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Neo-Liberalism and the Defanging of Feminism
The Revolution will not be Corporatised!

The Revolution will not be Corporatised!

Environmental Values 29 (2)

April 2020: 121–130.

By Clive Spash

© 2020 The White Horse Press. doi: 10.3197/096327120X15752810323968

 

 

Calls for ‘systems change, not climate change’ have been minority positions that have gained ground over the last year or so, aided by the likes of Extinction Rebellion, and the school strikes of FridaysForFuture, fronted by the now iconic figure of Greta Thunberg. These new environmental movements have pushed into the background the mealy-mouthed talk of avoiding negative ‘framing’, supressing terms that disturb people and dismissing catastrophic scenarios. I have previously noted problems with the promotion of such a conformist and conservative rhetorical strategy (Spash 2018). The plain speaking of the new environmental movements places emphasis on an imminent ecological crisis, which has become increasingly more real for many given the steady rise in the frequency of major extreme weather events. The planetary havoc promised by human induced climate change is deemed an ‘emergency’ entailing a sense of ‘urgency’. A primary and repeatedly expressed concern of Greta has been that politicians should ‘act’ on scientific advice; how they should act is left open but with the admonition that they have done little or nothing but talk for decades. Yet, the ‘new’ environmentalists appear to lack insight into what specific action is required, to what they stand in opposition and more generally the political and economic context within which they (as social movements) are operating.

The new environmental activists have not addressed the structure of the economic system, the dominant corporate institutions of which it is constituted, the political processes that maintain it, nor how such a system of political economy can realistically be transformed. There is much wishful thinking in their statements. While these movements are internally diverse collectives, elements of both Extinction Rebellion and FridaysForFuture have argued against becoming ‘political’, while simultaneously engaging in political acts of protest and having agendas that are highly political. There appears to be a belief in objective science informing a political elite, who can be nudged into action, regardless of the structure of the dominant economic system and its power relations. The primary concern has also been narrowly focused around human induced climate change, and often even more narrowly carbon emissions, not systemic social-ecological issues. The failures here go across the board from the political naivety of the protesters (both young and old) to the apologetics for the capital accumulating growth economies made by the exponentially increasing community of academics commenting on environmental policy and specifically climate change.1 A prevalent claim is that ‘the system’ can be ‘adjusted’ without removing corporate or capitalist structures let alone the global imperialism they have created under the guise of ‘free’ trade and unregulated
financialisation.

That neoliberal political leaders and the World Economic Forum (WEF), commonly known as the Davos elite, have been hosting Greta and promoting her speeches, raises the question as to what they expect to achieve by doing so. For example, the WEF website promotes a speech, given by Greta in Brussels last year to the international press corps, in which she calls for a new political system without competition, a new economics and a new way of thinking that includes living within planetary boundaries, sharing resources and addressing inequity.2 Greta has also been cited as calling for corporations to be held responsible for knowingly perpetrating harm and regards this as ‘a crime against humanity’ (Aronoff 2019), but how are they to be held responsible and what for exactly? And what is the appropriate ‘punishment’ for their crime? Diverting such general and unspecific criticism and calls for systems change away from radical and revolutionary reform would seem a likely concern for those profiteering from the current system. After the Paris Agreement the world’s five largest oil companies spent $1 billion on ‘green’ rebranding, while simultaneously undermining legislation and establishing new oil supplies.3 The Davos elite are also adept at borrowing their opponents’ language and far from averse to adopting and redirecting a sense of emergency and crisis.

The fact is that political and economic elites around the world have long been taking ‘environmental action’, to protect not Nature but themselves, against environmentalists and environmental regulation. The public relations end of the spectrum has been corporate social responsibility, green accounting, investment in new technologies, sustainable development and the rhetoric of a ‘Green circular inclusive sustainable smart economy’. The opposite end involves corporate funding of denialism and anti-environmental think tanks, media control of the popular discourse, lobbying and funding politicians, capture of environmental non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and personal attacks on scientists. Most directly, protesters and activists are subject to police harassment and brutality, surveillance, infiltration and repression, and are being branded as terrorists, e.g. British police attempts to officially list Extinction Rebellion as such. The toll on both activist and academics is something recently highlighted in this journal (Spash 2018), and especially with regard to those opposing climate change (Hoggett and Randall 2018). In some countries environmental activists are also subject to assassination, especially where they oppose enforced and unjust ‘development’ in the rush for economic growth.

Indeed, urgency and emergency empower authoritarian regimes in overriding just, legal and democratic processes. They can also be used more subtly to create a sense of insecurity. The last two decades have seen the fear of ‘others’ being escalated and used to deconstruct post World War II multilateralism and create a new era of unilateralism, in which free-roaming American assassinations are openly bragged about, and respect for the law is increasingly replaced by a lynch-mob mentality. The rise of the extreme right and nationalism has relegitimised sexism, racial hatred, anti-immigrant policies, fortress building, promotion of imperialism, securitisation and militarisation amongst voters of the supposed democracies. The climate crisis, with its threat of mass migration, can therefore play to those claiming to protect jobs, maintain business as usual and defend the existing economic and social structures within which people have created their sense of self and community. However, environmentalism must then be neoliberal and corporate rather than revolutionary.

So the time is ripe for a new neoliberal agenda that adopts calls for urgent radical transformation and uses the environmental movement to support growth and financialisation of Nature. To this end a range of environmental ‘deals’ were announced in 2019, such as the European Commission ‘Green Deal’, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) ‘New Deal for Nature’, and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) ‘Global Green New Deal’. Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, has stated that ‘Supported by investments in green technologies, sustainable solutions and new businesses […] The European Green Deal is our new growth strategy. It will help us cut emissions while creating jobs’.4 Typical of all these ‘deals’ are claims of coordinating and organising stakeholders, having civil society and government work with, or more accurately for, ‘industry’, with promises of economic growth, jobs and climate stability. Similar ideas are touted under the term ‘stakeholder capitalism’, the theme of Davos 2020. In this ‘new’ era of corporate capitalism the environmental non-governmental organisations also have their role to play.

