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Avaaz Goes to Myanmar

Avaaz Goes to Myanmar

September 8, 2017

by Cory Morningstar with Forrest Palmer

 

“Good fucking luck with the World Bank ‘supporting’ your transition to democracy. Soon, the ADB (Asian Development Bank) will come and do the same – if it hasn’t already. Everyone falls for the utterly stupid. Mad world.” – Philippine citizen/activist Kristine Alvarez in response to the announcement “World Bank OKs first Myanmar aid in 25 years”, November 2, 2011

Andrea Woodhouse poses for a portrait on the new bridge on Sule Pagoda road, downtown Yangon. (C) Chiara Luxardo

 

In the book NGOs – The Self-Appointed Altruists (written in 2002 and updated in 2011) the author observes:

“NGO’s in places like Sudan, Somalia, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Albania, and Zimbabwe have become the preferred venue for Western aid – both humanitarian and financial – development financing, and emergency relief. According to the Red Cross, more money goes through NGO’s than through the World Bank. Their iron grip on food, medicine, and funds rendered them an alternative government – sometimes as venal and graft-stricken as the one they replace.”

 

“The elites like this model, but it’s fragility is evident. Cancun itself can only take so many more category 5 hurricanes before it will be retired like Mazatlan or Atlantic City. When this happens, new frontiers of commodified leisure, whether in Colombia, Sri Lanka or Myanmar, will be developed, but even so the economic and political costs of the 2 degree Celsius average temperature rise that the world leaders have deemed acceptable are staggering.” — Normalizing Catastrophe: Cancun as Laboratory of the Future, Dec 18. 2010

In the March 3, 2017 article Yangon, Myanmar: World Bank Specialist Goes Back to Beginnings the Financial Times published a full feature on Avaaz co-founder Andrea Woodhouse. The article covers the following events.

In 2008 Avaaz co-founders Andrea Woodhouse and her husband David Madden went to Myanmar. According to Woodhouse, she carried out post-disaster work for nine months following Cyclone Nargis for “a body comprising the government, the UN, and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations”. During this time, Woodhouse states there were “no credit cards, no ATMs and a SIM card for a mobile phone cost roughly $1,500.00.”

Former United States President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with Aung San Suu Kyi and her staff at her home in Rangoon on November 19, 2012. Source: (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Neoliberalism would soon follow. In 2012, Woodhouse would relocate to central Yangon “to settle as a social development specialist for the World Bank, which was re-engaging with Myanmar after an absence of more than 20 years” with her spouse and Avaaz co-founder David Madden. Not so coincidentally, Myanmar’s opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest, US and EU sanctions began to lift and “market liberalisation” was under way. Between 2011 and 2015 the cost of renting a typical apartment more than doubled with landlords catering to the wave of foreign money by demanding a full years rent up front.

In the Montessori school where Woodhouse’s child attends (“one of maybe two expats in a class of about 15 to 20 children”) the school teaches in English rather than Burmese. Living in one of the poorest countries in Asia, wealthy expats (inclusive of Woodhouse and Madden) and Myanmar elites travel abroad for medical treatment and child birth. Woodhouse acknowledges her children are  “extremely privileged”.

August 18, 2017, The FINANCIAL — “The Republic of the Union of Myanmar and the World Bank today signed a US$200 million credit for a First Macroeconomic Stability and Fiscal Resilience Development Policy Operation…. The terms for the IDA credit include a repayment period of 38 years…” [Source]

“In 2012 if we went to a restaurant popular with expats, we would probably recognise everyone there. Now we wouldn’t know a single person.”— Andrea Woodhouse

The vast majority of expats rent. Typical two-bedroom, serviced apartments in the capital cost about $5,100 per month. Parliament passed a new condominium law, which gives foreigners rights to purchase flats, in January 2016.

Avaaz Co-founder David Madden in Myanmar

  

Avaaz and Purpose co-founders Jeremy Heimans (l) and David Madden: “Jeremy Heimans and David Madden founders of Get Up! Action for Australia, at Old Parliament house in Canberra on Friday, 29th July, 2005.” THE AGE NEWS Picture by PENNY

“After years of isolation, Myanmar is opening up. Opportunities abound. However international companies have little experience here and local firms have little experience working with them. Parami Road meets this need.” — Parami Road Website

As first noted in the 2014 article, SYRIA: Avaaz, Purpose & the Art of Selling Hate for Empire, David Madden, co-founder of both Avaaz and New York consulting firm Purpose, has also co-founded the marketing firm Parami Road in Myanmar (“Our clients are mostly international companies entering Myanmar and they demand an international standard of work”) as well as the tech firm Phandeeyar – a 6000 square foot ICT hub in the heart of downtown Yangon. Launched with the support of several sponsors in 2014, including Internews and Phandeeyar (previously operated as Code for Change Myanmar), it is important to note that the key partners of Phandeeyar are USAID, the US State Department, U.S. Mission to ASEAN, and the  US-ASEAN Business Council. [Source]

“A serial entrepreneur who co-founded the global campaigning website Avaaz.org and U.S.-based digital strategy agency Purpose, among others, the Harvard-educated Madden believes technology is essential for Myanmar’s development.” — July 8, 2015, Myanmar Now

Simply stated, Madden plays a vital role in bringing western ideologies and foreign investment to the doorstep of Myanmar. As a co-founder of Avaaz, an NGO that specializes in behavioural change, Madden’s hashtag for his tech firm (“human Capital Development”) sums up the goal: social impact (#socialimpact MM). Of course, Madden cannot achieve this alone, thus he is joined by thousands of NGOs that comprise the non-profit industrial complex:

“Estimates vary widely on the number of local NGOs in Myanmar. An article claimed more than 10,000 such groups, while another study conducted in 2003 by Save the Children—the first detailed look at civil society in Myanmar—estimated there were 270 local NGOs at that time. Regardless of the number, there is a vibrant and growing nongovernment sector encompassing a range of interests and approaches throughout the country. International NGOs are increasingly active in Myanmar, working in humanitarian response and longer-term development in a multitude of sectors, including the environment, health, education, livelihoods, rule of law, advocacy, and civil society capacity building. International NGOs, present in small numbers since the 1990s, have entered Myanmar in two recent waves: in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis in 2008, and since the forming of the new government in early 2011.” — Civil Society Briefs Myanmar

A key function of Madden’s tech firm is not unlike that of MoveOn.org (a co-founding NGO of Avaaz) and its relationship with the US Democratic party, which is to focus on building Myanmar’s voter registration. It’s other key function is to pitch business opportunities to investors. In September of 2016, the tech firm launched the “Phandeeyar accelerator”.  According to Forbes (October 31, 2016), the “accelerator” provides $25,000 in seed funding, mentoring and free office space in Phandeeyar’s 6,000-square-foot building. Participants also receive “$200,000 worth of strategic services, including access to Amazon Web Services, free English classes and a range of other benefits. They’ll also have the opportunity to pitch investors who Madden describes as ‘serious about the Myanmar market.'” Madden foresees startups that establish themselves “could be poised for explosive growth in the next several years as the economy continues to accelerate.”

“Madden said that some had been hesitant, waiting to see how State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi’s rise to power would play out. But confidence is growing following the peaceful political transition, and the U.S.’ decision to ease sanctions in recent years has inspired much interest in the country. McKinsey Global Institute estimates that Myanmar’s economy has the potential to reach $200 billion in 2030, more than tripling from $45 billion in 2010. The Overseas Private Investment Corporation, run by the U.S. government, issued the first installment of $250 million loan to the telecommunication company Apollo Towers Myanmar in June. Microsoft is working with the Myanmar Computer Company to help 100,000 people develop IT skills within the country. And the country saw a strong performance from its first listed stock earlier this year, indicating potential for future growth. Investment opportunities abound, with deep needs across the energy, tourism and infrastructure markets, according to the British Chamber of Commerce.” —This Tech Accelerator Is Betting That Myanmar’s Startup Scene Is Set To Explode, Forbes, October 31, 2016 [Emphasis added]

In 2017, the Phandeeyar Accelerator’s Demo Day hosted over 200 local and international investors. The list included 70 venture capital investors (VCs) and mentors including Red Dot Ventures, Digital Ventures, and Omidyar Network. Note that although the official language of Myranmar is Burmese, spoken by 70-80% of the population, all Burmese speaking in the Phandeeyar demo day video are speaking English. Far be it for Anglo “leaders” to make any concerted effort to speak Burmese, let alone learn the language. This of course is colonization in one of its most accepted and blatant forms. This point is further validated by the fact that Edulink Australia (specializing in English proficiency) is a strategic partner of Phandeeyar.

Madden is not the only expat poised for explosive growth in Myanmar. With the global capitalist economic system hovering close to stall speed, the world’s most powerful corporations are desperately searching for new markets. Myanmar is the “new sweet spot” for the most egregious corporate entities:

“Still, the country’s young, inexpensive workforce and low living standards offer huge potential for growth. GE, on its website, describes Myanmar as a “new sweet spot” for growth in Southeast Asia. Some other major U.S. brands got a head start, including Coca-Cola, which has a factory producing for the local market. Ball Corp. has a factory in Yangon’s Thilawa Special Economic Zone making cans for Coca-Cola. MasterCard is expanding in the area of ATM cards. GE is active in energy and other sectors and leases Boeing 737-800s to the country’s national airlines. ConocoPhillips and Chevron have stakes in oil and gas exploration and development. Some U.S. businesses, like Caterpillar, have distribution tie-ups in Myanmar with local or other foreign companies.” [October, 2016, Source]

 

Above: Phandeeyar headquarters

On June 3, 2016 it was announced that Phandeeyar secured a $2 million follow-on investment from Omidyar Network. [Source: Deal Street Asia] Omidyar Network first invested in Phandeeyar in 2014 with other investors and aid givers including the Schmidt Family Foundation, the Open Society Foundation, USAID and Google. Deal Street Asia also reports that “[A]part from Phandeeyar, Omidyar Network has invested in Proximity Designs, Open Myanmar Initiative (OMI), Myitmakha news agency, Yangon Journalism School, Global Witness and Namati in the country.”

Financiers of Madden’s entrepreneurial tech operations and innovations also include Internews, Facebook, the United States Embassy, Hewitt Packard, Samsung, the US State Department, Pact, Office of Transition Initiatives (USAID), The Asia Foundation, KBZ Bank and Red Dot Ventures. Strategic partners include (but are not limited to) telenor, wave money (telenor, Yoma Bank), Fb Start, AWS Activate (Amazon), JobNet, Microsoft BizSpark, Today Ogilvy Myanmar (“we make brands matter”), Edulink Australia (specializing in English proficiency) and PwC.

The Innovation Marketplace is a joint initiative by Phandeeyar and FHI 360, and supported by USAID in which a primary focus is “mobilization of popular support for social change.”

And while the rich get richer:

“Land laws were changed in 2012 and 2013 to make it easier for the government to facilitate land grabs and many segments of the rural population have seen their homes demolished and their paddy fields ruined to make way for foreign development projects. Farmers like Umya Hlaing have been left without land with, “no conversation, no replacement land, no adequate compensation.” [January 30, 2017, Source]

The Ultimate Balancing Act

Here one must note that while Myanmar opens its arms to neoliberal foreign policy, it simultaneously transitions into a playground for the rich – all while the tensions and killings between the Muslim Rohingya, the Buddhist Rakhine, the Burmese authorities, Burmese government and its military escalate. As the so-called human rights NGOs (which are actually in servitude to empire) turn up the volume on this crisis, we must acknowledge there is much more going on behind the scenes that we, in the west, are not cognizant of. For example, terrorist factions such as Islamic State and Al Qaeda have embedded themselves into various Rohingya organizations such as the Rohingya Liberation Organization and the Rohingya Solidarity Organization. The well-documented atrocities and killings of Buddhist Rakhine by the Rohingya go unreported by mainstream media. This has undoubtedly been orchestrated, at least in part, by foreign interests. Exploiting existing divisions is key to controlled chaos and destabilization. Where divisions do not already exist – they are created.


Above: Avaaz campaign

Above: Avaaz training Buddhist Monks:A young student and monk take part in a non-violence training program – they cannot show their faces for fear of being identified by the military.” Source: Avaaz website

The said contention surrounding the Rohingya is the issue of legal citizenship (sovereignty and nationality) verses refugee/migrant status. This ongoing crisis is then conflated with the religious components. The fact that this is a basic human rights issue is then lost. Further, “Harsha Walia, a social justice activist and journalist, tells us that borders are constructs and that they serve an imperialistic purpose. Borders represent practices used to legally coerce displaced migrants into precarious labor and criminalized existence. In her work, Undoing Border Imperialism, Walia offers a framework termed ‘border imperialism,’ which is a system that controls the flow of people, themselves fleeing the military or economic violence of empire, who are racialized and economically exploited by their illegalization.” [Source: Borders: Imaginary Lines, Real Exploitation]

What is notable here is that fact that although Avaaz has produced a campaign to bring attention to this tragedy, never do they ask for the world to demand the implementation of a no-fly zone as they have done in countries that reject imperial dominance. It appears as though, if Myanmar does not continue to kowtow sufficiently to foreign interests, an intervention with a no-fly-zone on could easily be the next campaign demand for NGOs to rally behind. However, this is most unlikely as the full transition of Myanmar to western ideologies is already well underway with foreign investment now pouring in. Regardless of the geopolitics involving China and Asia as a whole, the fact is the World Bank has already sunk it’s teeth in. There is simply too much to risk with a full raze of the landscape. Indeed, the Myanmar crisis will prove to be a problematical balancing act of sabotaging Chinese interests while simultaneously attracting foreign investment from western corporations. If necessary, a coup is far more likely to be orchestrated by foreign interests. The crisis being highlighted by international NGOs should be seen as more of a threat – pressure upon Aung San Suu Kyi to ensure complete subservience more than anything else. The key factor is this: interventions by imperial states are never based on protecting human rights.

