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The Clairvoyant Ruling Class [“Scenarios for the Future of Technology & International Development” 2010 Report]

The Clairvoyant Ruling Class [“Scenarios for the Future of Technology & International Development” 2010 Report]

March 25, 2020

Wrong Kind of Green

 

“The ruling class exists, it’s not a conspiracy theory. They operate as a class, too. They share the same values, the same sensibility and in Europe and North America they are white. They act in accordance with their interests, which are very largely identical. The failure to understand this is the single greatest problem and defect in left discourse today.”

 

John Steppling, Author, Playwright

 

“This report is crucial reading for anyone interested in creatively considering the multiple, divergent ways in which our world could evolve.”

 

— Judith Rodin, President of the Rockefeller Foundation

 

Storytelling. Dystopian scenarios. Not Huxley, Orwell, Bradbury or Brunner.

Scenario planning for corporate strategy was pioneered by Royal Dutch Shell in the 1970s. [Further reading on scenario planning: The Art of the Long View]The following excerpts are highlights from the May 2010 “Scenarios for the Future of Technology & International Development” report produced by The Rockefeller Foundation & Global Business Network. Not just the more known “Lock Step” scenario, but all four scenarios.

Following “Event 201” (Oct 18, 2019), we must concede that the ruling class has been gifted with phenomenal and prophetic intuitions and insights. (They truly are the chosen ones.) Thus it is worthwhile, even mandatory, to study their scenario exercises and simulations.

“We believe that scenario planning has great potential for use in philanthropy to identify unique interventions… scenario planning allows us to achieve impact more effectively.” [p 4]

 

“The results of our first scenario planning exercise demonstrate a provocative and engaging exploration of the role of technology and the future of globalization.” [p 4]

 

“This report is crucial reading for anyone interested in creatively considering the multiple, divergent ways in which our world could evolve.” [p 4]

 

“*I offer a special thanks to Peter Schwartz, Andrew Blau, and the entire team at Global Business Network, who have helped guide us through this stimulating and energizing process.” [*Judith Rodin, President of the Rockefeller Foundation] [p 4]

 

“*I hope this publication makes clear exactly why my colleagues and I are so excited about the promise of using scenario planning to develop robust strategies.” [*Judith Rodin, President of the Rockefeller Foundation][p 5]

Peter Schwartz is an American futurist, innovator and co-founder of the Global Business Network (GBN), a corporate strategy firm, specializing in future-think & scenario planning. Founded in 1987, GBN was “a membership organization comprising executives from many of the world’s leading companies alongside individual members from business, science, the arts, and academia.” The proprietary list of GBN’s corporate members included “more than 100 of the world’s leading companies, drawn from virtually every industry and continent.” Members paid an annual subscription fee of $35,000. [Source] Following an acquisition by Monitor in 2000, GBN then specialized in scenario-based consulting and training. GBN ceased to be active following the acquisition of the Monitor Group by Deloitte in 2013.

As of Oct. 2011, Schwartz has served as Senior Vice President Strategic Planning for Salesforce. [Bio]

Video. Peter Schwartz, Salesforce “welcomes Klaus Schwab, World Economic Forum [1] Executive Chairman and Founder, into the Salesforce LIVE Studio for a chat about the future of global governance.” [2014] [1]

https://sfdc.hubs.vidyard.com/watch/lemzpqnyZA5yQfedOpoDTQ

[Source]

Video still. Peter Schwartz, Salesforce "welcomes Klaus Schwab, World Economic Forum Executive Chairman and Founder, into the Salesforce LIVE Studio for a chat about the future of global governance." [2014]

Video still. Peter Schwartz, Salesforce “welcomes Klaus Schwab, World Economic Forum Executive Chairman and Founder, into the Salesforce LIVE Studio for a chat about the future of global governance.” [2014]

Andrew Blau: Deloitte Risk and Financial Advisory managing director in the Risk Intelligence practice of Deloitte & Touche LLP; past strategy & innovation advisor to CEOs & senior executives around the world; founding president of the board of directors of WITNESS.