We Mean Business newsletter, 2019

We Mean Business newsletter, 2019

 

A prime example of the strategy in operation is the capture of the World Wide Fund (WWF) for Nature, which has fully committed itself to corporate capitalism since appointing Pavan Sukdev as its President in 2017. He was developing new financial instruments for Deutsche Bank, before heading a UNEP backed project on ‘The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity’ (TEEB) with goals of capturing value and mainstreaming the economics of Nature (Spash 2011). Cynical financiers, out to make as much money as possible from bits of paper they transfer from one to another for profit, have been keen to join the environmental bandwagon: expanding emissions trading, wetland banking and biodiversity offsetting. Enter the UNEP Finance Initiative (UNEP FI). This is a partnership of the UN with the global financial sector. Its mission is to promote ‘sustainable finance’, which includes ‘hardwiring biodiversity and ecosystem services into finance’ (UNEP Finance Initiative 2010).

The latest project, entitled ‘The Net Zero Asset Alliance’, boasts being led by asset owners representing more than US$ 2 trillion (UNEP Finance Initiative 2020: 8), in a network controlling US$ 4 trillion.

The latest project, entitled ‘The Net Zero Asset Alliance’, boasts being led by asset owners representing more than US$ 2 trillion (UNEP Finance Initiative 2020: 8), in a network controlling US$ 4 trillion.

 

The latest project, entitled ‘The Net Zero Asset Alliance’, boasts being led by asset owners representing more than US$ 2 trillion (UNEP Finance Initiative 2020: 8), in a network controlling US$ 4 trillion.5 The public face is fronted by Sukdev and Christiana Figueres, former Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). She, Sukdev and WWF are meant to provide the corporate executives, bankers, billionaires and financiers with an air of respectability and environmental concern. After all, they desperately need it, given that investor returns, or more simply making money grow exponentially, has nothing to do with sustaining anything, let alone Nature, biodiversity or ecosystems.

As Schoppek explains in this issue of Environmental Values, neoliberalism was selected by powerful actors as conforming with their view of the world. It has been institutionalised in rules and regulations helping form identities and strategies. As a hegemonic discourse it promotes ideas of meritocracy, the individual as an ‘entrepreneurial self’ (innovative, independent and responsible for all that goes wrong in their lives), utility  maximisation, commodification, economic efficiency, and the market economy as the sole legitimate institution for social organisation. This dominant economic imaginary helps embed the system and ensure its reproduction. Forms of environmentalism that engage in the rhetoric of sustainable growth then evidence a Gramscian passive revolution. That is, a top down strategically designed alternative to radical environmentalism is offered to maintain business as usual. A successful passive revolution absorbs external critique, transforms it and stabilises existing power relations. The aim is to silence more critical perspectives and supress power disrupting alternatives. Ecological crisis is therefore altered into an opportunity for growth and profiteering via commodification and financialisation of Nature.

Shoppek then questions the extent to which even the apparently more radical degrowth movement has the potential to be co-opted. Her core argument is that degrowth contains elements that are counter-hegemonic but also those that are sub-hegemonic. She illustrates the point with two degrowth positions identified in the work of Eversberg and Schmelzer (2018). That of a politically informed progressive left, supporting an anarchistic continual struggle for freedom, is argued to be counter-hegemonic. This is described as supplying a structural critique in addition to the kind of moral perspective found under the second position, termed self-sufficiency discourses. This latter position, as advanced in Germany by Niko Paech (e.g., Paech 2017, 2012), is argued to be compatible with neoliberal thought and so sub-hegemonic. Its failure is due to the over-emphasis on individual action that actually supports spreading the concept of an ‘entrepreneurial self’ (e.g., the sharing economy) while ignoring the structure of the economic system. This encourages the creation of organisations that substitute for the role of the State in the care of those at the bottom, and so reduce the potency of those individuals contesting the system and its ever-growing inequities. Thus we might reflect upon how a neoliberal consumerist society, such as the UK, encourages the role of charity shops that assuage the guilt of the consuming middle classes while substituting elements of a Welfare State, and doing nothing to address the causes of poverty.

The importance of a structural systems perspective is also identified by Boscov-Ellen. He highlights the failure of environmental ethicists (e.g. Dale Jamieson, Simon Caney, Peter Singer and Henry Shue) to address the systemic aspects of human induced climate change and as a result to over-emphasise the role of individual agency and responsibility in debating who is meant to take action and what action they should take. Environmental ethicists are criticised for focusing on acts of consumption and their related emissions, ignoring production and producers, and so reducing humans to their role as consumers with ethical preferences. Historical and contextual understanding of poverty, wealth and inequity are lacking. There are also some clear strands of liberal political thought behind several of the ethicists’ positions, and an inherent conservatism (e.g., the unquestioned permanence of Nation States and capitalism). The supposed solutions of the likes of Jamieson and Singer adopt neoliberal polices of pricing and trading carbon despite their flaws (Spash 2010). In contrast, once the existing social and economic structure is identified as a causal determinant of ecological crises then attention shifts to an ethical responsibility to change that system.

As Boscov-Ellen remarks, current ethical debate has produced ‘a framing that dovetails perfectly with the longstanding (and successful) efforts of liberal governments and corporations to individualise responsibility for systemic ills, even as they single-mindedly pursue growth’. He goes on to develop the case for undertaking radical change in economic and political structures as a moral imperative. This would require expanding collective causal responsibility for harm to account for structural mechanisms that limit and shape behaviour. The emphasis is then placed on solidarity, as part of a collective, seeking political and economic transformation, rather than on individual actions.

Identifying the organisations and institutions reproducing the political and economic structure is necessary in the process of seeking radical change in those structures. Corporations are obviously key in modern society and their activities are directly linked to global greenhouse gas emission. In recent years the term ‘carbon majors’ has become associated with the 100 corporations most responsible for creating and perpetuating the climate crisis, as noted by Boscov-Ellen and picked up as the central focus of the paper by Grasso and Vladimirova. These top 100 polluters produced over 70% of global anthropogenic greenhouse gases (1988–2015), with just 25 producing 51%. The top 100 include 43 state owned or government run  corporations.6 Grasso and Vladimirova regard these corporations as moral agents whose activities they review in terms of their having violated the negative responsibility of doing no harm to others. Beyond a consequentialist causal aspect, they invoke a more stringent set of requirements related to appraising agents’ intentions, something they refer to as ‘moral responsibility’, which seems directed more towards assessing culpability (the phrase seems somewhat misleading, given that causal responsibility is also ‘moral’). The authors then assess this culpability in terms of corporate responsibility for human induced climate change, with specific reference to a priori knowledge of creating harm, awareness of doing so over a long time frame, capacity to avoid harm, denial of the truth (amounting to spreading lies in their own interest), and self enrichment by their harmful actions. Having been found guilty as charged what is the outcome?