Also, to be taken into account, is the power struggle between the declining United States and new superpower China. First, consider the massive investment into Myanmar by China:

 “But the total $248 million U.S. companies have committed since 1988 amounts to less than 1 percent of total foreign investment of about $60 billion. China has invested more than $25 billion, according to Chinese figures.” [October 2016, Source]

Secondly, consider the crucial energy aspect:

 “After the massive Rakhine energy reserves were discovered in 2004 they attracted China’s attention. By 2013 China completed oil and natural gas pipelines, which connect Myanmar’s port of Kyaukphyu with the Chinese city of Kunming in Yunnan province.” [Source]

Dmitry Mosyakov, director of the Centre for Southeast Asia, Australia and Oceania at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, sums it up as follows:

“First, this is a game against China, as China has very large investments in Arakan [Rakhine] Second, it is aimed at fueling Muslim extremism in Southeast Asia…. Third, it’s the attempt to sow discord within ASEAN [between Myanmar and Muslim-dominated Indonesia and Malaysia]. — [Source]

Myanmar-to-China Crude Oil & Gas Pipelines

The Myanmar-China crude oil and gas pipelines were designed to carry more than 22 million tons of oil and more than 420 billion cubic feet of natural gas per year was to commence operations in 2013. On April 11, 2017, the Financial Times announced that China and Myanmar would open long-delayed oil pipeline after being suspended for years, fraught with delays and conflict. “Once fully operational, the pipeline from Made island in Rakhine state can supply almost 6 per cent of China’s crude oil imports. The gas line is already in use.” On May 20, 2017 India of Times reported that “China-Myanmar oil pipeline opens enhancing tie: The oil reached Ruili, a border city of in China’s Yunnan Province at 4 p.m. on Friday according to the state owned China National Petroleum Corporation, which built the pipeline.”

Map: Oil & Gas Journal, 2012

Near-term pipeline plans grow, longer-term projects sag – Oil & Gas Journal, February 6, 2012:

“Myanmar awarded China National Petroleum Corp. exclusive rights to construct and operate the proposed Myanmar-to-China crude oil pipeline. This line and a companion natural gas pipeline would transport hydrocarbons from the Bay of Bengal across Myanmar to southwestern China (Fig. 4). Plans call for the 440,000-b/d crude pipeline to run between Maday Island in western Myanmar through Ruili in China’s southwestern Yunnan province and on to a new 200,000-b/d refinery in Anning. Both the pipeline and refinery are to begin operation by 2013. CNPC began building a large oil import port at Kyaukpyu, Myanmar, in October 2009 to serve as the pipeline’s input point. The port will be able to receive vessels up to 300,000 dwt and will have storage capacity of 600,000 cu m.”

The natural gas pipeline is scheduled to begin carrying 12 billion cu m/year to southwestern China in 2013. Route preparation began in mid-2010, with the first pipes welded in August 2011. The pipeline will parallel the route of the crude pipeline to Ruili. From there it will run to Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province, before extending to Guizhou and Guangxi in South China.

The crude line will transport oil carried by tanker from the Middle East, while the gas line will carry material from Myanmar’s offshore A-1 and A-3 blocks. Total estimated project costs are $1.5 billion for the oil pipeline and $1.04 billion for the gas pipeline.

The new pipelines will give China better access to Myanmar’s resources and will speed deliveries and improve China’s energy security by bypassing the congested Malacca Strait, which currently ships most of China’s imported crude oil.”

Here it is important to note that 90% of the crude oil going through the Myanmar-to-China pipeline is designated for China – while the bulk of the ecological devastation and social impacts/displacement, has been placed on the Myanmar ecosystems and most vulnerable populations.

The Strategic Expansion of Globalization & Capitalism

In this Friday, Oct. 7, 2016 photo, a sign of KFC’s grinning Colonel Sanders and his goatee is lit outside its outlet in Yangon, Myanmar. The end of most U.S. sanctions against Myanmar is raising hopes western businesses will join the rush to invest in Myanmar that up to now has been dominated by China and other Asian countries. But much hinges on how the government, led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, reshapes the country’s outdated laws and other policies. (AP Photo/Elaine Kurtenbach)

 

Here it is critical to acknowledge that empire’s strategic plans for expansion are designed years and even decades in advance. Consider that the co-founder of Avaaz Ricken Patel has been involved in Burmese activism since 2001 – 6 years prior to the founding of Avaaz – and also prior to co-founding Res Publica (a founding NGO of Avaaz) with Avaaz co-founder and former U.S. Representative Tom Perriello:

“…I have worked for years in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Sudan, and Afghanistan for international organizations, and I first got involved in Burma activism in 2001, so I had some experience to bring to understand the dynamics and the groups involved.

 

From the start, we recognized that granting money well, monitoring its expenditure, and following up is a demanding activity that requires professional support. Avaaz is a campaigning organization and not in this business. So we chose a foundation partner with long experience supporting the Burmese people to advise and administer our community’s donation. That group is the Open Society Institute, one of the largest and most respected foundations in the world. OSI is taking no overhead on the funds we are granting to Burmese groups, and has also increased its own support to this cause in 2008.” [Source]

It is also vital to recall George Soros (a key financial backer of Avaaz at its inception) has long had his eye on Myanmar.  The 2003 Council of Foreign Relation’s report titled “Burma: Time For Change,” (“Report of an Independent Task Force Sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations”) summarized the intentions: “[T]hese recommendations are intended to inform U.S. government actions as well as to increase U.S. cooperation with other countries, especially in Asia, to bring about a long overdue political, economic, and social transformation of Burma.” The independent task force sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations included 21 task force members (inclusive of George Soros) who were representative/associates of the following organizations, corporations and institutions:  Human Rights Watch, Goldwyn International Strategies (an international consulting firm focusing on the geopolitics of energy), the Unocal Corporation (oil and gas), liaisons for Vanity Fair, New York Times, New Republic, U.S News, World Report, The Economist,  the Open Society Institute and the Soros Foundations Network, Soros Fund Management, the World Bank, Amnesty International, National Security Council, the Millennium Development Goals, Psychiatry and Public Health, Refugee NGOs, and National Democratic Institute for International Affairs.

The seven organizations/institutions represented by eight task force observers were The Century Foundation, The Asia Foundation, U.S. Department of State, Council on Foreign Relations, U.S. House of Representatives, International Crisis Group and the United Nations Department of Political Affairs.

As a side note, the report also demonstrates the extent to which the international NGOs work hand in glove with imperial states, funneling funds through NGOs rather than governments. This demonstrates the blatant paternalism unabashedly embedded in the policy of Western governments:

“According to the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office, current U.K. policy is to deliver “targeted, transparent, and accountable assistance to ordinary Burmese people through the UN, international NGOs, and not through the Burmese authorities,” — The Council of Foreign Relation’s (CFR) 2003 document entitled “Burma: Time For Change,” [Source]

And while those in Ivory Towers, who have succeeded in decimating the natural environment in their own countries, transform Myanmar into a country that will reflect not only Western values but also the vapid western waste and consumption… and while rich expats rent apartments for USD $3,000 – $8,000 per month… consider the residents of 555:

“Like many others, he moved to Yangon to look for work in the sprawling shantytowns that have grown up on the outskirts of the city. The suburbs are centers of industries that have begun to boom since Myanmar opened to the world in 2011. Factories cordoned off behind iron gates produce everything from salt to garments. But with a new government in power since April, the 555 residents are among hundreds of thousands of informal settlers facing an uncertain future as displacement looms on the horizon again.

 

Nay Shwe moved to Hlaing Tharyar in 1996 as a construction worker employed to build the upmarket Pun Hlaing Golf Course — a gleaming image of wealth right next door to the slums. He rifled through a plastic wallet to pull out a crumpled, yellowed letter granting permission for himself and several other laborers to live near the grounds. At the time, there was little more than vacant scrubland. “We have endured hardships since that time until now,” he says. “We had to pump much sand from the river to live here.” Subsequent years brought tussles over the land. In 2012, he spent six months in prison for organizing protests against a planned forced eviction that was eventually suspended…

 

“When we describe the slums we always describe the negative things,” says Slingsby. “We never look at the positive things. These people are great survivors. … Somehow they manage to survive. Somehow a lot of them send their children to school and even to university. Who built the houses? The people built houses themselves.”

 

When their kids were turned away from the official schools, the 555 residents simply built their own. They recruited their own volunteer teachers. On a recent morning, a group of village elders, all men, stood outside and admired their handiwork. Like most of the structures in the area, the single-story school is propped up on wooden stilts to protect it from the rising water.

 

“So flooding is a problem here, but we can build a concrete road, so flooding for two or three hours is OK for us,” says Hla Htay. 555 might not exist, officially, and it might not be good land, but it is home.

 

“We prefer living here because it is the nearest place to our work, to the factories, so here we can build everything by ourselves,” he says. “We can build our houses. If we need to move somewhere provided by the government it will be expensive. … It will be a lot of rules.” [July 18, 2016, Evicting the Residents of 555]

The word Avaaz apparently translates to “voice”. Unfortunately, Avaaz is a voice for the elite power structures that keep the world at large enslaved. Avaaz is a slap in the face to the self-determination of citizens in sovereign countries everywhere. It must be recognized that those who continue to support this organization, with full knowledge of its elite formation, share these paternalistic Western values.

 

 

Further reading:

  • China Kunming to Myanmar Kyaukpyu DWP pipelines to open in June 2013, January 23, 2013
  • Myanmar, la Cina assetata di petrolio costruisce un porto e un gasdotto: in fuga migliaia di pescatori locali e 23 villaggi fantasma, February 5, 2015
  • Geopolitics of Rohingya Crisis, September 3, 2017
  • The Rohingya Crisis: Conflict Scenarios And Reconciliation Proposals, September 7, 2017

 

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

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

Beautiful Delusions [McKibben’s Divestment Tour – Brought to You by Wall Street [Part XVI of an Investigative Report]

June 27, 2017

By Cory Morningstar with Forrest Palmer

Part sixteen of an investigative series

 

Breakthrough Capitalism and Volans

Breakthrough Capitalism – where business is referred to as an ecosystem:

“The first thing to say is that this website is one of several that are part of our close business ecosystem. These include: Volans, Breakthrough Capitalism, The Zeronauts, SustainAbility” — John Elkington Website

“A revolution of capitalism”:

“We need a revolution of capitalism,” said Peter Bakker, former CFOI and CEO at TNT and now President Of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.” – Volans Press Release, Breakthrough: How Business Leaders Can Create Market Revolutions, March 7, 2013

In the 2012 David Blood lecture (video),”Breakthrough Capitalism Forum – David Blood”, one notices the sponsorship in the background. At the top of the screen we can identify speakers/sponsors Jeremy Leggitt of Solar Century & Carbon Tracker, and Jennifer Morgan of WWF, to name two. [See full list of partners.]

Breakthrough Capitalism  is a key project of Volans, a driver of market-based solutions. On the growing list of Volans partnerships, one finds Shell Foundation, Dow, Generation, GRI (Global Reporting Initiative) (Ceres, UN), Tellus Mater, The B Team (A Richard Branson NGO now being operated/managed by public relations firm Purpose, sister org. of Avaaz) and many others. On the Volans Board of advisors we find none other than Robert Massie, former President and CEO of New Economics Institute. [“Our early relationships with partners and clients have critically informed our evolution; the Skoll Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, Allianz and HP, Atkins, Bayer, F&C, Nestlé, PPR and Recyclebank.”] [Source] [Note: Jeff Skoll co-founded EBay with Pierre Omidyar.]

“As public money gets pulled out of health care and education and all of this, NGOs funded by these major financial corporations and other kinds of financial instruments move in, doing the work that missionaries used to do during colonialism—giving the impression of being charitable organizations, but actually preparing the world for the free markets of corporate capital.” — Arundhati Roy, REVEALED: The head of Omidyar Network in India had a secret second job… Helping elect Narendra Modi, May 26, 2014

Showmanship over Science and Facts

Of interest regarding the influence these men have on the environmental movement is that both Skoll (Participant Media) and his EBay co-founder/partner, Omidyar financed the film, “Merchants of Doubt” (acquired by Sony Pictures) [2]

To illustrate how these institutional relationships develop and explain the mainstream media representations we need to look no further than Omidyar. Omidyar’s ties to the previous Obama administration run deep [Source] as does his vast network within the humanitarian industry complex. Humanity United is one such example. Consider that the Omidyar Network has made more investments in India than in any other country since 2009, according to its portfolio. [Source] More recently, Omidyar was a key player in the 2014 coup d’état carried out against Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych having co-funded Ukraine “revolution” groups with USAID and National Endowment for Democracy. [Source] [Source]

The Skoll-Omdiyar film, Merchants of Doubt, which is a condensed cinematic representation of the book it is based upon (published in 2010), focuses on the web of highly financed climate change deniers. The press release states: “Filmmaker Robert Kenner lifts the curtain on a secretive group of highly charismatic, silver-tongued pundits-for-hire who present themselves in the media as scientific authorities – yet have the contrary aim of spreading maximum confusion about well-studied public threats ranging from toxic chemicals to pharmaceuticals to climate change.” Note that this same description also aptly describes those at the helm of the non-profit industrial complex (NPIC). It is of interest that at this late juncture in anthropogenic climate disruption, billionaire “philanthropists” decided to highlight the players who reap the profits by burning carbon, rather than the players who stand to make trillions under the guise of an illusory “new economy.” The same new economy both Skoll and Omdiyar stand to reap further profits and market share from. A main prerequisite of the liberal left is that an “other” must always exist. For the divestment campaign the “other” is the fossil fuel industry – the said enemy. For Western imperial states, the “other” is the “terrorist”. For this particular film, the “others” (plural) are the deniers who can shoulder all the blame. For the NPIC as a whole, it matters little, who the “other” at this moment may be, just as long as it means not looking at our own reflections in the mirror.

