profits flow back into the surrounding Achuar communities, which have been able to build schools; they allow lodge guests to visit.” – Travel and Leisure

Today Kapawi is desperate to increase the volume of wealthy tourists, whom they are now dependent upon. New high-end excursions that added to the resort’s itinerary include “Private Canoe River Cruise by Candlelight,” “Romantic Ceremony at Kapawi,” “Achuar Wedding in the Community,” and the “Natem Ceremony.” [Natem ceremony: “Interestingly, a day before, the shaman mentioned that he is now a catholic, which is [an] oxymoron.” Source]

It would appear that, tragically, the Achuar Indigenous peoples (among countless other Indigenous communities no doubt), in good faith yet via coercion, have inadvertently subjected themselves to loss of full control over their territories. One must contemplate how these massive bank loans are secured, considering the only asset (albeit most valuable) the Achuar could offer as guarantee would be pristine rainforest/land. Through heavy debt and financial obligations and a relatively new, strategically developed dependence on the global economy (via the necessity for an infinite stream of wealthy foreign tourists), Indigenous communities now participate in the continued colonization, or in the case of REDD (the UN’s Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation program), the neocolonialization of Indigenous resources and people.

“Colonial Mentality” critics argue that “people, once subject to colonial or imperial rule, latch onto physical and cultural differences between the foreigners and themselves, leading some to associate power and success with the foreigners’ ways. This eventually leads to the foreigners’ ways being regarded as the better way and being held in a higher esteem than previous Indigenous ways. In much the same fashion, and with the same reasoning of ‘better-ness,’ the colonised may over time equate the colonisers’ race or ethnicity itself as being responsible for their ‘superiority’…. [I]mportation or continuation of cultural mores or elements from former colonial powers may be regarded as a form of neo-colonialism.” [Source]

“As profit outweighs protection, the sustainability of nature is rewritten as the sustainability of capital; the protection of nature is inverted to be the protection of profits; and the morality of democratic multigenerational planning is transmogrified into the pursuit of competitive advantage in the free market of nature.” Managing the Other of Nature: Sustainability, Spectacle, and Global Regimes of Capital in Ecotourism [Source]

Although it is said (by NGOs and foundation-financed academia) that eco-tourism projects such as Kapawi were conceived as a means to employ the Achuar and to provide revenue to combat the pressures of multinational corporations, one must wonder how this would in fact keep the multinationals at bay, then, or today. Of course, NGOs were not about to say back then what they will not say today nor will say in the future: that the key reason for involvement is ultimate control of the land and soft-power colonization of the people with their integration into the industrialized capitalist system. Like the multinationals, corporate NGOs also froth at the mouth over the prospect of exploiting these same territories – the NGOs financed by the very same multinationals, via tax-exempt foundations. Like circling vultures, the rapacious capitalists – even the self-proclaimed “compassionate capitalists” – leave no stones unturned. As discussed prior, if those in power of vulnerable states do not walk the delicate tightrope of somewhat satisfying the insatiable system, they will soon face the consequences of the West taking what they will not give willingly. Nature finds herself surrounded by predatory capitalist pathology.

“An insider who is employed by a leading green group explained to the journalist Johann Hari the motivations: ‘It’s because they will generate a lot of revenue this way. If there are national targets, the money runs through national governments. If there are subnational targets, the money runs through the people who control those forests – and that means TNC, Conservation International and the rest. Suddenly, these forests they run become assets, and they are worth billions in a carbon market as offsets. So they have a vested financial interest in offsetting and in subnational targets, even though they are much more environmentally damaging than the alternatives. They know it. It’s shocking.'” — Some Key REDD+ Players

Consider that if on average there are 1,000 visitors at Kapawi per annum (a number cited in several documents), at an average rate of US$3,000 per tourist, this equates to a revenue stream of $3 million per year. Now consider there is no mortgage, no property tax, no utility bills. One must contemplate why there is no profit. After lawyers, consultants, auditing technologies, eco-services, audits, environ­mental impact assessments, marketing agencies, advertising, tourist agencies, teachers, biologists, experts, accountants, engineers, travel expenses, one must contemplate how much of this income finds its way back to imperial states versus how much remains in the community. The answer is likely a reprehensible one that few wish to acknowledge.

While on the surface, CBE (community-based ecotourism) projects support traditional knowledge and cooperation, in real-life, Indigenous communities are told they must be competitive as international tourism is pushed as imperative to survival along with other free-market prescriptions. Ultimately this amounts to cultural assimilation – or annihilation. As yesterday’s missionaries instilled the fear of God, today’s modern-day missionaries instill the fear of operating losses. Further, as Lebanese-Australian professor Ghassan Hage (Future Generation Professor of Anthropology and Social Theory at the University of Melbourne) demonstrates, accumulation of capital underpins an ideology of race, in which multiculturalism works best when citizens yearn and strive to achieve Whiteness. [4]

Considering that foundations such as Rockefeller et al strategize for the protection/expansion of hegemonic power decades in advance, one could reasonably hypothesize that community-based ecotourism was developed and incremented as a deliberate stop-gap measure to control rainforests (via said protection) until a solid economic system/infrastructure for the commodification of all nature was firmly in place. Although such a theory may seem a bit far-fetched, it is not inconceivable considering foundations and “think-tanks” lead in the intense study of, and shaping of, behavioural change. The time involved in commercializing all aspects of society until saturation was achieved amongst the populace (ensuring tomorrow’s “consumers” would submissively acquiesce to an ideology of mass-commodification and privatization) would have been well-understood by foundations and think-tanks alike. Considering the 21st century explosion of land grabs, in tandem with the race to privatize and commodify the Earth’s remaining commons with little focus remaining on ecotourism, such a theory is deserving of further investigation.