Grasso and Vladimirova make the case for corrective justice involving decarbonisation and reparation. The former would involve gradually reducing emissions to zero, with some notion that an increasing supply of ‘cleaner energy’ will ‘avoid disrupting the global energy demand’ (something that seems highly unlikely given the scale and extent of fossil fuels in the economy). The latter is, on rather unclear grounds, restricted to corporations relinquishing part of their accumulated wealth from activities related to creating harm. Reparations are discussed in terms of restitution, compensation and disgorgement (relinquishing historically ill-gotten gains). There are perhaps more questions raised than answers given in the ensuing discussion, e.g. ideas of not endangering the wealth of the rich, not pursuing shareholders’ or employees’ gains and concerns over protecting pension funds. Most problematic of all is the claim that actions should ‘not financially prevent carbon majors from engaging in the just transition required by the duty of decarbonisation’. This idea of ‘just transition’ is itself problematic and is employed to justify the preservation of carbon majors in order to avoid being too disruptive to the ‘socio-economic system’. The contradiction is that the system and its capital accumulating corporate form is the problem that needs to be addressed and this cannot be avoided. The idea of a ‘just transition’ appears to offer a get out of jail free card to the corporations who will (as they are doing) argue for offsetting, subsidies for transition, waiting for new technologies and maintaining business as usual for as long as possible.

An interesting question that arises in light of the discussion by Grasso and Vladimirova is why stop with carbon emissions? These same one hundred corporations produced 91% of global industrial emissions in 2015 (Griffin 2017: 7), and would therefore be culpable on the same grounds for the plethora of associated harms to human health and the environment. Grasso and Vladimirova have made a strong case for recognising that these corporations engage in deliberate cost-shifting, and are not innocent victims of unforeseen externalities that can be blamed on markets having the wrong prices. If all the other cost-shifting activities of corporations were taken into account, the grounds for maintaining such institutions would seem to disappear.

Private Property 2019, Anahita Mobarhan

In practice, the attempts by corporations to avoid any claims of wrongdoing in polluting activities have been extensive and have involved public relations firms being hired to strategise the undermining of science and scientists (Oreskes and Conway 2010). Responsibility for reparations is frequently shifted to the public purse, and ‘solutions’ displaced into the future via technologies, often requiring public funding both in research and development and (where realised) implementation. This technological strategy is evident in the increasing promotion of geoengineering for solar radiation management and/or greenhouse gas removal (GGR): e.g., direct air capture, enhanced rock weathering, and bioenergy with carbon capture and storage. The related ‘negative emissions’ approach is totally embedded in the hundreds of scenarios run by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).7 This allows business as usual with no reduction of greenhouse gases, and indeed their potential increase, because they are assumed to be removable after emission by application of an appropriate technological fix. Cox, Spence and Pidgeon note how media coverage has created a discourse on geoengineering that removes issues of justices, equity, fairness and distribution, while framing it as an ‘essential’ action in the face of the climate emergency. Similarly, in mitigation scenarios informing policy, GGR is not an additional policy measure but is rather modelled as critical for stabilising global average climate temperature at international target levels. Cox, Spence and Pidgeon are concerned to probe into the content of the related discourse and debate as occurring amongst experts (defined as those with pre-existing knowledge and opinions). Their research involves interviews with 17 people from the UK and USA, the majority of whom represent academia and the remainder the private sector, NGOs and policy/regulation. The two themes they find across the interviews are ‘risk’ and ‘responsibility’.

In terms of risk, GGR is described by interviewees as part of a ‘portfolio’ of measures, in contrast to the IPCC, media and policy framings. Reduced  energy demand and increased renewable energy supply are regarded as coming first and foremost. Urgency (i.e., doing something immediately), and the need to avoid dangerous climate change, support regarding GGR as essential, but this discourse is also noted by some interviewees as being top-down, expert driven and potentially dangerous for democracy. A classic risk and portfolio investment managers’ approach then raises the question of who gets to decide on the risks and the investments? This leads into how societal decisions are made, and an implicit technocracy appears to surface with the key players mentioned by interviewees being experts, policy-makers and (high emissions) industry. Although mistrust of the latter two was also evident, a naïve pragmatism appeared in a readiness to acquiesce to the wealth of corporations and their power to get action, summarised as ‘working with powerful institutions is more pragmatic than working against them’. GGR then offers a potential means for corporations and  governments to opt-out of actual emissions reductions, and plays the role of a ‘mitigation deterrent’. GGR measures, such as widespread use of Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS), were also seen as likely to have unjust outcomes, due to their being undertaken to maintain the lifestyles of the rich and powerful while being imposed on vulnerable communities who suffer negative consequences (e.g., land grabbing).

Such pragmatic arguments contrast strongly with the moral arguments against corporations of Grasso and Vladimirova, as well as with the case for revolutionary change made by Boscov-Ellen, and both link to the need for addressing the social and economic structure highlighted by Shoppek. In  the discussion by Cox, Spence and Pidgeon these conflicting positions appear as a core aspect of debate about human induced climate change, where the main question becomes the extent to which ‘strategies should aim to work within existing incumbent capitalist systems’. GGR then indicates failure to adequately challenge the system and instead to support top-down ‘solutions’ that maintain existing structure, power and wealth and so become part of another ecological modernist passive revolution. This appears as technological optimism, claiming sustainability and economic growth are compatible, and the legitimisation of corporations as profit seeking organisations and their beneficiaries as justified in their accumulation of wealth and power. There is today an on-going struggle for how environmental issues are to be perceived, described and explained, which determines what knowledge and which voices are deemed admissible to the policy debate.

The construction of knowledge and what knowing something means is a longstanding issue in philosophy. The term co-creation (mentioned by Cox et al. and Mancilla Garcia et al.) has become popular of late, and it covers a range of ideas that have for some decades been part of debates around participatory decision process and post-normal science. Mancilla Garcia et al. highlight the roles of process and relations, epistemology and ontology, and empiricism. Whether the social process involved is important to conceptualisation has divided philosophers, with the implications extending from the extremes that knowledge requires total exclusion of values (in a naïve objectivist methodology), to knowledge being a totally cultural and socially determined perspective (under a radical relativist position) (Sayer 1992). Both these extremes assume flat ontologies (the former empiricist and latter actualist) without attention to underlying structure. When trying to identify what lies behind experience and actualised events, and indeed to  understand our experiences, what come to the fore is the role of non-empiricist conceptualisation and inference (e.g. deductive, abductive,  retroductive), along with metaphysical concepts. The basis for the validity given to knowledge claims remains contentious, but what the papers on climate change in this issue hold in common is their identification of the same fundamental social and economic structures in human society as being central to the reproduction of the ongoing ecological crisis.