“Omidyar Network is a philanthropic investment firm dedicated to harnessing the power of markets to create opportunity for people to improve their lives.”– Omidyar Network, “A World of Positive Returns”, website

In the Variety September 4, 2014 film review, the author observes that “Kenner is particularly fascinated by the phenomenon of self-described “grassroots” organizations that are actually shilling for specific corporate and political interests (the Koch Brothers-funded Americans for Prosperity, the Exxon Mobile-financed Heartland Institute, etc.).” This blatantly obvious (and accurate) observation, “the phenomenon of self-described ‘grassroots’ organizations that are actually shilling for specific corporate and political interests…” is one that could easily apply to the movements manufactured by and belonging to the NPIC. The shilling in this instance for The Rockefeller Foundation, The Clinton Global Initiative, etc. In the same review, the author writes that by “[P]roviding an accessible, somewhat facile framing device, professional magician Jamy Ian Swiss describes how all sleight-of-hand (including the card trick he performs and demystifies onscreen) is predicated on the audience’s willingness to be deceived.” This same predication fits America’s self-described environmental activists like a velvet glove.

The authors of Merchants of Doubt  found that “one way to effectively remove public fear around a particular issue is to create fear elsewhere — something the tobacco industry managed by aligning itself with the flame-retardant industry, as if unprotected furniture, not cigarettes, were to blame for house fires.” This same tactic is utilized in the building of acquiescence for the “new economy”. It is not the industrialized capitalist economic system causing our environmental crisis, ecological collapse and the Sixth Great Extinction. Rather, it is the lack of technology via “clean energy” infrastructures global in scope (which in reality would/will only further industrialization, thus accelerating both greenhouse gas emissions and planetary environmental degradation).

In a final observation, the reviewer concludes that “There’s perhaps a necessary element of hypocrisy in this approach, given the film’s point that too many Americans, by and large, prefer showmanship over science.”

Above: “Showmanship over science.”

Today’s ever-devolving Western society continues to demonstrate its preference for showmanship over science, celebrity over substance, technology over nature, liberal ideology over radical ideology, human life over all other life, white skin over non-white.

Volans

 

“It’s all very well for me to say the future is environmental excellence, green consumerism, the triple bottom line or breakthrough capitalism, but the many movements and communities of which we are part deserve a deeper explanation of the thinking and experiences that brought us to these conclusions.” — John Elkington, Co-Founder of Environmental Data Services, SustainAbility and Volans

 

“We see signs of breakthrough in … Generation Investment Management CEO David Blood’s spotlighting a five key steps to sustainable capitalism, and in the alliance between Richard Branson of Virgin and former PUMA CEO Jochen Zeitz—who are building The BTeam.” — Volans Press Release, Breakthrough: How Business Leaders Can Create Market Revolutions, March 7, 2013

Partners publicly disclosed upon announcement of “The Breakthrough Capitalism” Program are listed as follows: Generation, Tellus Mater Foundation, Autodesk, HewlettPackard, The Value Web and Innovationarts.

The first “follows” chosen upon the set-up of twitter accounts are always revealing and Breakthrough’s twitter account is no exception. The first four follows are founders, co-founders, directors and the social media outreach of Volans. The fifth person chosen to follow is a partner at Generation Investment. Number six is John B Elkington? (founder and Executive Chairman of Volans and author/creator of zeronauts; a project of Volans). Seventh is Jeroen van Lawick, international consultancy for “transformative CSR” (“corporate social responsibility”) and organization development, as well as founder of Zijn Werkt!. Eighth is David Willans, marketing director at Futerra. Number nine is none other than 350.org’s Naomi Klein who was chosen ahead of number ten: Jeremy Leggett (Solarcentury, SolarAid, and Carbon tracker).

“Breakthrough Capitalism” asks the question as to how to engage the “1,100 or so companies that now control half of the world’s market capitalization.”

Whereas Volans and Generation would have us believe we should give these corporations even more power, the truth is that these very 1,100 corporations more than likely represent the first ones that should be targeted for dismantlement.

“Volans is part think-tank, part consultancy, part broker and part incubator. Based in London and Singapore, Volans works globally with entrepreneurs, businesses, investors and governments to develop and scale innovative solutions to financial, social and environmental challenges. Our Pathways to Scale program aims to identify, map and remove barriers that slow the scaling of innovative solutions to governance, economic, social and environmental challenges.” [Source]

John Elkington is the founding partner and Executive Chairman of Volans, as well as the co-founder of SustainAbility (1987) and Environmental Data Services (ENDS, 1978). He is recognized as a world authority on “corporate responsibility” and “sustainable development.” In 2004, Businessweek described him as “a dean of the corporate responsibility movement for three decades.” In 2008, The Evening Standard named Elkington “a true green business guru,” and “an evangelist for corporate social and environmental responsibility long before it was fashionable.” Of course, only those who serve to benefit from such false narratives bestow these titles and accreditations. For example, “corporate responsibility” is the strategic means to increase corporate domination via marketing.

In addition to the aforementioned credentials, Elkington is identified as a B Team “expert” on The B Team website. [Full bio.]

Elkington’s latest book utilizes/promotes Branson’s The B Team organization. The book titled Tomorrow’s Bottom Line: The B Team Playbook for Market Gamechangers, co-authored with B Team co-founder and former PUMA CEO Jochen Zeitz, was released in 2014.

Elkington has served as a juror for the first Gigaton Awards, developed by Richard Branson’s non-profit Carbon War Room – dubbed the ‘Oscars of sustainability.’ As well, he has completed a Fellowship at the Bellagio Centre awarded to him by The Rockefeller Foundation.

Elkington serves/has served on 70 boards and advisory boards. He co-chairs the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) Breakthrough Innovation Advisory Council, chairs the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Technology Consortium, and is a member of the Advisory Board of the Global Commission on Business & Sustainable Development (GCBSD). He is a member of the Board of the Social Stock Exchange (SSX), and chairs its Admissions Panel. He is also a member of the Boards of organizations such as the Biomimicry Institute and The Ecological Sequestration Trust (TEST), and a member of Advisory Boards for organizations such as 2degrees Network, Aviva, The B Team, Nestlé, Tesco, Guardian Sustainable Business, and Zouk Capital (cleantech fund). [Source]  Elkington has also served as strategic advisor to Bayer Material Science, Gaia Energy, Instituto Ethos, One Earth Innovation, Polecat UK; senior Advisor to the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre; board member of EcoVadis, Recyclebank Sustainability Advisory Council; the Evian Group Brain Trust and the Newsweek Green Rankings Advisory Board.

Elkington’s first involvement in the corporate environmental sector was raising funds at the age of 11 for the newly formed World Wildlife Fund (WWF), where he has for many years served on the Council of Ambassadors. He has written or co-authored 17 books, including The Gene Factory: Inside the Genetic and Biotechnology Business Revolution (1985), Double Dividends? US Biotechnology and Third World Development (1986), The Green Capitalists: Industry’s Search for Environmental Excellence (with Tom Burke , 1987), and The Power of Unreasonable People: How Social Entrepreneurs Create Markets That Change the World, co-authored with Volans co-founder Pamela Hartigan (2008).

In 2005 Elkington received the “Social Capitalist of the Year” award from Fast Company, later to be awarded a 3-year, $1 million field-building grant from the Skoll Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, at SustainAbility and Volans.

In September of 2016 Elkington launched “The Breakthrough Innovation Platform” to advance the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in partnership with UN Global Compact. “The ultimate target of the SDGs is the privatization of Indigenous and public resources worldwide.” [Source]

“Aligned with the UN Global Compact’s priority of translating the new SDGs into business action, the aim of the Breakthrough Innovation Platform is to challenge and stretch prevailing business mindsets into the opportunity spaces offered by the SDGs.” — UN Global Compact and Volans Announce Strategic Partnership on Breakthrough Innovation for the Sustainable Development Goals, May 31, 2016

Beautiful Delusions | Zeronaut

Illustration by Stephanie McMillan for Wrong Kind of Green

“Zero offers a powerful key to unlocking tomorrow’s growth markets.” – Zeronaut

Zeronaut was launched in April, 2008. It was founded by John Elkington.

Sophisticated and seductive marketing which appeals to an audience comprised of privilege is of critical importance. The marketing strategist executive, set with the task of selling an illusory “new economy”, employs both market-centric and human-centric terminology, which is alluring when paired with an underlying white saviour pretext – a prerequisite to successfully gloss over and elude the true extent of capitalism’s inherent violence and destructiveness. Market-centric language is strategically enticing as it invokes a “new’ economy” avec with new profit centres, inclusive of carbon emissions credits,  carbon capture storage, and most critically, today, the financialization of nature.

It is important to note that the Zeronaut mission/philosophy/marketing scheme is beguiling: “a new breed of innovator, determined to drive problems such as carbon, waste, toxics, and poverty to zero.” Yet, such beautiful delusions can only be afforded by the privileged. Not those who are oppressed under the capitalist economic system. Not the earth herself whose natural resources are destroyed in the creation of commodities for capital. Not for those now referred to as “human capital”. Not for those murdered by empire in the race for what’s left of our planet’s rapidly declining rare Earth minerals and resources.

Those praising the Zeronaut book include (in the order that they appear) Paul Hawken, David Blood (Goldman Sachs, Generation Investment), Jochen Zeit ( The B Team co-founder/Chairman of PUMA), David Grayson, Chair and Director of the Doughty Centre for Corporate Responsibility and Peter Bakker, the President of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.

The Zeronaut 2012 Roll of Honor list includes Bill and Melinda Gates (GMO seeds), Al Gore and David Blood (Generation Investment, environmental markets), Ban-Ki Moon (environmental markets, carbon markets, methane extraction, REDD+), James Hansen (nuclear), Paul Hawken (“natural” capitalism), Pavan Sukhdev of TEEB (The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity – commodification of the commons) and many more of those in elite positions of power and influence. [Full list.]

An example of the ideology espoused by Zeronaut, is highlighted in the sample chapter formerly found on its website. The author tells the reader that the Kraft Corporation has achieved “zero waste” at 36 food plants, thus “it’s happening.”

In the Kraft Beaver Dam plant in Wisconsin (that manufactures Philadelphia Cream Cheese) Kraft built an anaerobic digester – the digester processed waste into energy that was fed into the local grid. Yet, this is hardly a solution for Kraft’s toxic waste. Rather, it is a mechanism that serves to perpetuate the production of excess waste, because the excess waste has become profitable.

Kraft plants in Cikarang and Karawang, Indonesia, where plastic packaging film creates most of the waste, found a recycler that turns the material into bags and buckets. Yet another market was found. Yet, what about the oil required to produce the film in the first place? The planet continues to be drilled and decimated. The bags and buckets which need infinite growth, to consume the infinite waste, also require infinite consumptive patterns.

Kraft plants in Fresno and San Leandro, California that make a variety of Kraft products including Cornnuts, Capri Sun and Kool-Aid (toxins in, toxins out), have collected more than 100 tons of food waste like corn skins to be used as animal feed since 2009. Yet this food, not fit for human consumption, is therefore certainly not fit for animal consumption either. Further, one can be almost certain that these corn skins are derived from genetically engineered corn, as will be the soy, sugar beet and canola. In addition, we must take into account other hazardous, chemical intensive, biodiversity destroying industrialized crops.

The deluge of half truths and misinformation propagated by the NPIC is the reason why it is necessary to analyse and define what the term “zero waste” truly means. In that regard, what is not mentioned is the mandatory mass-consumption of the product leaving the manufacturing plants and warehouses. Of no mention or consideration is the waste of energy to produce this “food” and transport this “food” that very likely has little to no true nutritional value. In fact, one could quite easily make the argument such processed foods and “edible” oils, key products/ingredients of Kraft, actually poison whole societies, inducing cancers, sickness/disease, and obesity. (In essence, products under the guise of “food” that amount to no more than toxic sludge.)

Of course reducing waste may add to Kraft’s bottom line, but even more so if they can achieve this by finding markets for their waste – which they have. In 2012, at a Kraft coffee plant in Vienna, Austria, the facility sent 250 tons of used coffee bean husks to a local biomass plant that generates heat and electricity. Yet biomass is a false solution with the waste externalized onto our health. “Biomass incineration is one of the most expensive, inefficient and polluting ways to make energy — even dirtier than coal in some ways. Forests are destroyed, the climate is cooked, crop lands are wasted, resources are destroyed and low-income communities and communities of color suffer increased health problems from this unnecessary dirty energy source that poses as renewable energy.” [Source]

Kraft’s direct and/or indirect support of the corporations that push monoculture and/or genetically engineered crops, is complicity to the immense social and environmental impacts destroying both communities and life of every form.

In 2012 a Kraft coffee plant in St. Petersburg cut waste sent to landfills by 90 percent by reusing coffee bean shipping bags and pallets and by sending off 15,000 tons of coffee grounds to be turned into fertilizer for farms in the area. The reusing of the bags and pellets is common sense and good practise. Yet, one must also remember this same 15,000 tons of coffee contained pesticides and chemicals which would have leached into the earth’s soil, underground aquifers, water systems, our air and inevitably, our bodies and the bodies on non-human life. This is not to mention Kraft, like all multinational food corporations, make billions on the backs of farmers. Starbucks five dollar lattes are full to the brim with the blood and sweat of the farmers that barely survive under the industrialized capitalist system. Support of corporate power dominating agriculture ensures the continuance of exploitation while furthering negative social and community impacts.