DIRECT ACTION –THE ONLY TACTIC THAT HAS EVER WORKED

And although Americans, passive by decades of conditioning, may believe that integration into the industrialized economic system may be the only “solution” against the short-term “temptations” that present themselves when multinationals arrive to plunder for the First World, further reading tells us that the Achuar have far more effective methods than we do. Consider the blog post on February 28, 2008 written by a Kapawi tourist. In the post, the author writes that “Recently, Ecuador’s Minister for Energy arrived here in Achuar territory. He was accompanied with armed men and came representing the Burlington oil company to make an ‘offer’ to buy the Achuar’s land for oil development. The Achaur swiftly refused the deal and to prove their point, kidnapped the Minister for several days before returning him to Quito unharmed. The story went unreported in the national press.” This is not an uncivilized act (as both the colonial and modern-day missionaries would have you believe), rather, it is a no-nonsense act of self-defense. Despite the access to information made possible via the internet, similar success stories of true direct action that are truly effective continue to be grossly marginalized if not censored altogether in most all media. [June 7, 2013: Colombian guerilla group holding Canadian mining executive hostage takes aim at Ottawa; August 27, 2013: Kidnapped Canadian mining exec freed by Colombian rebels (“Last month, Toronto-based Braeval Mining Corp. said it was pulling out of Colombia.”)]

Further, the Achuar’s neighbours to the north, the Targaretti tribes (in the central Ecuadorian rainforest) have managed to stay isolated from industrialized “civilization” (industrialized civilization being the most uncivilized way of living that has ever existed). The Targaretti are the last tribes in Ecuador to refuse contact with Western civilisation and continue to live a traditional and nomadic way of life. One could argue that this tribe has no means of protecting/obtaining legal claim to their ancestral lands (because they have no monetary means of obtaining legal representation, etc.) and that this fact leaves them in a most precarious position, unable to defend themselves against the bulldozers and oil companies who are now encroaching upon their lands. Yet, the simple truth of the matter is that the Targaretti peoples fully understand what privileged Euro-Americans collectively refuse to acknowledge: the state only fears what it cannot control.

“On the one hand, eco-tourism has been presented as a negotiated response to the imperatives of ecological preservation within an ecocidal system of global capital. On the other hand, it is an insidious and largely unsuccessful attempt at articulating the social misery of global capital with(in) distinct cultural and environmental limits.” — Kerala: Exploring Future Frontiers in Tourism Development, 2000 [Source]

 +++

Next: Part VIII (to be published in 2016)

 

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

[Forrest Palmer is an electrical engineer residing in Texas.  He is a part-time blogger and writer and can be found on Facebook. You may reach him at forrest_palmer@yahoo.com.]


EndNotes:

[1] Paper: Community-Based Ecotourism in Ecuador and Its Contribution to the Alleviation of Poverty

[2] As part of the agreement to transfer the Kapawi ownership early, at the end of 2007 Canodros committed to create a trust fund that would hold autonomous assets of US$296,512 with CEKSA (Complejo Ecoturistico Kapawi S.A.) as the beneficiary. This trust was to cover the working capital, the air transportation operation and the payment of labour. The trust fund was to last two years until December 2009 with any funds not dispersed being transferred to CEKSA. As well, Canodros S.A. committed to the reconstruction of the facilities. This additional investment was reported to be US$748,056.05. Reconstruction included new cabin foundations, roofs, complete renovations of bathrooms, repairing the boardwalk, and an updated/improved sewage system. The main assets for Kapawi were also replaced. This included canoes, outboard motors, refrigerators, freezers and kitchen equipment. As well, an update and improvement of the photovoltaic system was undertaken that would allow for a savings of 1500 diesel gallons per year. (The October 2001 appraisal valued Kapawi assets at US$1,036,690 (infrastructure US$826,034; equipment, furniture and household goods: US$210,656.)

[3] Kapawi development income according to a 2003 report published in 2005 (prior to the Achuar being “given” the establishment): (US funds)

  • The income from the $10.00 per guest fee that went directly to Achuar territory based on an average 1,800 tourists amounted to an average of $18,000 per year
  • The income from the monthly rent/concession fee as per agreement by Canodros Tours was approximately $3,400.00 per month which amounted to about $40,000 per year. [This amount was renegotiated and increased to a higher amount in the midst of the contract when the Indigenous noticed a substantial increase in tourists with no increase in payment.]
  • The estimated annual income to Achuar from Kapawi was approximately $58,000 and broken down as follows:
  • 40% ($16,320) to one community: Kapawi (10 Quichua & 13 Achuar families)
  • 40% ($16,320) to one association: Amunday Association of six communities
  • 5% ($2,040) to FINAE for administrative costs
  • 15% ($7,120) shared among 53 Achuar communities

The community of Kapawi spent their money (40%) on:

  • Maintenance of the 800-metre airstrip through manual labour (“work that never ends”).
  • Health: In case of emergency, such as a bad case of malaria, funds are offered, 50% as a loan, and 50% as a donation.
  • Education: $80 per month. The School of Ecotourism in the community of Kapawi can be reached in 50 minutes by canoe from the lodge. They use funds to buy books, pay teachers, and for transportation. [It is not clear who the teachers (teaching tourism) actually are. It is unlikely that the teachers are Achuar.] In this document, Cristina Serrano of Canodros Tourism is cited as the leader/representative of the Ecotourism School.