Stephanie McMillan

That the discourse of the environmental movement has been failing, captured and adopted by a ‘new environmental pragmatism’, is more evident every day with the spread of financialisation and commodification of Nature, often legitimised by environmental NGOs acting as fronts for corporate interests. For corporate capitalism the environmental crisis is not about the dangers posed by collapsing biophysical systems, but the threat of environmentalism to the growth economy and capitalism’s continuing existence. An escalation of attempts to reinforce the status quo means more passive revolutions, orchestrated by the incumbent leaders of the capital accumulating systems, who adopt even the apparently radical discourses of urgency, emergency and crises. Calls for immediate action without direction play straight into the hands of those seeking to maintain their hegemonic economic and social power. Those seeking social ecological transformation increasingly face the stark choice of either conforming to or opposing the structures reproducing social, ecological and economic crises. The former promises a technological future dependent upon experts and the noblesse oblige of billionaires, corporate interests and their protectors. It offers those living well today the comforting vision of a system that maintains their position in an increasingly divided and divisive world. The papers in this issue of Environmental Values set out a range of ethical arguments and concerns that bring corporate capitalism into question or oppose it, and reflect upon ethical responses to its ongoing infliction of harm on the innocent. They make it clear that conformity to the system that produced the crisis will not deliver the necessary revolutionary social ecological transformation.

 

1. For example, in 2019 over 3000, mainly American, economists, including twenty-seven Sveriges Riksbank (‘Nobel’) Prize winners, endorsed a ‘carbon tax’ because ‘[s]ubstituting a price signal for cumbersome regulations will promote economic growth’. (Economists statement on carbon dividends. https://www.econstatement.org/ Accessed 7th May 2019.)

2. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/03/climate-strikes-greta-thunberg-calls-for-systemchange-not-climate-change-here-s-what-that-could-look-like

3. Report by think tank InfluenceMap ‘Big Oil’s Real Agenda on Climate Change’ cited by
Aronoff (2019)

4. https://ec.europa.eu/info/strategy/priorities-2019-2024/european-green-deal_en Accessed 11
January 2020.

5. https://www.unepfi.org/net-zero-alliance/ Accessed 11 January 2020.

6. ‘The highest emitting companies since 1988 that are investor-owned include: ExxonMobil, Shell, BP, Chevron, Peabody, Total, and BHP Billiton. Key state-owned companies include Saudi Aramco, Gazprom, National Iranian Oil, Coal India, Pemex, and CNPC (PetroChina).’ (Griffin 2017: 8, emphasis original).

7. Kevin Anderson (2015: 899) notes that 344 of the 400 IPCC scenarios assume the successful and large-scale uptake of negative-emission technologies.

 

References

Anderson, K. 2015. ‘Duality in climate science’. Nature Geoscience 8 (12): 898–900.
Crossref

Aronoff, K. 2019. Don’t Be Fooled by Fossil Fuel Companies’ Green Exterior. Rolling Stone. https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-features/dont-be-fooled-byfossil-fuel-companies-green-exterior-850285/ (accessed 22 January 2020).

Boscov-Ellen, D. 2020. ‘A responsibility to revolt? Climate ethics in the real world’. Environmental Values 29 (2): 153–174.

Cox, E., E. Spence and N. Pidgeon. 2020. ‘Incumbency, trust and the Monsanto effect: Stakeholder discourses on greenhouse gas removal’. Environmental Values 29 (2): 197–220.

Eversberg, D. and M. Schmelzer. 2018. ‘The degrowth spectrum: Convergence and divergence within a diverse and conflictual alliance’. Environmental Values 27 (3): 245–267. Crossref

Grasso, M. and K. Vladimirova. 2020. ‘A moral analysis of Carbon Majors’ role in climate change’. Environmental Values 29 (2): 175–195.

Griffin, P. 2017. ‘The Carbon Majors Database: CDP Carbon Majors Report 2017’. London: Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) UK.

Hoggett, P. and R. Randall. 2018. ‘Engaging with climate change: Comparing the cultures of science and activism’. Environmental Values 27 (3): 223–243. Crossref

Mancilla Garcia, M., T. Hertz and M. Schlüter. 2020. ‘Towards a process epistemology for the analysis of social-ecological systems’. Environmental Values 29 (2): 221–239.

Oreskes, N. and E. M. Conway. 2010. Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming. New York: Bloomsbury Press.

Paech, N. 2012. Liberation from Excess: The Road to a Post-Growth Economy. Munich: oekom verlag.

Paech, N. 2017. ‘Post-Growth Economics’. In C. L. Spash (ed), Routledge Handbook of Ecological Economics: Nature and Society, pp.477–486. Abingdon: Routledge.

Sayer, A. 1992. ‘Theory, observation and practical adequacy’. In A. Sayer (ed), Method in Social Science: A Realist Approach, pp.45–84. London: Routledge.

Schoppek, D. 2020. ‘How far is degrowth a really revolutionary counter movement to neoliberalism?’ Environmental Values 29 (2): 131–151.

Spash, C. L. 2010. ‘The brave new world of carbon trading’. New Political Economy 15 (2): 169–195. Crossref

Spash, C. L. 2011. ‘Terrible economics, ecosystems and banking’. Environmental Values 20 (2): 141–145. Crossref

Spash, C. L. 2018. ‘Facing the truth or living a lie: Conformity, radicalism and activism’. Environmental Values 27 (3): 215–222. Crossref

UNEP Finance Initiative. 2010. ‘Demystifying Materiality: Hardwiring Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services into Finance’. In CEO Briefing. Geneve: United Nations Environment Programme Finance Intiative.