Therefore, beneath the layers of Kraft’s zero waste “feat” is little more than green washing with highly evolved and a most sophisticated marketing.

http://killercoke.org/

According to the excerpt, Coca-Cola has also achieved “zero waste”. Yet corporate media fails to report Coca-Cola distributing free “fertilizer” in India, later analyzed to be nothing more than toxic waste. Does the BPA (a known carcinogen) that lines the Coca-Cola cans not qualify as waste? How much one-time use, disposable (including recycled) packaging by Kraft and Coca-Cola alone, ends up in landfills and oceans once it leaves the processing plants? Recycling, a billion dollar energy intensive industry which also creates massive volumes of waste, is not a true solution to the real problem: that of producing items that are simply not necessities in any way shape or form. As a further concern to the environmental issue which is the human rights violations committed by this corporation, do the union leaders assassinated under Coca-Cola’s reign of terror in Columbia constitute waste – or is “human capital” nothing more than a tax write-off under the “third industrial revolution”, that being the “new economy”?

The idea that the same corporations that have brought the apocalypse to or doorstep are the same corporations who will now usher in a new green utopia is just that – a utopian fantasy.

Under an industrialized capitalist economic system, zero waste cannot and will not ever be achieved. To varying degrees, every one of these corporate entities, and the junk they produce (which are things we do not need to survive), have to go. Bare essentials in the most radical sense must be our collective goal.

Next up: Part 17

 

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

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

The Green Economy as a Continuation of War by Other Means

CNS Web

February 2, 2016

by Alexander Dunlap

 

NO MEANS NO TO GREEN IMPERIALISM

 

The following essay has been modified from a speech given at the 10th Conference of Critical Justice in Latin America (X Conferencia Latinoamericana de Crítica Jurídica) on April 23, 2015 on a panel titled: “Rights, Dependency and Capitalist Accumulation in Latin America” (Mesa Derecho, dependencia y acumulación capitalista en América Latina). This speech was based on the paper, “The Militarisation and Marketisation of Nature: An Alternative Lens to ‘Climate-Conflict,’” (Geopolitics, 2014) while also building from it, discussing some examples from wind turbine development in the coastal area of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec region in Oaxaca Mexico, known as the Istmo.

When we speak about “anthropogenic climate change,” we speak about climate change that is intimately linked to our modern or industrial lifestyles, ones that feel like a routine of jumping through and between boxes: The box shape of the house to the rolling rectangle of the bus, which leads us to work, back to the car, then to the bar, back home, to the computer before bed, and finally, to the rest that anticipates repeating this routine all over again, with hopes of something different for the weekend. In its most simple and basic form, this is the process of anthropogenic climate change. It reeks of the depressing problem of everyday social control and daily confinement within this box system.

What these lifestyles are dependent on are a series of systemic processes: those of industrial waste that result from mining, oil extraction, electricity generation, cars, concrete, asphalt, electronics, and the list goes on. And climate change is really just the result of needing to make this list of resource extraction and technologies grow for the last two hundred years, while intertwining this need with our daily lives.

So when we understand climate change as an issue that is bigger than us, it prevents reflection, inhibits agency, and sends the message that only governments, corporations and NGOs can stop this phenomenon. Yet these institutions’ mitigation and security practices only serve to reinforce global environmental degradation, for the mainstream framework of climate change, while acknowledging a cumulative problem, also projects submission to authority and governing structures that have created new “dystopian markets” with ideas of geo-engineering (see Simon Dalby’s “Geoengineering: The Next Era of Geopolitics?” Geography Compass, 2015).

As I hope to show in the lines that follow, we must acknowledge that climate change has been wielded as a neoliberal weapon to create the idea of the “green economy” in the hopes of maintaining the state and growing economies. These are processes that continue land conflict and pacification through climate change mitigation initiatives and an environmental ethic with various notions of sustainability.

“Green grabbing”

Mainstream notions that seek to address climate change are deeply intertwined with ideas of sustainable development that emerged in the 1970s with the Club of Rome and the 1987 United Nations’ (UN) report Our Common Future, where it was recognized that industrial development had to soften and change its course otherwise it would destroy itself and many of the people dependent on it.

The 1992 Rio+20 Earth Summit recognized climate change and biodiversity loss as critical issues, which would lead to the creation of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It would then give way to the 1997 Kyoto protocol that decided market mechanisms would be the principle way forward to mitigate the problem of climate change and biodiversity loss.

Now enters the notion of Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) that has sought to integrate market processes into the natural environment to dissect and quantify it, so that corporations and philanthropists can pay to keep forests standing and “natural resources” intact.

For businessmen and stupid environmentalists alike, these proposals have been called a “win-win” solution. These areas have been cordoned off on the false and historically genocidal premise of “pristine” or “wild nature,” which claims that humans but specifically indigenous peoples cannot live in forests if they are to be “saved”, conserved, and maintained as “pristine.” As I hope many know, this is contrary to the historical record as many indigenous people made the pristine forests of the Amazon and the world (see my previous work with James Fairhead: “The Militarisation and Marketisation of Nature,” Geopolitics, 2014.)

These are the same areas that are now the new frontiers of capital investment; these new measures and market mechanisms have now made new markets out of trees, plants, and animal life with notions of “carbon sequestration” and “biodiversity.” These novel and strange terms are used to measure and quantify the natural environment and support the commodification and transformation of larger and “exotic” wildlife into a spectacle for office workers and the wealthy with the rise of ecotourism.

Most recently we have the “green market” as the latest pretext to take over land, displace native groups, and create new sustainable development initiatives while powering the cities and factories with renewable energy, often in the name of slowing anthropogenic climate change. Journalist John Vidal has dubbed this capture of land through sustainable development using an environmental rational as “green grabbing,” gesturing to a shared logic of “land grabbing” Marx once termed to describe the systematic theft of communal property from the 15th to 19th centuries.

It is no surprise that these friendly and environmentally conscious ideas have continued the trajectory of the industrial economy, for there was never once a reflection about slowing this industrial cancer that has become so common.

The green economy as counterinsurgency

We should also remember that the history of state craft, development, and the market has been firmly rooted in waging a war for the submission and acquiescence of people and the natural environment into its organizational structure and growth. Nancy Peluso and Peter Vandergeest have shown how geographical landscapes and towns are built on campaigns of widespread terror against both people and the natural environment, whether in colonial, post-colonial or democratic countries (“Political Ecologies of War and Forests: Counterinsurgencies and the Making of National Natures,” Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 2011).

Terrorizing unruly people into submission has always been a perquisite for all states to establish a territory and gain a grasp on, and make legible the people, forest, minerals and animals of “the nation”—after all, the kings, empires and states claimed it as their own and because we were their “subjects” this was never a problem, right? This means that if people are not revolting, they are submitting to a claim brought upon them, and this claim was always met with resistance.

The people and the forest worked together to wage every type of insurgency against the colonial, post-colonial and democratic regimes in different times and places in Asia, Africa, and the Americas. In general, one can see a pattern that required all states to terrorize and traumatize people through campaigns of counterinsurgency warfare, resettlement campaigns into suburban style villages, cities, and factories with an overall goal to corral and integrate people into “modern” work, national culture and the demands of the economy. Indeed, all states have been at war to subjugate and colonize the people of their “territory” to the imperatives of its organization, which demarcated “Jungles” wild, from “forests” controlled, and forests from agriculture, regimenting every aspect of life and environment to the principle of separations inherent in scientific method. It is under this history of war that the economy and now the green economy stands.

Placing the green economy within the framework of counterinsurgency, the leading theory of state sanctioned pacification, is insightful in this regard. For example, David Kilcullen, Lieutenant Colonel in the Australian Army and a leading counterinsurgency strategist, defines counterinsurgency as “a competition with the insurgent for the right and ability to win the hearts, minds and acquiescence of the population” (“Twenty-Eight Articles: Fundamentals of Company-Level Counterinsurgency,” 2006 [PDF]). Here, the term “hearts” is described as “persuading people their best interests are served by your success,” and the term “minds,” as “convincing them that you can protect them, and that resisting you is pointless.” The green economy is thus an advancement in capturing people to rally for the survival of the economy and business imperatives of the state and its corporate partners—and this in both the city and countryside.

Inclusionary control as pre-emptive pacification

By now, most people have formed their identities and habits around this industrial system, and are attracted to ideas about carbon and biodiversity offsetting, participatory conservation, and renewable energy that provide us with illusions that life and the economy can co-exist. But in many ways this is not true.

Taking the Barra de Santa Teresa near where I live as an example, Mareña Renovables/Eólica del Sur wants to build upwards of hundred industrial wind turbines (aerogeneradore), on a scared and rare ecological zone that took 10,000 years to form, but guess what? The Barra is made of sand and vegetation, which means they will have to pour around a kilometer or possibly more of concrete for their foundations—individually for around one-hundred industrial wind turbines. This is an insane amount of concrete that will no doubt destroy the water table, and create an excess of sand, which as I was told by coastal ecologist, Patricia Mora, “will be total ecological devastation.”

The green economy is advancing techniques of “inclusionary control,” which is a way to include more humans and non-human lives into state and market structures. However, the mid-to-long-term interest of people is to not take the money or questionable promises of jobs, but to get rid of these structures and rehabilitate the land with healthy soil, fruit trees, and animals so they can secure food, shelter, and work to build healthy environments.

Inclusionary control is counterinsurgency and the art of preemptive pacification, which is the art of including people to exclude and neglect their structural grievances—no/crap jobs, no/crap education, drinking toxic waste, police violence, and the standardization of life (the box system) and so on— that is inherent in states, economies and capitalism of every brand. It is why the importance of transforming one’s task into improving the environment is multiplied tenfold if people also value their cultures, land, and lifestyles not being entirely dependent on the economy.

Free, Prior and Informed Consent as Inclusionary Control

An interesting mechanism that is being deployed in the Istmo right now, in the struggle over the invasion of thousands of wind turbines, is the UN’s Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) procedure, which is mandatory for signatory nations to conduct when constructing development projects on indigenous lands and communities. This mechanism, a success after years of struggle for indigenous recognition, could be important for stalling and fighting megaprojects.

Nevertheless, if people are not conscious, if they are divided and fighting each other—the goal of all governments, corporations and drug dealers alike—then this mechanism can be used by corporate-state alliances to pacify people with the feeling that they are being heard, included, and consulted. It will then reaffirm the strong mythology of democracy that everyone wants to desperately believe in.

But for some reason, whether democracy or dictatorship, people are never really permitted the simple answer: No, we do not want these projects here. No we do not want a form of development that is our submission to factories, migration, and mechanized labor. Rights create constructs of illusion that will always mediate the power of people through states and as I am watching now, FPIC is in a way similar to a ceasefire that allows the deception and fragmentation of people in resistance, while the state, companies and unions can re-strategize and regroup their forces.

Likewise, as I have argued in another paper about UN-REDD+, FPIC is equivalent to an indigenous Miranda Rights (“The Expanding Techniques of Progress: Agricultural Biotechnology and UN-REDD+,”Crossmark, 2014). Miranda rights in the United States are your rights once you have been arrested—“you have the right to remain silent, seek legal counsel,” and so on. In the case with the FPIC in the Istmo, it tells people that you have the right to be consulted by experts, to voice your grievances, and fight for jobs, but while we talk 18 parks are being constructed, with more planned on top of Ejidos and communal land [Silvia Chavela Rivas, “Eólicas: ocaso o resplandor?” 2015 [PDF, Spanish]).

In short, people are being arrested to the imperatives of economic growth and industrial expansion that will destroy life, make alternatives more difficult and create the collective fate of shuffling papers, pimping plastic and flipping burgers—a fate that is already a reality for many, many who often do not care about wind turbines and whose desires and projectuality tend to mimic what is televised in soap operas and music videos.

FPIC is a way to implicate people and hang them with their own participation and rights, when really people have their best interest in rejecting all mediation by state and corporate structures and coming together to create alternative projects, perspectives and even ‘jobs’—since this is a selling point for wind turbines in the region—to improve their lives, but in the end, the hierarches supported by the state and the powers that they bear will not let them without a brutal fight.

War is complex and the green economy is advancing land acquisition and displacement, claiming to fight environmental degradation, while simultaneously advancing it. It is nothing short than crazy, and it is a type of psychosis built in the fantasies of the American or development dream that either are not true for many, hollow for those who achieve it, or maybe it is the answer to everything. Either way, regardless of the different trajectories everyone will still be working to propel the modern industrial system. Probably in an office or some type of building, losing your vision and breath to a computer, trapped in a toxic environments, when really humans should probably be working for healthy, happier and freer lives and we must acknowledge that freedom is disingenuous when it is capturing and killing the people around you, both human and non-human alike.

 

[Alexander Dunlap is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. His current research focuses on the social impact of wind energy projects in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, Mexico. He can be contacted at a.d.dunlap@vu.nl]

An Analysis of Women’s Marches Along Historical & Present Lines

Wrong Kind of Green Op-ed

January 27, 2017

By Cory Morningstar and Forrest Palmer 

 

not-my-feminism

To go back into the women’s rights movement in the Western world historically, there has ALWAYS been a breach along ethnic lines. That is the truth regarding any honest analysis of the situation. In order to give it some context, we need look no further than the white women who spurred the women’s rights movement in the United States during the eighteenth century and their collective inability to acknowledge the suffering of black women at the hands of white men that was along ethnic lines. This is best illustrated in the presence of Ida B. Wells and her crusade against lynching, something that affected and was used to control black women as well as men. Yet, there was never any open support of her crusade nor black women as a selective group and the crimes against them that were inclusive of being both women and non-anglo. As there was wanton rape of black women and non-anglo women in general by white men during that time which was in accordance with the ethnic domination and patriarchy of that day (which continued as the norm until fairly recently and still present today we might add), there was NEVER any acknowledgement that non-anglo women face an INCREASED amount of subjugation in comparison to white women due to the fact that they lived in a white supremacist system where gender is secondary to being White, Anglo-Saxon Protestant.

radical-feminism-2-liberation

Over the many, many decades since the Western women’s movement began in the nineteenth century, there has been little betterment in regards to the acknowledgement that white supremacy is a reality and a part of the overall oppression of women. It hasn’t happened in regards to their plight then or now. This is not to dismiss any number of atrocities that white women have faced in this patriarchal system, but their inferior position has ultimately been at the behest of the sole continuance of white male supremacy and dominance. That has been the impediment of white women reaching equality in this world (of which “equality” in regards to gender lines needs to be fully defined in a way that is universal in nature and not just a Western standard, which is what it is today). So, while white women have INTRA-racial domination, non-anglo women have always had to deal with INTRA-racial domination and INTER-racial domination by white men, with the latter being more of an issue than the former. It is granted that Indigenous men the world over have practiced patriarchy and misogyny to varying degrees, but the INTER-racial dominance of white men as a collective has always been a perpetual fear that was many times enacted on Indigenous women in addition to the vagaries that come along with just being a women in this world. Hence, their ethnicity compounded their problems while there was always some alleviation of white women’s problems at some juncture due to their shared ethnicity and heritage with white men.