“Perhaps most importantly, scenarios give us a new, shared language that deepens our conversations about the future and how we can help to shape it.” [p 7]

 

“How can we best position ourselves not just to identify technologies that improve the lives of poor communities but also to help scale and spread those that emerge?” [p 8]

The Four Scenarios

“Once crossed, these axes create a matrix of four very different futures:

LOCK STEP – A world of tighter top-down government control and more authoritarian eadership, with limited innovation and growing citizen pushback

CLEVER TOGETHER – A world in which highly coordinated and successful strategies emerge for addressing both urgent and entrenched worldwide issues

HACK ATTACK – An economically unstable and shock-prone world in which governments weaken, criminals thrive, and dangerous  innovations emerge

SMART SCRAMBLE – An economically depressed world in which individuals and communities develop localized, makeshift solutions to a growing set of problems”

“Each scenario tells a story of how the world, and in particular the developing world, might progress over the next 15 to 20 years,… Accompanying each scenario is a range of elements that aspire to further illuminate life, technology, and philanthropy in that world.” [p 17]

Scenario #1: LOCK STEP

“In 2012, the pandemic that the world had been anticipating for years finally hit. Unlike 2009’s H1N1, this new influenza strain — originating from wild geese — was extremely virulent and deadly. Even the most pandemic-prepared nations were quickly overwhelmed when the virus streaked around the world, infecting nearly 20 percent of the global population and killing 8 million in just seven months, the majority of them healthy young adults. The pandemic also had a deadly effect on economies: international mobility of both people and goods screeched to a halt, debilitating industries like tourism and breaking global supply chains. Even locally, normally bustling shops and office buildings sat empty for months, devoid of both employees and customers.” [p 18]

 

“The pandemic blanketed the planet — though disproportionate numbers died in Africa, Southeast Asia, and Central America, where the virus spread like wildfire in the absence of official containment protocols. But even in developed countries, containment was a challenge. The United States’s initial policy of “strongly discouraging” citizens from flying
proved deadly in its leniency, accelerating the spread of the virus not just within the U.S. but across borders. However, a few countries did fare better — China in particular. The Chinese government’s quick imposition and enforcement of mandatory quarantine for all citizens, as well as its instant and near-hermetic sealing off of all borders, saved millions of lives, stopping the spread of the virus far earlier than in other countries and enabling a swifter postpandemic
recovery. [p 18]

 

“China’s government was not the only one that took extreme measures to protect its citizens from risk and exposure.  During the pandemic, national leaders around the world flexed their authority and imposed airtight rules and restrictions, from the mandatory wearing of face masks to body-temperature checks at the entries to communal spaces  like train stations and supermarkets. Even after the pandemic faded, this more authoritarian control and oversight of citizens and their activities stuck and even intensified. In order to protect themselves from the spread of increasingly   global problems — from pandemics and transnational terrorism to environmental crises and rising poverty — leaders around the world took a firmer grip on power.” [p 19]

 

“At first, the notion of a more controlled world gained wide acceptance and approval. Citizens willingly gave up some of  their sovereignty — and their privacy — to more paternalistic states in exchange for greater safety and stability.  Citizens were more tolerant, and even eager, for top-down direction and oversight, and national leaders had more  latitude to impose order in the ways they saw fit. In developed countries, this heightened oversight took many forms:  biometric IDs for all citizens, for example, and tighter regulation of key industries whose stability was deemed vital to  national interests. In many developed countries, enforced cooperation with a suite of new regulations and agreements  slowly but steadily restored both order and, importantly, economic growth.” [p 19]

 

“By 2025, people seemed to be growing weary of so much top-down control and letting leaders and authorities make choices for them.” [p 21]

 

“Sporadic pushback became increasingly organized and coordinated, as disaffected youth and people who had seen their status and opportunities slip away — largely in developing countries — incited civil unrest.” [p 21]

Headlines in LOCK STEP:

“Italy Addresses ‘Immigrant Caregiver’ Gap with Robots (2017)” [p 22]

“African Leaders Fear Repeat of Nigeria’s 2026 Government Collapse (2028)” [p 22]

 

Technology in LOCK STEP:

 

“Technological innovation in “Lock Step” is largely driven by government & is focused on issues of national security & health & safety. Most technological improvements are created by & for developed countries, shaped by governments’ dual desire to control and to monitor their citizens.”[p 23]

 

“Technology trends and applications we might see: Scanners using advanced functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)technology become the norm at airports and other public areas to detect abnormal behavior that may indicate “antisocial intent.”” [p 23]

Life in LOCK STEP:

“Manisha gazed out on the Ganges River, mesmerized by what she saw… no one could deny that the Ganges was looking more beautiful and healthier than ever.” [p 25]

[March 18, 2020, ABC News: “Venice canals are clear enough to see fish as coronavirus halts tourism in the city Swans have returned to the canals and dolphins have been spotted in the port… cloudy canals have transformed into water crystal clear…”]

“Manisha was tempted to kick off her shoe and dip her toe in, but this was a restricted area now — and she, of all people, would never break that law.”[p 25] [emphasis added]