UNEP Finance Initiative. 2020. ‘The Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance’. Geneve: United Nations Environment Programme Finance Intiative. unepfi.org/net-zero-alliance

2020 Spash Editorial EV

New Deal for Nature: Paying the Emperor to Fence the Wind

Counterpunch

 

 

The conservation industry says 2020 is its “super year.”[1] It wants to set aside thirty percent of the globe for wildlife, and divert billions of dollars away from reducing climate change and into “natural climate solutions.”[2] This would be a disaster for people and planet. Conservation was founded in the racist ideology of 1860s USA but it committed thirty years ago to becoming people-friendly. It hasn’t happened. There will be more promises now, if only to placate critics and funders like the U.S. and German governments, and the European Commission, which are paying for conservation’s land theft, murder and torture.[3] More promises will be meaningless. No more public money should go for “Protected Areas” until the conservation bodies recognize their crimes, get rid of those responsible, and hand stolen lands back, with compensation. Conservation NGOs must also stop cozying up to mining, logging, oil, and plantation companies.

 

 

The latest idea to be heavily promoted by big conservation NGOs is doubling the world’s so-called “Protected Areas” (PAs) so that they cover thirty percent of the globe’s lands and oceans. This is now their main rallying cry and response to two of the world’s biggest problems – climate chaos and loss of biodiversity. It sounds good: It’s easy to grasp and has numbers that are supposed to be measurable, and advertisers do love numbers.

What better answer to climate change and biodiversity loss than to ban human “interference” over huge areas? If, that is, you think “everybody” is guilty of causing both crises and that everything’s solved by keeping them away. The idea’s been around for years, but now governments and industries are promoting it to the tune of billions of dollars,[4] so it’ll be difficult to oppose. But it’s actually dangerous nonsense which would have exactly the reverse effect to what we’re told, and if we want to save our world, it must be stopped.

Let’s be clear that cutting destructive pollution globally is vital for the climate, and that stopping industrial exploitation of unspoiled areas is essential for the flora and fauna, and the physical and mental health of inhabitants and visitors. None of that is disputed, but these are not the arguments advanced for asserting the right of this “New Deal for Nature” to more taxpayers’ cash. It’s a marketing gimmick designed to funnel even more money to those who have for decades demonstrated their failure to mitigate either climate change or biodiversity loss.

Sept. 24, 2019: Tweet, Marco Lambertini, Director General of WWF International, New Deal For Nature event

 

Let’s assume they did succeed in putting so much territory “out of bounds.” As with the emperor in his new suit, it’s childishly obvious that this wouldn’t necessarily bring any reduction to climate chaos: That’s simply because it wouldn’t affect what happens in the remaining seventy percent of the world – where most pollution originates. If just as much pollution carries on outside, then it doesn’t matter what’s going on inside PAs, because they too depend on the world’s climate, and you can’t fence the wind. Without reducing industrial emissions globally, leaving existing forest intact or planting lots of trees just won’t be enough to solve the problem. Wreck the atmosphere – even from a tiny proportion of the Earth – and you wreck it everywhere.

Not for the first time, the “experts” are promoting a policy which a child can see is senseless, but if they tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.

What about the second claim, that more PAs are needed to ensure the protection of biodiversity? Everyone rightly wants more of that: The more diverse an ecosystem, the more likely it is to adapt and survive. “Biodiversity” means the enormous variety of life, and life forms are interconnected: They depend on each other. Where the flora and fauna is reduced to just a few species, there’s a domino effect that cuts the number still further.[5]

However obvious, it merits restating: To mix metaphors, when the domino becomes a snowball effect then ecosystems become deserts, even when visibly green. Oil palm plantations carved out of tropical forests are a famous example of lots of trees being planted in an area where biodiversity has been slashed to just a few species. Such plantations are effectively “green deserts.”

Putting the propaganda aside, it’s impossible to determine scientifically how effective PAs are for enhancing biodiversity. For example, a line drawn around a highly biodiverse area, which is then declared a national park, proves nothing about the park: The biodiversity was there in the first place. There is, however, considerable agreement about one thing, and it’s not that PAs are the solution at all.

It turns out that the most diversity is not found in areas where all human interference is banned, but actually the reverse – it’s found in places where tribal, indigenous, and other local, communities have stayed put and carried on doing what they’ve always been doing. It’s simply not true that everyone shares responsibility for biodiversity loss. Studies show that community-managed forests have less deforestation than inside PAs, and that “nature” is doing better in areas managed by indigenous peoples than elsewhere.[6] In places as different as Australia, Brazil, and Canada more diversity is found in indigenous territories than in PAs.[7] It seems clear that biological and human diversity are interlinked.

This is a key point which conservation NGOs haven’t wanted the public to know as they clamor for yet more cash: Areas managed by local people, especially if they’re indigenous, are much better than PAs imposed by outsiders. One study concluded, albeit limply, the “notion that indigenous reserves are less effective than parks… must be re-examined.”[8] You can say that again! They are already reckoned to contain no less than eighty percent of global species diversity. That’s the very reason conservationists want to take control of them. Indigenous peoples are now being victimized precisely because of their expertise in environmental stewardship.

Even where PAs are hyped as being about preserving iconic species, the evidence is mixed. For example, the former head of a conservation NGO thinks there could be more Indian tigers outside protected areas than inside. No one knows, but what’s certain is that when the British colonizers imprisoned the Waliangulu tribal elephant hunters in 1950s Kenya, elephant numbers did skyrocket, but only to plummet when the next drought hit and the herds proved too numerous for the environment. Thousands died of starvation, restoring a balance that the Waliangulu had achieved for generations or millennia. In South Africa, an average of nearly 600 elephants were culled every year from 1967 to 1996 (without publicity, to avoid upsetting conservation donors).[9] Banning traditional indigenous hunting generally harms biodiversity.

Protecting “nature” by fencing it off from the locals simply hasn’t worked. It doesn’t help that many PAs aren’t really protected at all. They include industrial exploitation – mining, logging, plantations, trophy hunting concessions, or extensive, usually high-end, tourist infrastructure – but that’s the reality. The locals are thrown out as the land is grabbed by one or other industry, partnering with one or other big conservation NGO.

Like it or not, many PAs are as much about stealing the land from local people to make someone else a profit as they are about conservation. The famous Central Kalahari Game Reserve in Botswana is the second largest “game reserve” in the world but it’s also leased to mining exploration. There’s a diamond mine, with its roads and heavy machinery, where a tiny handful of the Bushmen who have lived there for generations are occasionally given menial jobs. (The government kicked them out until forced to backtrack by the high court.) As in almost all African PAs, wealthy tourists enjoy luxury accommodation inside the reserve. The man responsible for both the tourism and mine was the former president, General Ian Khama, a much-feted conservationist who was on the board of Conservation International.