The community of Amunday Association spent their money (40%) on:

  • $150 monthly to two communities
  • $100 monthly to three communities
  • $30 for education in the School of Education

 

[4] Ghassan Hage, expanding on Pierre Bourdieu’s theory, theorized on the notion that multiculturalism is a “field of accumulating whiteness,” adding that multicultural cohesion exists primarily when Black and Black bodies gain cultural and symbolic capital – by accumulating Whiteness. [White Nation: Fantasies of White Supremacy in a Multicultural Society] Hage aligns a desire for cultural capital with a yearning to accumulate Whiteness, which he ardently differentiates from being White: “‘Whiteness’ is an everchanging, composite cultural historical construct. It has its roots in the history of European colonisation which universalised a cultural form of White identity as a position of cultural power at the same time as the colonised were in the process of being racialised…. As such, no one can be fully White, but people yearn to be so. It is in this sense that Whiteness is itself a fantasy position and a field of accumulating Whiteness.”

New World Order—Same Old Crimes

Wrong Kind of Green Op-Ed

December 21, 2015

by Jay Taber

Robinson-SG-COP21-NOV2015

November 2015: Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon with Mary Robinson and Ricken Patel, Executive Director of Avaaz at “One Heart One Tree: Lighting of the Eiffel Tower”. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

In terms of relevance to the indigenous nations often referred to as the Fourth World, the rollouts from the COP21 gathering of UN member states, Wall Street-funded NGOs, and the global financial elite resemble colonial initiatives undertaken as a result of similar 19th Century gatherings to carve up the world for capitalism. Then, as now, indigenous territories and resources were targeted for expropriation through coercion, with Africa being a prime target.

cop21

Photo: Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (fourth from left) and Christiana Figueres (centre), Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), meet with “Civil Society Leaders” at the Le Bourget-Paris exhibition site, for Cop21. From left: Jagoda Munic, Chairperson, Friends of the Earth International; Ricken Patel, President and Executive Director, Avaaz; Sharan Burrow, General Secretary, International Trade Union Confederation; Kumi Naidoo, Executive Director, Greenpeace International; May Boeve, Executive Director, 350.org; Wael Hmaidan, Director, Climate Action Network International; and Bridget Burns, Administrator on Climate, Global Gender and Climate Alliance.

As statements emanating from COP21 by Wall Street-driven entities like the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and the Breakthrough Energy Coalition were tailored to seduce the naïve into believing that First World consumption of indigenous territories and resources for luxury goods could continue unabated under the pretext of saving the planet, the agenda of the financial elite at Paris was to subsume human rights to the all-encompassing ‘clean energy’/New Economy regime.

Global Goals -PrivateProperty

A look at the ‘clean energy’ Ponzi scheme — led by magnate Bill Gates, and promoted by Havas – reveals two key attributes of the plan are 1. Expanding nuclear power development and 2. Privatizing public process and policy. Indeed, privatization of the planet, which led to the indigenous revolution in Bolivia and elsewhere, is a core component of the Natural Infrastructure for Business launched at COP21.

lithium mexico

“Clean” energy: Lithium mining in Mexico

lithium chile

“Clean” energy: Lithium mining in Chile

While the allure of the ‘clean energy’ chimera is appealing to First World consumers of electronics and energy storage devices such as electric car batteries, the Fourth World reality in Africa, Asia and South America – where resources for these technologies are mined — is one of utter devastation. Indeed, it has been convincingly argued that the recent misadventures of AFRICOM, NATO, and the UN in Libya, Mali and the Great Lakes region of Africa are aimed at securing these minerals for the US and the EU.

mckibben patel AOSIS-Press-Conference

COP15, 2009: Bill McKibben of 350.org, Ambassador Antonio Lima of Cape Verde (Vice-President of AOSIS), and Ricken Patel, Avaaz Executive Director

The NGOs and PR firms behind the social engineering used to drum up support for Wall Street’s privatization plan — Avaaz, Havas, Purpose and 350 — are key to saving the planet for the financial elite. While their choreography of the climate drama has resulted in lots of moral theatrics, the failure of 21 years of lobbying and protesting suggests something more serious is needed. Organizing for political power requires challenging these Wall Street-funded fronts. ‘Civil society’ does not equal NGO.