Scenario #2: CLEVER TOGETHER

“In 2017, an international agreement was reached on carbon sequestration… intellectual and financial resources were pooled to build out carbon capture processes… A functioning global cap and trade system was also established.”[p 27]

 

“Centralized global oversight and governance structures …not just for energy use but also for disease and technology standards… systems & structures required far greater levels f transparency, which in turn required more tech-enabled data collection, processing, & feedback.” [p 27]

 

“Enormous, benign “sousveillance” systems allowed citizens to access data — all publically available — in real time and react.” [p 27]

 

“Nation-states lost some of their power and importance as global architecture strengthened and regional governance structures emerged. International oversight entities like the UN took on new levels of authority,…” [p 27-28]

 

“The worldwide spirit of collaboration also fostered new alliances and alignments among corporations, NGOs, and communities.” [p 28]

 

“In many places, traditional social barriers to overcoming #poverty grew less relevant as more people gained access to a spectrum of useful technologies — from #disposable #computers to do-it-yourself (DIY) windmills.” [p 29]

 

“Over the course of two decades, enormous strides were made to make the world less wasteful, more efficient, and more inclusive. But the world was far from perfect. There were still failed states and places with few resources.” [p 29]

 

“Indeed, demand for everything was growing exponentially. By 2028, despite ongoing efforts to guide “smart growth,” it was becoming clear that the world could not support such rapid growth forever.” [p 29]

 

“There are considerable flows of talent between the for-profit and nonprofit sectors, and the lines between these types of organizations become increasingly blurred.” [p 30]

 

Technology in CLEVER TOGETHER

 

“Technology trends and applications we might see: The cost of capturing data through nanosensors & smart networks falls precipitously… Intelligent electricity, water distribution, and transportation systems develop in urban areas. In these “smart cities,” internet access is seen as a basic right by the late 2010s.” [p 31]

“Flexible and rapid mobile payment systems drive dynamic economic growth in the developing world, while the developed world is hampered by entrenched banking interests and regulation.” [p 31]

 

“In cities and villages around the world where children used to be hungry, access to higher-calorie meals had produced alarming increases in the incidence of obesity and diabetes.” [p 33]

Scenario #3: HACK ATTACK

“An economically unstable and shock-prone world in which governments weaken, criminals thrive, and dangerous innovations emerge” [p 34]

 

“Resource scarcities and trade disputes, together with severe economic and climate stresses, pushed many alliances and partnerships to the breaking point; they also sparked proxy wars and low-level conflict in resource-rich parts of the developing world.” [p 35]

 

“Nations raised trade barriers in order to protect their domestic sectors against imports and — in the face of global food and resource shortages — to reduce exports of agricultural produce and other commodities.” [p 35]

 

“In the context of weak health systems, corruption, and inattention to standards — either within countries or from global bodies like the World Health Organization — tainted vaccines entered the public health systems of several African countries. [p 35]

“In 2021, 600 children in Cote d’Ivoire died from a bogus Hepatitis B vaccine, which paled in comparison to the scandal sparked by mass deaths from a tainted anti-malarial drug years later. [p 35]

 

“The deaths and resulting scandals sharply affected public confidence in vaccine delivery; parents not just in Africa but elsewhere began to avoid vaccinating their children, and it wasn’t long before infant and child mortality rates rose to levels not seen since the 1970s.”[p 36]

 

“Meanwhile, more sophisticated hackers attempted to take down corporations, government systems, and banks via phishing scams & database information heists, and their many successes generated billions of dollars in losses.” [p 36]

 

“Blockbuster pharmaceuticals quickly became artifacts of the past, replaced by increased production of generics.” [p 36]

 

“Interestingly, not all of the “hacking” was bad. Genetically modified crops (GMOs) and do-it-yourself (DIY) biotech became backyard and garage activities, producing important advances.” [p 37]

 

“In 2017, a network of renegade African scientists who had returned to their home countries after working in Western multinationals unveiled the first of a range of new GMOs that boosted agricultural productivity on the continent.” [p 37]

 

“But despite such efforts, the global have/have-not gap grew wider than ever. The very rich still had the financial means to protect themselves; gated communities sprung up from New York to Lagos, providing safe havens surrounded by slums.” [p 37]

 

“In 2025, it was de rigueur to build not a house but a high-walled fortress, guarded by armed personnel.” [p 37]

 

“The wealthy also capitalized on the loose regulatory environment to experiment with advanced medical treatments and other under-the-radar activities.” [p 37]

 

Headlines in HACK ATTACK Attack scenario:

“Congo Death Toll Hits 10,000 in Malaria Drug Scandal (2018)” [p 38]

“Doctors Without Borders Confined Within Borders (2020)” [p 38]

“India-Pakistan Water War Rages (2027)” [p 38]

Role of philanthropy in HACK ATTACK:

“The operational model in this world is a “fortress model” in which philanthropic organizations coalesce into a strong, single unit to combat fraud and lack of trust.” [p 40]

Technology in HACK ATTACK:

“Technology trends and applications we might see: New threats like weaponized biological pathogens and destructive botnets dominate public attention…” [p 39]

 

“Identity-verification technologies become a staple of daily life, w/ some hitches—a database of retina recordings stolen by hackers in 2017 is used to create numerous false identities… [p 39]

 

…procedures like the lunchtime facelift become routine among emerging middle classes”

 

Life in HACK ATTACK:

“Botswana had none of the high-tech biometric scanning checkpoints — technology that could literally see right through you — that most developed nations had in abundance in their airports, along their borders, and in government buildings.” [p 4]

 

“Trent was also careful to cover his tracks to avoid being kidnapped by international crime syndicates — including
the Russian mafia and the Chinese triads — that had  become very active and influential in Botswana.” [p 40]

 

“As expected, counterfeit vaccines were being manufactured. But so were GMO seeds. And synthetic proteins.” [p 40]

Scenario #4: SMART SCRAMBLE

“The global recession that started in 2008 did not trail off in 2010 but dragged onward. Vigorous attempts to jumpstart markets and economies didn’t work, or at least not fast enough to reverse the steady downward pull.” [p 41]

 

“Overall, economic stability felt so shaky that the occurrence of a sudden climate shock or other disaster would likely send the world into a tailspin.” [p 41-42]

 

“Yet without major progress in global economic integration and collaboration, many worried that good ideas would stay isolated, and survival and success would remain a local — not a global or national — phenomenon.” [p 45]

 

“Philanthropic organizations look to fund at the grassroots level…The meta-goal in this world is to scale up: to identify
and build capacity from the individual through the institutional, because without global coordination, innovation cannot scale on its own.” [p 46]

Headlines in SMART SCRAMBLE:

“Chinese Government Pressured as Protests Spread to 250 Cities (2017)” [p 46]

“Famine Haunts Ethiopia—Again (2022)” [p 46]

 

CONCLUDING THOUGHTS

“We hope that reading the scenario narratives and their accompanying stories about philanthropy, technology, and people has sparked your imagination, provoking new thinking about these emergent themes and their possibilities.” [p 49]

 

“This report is the result of extensive effort and collaboration among Rockefeller Foundation initiative staff, Foundation grantees, and external experts.” [p 52]

[Download the report: Scenarios for the Future of Technology & Int’l Development 2010 Rockefeller Foundation]

+++

Let’s circle back to the beginning. Schwartz, report lead, is Senior Vice President of Strategic Planning for Salesforce. Salesforce founder and CEO Marc Benioff serves as the inaugural Chair of the World Economics Forum’s Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution in San Francisco. On June 13, 2019 the World Economic Forum partnered with the United Nations. On March 11, 2020 the World Economic Forum announced a partnership with the World Health Organization (a UN agency) to establish the COVID Action Platform For Business. This same day the World Health Organization officially characterized COVID-19 a pandemic. [Source] This is the consolidation of global power, happening in real time.

 


Launched on March 11, 2020 – the World Economic Forum Covid Action Platform


Salesforce founder and CEO Marc Benioff serves as the inaugural Chair of the World Economics Forum’s Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution in San Francisco.


Judith Rodin, President, The Rockefeller Foundation

“A New Global Architecture”, Annual Meeting of the Global Futures Council, 2018, Dubai

 

[1] World Economic Forum annual membership fee in 2011: $52,000 for an individual member; $263,000 for “Industry Partner”; $527,000 for “Strategic Partner”. Admission: $19,000 per person. In 2014, WEF raised annual fees by 20%, bringing the cost for “Strategic Partner” from CHF 500,000 ($523,000) to CHF 600,000 ($628,000). [Source] January 17, 2017: “Membership and partnership fees range from CHF60,000 to CHF600,000 depending on the level of engagement” [Source] In September 2018, the city of Davos increased the security budget for the yearly Forum meeting to CHF 1.125 million., while the Swiss house of representatives (Nationalrat) increased police and military expenditures to CHF 39 million. The Kanton of Graubünden contributes CHF 2.25 million, matching the WEF expenses for security. [Source]

[2020 World Economic Forum Leadership and Governance]

“Virus or No Virus, We Can’t Lose Our Voice”: Cheri Honkala on Frontline Communities

Black Agenda Report

March 18, 2020

By Ann Garrison

 

“Coronavirus is just an extension of the war that we’ve been forced to fight under capitalism.”