Presently, we must ask this question after this long sordid history of Western domination that has essentially seen it control the entire world (which it still does presently): How are we going to stop non-anglo women from being taken advantage of in this socio-economic system when white women benefit more now from this set of living circumstances more than their counterparts? By any measurable you want to use, white women lead much more improved lives than any other group of women on this planet. This is entirely due to their ethnicity. There are an ample amount of tales of woe on the white female side, but that doesn’t negate the norm. In comparison, there are any number of black men who hold prominent positions in the United States, but that doesn’t belie the normative aspects of their collective existence at the lowest rung of the social order when it comes to incarceration, unemployment, homelessness and innumerable other forms of disenfranchisement. So, you can always point to individual cases of good and bad, as there were even individual cases of black and African “success stories” even during the height of African chattel slavery across the globe. However, primacy must always be placed on the worst of conditions that the majority face every day. Therefore, it is impossible to fairly equate the enrichment of Oprah Winfrey and extrapolate that to encompass all black women, the same way that you can’t take a white woman who is living in comparable horrid conditions as a First Nations woman and look at it as normal circumstances for white women in the Western world.

What people need to understand is that patriarchy and misogyny became the primary forms of global dominance over the intervening centuries from the European invasion, which began approximately 500 years previous to now. In basically commandeering the entire globe, whiteness (something that was wholly defined and embraced by Europeans as a reason for their NATURAL right to dominate the entire world) replaced patriarchy and misogyny in the daily lives of everyone on Earth. As such, this change in the global social order made white women as a group complicit in subjugation, even over other women. Hence, the historical record has been one of white women being complicit in the crime of ‘racial’ domination, which put them as enemies of other women as they put their gender in deference to their ethnicity. That is just an objective reality.

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And to go even further to the extremities of Western culture and how the immersion of people along ethnic lines is skewed towards the continuation of white domination, the assimilation of non-anglos over the centuries has ultimately led non-anglo women to be fully supportive of dominating other non-anglo women at the behest of white supremacy. So, be it the conservative Condoleezza Rice or the liberal Susan Rice, non-anglo women are just as guilty in thinking of themselves as a part of the Western standard, which is to see the typical non-anglo woman as being lesser than themselves due to their acceptance of the superiority of whiteness. Therefore, these women have no qualms about agreeing with Madeline Albright that the death of 500,000 Iraqi children was worth it to conquer that country. As a result, these non-anglo women will commit the same atrocities as their white female counterparts since the only victims of this state violence by the Western world will always include non-anglo women and children. This is no different than say non-anglo female police leading their non-anglo to a prison cell domestically, which is happening in increasing numbers.

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In conclusion, there has been no honest discussion of straight universal principles to address the inequalities of non-anglo women with white women due to ethnic reasons, with suggestions of how this equality is to be achieved at a state, regional and local level across the globe. In order to do that, the leaders of these marches must be willing to be on TOTALLY equal footing with their non-anglo female counterparts in the Western world domestically as well as those in the Global South.  The terms of revolution can’t be dictated by the same people who benefit in some degree to the status quo and only want to reform it to their particular benefit and not deal with the problems that are plaguing their supposed allies. Hence, until Western women want to deal with the Indonesian woman in the sweatshop making her shoes where the victim is paid pennies to feed herself and her family as well as be forced to have sex with one of the male managers (nothing but rape) to keep her job, then this is nothing but caterwauling about personal aggrievement by white women. And as this Western standard is wholly unattainable for non-anglo women in whatever place on Earth (and even becoming more precarious for white women in the Western world), there can be no honest dialogue between the women of the Western world (primarily white women) and those residing in the nether regions of the Global South who will never have access to the resources available which give white women their privileged lifestyles in comparison. Therefore in regards to the oppressed non-anglo woman in this world, it isn’t the female comrade next to her in the fields that is the enemy. It is the typical western white woman who goes to the grocery store or her corporate job and continues her privileged lifestyle everyday who is her enemy, since one’s comfort is entirely dependent on the other’s domination in toiling in those fields. Solidarity can’t be reliant on the convenience of its participants or lack thereof.

Ultimately, until white women as a group (which has spearheaded this movement) want to deal with the historical and present day contributions to the domestic and global subjugation of non-anglo women, of which they have systemically caused and benefited to varying degrees through their willing participation, then this “revolution” can best be described as a grandstanding show of outrage based upon gender being the primary component of white women’s collective oppression while denying the privilege they receive based off their ethnicity.

Gloria Steinem Discussing Her Time in the CIA:

 

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

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

WATCH: Gail Dines: Putting the Radical Back in Feminism

January 27, 2016

 

How did we get from radical feminism (liberation meaning you and me) to empowerment (“if I’m okay fuck you”) in a single generation?

A Gail Dines talk filmed at The Institute of Education in London on ‘Putting the Radical back in Feminism’, November, 2014 [Save the Dog Video Production, London]

 

 

Standing Rock: Profusion, Collusion & Big Money Profits [Part 5]

Wrong Kind of Green

December 13, 2016

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

Standing Rock Investigative Report Series [Further Reading]:  Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6Addendum

 

In Part 5 of our series, Cory Morningstar and Forrest Palmer delve into a collusion between celebrity worship culture and “big green” NGOs. How do beneficiaries of advocacy (such as tribal governments) accept money and favors from corporate energy power players while making celebrity sponsored investment projects and coal-free hedge fund managers, millions of dollars in profits and feel-good prestige? The savior-imperialist complex drives the passion for “sustainable energy investments” while NGOs evangelize non-violent direct action into a worldwide orthodoxy of allegiance. The action combined with a mission rooted in climate change and a “youth voice” is a perfect storm to study how mass movements of well-intentioned citizens can be successfully engineered to support the “new economy” with their consumer activism, monetary contributions and political advocacy.

 

Celebrity Fetish as a Tool of Empire

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“Actor Leonardo DiCaprio (C) poses for a photo with May Boeve, executive director of 350.org (L) and Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Jr. (R) following a Divest-Invest new conference on September 22, 2015 in New York City.” Getty Images

 

“Any account of celebrities must be predicated on the recognition that ‘the interests served are first of all those of capital.'” — Celebrity Culture, 2006 citing Graeme Turner

 

As Lebanese-Australian professor Ghassan Hage (Future Generation Professor of Anthropology and Social Theory at the University of Melbourne) demonstrates in his work, accumulation of capital underpins an ideology of race, in which multiculturalism works best when citizens yearn and strive to achieve Whiteness.[1] NGOs (that comprise the NPIC) exploit this psychology to further protect existing power structures. Who better to target and utilize than Indigenous peoples, those deliberately impoverished and exploited by the state – to ultimately protect and expand capital. And to protect and expand the NPIC itself.

One example of this mechanism being utilized is via white celebrity manipulating Indigenous and non-Anglo worship and the acceptable forms of integration and assimilation of the Black bourgeoisie for exploitation. Gandhi replaces Sitting Bull, Leonardo DiCaprio replaces Evo Morales, 350.org replaces the Zapatistas, Akin to Black Skin White Masks – Black Lives Matter (the NGO) replaces the Black Panther Party (past) as well as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (present). Mark Ruffalo replaces Jose Mujica, Bill McKibben replaces Ken Saro-Wiwa, Van Jones replaces Omali Yeshitela, Angela Davis replaces Assata Shakur, Naomi Klein replaces Rosa Parks, Snoop Dog replaces Stokely Carmichael, a sanitized Martin Luther King replaces Malcolm X. Patrice Lumumba is replaced with Bernie Sanders. The Oka Warriors are replaced with Idle No More stripped bare of its teeth. And on and on it goes.

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Omali Yeshitela: “The worldwide leader of the African Revolution who developed the theory of African Internationalism, built revolutionary organization all over the planet and whose analysis and summations have influenced a whole new generation of African resistance today.” [Source]

“I’ve been watching the benefit concert tonight, tribal representation from Standing Rock spoke up in support of the ‘men in blue’ and name dropped Barrack and Michelle as having the tribe’s back, of course drawing applause from the bourgeoisie liberals in the crowd every time. Disappointing to say the least.” — Jeff Cole in response to the Dave Mathews concert sponsored by Unilever’s Ben & Jerry’s

To further demonstrate the intertwining of white celebrity and NGO formation, the aforementioned actor Mark Ruffalo is a long-time spokesperson for international NGOs (Purpose #WalktheWalk campaign, Global Green, etc.) and United Nations (Global Goals, etc.). He is founder of the NGO Water Defense as well as co-founder of The Solutions Project.

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Mark Ruffalo and Leonardo DiCaprio promote their investment, The Solutions Project. Kelly Taub / BFA.com

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Mark Ruffalo and Leonardo DiCaprio at an event hosted by The Solutions Project. Kelly Taub / BFA.com

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We Are the Gods Now

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“We are gods. Our tools make us gods.” — Promoter of The Solutions Project, “futurist” and filmmaker Jason Silva [Source: Forbes]

Mark Ruffalo, Leonardo DiCaprio, Elon Musk, Jeff Skoll, etc. etc. want to turn their millions into billions via The Solutions Project (solar industry). Everyone is on board. Consider that there has been no growth in the US for five years while the whole global economy is close to stall speed. The Solutions Project campaign is largely based on continued  social engineering to further ignore reality (framed as negative) and embrace fantasy (framed as positive) exploiting North American celebrity fetish. The introductory Solutions Project video (April 24, 2014) is narrated by “futurist” Jason Silva, (a Fellow at the Hybrid Reality Institute, a research and advisory think tank focused on the intersection of technology trends and geopolitics) who lectures on his belief that “we are the gods now”. The website appears to be designed by Purpose – the for-profit sister org. of Avaaz.

 

 

The Solutions Project is co-founded with Marco Krapels (banker, Senior Vice President of Strategy & Global Markets at Elon Musk’s SolarCity, co-founder of Empowered By Light), Mark Z. Jacobson (Stanford) and film-maker Josh Fox. Investors behind The Solutions Project include The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, The Elon Musk Foundation, The 11th Hour Project, The Sara and Ev Williams Foundation, Skoll Global Threats Fund, The Park Foundation, The Compton Foundation, Wallace Global Fund, The Better Tomorrow Fund, The Cogut Family, Leah Missbach Day and The Schmidt Family Foundation.

Board of directors include Billy Parish (Mosaic Solar), Mark Jacobson and Van Jones. [Full list]

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The Solutions Project graphic

Recently the One Solutions Project launched the Fighter Fund which will garner loyalty from community groups such as Native Renewables. For a mere pittance, One Solutions Project and partners will use native efforts to build brand credibility and adoration while simultaneously securing new customers: “The 100% Leadership Fund involves bigger investments and longer-term commitments to organizations across the country. But we need to be able to move money faster and more strategically to keep pace with what is going on with the climate justice movement. The Fighter Fund allows us to do that—and to make riskier frontline bets.” [Source] This is best described as white savior solidarity serving white imperialism.

Philanthropy as a Tool of Empire: Clinton Global Initiative, Rockefeller & the Bush Foundation

“… but these great plains reservations once thought valueless, are the Saudi Arabia of reliable wind energy…”Clinton Global Initiative (referenced video)

On April 5, 2016 Standing Rock Sioux Tribe voted to accept $125,000 from ConEdison for the Oyate community development. [ MOTION: “…TO APPROVE TO ACCEPT THE DONATION OF $125,000.00 FROM CONSOLIDATED EDISON DEVELOPMENT, INC. FOR OYATE/COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT.][ “Consolidated Edison, Inc., commonly known as Con Edison or Con Ed, is one of the largest investor-owned energy companies in the United States, with approximately $13 billion in annual revenues as of 2016, and over $47 billion in assets.” Source]

“The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe received a big donation for privatized housing development. This is the first assistance of its kind for the tribe.” …. ConEdison Development will own the wind project for 30-40 years. They are looking forward to doing more.” — KFYRTV, April 16, 2016

On April 5, 2016 Standing Rock Sioux Tribe also voted to accept 250,000.00 from ConEdison for the tribe’s co-operation for the Campbell County Wind project completed in 2015. [MOTION: “…TO APPROVE THE DONATIONS FROM BOTH COMPANYS, CONEDISON DEVELOPMENT IN THE AMOUNT OF $125,000.00 AND FEGAN INC., IN THE AMOUNT OF $125,000.00”]. The 55-turbine wind project in South Dakota is said to power 25K homes. This begs the question – what fossil fuel or nuclear plants became decommissioned after this energy came on line. This answer is, as it will always be: none.