 

FURTHER READING

BREAKTHROUGH BOONDOGGLE

CLEAN ENERGY PONZI SCHEME

COP21: SOCIETY OF THE SPECTACLE

MARCHING FOR MONSANTO

PRIVATIZATION STRATEGY

RAVE NEW WORLD

WANTED FOR DESTROYING OUR FUTURE: AVAAZ

 

 

 

Climate Opportunists

Skookum

December 18, 2015

by Jay Taber

McKibben paris spotlight

 

 

klein paris spolight

 

True to form, Bill McKibben and Naomi Klein — the Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker of climate evangelism — are exhorting their mindless followers to double down on ‘activist’ charades in the wake of COP21. Unlike the disgraced televangelists, however, the climate opportunists probably won’t face a Federal grand jury probe or do any time for fraud. As the loyal ‘opposition’ of the financial elite, they will stick with the Wall Street script, keeping their devotees busy whining but ineffective in confronting the power politics of their billionaire paymasters.

 

COP21: Society of the Spectacle

Center for World Indigenous Studies

December 12, 2015

by Jay Taber

Pied-piper-businessman-slide-full

 

We Mean Business, the latest roll-out by the financial elite, is unpacked at Wrong Kind of Green. Joining the Wall Street creations Avaaz, Ceres, Purpose and 350, the goal of We Mean Business is turning citizens into mere consumers. The successful mass mobilization through social engineering — deployed by Wall Street-financed pied pipers like Naomi Klein — indicates they may have already won.

more

The “Purpose” of “Consumer Activism” & COP21 – “We Mean Business”

Wrong Kind of Green

December 11 2015

We Mean Business Logo

 

“The spectacle is not a collection of images, but a social relation among people, mediated by images.” — Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle

The most critical of ecological nightmares – the key driving forces of climate change, those being first world consumption:

 

Interwoven with exploitation of Earth and her most vulnerable citizens and sentient beings, the continued genocide of Indigenous peoples as the caretakers of our lands and forests, the continued meltdown of Fukushima, are problems from a different world, a different lifetime.

They have no place amongst the negotiations led by 1% of the Earth’s population creating 50% of the global greenhouse gas emissions.

The ultimate goal of course has now been achieved, the non-profit industrial complex (and those it feeds) having not only succeeded in establishing the global acquiescence for a third industrial revolution under the guise of “clean energy”, it manufactured a global demand – saving a suicidal economic system teetering on the verge of collapse. Rather than recognizing this is a  unique and rare opportunity in our history to allow and ensure this lethal economic system fails, all radical resistance (as activism) is now passé. In vogue is “activism as choice” for what technological solutions (i.e further consumption/growth) can “save” the humans species (of privilege).

On September 15, 2014, one week prior to the People’s Climate March in New York, Inside Climate News published the article Only $1 Trillion: Annual Investment Goal Puts Climate Solutions Within Reach. From the article:

“Leading up to the UN Climate Summit next week in New York, business groups and investors who manage trillions of dollars published reports and held meetings to call for action. Last week, investment groups publicized the creation of We Mean Business, an umbrella organization of investors urging world leaders to agree on a plan for fighting climate change.”

From the Climate Group (incubated by Rockefeller as in-house project that later evolved into a free-standing institution) website:

“The Climate Group is a proud partner of We Mean Business – a coalition of organizations working with thousands of the world’s most influential businesses and investors.”

The founding partners of We Mean Business are:

  1. Business for Social Responsibility (BSR)
  2. CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project)
  3. Ceres
  4. The B Team (founded by Richard Branson)
  5. The Climate Group
  6. The Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group (CLG)
  7. World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) [Further reading: http://bit.ly/1lBgbU0]

Together these organizations represent thousands of the worlds most powerful corporations and investors.

We Mean Business Network partners:

  1. Asset Owner Disclosure Project (AODP)
  2. CEBDS
  3. Climate Leadership Council (CLC)
  4. WWF Climate Savers
  5. EPC, Japan-CLP
  6. National Business Initiative
  7. Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI)
  8. The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI)
  9. United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI)

We Mean Business working partnerships were formed with the following organizations:

  1. Carbon Tracker
  2. Carbon War Room
  3. Climate & Clean Air Coalition
  4. Climate Markets & Investments Association
  5. E3G
  6. Forum for the Future
  7. Global Alliance for Energy Productivity
  8. International Emissions Trading Association
  9. Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC/Ceres)
  10. Rocky Mountain Institute (now partnered with the Carbon War Room)
  11. The Business Council for Sustainable Energy
  12. The New Climate Economy
  13. The Shift Project
  14. United Nations Global Compact
  15. World Bank Group
  16. World Resources Institute

[Further reading: Building Acquiescence for the Commodification of the Commons Under the Banner of a “New Economy”]

Ceres, a founding member of We Mean Business is a key partner of the 350.org divestment campaign which was created in consultation with the organizations “friends on Wall Street“. Ceres, 350,org, B Team, Avaaz, The Climate Group, We Mean Business and CDP are all “Earth to Paris” partners. (“Earth To Paris, a coalition of partners helping to drive awareness about the connection between people and planet as well as the need for strong climate action, announced it will host “Earth To Paris—Le Hub” a two-day, high-impact, live-streamed summit on 7 and 8 December in Paris during COP21 — the United Nations climate conference to deliver a new universal climate change agreement.”) [Source]

The ideologies espoused by “We Mean Business” are transparent in the following (01:40) interview with Avaaz & Purpose co-founder Jeremy Heimans by We Mean Business.