 

“We’re assisting people who suddenly have no income and are stuck in their homes for the foreseeable future.”

Cheri Honkala has been organizing in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia, one of the US’s most devastated, post-industrial communities, for over 30 years. As of the 2010 census, Kensington was 38.9% Hispanic of any race, 37.4% non-Hispanic white, 14.8% non-Hispanic Black, 6.2% Asian, and 2.7% all other. And it’s beginning to be threatened by gentrification.

Cheri is one of the founders of the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign (PPEHRC), and her work has been so impressive that Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein asked her to be her running mate  in 2008.

I asked her how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting Kensington.

Ann Garrison: Cheri, are you seeing cases of coronavirus there in your neighborhood yet? Does anyone have access to testing?

Cheri Honkala: No, we have no idea if we’ve come into contact with anyone who has the virus yet. There’s no testing, but we’ve most likely been exposed. Most of the poor people in Kensington go to St. Christopher’s Hospital, and a doctor working in the ICU there has tested positive. That will affect Kensington because he saw Kensington patients before testing positive, and because there is, for now, one less doctor working in Kensington.

Public clinics are postponing appointments at the last minute and rescheduling for July due to the virus, but these are services that people need now. We already have bad health. Our health has never much mattered, but there are good, caring doctors and nurses in the system.

“We already have bad health.”

Someone from the public health center said they’re moving to online appointments, but poor people don’t have computers to be talking to their doctors and getting checkups through the phone. We know that people in other parts of the world like Canada and Australia now have access to testing and an equitable response to the virus because they have universal healthcare. But we don’t have that. We seem to be moving further towards the privatization and corporate takeover of all public services and health access. And under the guise of protecting our health, it seems like they’re going to be scooping people up soon, with or without their permission, and putting them who knows where.

AG: Has Philadelphia’s Public Health Department  reached out to you in any way? Have you tried to reach out to them?

CH: No. Philadelphia is one of the poorest large cities in the country. PPEHRC and the Poor People’s Army  have been absolutely overwhelmed both in Philadelphia—where our headquarters is—and throughout the country. We’re assisting people who suddenly have no income and are stuck in their homes for the foreseeable future, if they can hold onto their homes.

We’re helping a woman who’s being released from the hospital to homelessness, a victim of domestic violence needing to get into safe housing, and people needing psychiatric care but not able to get into the hospital. And those are just a few examples of who we’re trying to help. Coronavirus is just an extension of the war that we’ve been forced to fight under capitalism. It’s not just the virus, but that’s made it worse.

The media is fear-mongering, and misinformation is spreading. Corporations, politicians, and poverty pimps are rushing to profit from this moment. Not only have they not reached out to us, but they’re hiding from us because they are either working remotely from home, or they’re operating from the politics of scarcity.

AG: As I write this it’s 49 degrees in Kensington and 49 degrees here in Berkeley, where there are roughly 1,000 homeless people on the street, in a city of roughly 125,000. But it’s still morning out here and it’s well past noon there. It’s not the dead of winter, but it’s not a good day to be homeless in either place, or to live in a house or apartment that doesn’t have heat. It’s not a good day to recover from coronavirus or any kind of cold or flu, especially if you don’t have running water to wash your hands. Do you have any estimate of how many people are facing one or both hardships there in Kensington, a city area of roughly 25,000?

CH: There are about 2000 homeless people on the streets in Philly on any given night. Because of advocacy efforts before the coronavirus, no one’s utilities can be shut off. But that doesn’t mean that utilities that were already shut off can be turned back on.

AG: At the 2016 Green Party Convention in Houston, you shared films about Kensington and said that you thought frontline communities should emulate the Black Panther Party. Could you talk about that here?

CH: For decades, the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign has been teaching people how to reclaim abandoned houses across the country and reclaim land. And to grow food to feed ourselves. We need to move in our organizing work from a reformist model to a revolutionary model. Corporations and the rich are never going to care about us, never going to take care of us, so it’s time we get organized and reclaim our basic economic human rights to food and housing. And whether or not we have health care shouldn’t even be up for negotiations.

AG: Is the PPEHRC supported solely by donations and volunteers?

CH: We are trying to be the US version of the Zapatistas . We are separate from the nonprofit charity model, and are funded by individuals and small foundations. No banks and no corporations.

AG: Are you a 501(c)3?