“Twentieth-century economic growth theory also sees technological change as the main cause of increased production and consumption. In contrast, some ecologically-oriented economists and practically all governments, green political parties and NGOs believe that efficiency gains lower consumption and negative environmental impact. Others doubt this ‘efficiency strategy’ towards sustainability, holding that efficiency gains ‘rebound’ or even ‘backfire’ in pursuing this goal, causing higher production and consumption. Because many environmental problems demand rapid and clear policy recommendations, this issue deserves high priority in ecological economics. If Jevons is right, efficiency policies are counter-productive, and business-as-usual efficiency gains must be compensated for with physical caps like quotas or rationing.” —  Jevons’ paradox, Ecological Economics, July 1, 2005

Here the present angst of the NGOs regarding the seemingly newfound “concern” over particular Indigenous issues (anti-pipeline campaigns/protests to obscure Warren Buffett’s 21st century empire aside) can actually be traced to 2011: a $2 to $3 billion dollar wind project. The “Joint Wind Power Development Project on Tribal Lands“ was officially launched in 2013 by the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI). The six Sioux Tribes (Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, Crow Creek Sioux Tribe, Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe, Oglala Sioux Tribe, Rosebud Sioux Tribe, Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Sioux Tribe and Yankton Sioux Tribe) formed the Oceti Sakowin Power Authority which was developed in partnership with CGI, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, the Bush Foundation, Northwest Area Foundation, Herron Consulting LLC and Arent Fox LLP. Here it should be noted that the CGI has been a key financier of 350.org (a Rockefeller incubated NGO) from its inception. Following a three million dollar commitment into *Energy Action Coalition the CGI financed Step It Up. Step It Up transitioned into 1Sky, which then merged with 350.org in 2011. [Video:1Sky at CGI] [*Energy Action Coalition was founded by Billy Parish. Parish is a co-founder/CEO of Mosaic Solar. Parish serves on the Board of Directors for The Solutions Project1Sky, as well serving on the U.S. Advisory Council for 350.org.]

“In 2013, six Sioux Tribes in South Dakota committed to the formation of the Oceti Sakowin Power Authority, a Multi-Tribal Power Authority, with the purpose of designating Tribally-owned land for a wind farm and transmission facilities. The Sioux Tribes, through the Oceti Sakowin Power Authority, committed to the creation of the Power Authority and the pre-development phase of a longer-term project to finance, develop and operate a 1,000 MW+ utility-scale wind power and transmission system across the South Dakota Sioux Reservations. The creation of the Power Authority will uniquely allow the Sioux Tribes to own the wind and transmission assets and distribute the surplus revenue to its member Tribes.”

Video: June 21, 2013, Clinton Global Initiative:

 

 

This 1,000 megawatt commercial scale distributed wind farm and transmission system was funded by private grants investments and more than two billion dollars in public power bonds. Here it must be noted that the “new economy” being marketed by the NPIC on behalf on global hegemony is just as much about looting the treasury as it is about the coming financialization of nature via payments for ecosystem services. Consider that in the 1960’s Washington Public Power Supply System (WPPSS) saw an opportunity to meet growing consumption demands in the Northwest vis nuclear power. “It planned a system of five nuclear power plants that would be financed by a public issue of bonds and repaid with sales from the plants. The bonds were issued, but the robust sales that WPPSS had intended never materialized.” Eventually, WPPSS defaulted on $2.25 billion worth of municipal bonds. [Source]

To again emphasize what was stated above, this is best described as white savior solidarity serving white imperialism. Such “progress” is always done at the behest of the same white power structure that has dictated terms of engagement for centuries. This is even more so considering “renewable energy” is anything but clean while the goal of “100% renewable for 100% promises further imperialism, further ecocide and further Indigenous genocide throughout the globe.

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Above: Green Dream Farm  in partnership with Unilever’s Ben & Jerry’s and Native Energy  a carbon offset and project development company. The project is financed in part by Green Dream Farm owner Chris Wagner and in part by Ben & Jerry’s through an offset purchase from NativeEnergy. [Source]

NGOs want to “win” for branding purposes and to secure more millions. In the meantime, it’s all about social metrics. Certainly not about centuries of violence and oppression upon Indigenous peoples. Certainly not about the Indigenous peoples being used as lab rats in the Bakken.

Pacifism as Pathology

In the video by Fusion, actor Mark Ruffalo gives a lesson on how Standing Rock “protectors” must behave. Conditioning a warrior culture to be passive in the face of genocide should be considered a crime against Indigenous Peoples and nations everywhere. A white man (in this instance an American with Italian heritage) reframing the moral right to self-defense with “you are that system ” while basking in enormous privilege from the same structural system, reveals a most blatant paternalism. Paternalism redefined as truth – made possible by celebrity fetish.

“The most important thing is that we remain peaceful. That we don’t take up the same system of violence that’s being used against us. Because once you take up that violence you are that system and every social movement where’s been peaceful resistance when they not taken up violence they win. Every time the police hit you with a rubber bullet or mace you or beat you or put you in dog cages and treat you like an animal they lose. Every time the National Guard comes and stands as an extension of the fossil fuel industry and does not fight for the people they lose. They lose when you remain peaceful. And it’s hard. It’s really, really hard. But that’s how you win.”  — Actor Mark Ruffalo

The most important thing is that we defend our lands by any means necessary. That we don’t submit to the system of violence that’s being used against us.

“Because once you take up that violence you are that system and every social movement where’s been peaceful resistance when they not taken up violence they win.” We have a right to defend ourselves. Doing so, by any means necessary is not an act of violence, it is an act of self defense.

“… every social movement where’s been peaceful resistance when they not taken up violence they win.” Where are these social movements that have won solely on peaceful resistance?  They do not exist.

“Every time the police hit you with a rubber bullet or mace you or beat you or put you in dog cages and treat you like an animal they lose.” Let’s tell that to the millions incarcerated by the American prison industry. That they have in fact won. Let’s inform all those who have suffered under police brutality that they can relax knowing they have in fact won.

“Every time the National Guard comes and stands as an extension of the fossil fuel industry and does not fight for the people they lose.” Let’s tell that to the millions murdered by the US military that stands as an extension of the fossil fuel industry and does not fight for the people (unless they are white), that it is the military that has lost.

We lose if we allow ourselves to reject a diverse set of tactics out of a false moral superiority. We lose if we allow our oppressor and accomplices to dictate the rules of engagement. And it’s hard. It’s really, really hard. But that’s how you win.

“Celebrity-driven campaigns can also be seen to work to responsibilize consumers and audiences as agents of change, through their targeting of audiences, publics, and private individuals; this often elides or willfully ignores, the offending structures, corporations, and/or other actors involved …” — Commodity Activism: Cultural Resistance in Neoliberal Times, 2013

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“Actor-activist Mark Ruffalo, left, poses with Dallas Goldtooth, of the Indigenous Environmental Network, outside the state Capitol in Bismarck, N.D., Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2016. Ruffalo traveled to North Dakota to support the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in its opposition to the Dakota Access oil pipeline. Ruffalo is co-founder of The Solutions Project, which promotes clean and renewable energy.” [Source]

The pacification of civil society and Indigenous resistance is ongoing, intensifying and glaring. It is a taboo subject framed as such by those who protect the current power structures, thereby ensuring the rules of engagement are dictated by the captors. Captivity of mind and thought can be far more powerful than physical captivity. This cannot be understated. When one observes the identical rhetoric coming from the oppressors and the oppressed, it is past time for self reflection and deep critical analysis.

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Above: UpToUs: Not to be left on the sidelines, celebrity Shailene Woodley has also started her own NGO called “Up to Us” where you can “give thanks” to Standing Rock by purchasing a t-shirt.  [“One of the main principles of the Council of Seven Fires/ Oceti Sakowin is non-commercialism. That they actually hammered these principles out upon the historic gathering of tribes, I thought sent a signal that they would be more resolute and not so easily co-opted. They even alerted everyone that none of the many T-shirts that started popping up in September had been sanctioned, and should not be sold in their name.”]

And while we are inundated with NVDA that serves to protect that corporate state, we bear witness to the full militarization of energy on American soil. A military industrial complex that has come back home to its birthplace in the global race for what’s left. [“TigerSwan Security is in charge of the DAPL Intelligence and overall supervisor of the other security companies’… TigerSwan has offices in Iraq, Afghanistan, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, India, and Latin America.” —Security Firm Running Dakota Access Pipeline Intelligence Has Ties to U.S. Military, Oct 31, 2016]

 

End Notes:

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

 

Next: Part 6 – the final segment of the series.

 

Standing Rock: Profusion, Collusion & Big Money Profits [Part 1]

Standing Rock: Profusion, Collusion & Big Money Profits [Part 2]

Standing Rock: Profusion, Collusion & Big Money Profits [Part 3]

Standing Rock: Profusion, Collusion & Big Money Profits [Part 4]

McKibben’s Divestment Tour – Brought to You by Wall Street [Part XIII of an Investigative Report] [The Increasing Vogue for Capitalist-Friendly Climate Discourse]

May the Earth Tremble at Its Core

Zapatista Army for National Liberation

November 9, 2016

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Photo credit: (AP Photo/Moyses Zuniga, File)

To the people of the world:

To the free media:

To the National and International Sixth:

Convened for the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the National Indigenous Congress and the living resistance of the originary peoples, nations, and tribes of this country called Mexico, of the languages of Amuzgo, Binni-zaá, Chinanteco, Chol, Chontal de Oaxaca, Coca, Náyeri, Cuicateco, Kumiai, Lacandón, Matlazinca, Maya, Mayo, Mazahua, Mazateco, Mixe, Mixteco, Nahua, Ñahñu, Ñathô, Popoluca, Purépecha, Rarámuri, Tlapaneco, Tojolabal, Totonaco, Triqui, Tzeltal, Tsotsil, Wixárika, Yaqui, Zoque, Chontal de Tabasco, as well as our Aymara, Catalán, Mam, Nasa, Quiché and Tacaná brothers and sisters, we firmly pronounce that our struggle is below and to the left, that we are anticapitalist and that the time of the people has come—the time to make this country pulse with the ancestral heartbeat of our mother earth.

It is in this spirit that we met to celebrate life in the Fifth National Indigenous Congress, which took place on October 9-14, 2016, in CIDECI-UNITIERRA, Chiapas. There we once again recognized the intensification of the dispossession and repression that have not stopped in the 524 years since the powerful began a war aimed at exterminating those who are of the earth; as their children we have not allowed for their destruction and death, meant to serve capitalist ambition which knows no end other than destruction itself. That resistance, the struggle to continue constructing life, today takes the form of words, learning, and agreements. On a daily basis we build ourselves and our communities in resistance in order to stave off the storm and the capitalist attack which never lets up. It becomes more aggressive everyday such that today it has become a civilizational threat, not only for indigenous peoples and campesinos but also for the people of the cities who themselves must create dignified and rebellious forms of resistance in order to avoid murder, dispossession, contamination, sickness, slavery, kidnapping or disappearance. Within our community assemblies we have decided, exercised, and constructed our destiny since time immemorial. Our forms of organization and the defense of our collective life is only possible through rebellion against the bad government, their businesses, and their organized crime.

We denounce the following:

In Pueblo Coca, Jalisco, the businessman Guillermo Moreno Ibarra invaded 12 hectares of forest in the area known as El Pandillo, working in cahoots with the agrarian institutions there to criminalize those who struggle, resulting in 10 community members being subjected to trials that went on for four years. The bad government is invading the island of Mexcala, which is sacred communal land, and at the same time refusing to recognize the Coca people in state indigenous legislation, in an effort to erase them from history.

 

The Otomí Ñhañu, Ñathö, Hui hú, and Matlatzinca peoples from México State and Michoacán are being attacked via the imposition of a megaproject to build the private Toluca-Naucalpan Highway and an inter-city train. The project is destroying homes and sacred sites, buying people off and manipulating communal assemblies through police presence. This is in addition to fraudulent community censuses that supplant the voice of an entire people, as well as the privatization and the dispossession of water and territory around the Xinantécatl volcano, known as the Nevado de Toluca. There the bad governments are doing away with the protections that they themselves granted, all in order to hand the area over to the tourism industry. We know that all of these projects are driven by interest in appropriating the water and life of the entire region. In the Michoacán zone they deny the identity of the Otomí people, and a group of police patrols have come to the region to monitor the hills, prohibiting indigenous people there from going to the hills to cut wood.

 

The originary peoples who live in Mexico City are being dispossessed of the territories that they have won in order to be able to work for a living; in the process they are robbed of their goods and subjected to police violence. They are scorned and repressed for using their traditional clothing and language, and criminalized through accusations of selling drugs.

 

The territory of the Chontal Peoples of Oaxaca is being invaded by mining concessions that are dismantling communal land organization, affecting the people and natural resources of five communities.

 

The Mayan Peninsular People of Campeche, Yucatán, and Quintana Roo are suffering land disposession as a result of the planting of genetically modified soy and African palm, the contamination of their aquifers by agrochemicals, the construction of wind farms and solar farms, the development of ecotourism, and the activities of real estate developers. Their resistance against high electricity costs has been met with harassment and arrest warrants. In Calakmul, Campeche, five communities are being displaced by the imposition of ‘environmental protection areas,’ environmental service costs, and carbon capture plans. In Candelaria, Campeche, the struggle continues for secure land tenure. In all three states there is aggressive criminalization against those who defend territory and natural resources.

 

The Tzotzil, Tzeltal, Tojolabal, Chol and Lacandón Maya People of Chiapas continue to be displaced from their territories due to the privatization of natural resources. This has resulted in the imprisonment and murder of those who defend their right to remain in their territory, as they are constantly discriminated against and repressed whenever they defend themselves and organize to continue building their autonomy, leading to increasing rates of human rights violations by police forces. There are campaigns to fragment and divide their organizations, as well as the murders of compañeros who have defended their territory and natural resources in San Sebastián Bachajon. The bad governments continue trying to destroy the organization of the communities that are EZLN bases of support in order to cast a shadow on the hope and light that they provide to the entire world.

 

The Mazateco people of Oaxaca have been invaded by private property claims which exploit the territory and culture for tourism purposes. This includes naming Huautla de Jimenéz as a “Pueblo Mágico” in order to legalize displacement and commercialize ancestral knowledge. This is in addition to mining concessions and foreign spelunking explorations in existing caves, all enforced by increased harassment by narcotraffickers and militarization of the territory. The bad governments are complicit in the increasing rates of femicide and rape in the region.