“We’ve been talking in a broader way about the future of consumer activism, of organizing people not as citizens but as consumers.” — Jeremy Heimans, Purpose, 2011

September 15, 2014, This Changes Nothing. Why the People’s Climate March Guarantees Climate Catastrophe:

“What you are about to witness is the global mobilization of “consumers” to be ushered into the green economy, without SAYING it is the green economy. The climate parade in NYC, coinciding with the release of 350’s Naomi Klein’s new book, is the launching pad.

 

The kings and queens of hegemony have rolled the dice and placed their bets on Avaaz, 350.org and Naomi Klein (350.org board member) to usher in the illusory green economy under the guise of a so-called “new economy.” Their winning bet is that author Naomi Klein’s latest book will be the vehicle that ignites their new economy, and thus “changes everything.”

 

It is not by accident that foundation-financed “progressive” media and those within the non-profit industrial complex are heavily promoting Klein’s upcoming book release with multiple side events. It is not by accident that Avaaz’s latest petition titled The Global People’s Climate March has strategically modified the This Changes Everything book title to “Join to Change Everything” and “To change everything, it takes everyone.” Note the similar language employed by WWF: “To change everything, we need everyone.”

The fact that the Peoples Climate March was designed and orchestrated as a mass mobilization social engineering experiment financed by the oligarchs to”change everything” (expand capital and existing power structures) is captured in the (01:40 minute) video titled We Mean Business Momentum:

“And hundreds of thousands of people marched in New York City and all across the world. The momentum became contagious.”

 

The dystopian focus on perpetual growth via consumption as the solution to climate change is clear in the following We Mean Business video (3:40). Also note the reference to “Natural Capital” which is code for the global privatization of nature via payments for ecosystems services (PES) which is currently being implemented into policies behind closed doors.

“It won’t be about sacrifice. It will be about a new era of clean abundance.” — Steve Howard, Ikea

Activist Kevin Hester writes: “It is always worth looking for pearls of truth where the hubris and arrogance of the spin doctors lets them down… ‘the future of consumer activism’ … there you have it, the scam laid bare, they can never disown the market.”

This begets the question: is “the future of consumer activism” (under the guise of a “new economy”) already here?

sacrilege-2 (2)

Klein OECD

Photo: 24 November 2015: Naomi Klein (left) and Angel Gurría, Secretary-General of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). In January 1998 Mexican President Zedillo appointed Jose Angel Gurria as Minister of Finance. “One top official at Nomura Securities summed up Wall Street’s euphoria upon hearing of Gurria’s appointment. ‘He’s one of ours.’” Gurría also negotiated the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) which came into force on January 1, 1994. [Further reading: Our “Man in Mexico” and the Chiapas Massacre]

Indeed the foundation has been laid. After all, Naomi Klein’s book and film project (financed by the same oligarchs who bestow billions of dollars upon the non-profit industrial complex) was not made available for free in an exclusive online format. The book, a #1 international bestseller is being translated into 25 languages. Millions of books, driving and flying to international climate events/parades, social metrics, and a multitude of other foundation financed “activist” activities, all assist in the propping up of a capitalist economic system that is “flying at close to stall speed“. 

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[Further reading: The Increasing Vogue for Capitalist-Friendly Climate Discourse]

 

Arundhati Roy: Things that Can’t be Said, Tamed Tigers & the Missionaries of the “New Economy”

gates frow rich

“Grow Rich – Help Others” – “Indian Children’s Role Model – Uncle Bill: School children wear masks to celebrate the birthday of ‘Uncle Bill’ , the Microsoft founder and co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Bill Gates on the occasion of his 60th birth anniversary celebration in Chennai.” October 29, 2015  [Source]

WKOG admin: In the May 11, 2015 article Life in the Celebrity Circuit author Jay Taber writes:

“The American aristocracy has long fostered activist charades as a prophylactic against democracy, but the wholesale choreography of fossil-fueled puppets is unprecedented. Arundhati Roy’s blurb on the cover of This Changes Everything is thus particularly disturbing.

I wonder what kind of incentive was provided to Roy. What we know is that Arundhati is bright enough to comprehend Naomi Klein’s fraud, and that her name on the cover of Klein’s book functions as a shield for Naomi, and increases her prestige among the 350 cult.

Roy already has significant prestige herself, so the question is why she would publicly support a vapid sell-out who is undermining what Roy purportedly stands for. Was it bribery, extortion, or a misguided sense that Klein’s Wall Street-funded revolution could be hijacked by socialists? It doesn’t make sense.”

After reading the provocative interview published on November 30, 2015 (excerpts below), Taber’s questions are more compelling than ever. Do “the things we can’t talk about in a civilised society, if you’re a good, domesticated house pet” include discussing the role of appointed “leaders” within the non-profit industrial complex, who ultimately serve to protect both capital and state? We have found that this is a critical issue that no one with far reach on “the left” will touch (Hedges, Pilger, etc.).