CH: We have a 501(c)3 fiscal sponsor that accepts tax deductible donations for us.

AG: During the March 15 presidential debate, both candidates said repeatedly that victims of coronavirus must be “made whole” by financial support if they and their families lose work or housing after coming down with coronavirus. And I kept thinking about all the people who have already lost both, those living on the streets or in other desperate circumstances, who haven’t been “made whole.” Suddenly the welfare of all members of society is of concern because even those most marginalized can spread the disease to the upper echelons by going to work, not getting tested, or not seeing a doctor. The New Yorker published a report headlined, “How Much Is the Coronavirus Infecting World Leaders and Disrupting Governments? 

I’m sure you have something further to say about this.

CH: This coronavirus is infecting the upper classes, so they’ll look for ways to protect themselves, but it’s not about protecting us. As a formerly homeless mother I’ve always known that we and our children have never mattered. And I’m very clear that they try to create an us and them scenario–a deserving and undeserving poor. We know the reality is that most people are only a paycheck away from a disaster like the coronavirus. Those of us in frontline communities more than ever need to demand and take back our right to food, clothing, housing, and medical care, because we can’t sit on the sidelines waiting for someone to save us. That’s not gonna happen. We need to link arms and remember that all we have is each other, and we’d better get organized to take housing, to take land, to take back a future for ourselves and our children.

We know they’re going to use this as an opportunity to do more homeless encampment sweeps, enact curfews with the pretense of caring about our health, fast-tracking homeless mothers and their kids into foster care and adoption.

It’s really important right now that we check in on our brothers and sisters who are in prisons, nursing homes, and packed into one-room shelters. We have to advocate for them because authorities are not going to take care of them without pressure.

AG: Tell me what else you’d like to say about coronavirus in poor and homeless communities.

CH: It all comes back to the slogan we’re raising that we need to put #LivesOverLuxury, while they put the elite luxury class over any of us. They’re killing us. That’s why we’re taking this message to both the DNC and RNC, virus or no virus, because we can’t lose our voice, and we fundamentally need a different society to respond to ongoing crises like this that will only escalate.

The coronavirus has exacerbated class divisions. Our kids who were attending schools that weren’t good to begin with and are now supposed to attend them online, but many lack access to home computers. People are staying home and not making any money from jobs that are on pause, and they’re waiting for essential health services.

It’s also important that there’s a whole section of people who don’t speak English as their first language, and they’re already being targeted by ICE and state agents. But we’re going to continue to practice the politics of love where we aim for a different kind of society where we take care of each other. At a time when big nonprofits aren’t here, we are continuing to operate with boots on the ground out of necessity. Not that we’re being careless or not taking the virus seriously, but the reality of people’s economic situation is real and that’s what we’re going to be hearing over the days to come. Maybe the utility shutoffs, evictions, and foreclosures are on pause right now, but those bills aren’t going away, and people are losing money every day this goes on.

“The coronavirus has exacerbated class divisions.”

We encourage people to join the Poor People’s Army. We need to make sure we keep our eyes wide open, and keep the propaganda on TV from separating us, isolating us, and disempowering us. Join us at livesoverluxury.com  and plan on coming to the Democratic Convention in July.

On July 13th, at 4 p.m., we will be in Milwaukee to demand our share of the 67 cents of every single dollar that goes to feed the war machine and deny poor and working class people their right to health care, food, housing, and dignity.

We have nothing to lose because we are already on the frontlines, already sentenced to death by gun violence, economic violence, cuts in food stamps and public housing, and, for many outside this country, sanctions. Our government, both Democrats and Republicans, chooses war and corporate profits over ending poverty and homelessness. We see the abundance in our country, and the #PoorPeoplesArmy is organizing to take it back by practicing the politics of love. Coronavirus or not, we are moving forward in an army led by the poor. Capitalism has buried our loved ones for years. It’s time we bury it.

AG: What if the convention’s canceled, as seems likely right now?

CH: Eventually there will be a convention and an election. People can follow us on Facebook  or our website  for any sudden changes.

AG: OK. I want to close by sharing links to videos about your work in Kensington and beyond that you showed at the Green Party Convention in 2016. Readers can watch them here: The Philadelphia Story  and Homeless Hero .

Thank you, Cheri, for sharing everything you’ve said here, and for everything you do.

CH: Thank you too.

 

[Ann Garrison is an independent journalist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 2014, she received the Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza Democracy and Peace Prize for her reporting on conflict in the African Great Lakes region. She can be reached at ann@anngarrison.com.]

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.]