This land theft is a problem for us all, and not only because the indigenous people are generally much better conservationists than “us”: Not surprisingly, the locals object when their land and self-sufficiency are looted for someone else’s gain, and their need for food, and sometimes their anger, translates into defying hunting bans (making them “poachers” for trying to feed their families), as well as taking action to recover their ancestral territory. For example, pastoralists whose herds are banned from private “conservancies” in East Africa are cutting the fences and going back in. They can be armed and violent clashes are increasing. Some researchers fear increasing bloodshed is inevitable[10] and the increasing militarization of conservation will just make things worse. Yet this is the model touted as the future of PAs, one supposedly enacted with the support of local communities (which is often a lie). They’re supported by the American NGO, The Nature Conservancy, and are largely profit-making investments aimed at wealthy companies and tourists. They’re now taking over huge areas of East Africa and beyond.

February 19, 2020

 

Just as Africans extricated themselves (at least, partly!) from European rule in the last century, they are unlikely to accede quietly to what is seen as more colonization, this time by conservationists. Unless things change, PAs in Africa will become real, not metaphorical, battlegrounds. Serious environmentalists know that you can’t have a PA for long if it’s surrounded by an angry population, yet conservation groups seem incapable of changing their practice. They exhort industry to become sustainable, while promoting their own model, which palpably isn’t.

WWF, for example, routinely violates human rights, the law and its own policies. It’s already spent millions of dollars illegally pushing for a new park in Congo, Messok Dja. The money comes from WWF itself and its accomplices, including a logging, oil palm, and luxury tourist company, as well as the Wildlife Conservation Society, the U.S. government, the EU, and the UN. As with the creation of almost all African PAs, the first step has been to kick out and terrorize the local Baka (so-called Pygmies) who’ve probably lived there for thousands of years, and who have adapted and sustainably managed their biodiverse-rich environment. Now they are kept out of their ancestral lands and terrorized, beaten and arrested if they return to seek traditional foods or plant medicines.

This is what the thirty percent of the globe taken for the New Deal for Nature will look like – a third of the globe stolen for profit. It’s a new colonialism, the world’s biggest land grab, supposedly “green” and supposedly to save the world – a really big lie. As Odette, a Baka woman from Congo, says of such imposed conservation projects which don’t work, “We’ve had enough of this talk of ‘boundaries’ in the forest. The forest is ours.”[11]

The last couple of generations has amply demonstrated that meetings of corporate heads, NGOs, politicians, and celebrities are not going to solve the crises of climate and biodiversity. Those attending are amongst the major contributors to the problems, and least willing to accept any change which might threaten their position. They argue over statements that no one actually applies, or even intends to, and which are replete with clauses ensuring “business as usual.” The meetings and declarations attract an enormous media circus, but are akin to the emperor’s workshop, with hundreds of tailors busily cutting suits of such rarefied material that they don’t cover his nakedness.

Youth exploitation is key to the goal of commodifying nature.

 

The real answers to the crises of climate and biodiversity lie in an inversion of the current approach, and a rejection of the New Deal for Nature and its failure to understand the relationship between indigenous peoples and nature. If we really want to save our world, then we have to start with the rich cutting their massive overconsumption. The wealthiest ten percent cause about half the world’s total pollution,[12] so they must work hardest to cut it. Both military conflict and the growth of information technology must be seen as the major polluters they are. The first is barely mentioned in climate activism, and the plan for the second is the exact opposite of what’s needed, with yet more energy-hungry “artificial intelligence” lined up to monitor our lives for the benefit of industry and state control.[13] If we’re going to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, we must also reduce dependence on “smart” tech, and we must accept the fact that real solutions aren’t found in marketing gimmicks like “net zero,” offsetting, carbon markets, or “pricing nature.” Real solutions are found with the local peoples that have successfully been creating and managing the world’s biodiversity since prehistory.

Humanity as a whole isn’t responsible for these problems, one particular sector is, and it’s same one coming up with the New Deal for Nature. Those promoting it want to dictate how the rest of the world should live, but they’re acting primarily for themselves. Banning human activity from yet more so-called “Protected Areas” is another manifestation of the hubris that got us into this mess in the first place. Local people – those who retain some self-sufficiency, common sense, and connection with their environment – remain the strongest backbone of humanity, even today. They have better answers than the conservation technocrats and other global elites who lack their perspective. Kicking even more of them out at best reduces them to landless poverty and at worst destroys them and the environment. It would be disastrous for everyone.

 

 

We should be respecting land rights and encouraging indigenous peoples and other local communities to remain where they are – if they wish – to carry on managing their lands in their own ways, and we must, above all, stop the theft of their territories for conservation. Those who want to, should be maintaining their self-sufficiency, not forced into global markets that profit the polluters more than anyone. We must “give” them back previously stolen lands, to manage themselves. We must listen to them rather than destroying them, as we are now.

Whether this happens remains to be seen. The few voices pointing out that the emperor has no clothes at all, are up against a deafening scream from conservation propagandists and mainstream media, baying that the New Deal for Nature is the perfect solution. Whose voice will prevail depends on people’s gullibility and ability to challenge both their own prejudices and powerful vested interests. It’s a real battle, and the outcome will determine how much more nature is stolen from this beautiful world we have helped create.

1) WWF Ecological. “2020: let’s put nature top of everybody’s to-do list.” Ecological.panda.org. April 20, 2018. (accessed 13/02/2020)

2) Tollefson, Jeff. “Global deal for nature’ fleshed out with specific conservation goals.” Nature, April 19, 2019. (accessed 13/02/2020)

3) Baker, Katie & Tom Warren. “The US Government Spent Millions Funding WWF-Backed Forces Accused Of Torture and Murder.” Buzzfeed News, September 24, 2019. (accessed 13/02/2020); Baker, Katie & Tom Warren. “WWF Says Indigenous People Want This Park. An Internal Report Says Some Fear Forest Ranger “Repression.” Buzzfeed News, March 8, 2019. (accessed 13/02/2020)

4) The estimate for the total global ecosystem services in 2011 is $125 trillion/yr

Costanza, Robert, Rudolf De Groot, Paul Sutton, Sander Van der Ploeg, Sharolyn J. Anderson, Ida Kubiszewski, Stephen Farber, and R. Kerry Turner. “Changes in the global value of ecosystem services.” Global environmental change 26 (2014): 152-158. (accessed 13/02/2020)

5) Carrington, Damian. “What is biodiversity and why does it matter to us?The Guardian, March 12, 2018. (accessed 13/02/2020)

6) Porter-Bolland, Luciana, Edward A. Ellis, Manuel R. Guariguata, Isabel Ruiz-Mallén, Simoneta Negrete-Yankelevich, and Victoria Reyes-García. “Community managed forests and forest protected areas: An assessment of their conservation effectiveness across the tropics.” Forest ecology and management 268 (2012): 6-17

7) The study measured vertebrate animal diversity only.