 

The Nahua and Totonaca peoples of Veracruz and Puebla are confronting aerial fumigation, which creates illnesses in the communities. Mining and hydrocarbon exploration and exploitation are carried out through fracking, and 8 watersheds are endangered by new projects that are contaminating the rivers.

 

The Nahua and Popoluca peoples from the south of Veracruz are under siege by organized crime and also risk territorial destruction and their disappearance as a people because of the threats brought by mining, wind farms, and above all, hydrocarbon exploitation through fracking.

 

The Nahua people, who live in the states of Puebla, Tlaxcala, Veracruz, Morelos, Mexico State, Jalisco, Guerrero, Michoacán, San Luis Potosí, and Mexico City, are in a constant struggle to stop the advance of the so-called Proyecto Integral Morelos, consisting of pipelines, aqueducts, and thermoelectric projects. The bad governments, seeking to stop the resistance and communication among the communities are trying to destroy the community radio of Amiltzingo, Morelos. Similarly, the construction of the new airport in Mexico City and the surrounding building projects threaten the territories around Texcoco lake and the Valle de México basin, namely Atenco, Texcoco, and Chimalhuacán. In Michocan, the Nahua people face the plunder of their natural resources and minerals by sicarios[hitmen] who are accompanied by police or the army, and also the militarization and paramilitarizaiton of their territories. The cost of trying to halt this war has been murder, persecution, imprisonment, and harassment of community leaders.

 

The Zoque People of Oaxaca and Chiapas face invasion by mining concessions and alleged private property claims on communal lands in the Chimalapas region, as well as three hydroelectric dams and hydrocarbon extraction through fracking. The implementation of cattle corridors is leading to excessive logging in the forests in order to create pastureland, and genetically modified seeds are also being cultivated there. At the same time, Zoque migrants to different states across the country are re-constituting their collective organization.

 

The Amuzgo people of Guerrero are facing the theft of water from the San Pedro River to supply residential areas in the city of Ometepec. Their community radio has also been subject to constant persecution and harassment.

 

The Rarámuri people of Chihuahua are losing their farmland to highway construction, to the Creel airport, and to the gas pipeline that runs from the United States to Chihuahua. They are also threatened by Japanese mining companies, dam projects, and tourism.

 

The Wixárika people of Jalisco, Nayarit, and Durango are facing the destruction and privatization of the sacred places they depend on to maintain their familial, social, and political fabric, and also the dispossession of their communal land in favor of large landowners who take advantage of the blurry boundaries between states of the Republic and campaigns orchestrated by the bad government to divide people.

 

The Kumiai People of Baja California continue struggling for the reconstitution of their ancestral territories, against invasion by private interests, the privatization of their sacred sites, and the invasion of their territories by gas pipelines and highways.

 

The Purépecha people of Michoacán are experiencing deforestation, which occurs through complicity between the bad government and the narcoparamilitary groups who plunder the forests and woods. Community organization from below poses an obstacle to that theft.

 

For the Triqui people of Oaxaca, the presence of the political parties, the mining industry, paramilitaries, and the bad government foment the disintegration of the community fabric in the interest of plundering natural resources.

 

The Chinanteco people of Oaxaca are suffering the destruction of their forms of community organization through land reforms, the imposition of environmental services costs, carbon capture plans, and ecotourism. There are plans for a four-lane highway to cross and divide their territory. In the Cajono and Usila Rivers the bad governments are planning to build three dams that will affect the Chinanteco and Zapoteca people, and there are also mining concessions and oil well explorations.

 

The Náyeri People of Nayarit face the invasion and destruction of their sacred territories by the Las Cruces hydroelectric project in the site called Muxa Tena on the San Pedro River.

 

The Yaqui people of Sonora continue their sacred struggle against the gas pipeline that would cross their territory, and in defense of the water of the Yaqui River, which the bad governments want to use to supply the city of Hermosillo, Sonora. This goes against judicial orders and international appeals which have made clear the Yaqui peoples’ legal and legitimate rights. The bad government has criminalized and harassed the authorities and spokespeople of the Yaqui tribe.

 

The Binizzá and Ikoot people organize to stop the advance of the mining, wind, hydroelectric, dam, and gas pipeline projects. This includes in particular the Special Economic Zone on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec and the infrastructure that threatens the territory and the autonomy of the people on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec who are classified as the “environmental Taliban” and the “indigenous rights Taliban,” the precise words used by the Mexican Association of Energy to refer to the Popular Assembly of the Juchiteco People.

 

The Mixteco people of Oaxaca suffer the plunder of their agrarian territory, which also affects their traditional practices given the threats, deaths, and imprisonment that seek to quiet the dissident voices, with the bad government supporting armed paramilitary groups as in the case of San Juan Mixtepec, Oaxaca.

 

The Mixteco, Tlapaneco, and Nahua peoples from the mountains and coast of Guerrero face the imposition of mining megaprojects supported by narcotraffickers, their paramilitaries, and the bad governments, who fight over the territories of the originary peoples.

 

The Mexican bad government continues to lie, trying hide its decomposition and total responsibility for the forced disappearance of the 43 students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers College in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero.

 

The state continues to hold hostage: compañerosPedro Sánchez Berriozábal, Rómulo Arias Míreles, Teófilo Pérez González, Dominga González Martínez, Lorenzo Sánchez Berriozábal, and Marco Antonio Pérez González from the Nahua community of San Pedro Tlanixco in Mexico State; Zapotec compañero Álvaro Sebastián from the Loxicha region; compañeros Emilio Jiménez Gómez and Esteban Gómez Jiménez, prisoners from the community of Bachajón, Chiapas; compañeros Pablo López Álvarez and the exiled Raul Gatica García and Juan Nicolás López from the Indigenous and Popular Council of Oaxaca Ricardo Flores Magón. Recently a judge handed down a 33-year prison sentence to compañero Luis Fernando Sotelo for demanding that the 43 disappeared students from Ayotzinapa be returned alive, and to the compañeros Samuel Ramírez Gálvez, Gonzalo Molina González and Arturo Campos Herrera from the Regional Coordination of Community Authorities – PC. They also hold hundreds of indigenous and non-indigenous people across the country prisoner for defending their territories and demanding justice.

 

The Mayo people’s ancestral territory is threatened by highway projects meant to connect Topolobampo with the state of Texas in the United States. Ambitious tourism projects are also being created in Barranca del Cobre.

 

The Dakota Nation’s sacred territory is being invaded and destroyed by gas and oil pipelines, which is why they are maintaining a permanent occupation to protect what is theirs.

For all of these reasons, we reiterate that it our obligation to protect life and dignity, that is, resistance and rebellion, from below and to the left, a task that can only be carried out collectively. We build rebellion from our small local assemblies that combine to form large communal assemblies, ejidal assemblies, Juntas de Buen Gobierno [Good Government Councils], and coalesce as agreements as peoples that unite us under one identity. In the process of sharing, learning, and constructing ourselves as the National Indigenous Congress, we see and feel our collective pain, discontent, and ancestral roots. In order to defend what we are, our path and learning process have been consolidated by strengthening our collective decision-making spaces, employing national and international juridical law as well as peaceful and civil resistance, and casting aside the political parties that have only brought death, corruption, and the buying off of dignity. We have made alliances with various sectors of civil society, creating our own resources in communication, community police and self-defense forces, assemblies and popular councils, and cooperatives; in the exercise and defense of traditional medicine; in the exercise and defense of traditional and ecological agriculture; in our own rituals and ceremonies to pay respect to mother earth and continue walking with and upon her, in the cultivation and defense of native seeds, and in political-cultural activities, forums, and information campaigns.

This is the power from below that has kept us alive. This is why commemorating resistance and rebellion also means ratifying our decision to continue to live, constructing hope for a future that is only possible upon the ruins of capitalism.

Given that the offensive against the people will not cease, but rather grow until it finishes off every last one of us who make up the peoples of the countryside and the city, who carry profound discontent that emerges in new, diverse, and creative forms of resistance and rebellion, this Fifth National Indigenous Congress has decided to launch a consultation in each of our communities to dismantle from below the power that is imposed on us from above and offers us nothing but death, violence, dispossession, and destruction. Given all of the above, we declare ourselves in permanent assembly as we carry out this consultation, in each of our geographies, territories, and paths, on the accord of the Fifth CNI to name an Indigenous Governing Council whose will would be manifest by an indigenous woman, a CNI delegate, as an independent candidate to the presidency of the country under the name of the National Indigenous Congress and the Zapatista Army for National Liberation in the electoral process of 2018. We confirm that our struggle is not for power, which we do not seek. Rather, we call on all of the originary peoples and civil society to organize to put a stop to this destruction and strengthen our resistances and rebellions, that is, the defense of the life of every person, family, collective, community, or barrio. We make a call to construct peace and justice by reweaving ourselves from below, from where we are what we are.

This is the time of dignified rebellion, the time to construct a new nation by and for everyone, to strengthen power below and to the anticapitalist left, to make those who are responsible for all of the pain of the peoples of this multi-colored Mexico pay.

Finally, we announce the creation of the official webpage of the CNI: www.congresonacionalindigena.org

From CIDECI-UNITIERRA,

Chiapas, October 2016

For the Full Reconstitution of Our Peoples

Never Again a Mexico Without Us

National Indigenous Congress

Zapatista Army for National Liberation

Translation source: Enlace Zapatista

 

Commentary: Greenwash! Now in New Improved Formula [Economic Valuation & Payment for Environmental Services]

The Heinrich Böll Foundation

December 3, 2015

by Clive Spash

 

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Comment on Jutta Kill’s “Economic Valuation and Payment for Environmental Services

This report is an excellent overview of the pitiful state of environmentalism and its neoliberalisation.  The issues raised are important and should be taken seriously.  However, I would like to suggest a few areas in which the argument could benefit from some further reflection.

In opening the paper the introduction emphasises the idea of a “paradigmatic change” (p.2) in terms of what is happening with economic valuation of the environment.  There is no further definition of this concept or its relevance, and I think this suggestion of substantive novelty is in fact misleading.  The ongoing push for incorporating aspects of the social and environmental world into an financial and economic one has been ongoing for at least 200 years.  Some seventy years ago, Karl Polanyi (1944), who is mentioned (p.16), identified the creation of the fictitious commodity as being a necessary part of the industrialisation starting in the early 1800s.  He also recognised the extension of this from labour and land to the environment.  The more recent push of the economics profession, for extensive valuation allied to financial regulatory instruments, goes back to the 1960s.  The role of economic valuation in its modern form had already been successful promoted politically under the Reagan administration, which in 1981 institutionalised the use of cost-benefit analysis for evaluating proposed environmental legislation (Presidential Executive Order 12291).  What is new is only the extent to which economic valuation of the environment, and fictitious commodity creation, have since been pushed, and the readiness of various actors to keep pushing ever further.

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For the financiers, bankers and corporate capitalists the drive is the necessity of finding new means of exploitation to capture surplus value, as the old ones become exhausted and/or regulated (hence the need to also roll back regulation as Jutta Kill rightly notes as part of the valuation/market instrument game).  However, what about the environmentalists?  Why do the big environmental non-governmental organisations, such as the Nature Conservancy, back this?  Why do so many ecologists back Natural capital, ecosystems services valuation and biodiversity offsets?  Some notably examples are the likes of Gretchen Daily, systems ecologist Bob Costanza (who many now think is an economist!), and the Nature Conservancy’s chief scientist Peter Kareiva.  What about ecological economist Herman Daly who advocates Natural Capital and tradable permits markets, another financial instrument of exploitation?  (For a critique of emissions trading see Spash, 2010.)  One answer is that all the aforementioned are from the USA and all apparently support the existing corporate model of market capitalism, including prices as efficient means of resource allocation.  Of course they demand some side constraints on the existing systems, but they do not advocate any systemic change or conduct any analysis of the political economy.  Their politics appears to be classic American liberal and, despite the contradictions, their economics maintains core tenets of orthodox belief (e.g. prices allocate resources and do so efficiently).

Yet, there is, in addition to this American camp, another group, of what I term new environmental pragmatists (Spash, 2013), that is more broadly based and geographically widespread.  These are the ones Jutta Kill rightly recognises as advocating instrumental valuation of species, such as bees.  They are often also ecologists, but not necessarily in favour of the American way of life or its inherent political liberalism.  Their concern is to be pragmatic because the desire for material wealth and financial affluence now seems to dominate all systems of political economy, and so they believe the expression of value must be as instrumental to those ends.  Their training in an instrumental natural science may be in part to blame, but their political and economic naivety also plays a key role in their belief that they can win the numbers game in a battle with bankers, financiers and big corporations.  Still, once again, I would emphasise that core aspects of this monetary valuation game, for ‘saving’ the environment, are quite old in content.  In the period from 1880 to 1920 over 1000 studies calculated the monetary value of services provided by birds as a means to show their value and aid their conservation, but the new insecticides made the birds’ services (and the valuation exercises) redundant.  The positive “externalities” of birds had evaporated due to technological innovation.

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In the report, the term “externalities” is used repeatedly and highlighted as a key aspect of the economic approach.  This is a highly problematic concept (as the report notes), but also one that is totally misleading as to the issues involved.  There is nothing about pushing costs on to others that is external to the modern economic system of capital accumulation (whether based in Europe, USA, China, Russia, India, Brazil, Australia or anywhere else).  Indeed this is an essential aspect of how the modern economy operates and maximises the surplus that accrues to the minority.  The powerless, women, poor and the environment are there to be exploited as an internal operation of the political and economic system.  There are no errors or need for systems correction.  This is why Karl W. Kapp (1950) called such activities cost shifting exercises, not externalities.  In our critiques, improving the accuracy and meaningfulness of terminology and conceptualisation would help.  So let’s stop using the neoclassical economists’ term “externalities” for something that is internal to the capital accumulating economic system.