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.]
State of the Empire: Reviewing 2019

State of the Empire: Reviewing 2019

Zero Anthropology

December 31, 291

 

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

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

December 14, 2019

Transcript by Geraldine Ring

 

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

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

 

Transcript

Introduction

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

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

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

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

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

+++

Lumumba Di-Aping:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Climate Crimes

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

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

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

 

— Adrian Lahoud

 

 

Listen: Highways of Hegemony: Reading Act VI of Cory Morningstar’s Series on Green Capitalism

Listen: Highways of Hegemony: Reading Act VI of Cory Morningstar’s Series on Green Capitalism

Ghion Journal

November 4, 2019

By Stephen Boni

 

 

Over the course of six lengthy pieces of investigative journalism, Canadian activist and writer Cory Morningstar forces us into a recognition of how deep social engineering efforts can go, how patient they are—and how effective they can be.

After recording a reading of this final piece of Morningstar’s Volume One, her penetrating gaze into the nonprofit industrial complex (and the huge amounts of capital that sit behind it), I went back and listened to it several times, in part just to see what jumped out.

While listening for the second time, a small snippet grabbed me. At one juncture in the piece, which takes a look at how a variety of interlocking pieces of a manufactured climate movement were assembled over 10 years ago, she mentions briefly how the upper level managers of major NGOs essentially share the same values and priorities of the wealthy government bureaucrats and financiers they work with to advance their organizations.

Essentially, they are all fellow travelers on a “highway of hegemony”, a choice phrase Morningstar drops in the piece.

After taking this aspect of her article in and ruminating on it for a minute, my mind drifted to two things:

  1. Matt Taibbi’s recently published book “Hate, Inc.”, in which he explores the change in the class background of many journalists from a blue-collar orientation to a haute-bourgeoisie orientation—which, as a matter of course, impacts the way the corporate news media covers (or omits) the concerns of everyday citizens and aligns with the concerns of the well-to-do.

And

  1. The frequently embedded video of Noam Chomsky deconstructing the authority subservience of a BBC reporter to his face.

It makes absolute sense to me that this is where my mind went, because woven throughout Morningstar’s series is that, while so much of the patient drive to rescue the current faltering economic system through the financialization of nature is determined by the ideology of finance capital, this imperative is deeply connected to an expression of class.

Whether it’s Al Gore or Ingmar Rentzhog (head of advocacy NGO ‘We Don’t Have Time’) or Jennifer Morgan (head of environmental NGO Greenpeace) or Jean-Claude Junker (head of the European Commission), their respective nationalities, areas of expertise, and even genuine concern for the future of people and planet are not so divergent as to overcome their shared class interest—an interest that leads them to apply a set of market and money-based solutions to a problem that eclipses by many magnitudes, the pursuit of wealth.

Before I go on too long, here’s the reading:

The other place my mind went while re-listening to Morningstar’s piece, is how deeply implicated a colonial mentality is in all of this. Because, all these market-base solutions, whether they be green energy or land use or “natural capital investment vehicles”, will hinge on the expropriation of resources—particularly those that sit in developing nations where the majority of citizens are poor and not white—by elites in powerful, semi post-industrial nations.

All we have to do to understand this fusion of class and ethnicity (race is a construct, but ethnicity at least is real) is to look at what’s been happening in Bolivia over the past few weeks. Coup leaders are generally ethnically different from the indigenous citizenry empowered by socialist leader Evo Morales. They are largely light-skinned descendants of previous western colonialists, just as opposition leaders in Venezuela happen to be. And they’re not only “ethnically” angry about indigenous emancipation, but about how the natural resources of Bolivia under Morales have been used for social uplift rather than profit (their profit of course).

If the coup holds, we will in all likelihood see the expropriation of Bolivia’s massive expanses of lithium for the West’s various “Green New Deals” and the seizing of Bolivia’s natural gas to feed the West’s unending hunger for energy to fuel markets to fuel energy to fuel markets to fuel mansions to fuel private jets to fuel power.

Class, markets, profit, material wealth, ethnic supremacy, colonialism. It really is all one thing and that is why, as Morningstar underlines, the omission of imperialism, militarism and capitalism from the concerns of these environmental NGOs and their partners, is so telling.

In the words of rapper Ice-T: “Ain’t a damn thing changed”.

That is, unless we start supporting a completely different kind of environmentalism.

As always, thanks for reading and listening.