“The structure and organisation of the climate cartel can be compared to a toadstool. 350.org is the cap of the fruiting body, very visible, poisonous, and laden with spores, This Changes Everything (TCE); book, social movement, and documentary form the stalk expanding and reinforcing key messages, and TckTckTck/Global Call for Climate Action (GCCA) – a coalition of 20 key international organisations including 350.org, Avaaz, WWF, and Greenpeace form the mycelium stretching vast distances and connecting to other fruiting bodies and other vast networks. The soil it has grown from is the NPIC with it’s phalanx of institutes and think tanks feigning care for the earth while plotting the future for the oligarchs.” —Metrics as a Proxy for Social Change: The Climate Cartel, Impact Funding, and the Abandonment of Struggle [Source]

In the interview below Roy states: “When you look around and see how many NGOs are on, say, the Gates, Rockefeller or Ford Foundation’s handout list, there has to be something wrong, right? They turn potential radicals into receivers of their largesse – and then, very subtly, without appearing to – they circumscribe the boundaries of radical politics.”

So what do we make of Roy’s glowing endorsement of Klein’s book (and film) project financed by the very elites Roy so articulately deconstructs?

Consider that Susan Rockefeller is the Co-Executive Producer of the documentary film This Changes Everything and founding partner of Louverture Films, the production company for the documentary film This Changes Everything in partnership with The Message Productions, LLC / Klein Lewis Productions. The fiscal sponsor of this endeavour was New York-based Sustainable Markets Foundation (SMF). SMF is financed by foundations such as Rockefeller Family Fund, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Energy foundation, Park Foundation, Hewlett Foundation, Schmidt, Global Wallace Fund, Tides, etc. In addition, Tides receives millions in funding from Warren Buffett laundered through the Buffett family Fund NoVo. [Source: Financing “The Message” Behind Naomi Klein’s ‘This Changes Everything’ Project]

For now, we will leave the last word to Roy who states in the interview below: “We’re all being managed, and we don’t even know it… They have so much money, they can fund everything, very bad things as well as very good things – documentary films, nuclear weapons planners, gender rights, feminist conferences, literature and film festivals, university chairs…anything, as long as it doesn’t upset the “market” and the economic status quo.”

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animalsindian31

Tiger Approaching a Waterhole, Kotah, c. 1790. Watercolor and opaque watercolor

AlterNet

November 30, 2015

by John Cusack and Arundhati Roy

Excerpt from part 1: John Cusack in conversation with Arundhati Roy.

JC: So, what do you think? What do we think are the things we can’t talk about in a civilised society, if you’re a good, domesticated house pet?

AR: (Laughs) The occasional immorality of preaching nonviolence? (This was a reference to Walking with the Comrades, Roy’s account of her time spent with armed guerrillas in the forests of central India who were fighting paramilitary forces and vigilante militias trying to clear indigenous people off their land, which had been handed over to mining companies.)…

Excerpt from Part 2: “We Brought You the Promise of the Future, but Our Tongue Stammered and Barked” by Arundhati Roy

“Our tragedy today is not just that millions of people who called themselves communist or socialist were physically liquidated in Vietnam, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, not just that China and Russia, after all that revolution, have become capitalist economies, not just that the working class has been ruined in the United States and its unions dismantled, not just that Greece has been brought to its knees, or that Cuba will soon be assimilated into the free market – it is also that the language of the Left, the discourse of the Left, has been marginalised and is sought to be eradicated. The debate – even though the protagonists on both sides betrayed everything they claimed to believe in – used to be about social justice, equality, liberty, and redistribution of wealth. All we seem to be left with now is paranoid gibberish about a War on Terror whose whole purpose is to expand the War, increase the Terror, and obfuscate the fact that the wars of today are not aberrations but systemic, logical exercises to preserve a way of life whose delicate pleasures and exquisite comforts can only be delivered to the chosen few by a continuous, protracted war for hegemony – Lifestyle Wars….

But seriously – what is one couple doing with that much money, which is just a small percentage of the indecent profits they make from the corporation they run? And even that small percentage runs into billions. It’s enough to set the world’s agenda, enough to buy government policy, determine university curricula, fund NGOs and activists. It gives them the power to mould the whole world to their will. Forget the politics, is that even polite? Even if it’s “good” will? Who’s to decide what’s good and what’s not?…

JC: What is the meaning of charity as a political tool?

AR: It’s an old joke, right? If you want to control somebody, support them. Or marry them.
(Laughter)

JC: Sugar daddy politics….

AR: Embrace the resistance, seize it, fund it.

JC: Domesticate it….

AR: Make it depend on you. Turn it into an art project or a product of some kind. The minute what you think of as radical becomes an institutionalised, funded operation, you’re in some trouble. And it’s cleverly done. It’s not all bad…some are doing genuinely good work.

JC: Like the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union)….

AR: They have money from the Ford Foundation, right? But they do excellent work. You can’t fault people for the work they’re doing, taken individually.

JC: People want to do something good, something useful….

bill gates getty

AR: Yes. And it is these good intentions that are dragooned and put to work. It’s a complicated thing. Think of a bead necklace. The beads on their own may be lovely, but when they’re threaded together, they’re not really free to skitter around as they please. When you look around and see how many NGOs are on, say, the Gates, Rockefeller or Ford Foundation’s handout list, there has to be something wrong, right? They turn potential radicals into receivers of their largesse – and then, very subtly, without appearing to – they circumscribe the boundaries of radical politics. And you’re sacked if you disobey…sacked, unfunded, whatever. And then there’s always the game of pitting the “funded” against the “unfunded,” in which the funder takes centrestage. So, I mean, I’m not against people being funded – because we’re running out of options – but we have to understand – are you walking the dog or is the dog walking you? Or who’s the dog and who is you?”