Schuster et al, 2019, Vertebrate biodiversity on indigenous-managed lands in Australia, Brazil, and Canada equals that in protected areas, Environmental Science & Policy Volume 101, November 2019, Pages 1-6

8) Woods Hole Research Center. “Satellites Show Amazon Parks, Indigenous Reserves Stop Forest Clearing.” ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/01/060126200147.htm (accessed February 13, 2020).

9) Dickson, Paul, and William M. Adams. “Science and uncertainty in South Africa’s elephant culling debate.” Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy 27, no. 1 (2009): 110-123.

10) Letiwa, Paul. “Herders protest as wildlife conservancies drive them out.” The Daily Nation, August 18, 2019. (accessed February 13, 2020).

11) Survival International. “We’ve had enough of this talk of ‘boundaries’ in the forest.” YouTube video, 01:00. 4 Jan 2019. (accessed February 13, 2020).

12) Gore, Timothy. Extreme Carbon Inequality. London: Oxfam. Dec 2, 2015. (The report can be found in Spanish and French at https://www.oxfam.org/en/research/extreme-carbon-inequality) (accessed February 13, 2020).

13) See: Lu, Donna. “Creating an AI can be five times worse for the planet than a car.” New Scientist, June 6, 2019. (accessed February 13, 2020).

Berners-Lee, Mike and Duncan Clark. “What’s the carbon footprint of … email?The Guardian, Oct 21, 2010. (accessed February 13, 2020).

[Stephen Corry has worked with Survival International, the global movement for tribal peoples’ rights, since 1972. The not-for-profit has a San Francisco office. Its public campaign to change conservation can be joined at www.survivalinternational.org/conservation. This is one of a series of articles on the problem.]

Campaign Announcement: NO Deal For Nature | Stop the Corporate Capture of the Commons

Campaign Announcement: NO Deal For Nature | Stop the Corporate Capture of the Commons

February 9, 2020

 

Illustration: Betrayal, artist Mario S. Nevado

A new international campaign has been launched which alleges the WEF is guilty of spearheading a bid by corporations and financial institutions to “monetize” nature on a global scale.

It is calling on people across the world to hold public meetings, disseminate information, form local campaign groups  and “to take whatever action is necessary” to halt the so-called “New Deal for Nature”.

An online statement from the “No Deal for Nature” alliance [1], whose slogan is “life is not a commodity”, has already won the support of several academics and campaigners.

It warns that “under the guise of environmental protection” a massive exploitation scheme is in fact being drawn up, with the aim of maintaining the current wealth and power transfer from the poor to the rich.

The WEF boasted on its own website that “young climate activists, including Greta Thunberg” would be attending the Davos event in Switzerland from January 21. [2]

WEF stated it would be discussing “how to address the urgent climate and environmental challenges that are harming our ecology and economy” and “how to transform industries to achieve more sustainable and inclusive business models”.

However, the WEF also revealed it would be examining “how to govern the technologies driving the Fourth Industrial Revolution so they benefit business”. [3]

The package of policies known as the “New Deal for Nature” is being promoted not only by the WEF, but also by  the United Nations (UN), [4] the World Bank [5] and the controversial World Wildlife Fund (WWF).[6]

The UN has admitted it wants to “advance a new political agenda” involving “increased promotion of innovative financing that supports green infrastructure”. [7]

The new campaign describes this agenda as a “monstrous and unprecedented assault on our living world by the capitalist system”.

It warns that nature and humanity alike will suffer, with the threat of “further Indigenous displacement and genocide”.

The campaigners conclude: “The NDFN must be stopped. We call on all those who care about nature to speak out now”.

 

[1] http://nodealfornature.org

[2] https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/01/davos-abandon-fossil-fuel-economy-climate-change-greta-thunberg/

[3] http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_AM20_Overview.pdf

[4] https://truepundit.com/al-gore-un-officials-team-up-to-push-a-new-deal-for-nature/

[5] https://blogs.worldbank.org/voices/five-ways-help-nature-help-us

[6] https://wwf.panda.org/wwf_news/?339010/A-new-deal-for-Nature-and-Humanity

[7] http://wedocs.unep.org/bitstream/handle/20.500.11822/28333/NewDeal.pdf

 

CONTACT: nodealfornature@protonmail.com

Twitter:

 

5 reasons to say “no” to the New Deal For Nature

  1. Conceived of by vested interests. The “The New Deal For Nature” (NDFN) is being drawn up by the world’s most powerful corporations, financial institutions, and conservation NGOs, including WWF. WWF has been complicit in human rights abuses for years. At the helm of the NDFN is the World Economic Forum which entered into partnership with the United Nations on June 13, 2019.

 

  1. Undemocratic. The NDFN is being negotiated without any participation from the wider public. The deal will be concluded at the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) conference in Beijing in October 2020 without any vote by our local, regional or national parliaments, bypassing full democratic scrutiny.

 

  1. Represents the corporate coup of the commons. During negotiations on free trade agreements such as TTIP and CETA, we saw how our governments work hand-in-hand with multinational corporations to hand over even more power to big business, privatising more public services. Now nature is up for grabs. Under the guise of taking action on the climate and ecological crises, what the NDFN entails, in practice, is the financialization and privatisation of nature (defined as “ecosystem services”, “natural capital”, “natural climate solutions” or “nature-based solutions”)— global in scale. Assigning monetary value to nature enables industries such as the fossil fuel industry to continue polluting as long as they commit to engaging in net zero activities such as offsetting carbon emissions by planting trees, or by “restoring” nature.