The Militarisation & Marketisation of Nature: An Alternative Lens to ‘Climate-Conflict

The Militarisation & Marketisation of Nature: An Alternative Lens to ‘Climate-Conflict

November 2014

“The Militarisation & Marketisation of Nature: An Alternative Lens to ‘Climate-Conflict”

By ALEXANDER DUNLAP, Global Studies, University of Sussex, Brighton, UK & JAMES FAIRHEAD, Anthropology, Justice and Violence Research Centre, International Development, University of Sussex, Brighton, UK

 

“Policies addressing climate change are driving major transformations in access to global land, forests and water as they create new ‘green’ markets that reinforce, and attracts the financial grid and its speculators. This leads us to examine the rise of state violence and subsequent environmental policies in forests, transferring into both ‘fortress’ and ‘participatory’ conservation, enhancing this relationship with new environmental commodity markets. We go on to document how the new and intensifying commodification of the environment associated with climate change is manifest in conflicts linked to the UN-REDD+ programme, industrial tree plantations (ITPs), and land-use practices associated with conservation and biofuels. We trace conflicts to business practices associated with land acquisitions and mining practices which claim to address climate change and mitigate ecological crises. This paper thus grapples with systemic issues of the modern industrial economy and the mechanisms legitimising and advancing the militarisation and marketisation of nature.”

 

Bolivia’s President Evo Morales who was forced to resign during a horrific coup d’état that took place on November 10, 2019. With an estimated 9,000,000 tons, Bolivia holds about 43% of the world’s known lithium reserves. Lithium is the backbone of a “Global Green New Deal – the popular term for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (as sought by World Economic Forum, now partnered w/ the UN) The Lithium ABC countries are — A-rgentina B-olivia & C-hile. Photographer: STR/AFP via Getty Images

INTRODUCTION

There is more to ‘climate and security’ than worrying whether people fight more in increasingly bad weather. Policies addressing climate change are driving major transformations in access to global land, forests and water as they create new commodities and markets for carbon, biofuels, biodiversity and climate-secure food. The emergence of these new ‘climate change commodities’ reinforces, and also attracts the financial grid and its speculators. What interests us in this paper is how the advent and expansion of these new commodities and their markets generate or prolong conflicts. ‘Climate conflicts’ become manifest in these new economic and political orders that, we argue, arise around these markets, driving ‘land grabs’, ‘water grabs’ and ‘green grabs’, and which are further animated by food and energy securitisation in the face of new climatic threats.

It is our contention, then, that pressing links between climate change and security are to be perceived through these mitigation markets and the resource capture and militarisation associated with them. It is our worry that
current discourses that ‘securitise’ climate change are actually part and parcel of these markets, and thus play a part in bringing about the very insecurities that they might purport to address. Moreover, these discourses nourish these new global ‘green’ markets that remain dependent on resource intensive structures and a military-industrial complex to police them. Climate Security, in the tradition of mainstream development, assumes the continuation of the industrial and financial economy as the implicit reason for mitigation and adaptation, and fails to address, or even acknowledge at times, the inherent environmental insecurity and widespread degradation built into this industrial economy. The popular and widespread belief that environmental  degradation and climate change directly induces and intensifies conflict, thus risks creating a self-fulfilling prophecy in a second way by extending and intensifying the existing political and industrial economic relationships dependent on growth imperatives and the subsequent consumption and usurpation of the natural environment.

To proceed, we review literatures on climate-conflict/security to render visible the violence in land frontiers. We then examine the rise of state violence and subsequent environmental policies in forests and protected areas,
and how these relationships transfer into both the ‘fortress’ and ‘participatory’ conservation, that are now enhanced by ‘green’ or environmental commodity markets. We go on to document how the new and  intensifying commodification of the environment associated with climate change is manifest in land conflicts linked to the UN-REDD+ programme, industrial tree plantations (ITPs), and land-use practices associated with conservation and ‘offsetting’.

We trace conflicts to business practices associated with land acquisitions and mining practices which claim to address climate change and mitigate ecological crises – expanding our analysis to embrace such Orwellian concepts as ‘sustainable mining’ and ‘green uranium’. This paper thus grapples with systemic issues of the modern industrial economy and the mechanisms legitimising and advancing the militarisation and marketisation of nature.

These concerns are generally pushed to the margins, if not neglected in their entirety by the climate conflict debate, requiring immediate reflection and thoughtful action.

  • Climate Conflict and the Problem of Political Economy
  •  

  • COUNTERINSURGENCY AT THE CONJUNCTURE OF STATE AND NATURE: POLITICAL FORESTS
  •  

  • With Devastation Comes (Market) Opportunity: ‘Green’ Markets and Land Control
  •  

  • Self-Fulfilling Climate-Conflict?
  •  

    Download the paper: The_Militarisation_and_Marketisation_of

     

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