JC: I’m definitely the dog…and I’ve definitely been walked.

tigers

Bengali scroll painting. Painted scroll on paper mounted on cotton. Murshidabad School, Eastern India, 19th C.

AR: Everywhere – not just in America…repress, beat up, shoot, jail those you can, and throw money at those whom you can’t – and gradually sandpaper the edge off them. They’re in the business of creating what we in India call Paaltu Sher, which means Tamed Tigers. Like a pretend resistance…so you can let off steam without damaging anything.

JC: The first time you spoke at the World Social Forum…when was that?

AR: In 2002, I think, Porto Alegre…just before the US invasion of Iraq.

JC: In Mumbai. And then you went the next year and it was….

AR: Totally NGO-ised. So many major activists had turned into travel agents, just having to organise tickets and money, flying people up and down. The forum suddenly declared, “Only non-violence, no armed struggles….” They had turned Gandhian.

JC: So anyone involved in armed resistance….

AR: All out, all out. Many of the radical struggles were out. And I thought, fuck this. My question is, if, let’s say, there are people who live in villages deep in the forest, four days walk from anywhere, and a thousand soldiers arrive and burn their villages and kill and rape people to scare them off their land because mining companies want it – what brand of non-violence would the stalwarts of the establishment recommend? Non-violence is radical political theatre.

JC: Effective only when there’s an audience….

AR: Exactly. And who can pull in an audience? You need some capital, some stars, right? Gandhi was a superstar. The people in the forest don’t have that capital, that drawing power. So they have no audience. Non-violence should be a tactic – not an ideology preached from the sidelines to victims of massiveviolence…. With me, it’s been an evolution of seeing through these things.

JC: You begin to smell the digestive enzymes….

AR: (Laughing) But you know, the revolution cannot be funded. It’s not the imagination of trusts and foundations that’s going to bring real change.

JC: But what’s the bigger game that we can name?

AR: The bigger game is keeping the world safe for the Free Market. Structural Adjustment, Privatisation, Free Market fundamentalism – all masquerading as Democracy and the Rule of Law. Many corporate foundation-funded NGOs – not all, but many – become the missionaries of the “new economy.” They tinker with your imagination, with language. The idea of “human rights,” for example – sometimes it bothers me. Not in itself, but because the concept of human rights has replaced the much grander idea of justice. Human rights are fundamental rights, they are the minimum, the very least we demand. Too often, they become the goal itself. What should be the minimum becomes the maximum – all we are supposed to expect – but human rights aren’t enough. The goal is, and must always be, justice.

BBC answers 4

October 8, 2015, BBC: Can you cost the Earth? Play our fun game and find out.

JC: The term human rights is, or can be, a kind of pacifier – filling the space in the political imagination that justice deserves?

AR: Look at the Israel-Palestine conflict, for example. If you look at a map from 1947 to now, you’ll see that Israel has gobbled up almost all of Palestinian land with its illegal settlements. To talk about justice in that battle, you have to talk about those settlements. But, if you just talk about human rights, then you can say, “Oh, Hamas violates human rights,” “Israel violates human rights.” Ergo, both are bad.

JC: You can turn it into an equivalence….

AR: …though it isn’t one. But this discourse of human rights, it’s a very good format for TV – the great atrocity analysis and condemnation industry (laughs). Who comes out smelling sweet in the atrocity analysis? States have invested themselves with the right to legitimise violence – so who gets criminalised and delegitimised? Only – or well that’s excessive – usually, the resistance.

JC: So the term human rights can take the oxygen out of justice?

AR: Human rights takes history out of justice.

JC: Justice always has context….

AR: I sound as though I’m trashing human rights…I’m not. All I’m saying is that the idea of justice – even just dreaming of justice – is revolutionary. The language of human rights tends to accept a status quo that is intrinsically unjust – and then tries to make it more accountable. But then, of course, Catch-22 is that violating human rights is integral to the project of neoliberalism and global hegemony.

JC: …as there’s no other way of implementing those policies except violently.

AR: No way at all – but talk loud enough about human rights and it gives the impression of democracy at work, justice at work. There was a time when the United States waged war to topple democracies, because back then democracy was a threat to the Free Market. Countries were nationalising their resources, protecting their markets…. So then, real democracies were being toppled. They were toppled in Iran, they were toppled all across Latin America, Chile….

JC: The list is too long….

AR: Now we’re in a situation where democracy has been taken into the workshop and fixed, remodeled to be market-friendly. So now the United States is fighting wars to instal democracies. First it was topple them, now it’s instal them, right? And this whole rise of corporate-funded NGOs in the modern world, this notion of CSR, corporate social responsibility – it’s all part of a New Managed Democracy. In that sense, it’s all part of the same machine.

JC: Tentacles of the same squid.