 

  1. Rescues the very system destroying nature. The NDFN would involve the total transformation of the global economic system to create new markets, thereby salvaging the failing global economic capitalist system that has brought us to the brink of ecological catastrophe.

 

  1. Harms those best placed to protect biodiversity. The NDFN would threaten the further displacement and genocide of Indigenous and tribal peoples as global corporations and conservation NGOs seek control of their lands to maintain hegemony under the guise of tackling climate change and restoring nature. This represents a new wave of colonisation, for peoples in the Global South in particular.

 

Further resources to learn more about the New Deal For Nature:

The Manufacturing of Greta Thunberg – For Consent: The Green New Deal is the Trojan Horse for the Financialization of Nature [Volume I, Act V], an investigative report by Cory Morningstar http://www.wrongkindofgreen.org/2019/02/13/the-manufacturing-of-greta-thunberg-forconsent-the-new-green-deal-is-the-trojan-horse-for-the-financialization-of-nature/

The Manufacturing of Greta Thunberg – A Decade of Social Manipulation for the Corporate Capture of Nature [Volume I, Act VI – Crescendo], an investigative report by Cory Morningstar http://www.wrongkindofgreen.org/2019/02/24/the-manufacturing-of-greta-thunberg-adecade-of-social-manipulation-for-the-corporate-capture-of-nature-crescendo/

The Manufacturing of Greta Thunberg – For Consent: To Plunder What Little Remains: It’s Going To Be Tremendous [Volume II, Act III], an investigative report by Cory Morningstar http://www.wrongkindofgreen.org/2019/09/15/the-manufacturing-of-greta-thunberg-forconsent-to-plunder-what-little-remains-its-going-to-be-tremendous-volume-ii-act-iii/

The Manufacturing of Greta Thunberg – For Consent: They Mean Business [Volume II, Act IV], an investigative report by Cory Morningstar http://www.wrongkindofgreen.org/2019/09/17/the-manufacturing-of-greta-thunberg-forconsent-they-mean-business-volume-ii-act-iv/

To learn more about the issue of monetising nature: Climate Capitalists, a page created by Winter Oak Press providing links to over 50 resources in various formats and languages https://winteroak.org.uk/climate-capitalists/

Accumulation by Restoration: Degradation Neutrality and the Faustian Bargain of Conservation Finance, an intervention by Amber Huff of the Institute of Development Studies and STEPS Centre, University of Sussex and Andrea Brock of the University of Sussex in the journal Antipode Online https://antipodeonline.org/2017/11/06/accumulation-by-restoration/

Guatemala: Petén at the center of the sustainable development plans of the NGOs, an investigative report by Aldo Santiago in Avispa Midia
https://avispa.org/peten-at-the-center-of-the-sustainable-developments-plans-of-the-ngos/  

Guatemala: Carbon, the Metric of Displacement in Petén, an investigative report by Aldo Santiago in Avispa Midia
https://avispa.org/guatemala-carbon-the-metric-of-displacement-in-peten/

Banking Nature, a documentary by Denis Delestra and Sandrine Feydel http://www.wrongkindofgreen.org/2019/10/30/watch-banking-nature/

To learn more about WWF’s human rights abuses: WWF Silence of the Pandas, a documentary by Wilfried Huismann
http://www.wrongkindofgreen.org/2013/07/22/watch-wwf-silence-of-the-pandas-a-journeyinto-the-heart-of-the-green-empire/

Victim of the WWF, a documentary by Zembla
http://www.wrongkindofgreen.org/2019/06/04/watch-victim-of-the-wwf-world-wildlife-fund/

 

 

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

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

Diversity of Tactics

January 21, 2020

B

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Greta-A Schwarzenegger

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

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

Rockefeller MLK large

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

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

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

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

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

Connecting the Dots

Dissident Voice

December 20, 2019

 

“Connecting the Dots”

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then writes:

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

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

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

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

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

Mr Sale writes:

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

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

Here is another quote from Sale:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jimmy Wu writes:

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

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

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

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

Joe Jones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. “Letters from Afar,”  March/April 1917.
  2. Jimmy Wu, “Capitalism is Dangerous for your Mental Health”, Medium, 2019.
  3. Christopher Ingraham, Washington Post, 2017.
  4. Antonio Moore,  Inequality org.
[John Steppling is an original founding member of the Padua Hills Playwrights Festival, a two-time NEA recipient, Rockefeller Fellow in theatre, and PEN-West winner for playwrighting. He’s had plays produced in LA, NYC, SF, Louisville, and at universities across the US, as well in Warsaw, Lodz, Paris, London and Krakow. He has taught screenwriting and curated the cinematheque for five years at the Polish National Film School in Lodz, Poland. Plays include The Shaper, Dream Coast, Standard of the Breed, The Thrill, Wheel of Fortune, Dogmouth, and Phantom Luck, which won the 2010 LA Award for best play. Film credits include 52 Pick-up (directed by John Frankenheimer, 1985) and Animal Factory (directed by Steve Buscemi, 1999). A collection of his plays was published in 1999 by Sun & Moon Press as Sea of Cortez and Other Plays. He lives with wife Gunnhild Skrodal Steppling; they divide their time between Norway and the high desert of southern California. He is artistic director of the theatre collective Gunfighter Nation.]

The Price of Putting a Price on Nature

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

Medium

“The Price of Putting a Price on Nature”

September 29, 2019

By Alexa Firmenich

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Quelo, Greta & the Neoliberal Doctrine of Multiple Truth

The Pedant

January 22, 2020

 

 

 

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

 

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

 

*Translated from Italian to English via Google Translator.

Introduction by author:

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

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


Superstructure and underlying

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The epistemic cage of neoliberalism

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

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

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

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

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

The neoliberal utopia and global warming

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

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

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

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

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

a) Scientific “denial”

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

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

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

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

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

b) The marketing of CO2 and accumulation by expropriation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

c) Geoengineering and other neoliberal dystopias

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

 


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

 

The Orginal article in Italian can be accessed here.

State of the Empire: Reviewing 2019

State of the Empire: Reviewing 2019

Zero Anthropology

December 31, 291

 

Watch: Banking Nature

Watch: Banking Nature

October 30, 2019

 

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

2014. 90 minutes

This film investigates the financialization of the natural world.

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

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

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

9 AWARDS & 24 sélect. internationales

Voir la liste complète/To see the list

 

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

Solarian

October 12, 2019

By Guy Crittenden

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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