AR: They moved in to the spaces that were left when “structural adjustment” forced states to pull back on public spending – on health, education, infrastructure, water supply – turning what ought to be people’s rights, to education, to healthcare and so on, into charitable activity available to a few. Peace, Inc. is sometimes as worrying as War, Inc. It’s a way of managing public anger. We’re all being managed, and we don’t even know it…. The IMF and the World Bank, the most opaque and secretive entities, put millions into NGOs who fight against “corruption” and for “transparency.” They want the Rule of Law – as long as they make the laws. They want transparency in order to standardise a situation, so that global capital can flow without any impediment. Cage the People, Free the Money. The only thing that is allowed to move freely – unimpeded – around the world today is money…capital.

JC: It’s all for efficiency, right? Stable markets, stable world…there’s a great violence in the idea of a uniform “investment climate.”

Democracy Masquerade: Uniform investment climate. A phrase interchangeable with Massacre.

AR: In India, that’s a phrase we use interchangeably with “massacre.” Stable markets, unstable world. Efficiency. Everybody hears about it. It’s enough to make you want to be pro-inefficiency and pro-corruption. (Laughing) But seriously, if you look at the history of the Ford Foundation and Rockefeller, in Latin America, in Indonesia, where almost a million people, mainly Communists, were killed by General Suharto, who was backed by the CIA, in South Africa, in the US Civil Rights Movement – or even now, it’s very disturbing. They have always worked closely with the US State Department.

JC: And yet now Ford funds The Act of Killing – the film about those same massacres. They profile the butchers…but not their masters. They won’t follow the money.

AR: They have so much money, they can fund everything, very bad things as well as very good things – documentary films, nuclear weapons planners, gender rights, feminist conferences, literature and film festivals, university chairs…anything, as long as it doesn’t upset the “market” and the economic status quo. One of Ford’s “good works” was to fund the CFR, the Council of Foreign Relations, which worked closely with the CIA. All the World Bank presidents since 1946 are from the CFR. Ford-funded RAND, the Research and Development Corporation, which works closely with the US defence forces.

JC: That was where Dan worked. That’s where he laid his hands on the Pentagon papers.

AR: The Pentagon papers…. I couldn’t believe what I was reading…that stuff about bombing dams, planning famines…. I wrote an introduction to an edition of Noam Chomsky’s For Reasons of State in which he analyses the Pentagon papers. There was a chapter in the book called ‘The Backroom Boys’ – maybe that wasn’t the Pentagon papers part, I don’t remember…but there was a letter or a note of some kind, maybe from soldiers in the field, about how great it was that white phosphorous had been mixed in with napalm…. “It sticks to the gooks like shit to a blanket, and burns them to the bone.” They were happy because white phosphorous kept burning even when the Vietnamese who had been firebombed tried to jump into water to stop their flesh from burning off….

JC: You remember that by rote?

AR: I can’t forget it. It burned me to the bone…. I grew up in Kerala, remember. Communist country….

JC: You were talking about how the Ford Foundation funded RAND and the CFR.

AR: (Laughs) Yes…it’s a bedroom comedy…actually a bedroom tragedy…is that a genre? Ford funded CFR and RAND. Robert McNamara moved from heading Ford Motors to the Pentagon. So, as you can see, we’re encircled.

JC: …and not just by the past.

AR: No – by the future, too. The future is Google, isn’t it? In Julian Assange’s book – brilliant book – When Google Met WikiLeaks, he suggests that there isn’t much daylight between Google and the NSA. The three people who went along with Eric Schmidt – CEO of Google – to interview Julian were Jared Cohen, director of Google Ideas – ex-State Department and senior something or other on the CFR, adviser to Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton. The two others were Lisa Shields and Scott Malcolmson, also former State Department and CFR. It’s serious shit. But when we talk about NGOs, there’s something we must be careful about….

JC: What’s that?

AR: When the attack on NGOs comes from the opposite end, from the far right, then those of us who’ve been criticising NGOs from a completely different perspective will look terrible…to liberals we’ll be the bad guys….

JC: Once again pitting the “funded” against the “unfunded.”

AR: For example, in India the new government – the members of the radical Hindu Right who want India to be a ‘Hindu Nation’ – they’re bigots. Butchers. Massacres are their unofficial election campaigns – orchestrated to polarise communities and bring in the vote. It was so in Gujarat in 2002, and this year, in the run-up to the general elections, in a place called Muzaffarnagar, after which tens of thousands of Muslims had to flee from their villages and live in camps. Some of those who are accused of all that murdering are now cabinet ministers. Their support for straightforward, chest-thumping butchery makes you long for even the hypocrisy of the human rights discourse. But now if the “human rights” NGOs make a noise, or even whisper too loudly…this government will shut them down. And it can, very easily. All it has to do is to go after the funders…and the funders, whoever they are, especially those who are interested in India’s huge “market” will either cave in or scuttle over to the other side. Those NGOs will blow over because they’re a chimera, they don’t have deep roots in society among the people, really, so they’ll just disappear. Even the pretend resistance that has sucked the marrow out of genuine resistance will be gone.

 

Read the full article at Alternet: http://www.alternet.org/world/john-cusack-and-arundhati-roy-things-can-and-cannot-be-said