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Indeed in other places this accuracy of conceptualisation is exactly what is argued for, e.g. with respect to the need to stop calling Nature “capital” and ecosystems functions “goods and services”.  Jutta Kill correctly identifies the capture of the environmental movement by corporate interests and how this has been matched by the conversion of language and concepts in key areas of the natural sciences informing that movement.  Thus ecology and conservation biology have lost their own scientific terminology (Spash and Aslaksen, 2015).

Along the way I would like to note the importance of the point about the impossibility of ever “internalising externalities”.  As the Laws of Thermodynamics make clear, the materials and energy that we put into our economic systems will come out the other side as waste in equal amounts (but different form).  In short all our production and consumption of energy and materials creates problems for the model of perfect resource pricing so beloved by economic textbooks and neoliberal politics.  If we take the economists at their word, then they must admit that all the prices in the economy are wrong and need to be changed, i.e., price ‘correction’ to account for “externalities” would result in full scale technocratic economic intervention, or what used to be called a planned economy.

The links between offsetting pollution and biodiversity loss through markets, or market like mechanisms, also needs to be linked to the model of development that is now prevalent.  That is a model of resource extractivism come hell or high water.  The backing for the extractivist regime, that maintains the resource supply chains for the consumerist society, is the military.  Fear is a key tool of control now widely deployed in our supposed democracies of the West.  Ours is a world of military intervention and domination in which violent destruction of the ‘other’ is totally legitimised daily in the news, media and entertainment.  Nature is no different, if it gets in the way, just wipe it out and explain to those who benefit the necessity of this for maintaining the political and economic system.  As long as the imperial mode of living (Brand and Wissen, 2013) is enjoyed by enough key people, in the right power structure and sections of the segmented society, nothing needs to change.

After having made these provisos, I would like to note that the report hits many nails squarely on the head.  Not least of these is the fallacious concept of Green Growth and its associated Green Economy.  In the end, selling monetary valuation as saving the planet goes along with the current advocacy of economic growth as the solution to human induced climate change (Spash, 2014).  Both are clearly just, a new improved formulae of that good old favourite corporate product, Greenwash.

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References Cited
Brand, U., Wissen, M., 2013. Crisis and continuity of capitalist society-nature relationships: The imperial mode of living and the limits to environmental governance. Review of International Political Economy 20, 687-711.
Kapp, K.W., 1950. The Social Costs of Private Enterprise. Shocken, New York.
Polanyi, K., 1944. The Great Transformation, 1st edition ed. Rinehart & Company Inc., New York/Toronto.
Spash, C.L., 2010. The brave new world of carbon trading. New Political Economy 15, 169-195.
Spash, C.L., 2013. The shallow or the deep ecological economics movement? Ecological Economics 93, 351-362.
Spash, C.L., 2014. Better Growth, Helping the Paris COP-out?: Fallacies and Omissions of the New Climate Economy Report. Institute for Environment and Regional Development, Vienna.
Spash, C.L., Aslaksen, I., 2015. Re-establishing an ecological discourse in the policy debate over how to value ecosystems and biodiversity. Journal of Environmental Management 159, 245-253.

 

[Professor Clive L. Spash holds the Chair of Public Policy & Governance at WU in Vienna and is Editor-in-Chief of Environmental Values. He has conducted research on climate change economics and policy for over 25 years and his work in the area includes the book Greenhouse economics: Value and ethics as well as numerous articles. His critique of carbon trading was the subject of attempted censorship while he was a senior civil servant at the CSIRO in Australia. More information can be found at www.clivespash.org.]

The Political Economy of the Paris Agreement: Preserving the Existing Social & Economic Order

Real-world Economics Review, Issue no. 75

The Political Economy of the Paris Agreement on Human Induced Climate Change: a Brief Guide

By Clive L. Spash [Vienna University of Economics and Business, Austria]

 

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Excerpt:

Technological optimism is at the core of the IPCC projections and the assumptions that inform the Paris Agreement. On publication of the IPCC 5th Assessment report the official press release quoted the Chair, R.K. Pachauri, as stating that:

“To keep a good chance of staying below 2ºC, and at manageable costs, our emissions should drop by 40 to 70 percent globally between 2010 and 2050, falling to zero or below by 2100.”

The latter is the new rhetoric of negative emissions that relies on imagined future technologies (e.g. biotechnology, geoengineering, carbon capture and storage). The press release also reports the findings of Working group III as showing that:

“…mitigation cost estimates vary, but that global economic growth would not be strongly affected. In business-as-usual scenarios, consumption – a proxy for economic growth – grows by 1.6 to 3 percent per year over the 21st century. Ambitious mitigation would reduce this by about 0.06 percentage points.”

This major transformation of the energy basis of the economy in fossil fuels is floated in the press as having no real impact on economic growth without anyone raising a qualm. In fact Lord Stern and colleagues have been arguing that economic growth will be boosted by the energy transformation to a “new climate economy” (GCEC, 2014). Elsewhere, I have discussed some of the many fallacies of this Green Growth argument and noted the connection to a power elite (Spash, 2014). Yet this is now the dominant international position and hope of the Paris Agreement.

The whole of Article 2 is qualified by the phrase: “…in the context of sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty”. As I have noted elsewhere (Spash, 2016), the Paris Agreement cannot be read outside the context of the, October 2015, UN Resolution A/RES/70/1 “Transforming our world: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, which promotes economic growth, technology, industrialisation and energy use. Goal 8 is to sustain per capita economic growth at a rate of “at least 7 per cent gross domestic product per annum in the least developed countries”. The environmental devastation this would entail is meant to be addressed by the “endeavour to decouple economic growth from environmental degradation”, which is meaningless unless undertaken in absolute terms and that is simply impossible for the industrial economy being promoted in Goal 9. The Paris Agreement follows suit and claims that: “Accelerating, encouraging and enabling innovation is critical for an effective, long-term global response to climate change and promoting economic growth and sustainable development” (Article 10).

The ultimate concern is the threat to economic growth and this is a perspective that has been heavily lobbied for by advocates, such as Stern, of the new climate economy under the banner “better growth, better climate”. As they state: “In the long term, if climate change is not tackled, growth itself will be at risk” (GCEC, 2014a, p.9). The climate can and will be changed, but growth must not be threatened.

The negotiations around human induced climate change reveal the tensions and contradictions of the resulting policy. There are those who argue for more and better growth spurred on by new technologies to be developed via innovative corporations (GCEC, 2014). This is to be funded, as usual, by massive public investment that will ‘leverage’ private finance, or in plain terms subsidise corporate profit-making while pretending to remove market imperfections. Advocates are heavily invested in preserving the existing social and economic order as evident by the elite networks of the 1% within which they operate (Spash, 2014). The hope is for new miracle technologies to allow moving pollutants from the air to the soil and water, and reliance on treating the Earth as a mechanical toy for boys to (geo)engineer. The economics profession with its macroeconomic obsessions over jobs and growth is living in a fantasy world without any biophysical reality and merely plays along with this techno-optimist tune, and unfortunately the heterodoxy has so far done little to alter this.

The targets of Paris are not some simple internalisation of an externality that is messing-up the perfectly functioning market system. If taken seriously they are a call for a major transformation of the global economy away from its foundation on fossil fuels and energy intensive systems. As the UNFCCC’s Director for Strategy has stated:

“The objective is to put in motion a fundamental transformation in the way we use and produce energy, how we plan our cities, how we manage land and how we prepare for a changing climate and cooperate to minimise its disruptive effect. Transformation takes strategy. You need to know your destination if you are serious about reaching it” (Thorgeirsson, 2015).

Yet, while the need for transformation is now widely recognised, this is generally interpreted as being totally consistent with maintaining the same social ecological and economic structure as today. That is a structure of social inequity, ecological exploitation and an economy promoting hedonistic materialism supplied through a system of corporate and State capital accumulation. The politics of human induced climate change go to the heart of the modern industrialised capital accumulating economy and the rhetoric of growth as supplying development and progress. In the end the Paris Agreement changes nothing. The destination is the same old growth economy and that is in total contradiction with addressing human induced climate change.

Download the paper:

Clive L. Spash, “The political economy of the Paris Agreement on human induced climate change: a brief guide”,
real-world economics review, issue no. 75, xx June 2016, pp. xx-xx,
http://www.paecon.net/PAEReview/issue75/Spash75.pdf

 

[Professor Clive L. Spash holds the Chair of Public Policy & Governance at WU in Vienna and is Editor-in-Chief of Environmental Values. He has conducted research on climate change economics and policy for over 25 years and his work in the area includes the book Greenhouse economics: Value and ethics as well as numerous articles. His critique of carbon trading was the subject of attempted censorship while he was a senior civil servant at the CSIRO in Australia. More information can be found at www.clivespash.org.]

 

The North Dakota Frontlines: Between A Standing Rock And A Hard Place

Wrong Kind of Green

October 4, 2016

by Forrest Palmer with Cory Morningstar

 

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On the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota, an indigenous uprising which captured national attention in August 2016 that those in power hope will be naturally extinguished due to time and conventional society’s short attention span on matters such as this (this characteristic best represented by the Occupy movement of a few years ago). The outward reason for the present uproar is the passage of North Dakota portion of the Bakken pipeline through the Standing Rock Sioux reservation that will intersect the area’s sacred burial grounds, and, critically, could pollute the freshwater source of the region’s inhabitants. As the American populace is wholly averse to addressing this to any great degree, the cause of the indigenous being cloistered in these remote, isolated and destitute lands is our desire to not recognize the last remaining reminders of the price that was paid in order to establish this so-called ‘land of the free and home of the brave’.  In particular, this movement has brought to light the fact that the mainstream public is totally ignorant about this particular reservation and the reservation system in general when it comes to the atrocious living conditions of the descendants of those domestically colonized in this country.

To understand the base of the anger residing in the participants of the uprising, it is necessary to take a closer look at the lifestyle of the people on the Standing Rock Reservation

 

These are all the endemic signs of a people who are wholly broken due to centuries of systemic abuses by their conquerors. Therefore, the question isn’t why are the Standing Rock Sioux citizens involved in this rebellion. The question is why is anyone shocked when being pushed past this limit has led to this inevitable outcome. But, just like the proverbial straw that has broken the camel’s back, this current injustice is the catalyst for pushing the rightly aggrieved people past their breaking point as a community.

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As detailed above, what is being unreported and overlooked in this uprising (which is one of the first steps to any revolution, with it yet to be determined if this will be the end result in this occasion) is the fact that life on the Standing Rock Sioux reservation is insufferably toxic and this current maneuver by the state at the behest of private industry will make it worse in the present and increasingly so in the future. But in order to truly ascertain the level of disinterest shown by the United States in its dealings with the government’s internally colonized descendants that currently reside in the grey area between ethnic cleansing and outright genocide, any unbiased individual need look no further than the behavior of United States in its dealings with defeated foes domestically and the ones internationally. As a specific case, the response by the United States in its treaties with the defeated foes of the Third Axis externally after World War II is the direct opposite of that implemented with the internal First Nations tribes. The treaties entered into by the United States with the defeated Axis powers and the resulting policies were totally in line with the promise to rebuild infrastructure that would be installed in the charred remains of Europe due to the war’s decimating effects, even those of its former enemies during the war. As the current successful state of the defeated combatants is a testament to the United States keeping its promise subsequent to its victory, it must be asked why is it that Nazi Germany, Imperialist Japan and Fascist Italy were given preferable treaty terms and the promises held fast to by the United States, which is in stark contrast to the historical treatment of a full-out genocide executed upon the remaining indigenous in this country, who are purported sovereign citizens of the United States.

The reason being is that the Marshall Plan, the United States economic framework of rebuilding Western Europe and Southeast Asia, and its attending policies were beneficial to the economic strength and growth of power of the United States, which allowed it to become the present and primary global entity. Hence, the United States had an economic reason to rebuild the broken shards of these areas that comprised the war theaters. Oppositely, there never has been and never will be an economic incentive for the United States to invest and fortify the reservations or support the people who inhabit them since their prosperity will never be a benefit to capitalism, but a drain on its precarious and ever dwindling resources.

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Photo: Terray Sylvester

To further illustrate the removal of the indigenous from the consciousness of almost all the people internal to the country who aren’t a part of the First Nation communities, the invisibility of the native in comparison to every other non-anglo furthers their collective removal from any discussion in terms of white supremacy and its deleterious effects on internal non-European populations. The closest in proximity to the tangible aspects of impoverishment and oppression of the indigenous in the U.S. would be the black and brown communities, identified as the descendants of the formally enslaved Africans and Latins from south of the U.S. border, respectively. Yet, in this particular instance, the black and brown U.S. citizens reside in a much better position due to the necessity of their particular existences in comparison to the decimated First Nation populations, who are congregated in the farthest outposts of the United States. The fact that black and brown people exist in areas close to the hubs of capitalism of major cities in the United States (as they always have been) and still are a necessary form of labor in an expression of white supremacy by historically doing jobs that anglos were and are unwilling to do means that any uprising these communities participated in would be disruptive to the economic system of capitalism that is the foundation of national prosperity. As the First Nations people reside in land that is far removed from the primary places and industries of which commerce is reliant upon, any comparable disruption in their present areas will have no effect upon the everyday ability of capitalism to function.

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Therefore, unlike every other non-anglo ethnicity in the country that can have some type of effect on the system, the indigenous population can remain isolated and unheard with no means of popular acknowledgement in terms of its ever present painful condition. Tragically, the only reason that this agony is heard to any degree presently and any problems addressed to any facile measure is to allow the dominant culture to not acknowledge that it has effectively decimated the entirety of the indigenous population while at the same time not deal with the guilt (if there would be any) of delivering the final death blow of genocide that has always been the unspoken threat directed at the relative handful of people still residing in the United States. Ultimately, if it wasn’t for this piece of pipeline that will only stretch a few miles into the region of the Standing Rock Reservation, there would be no reason whatsoever to even acknowledge their present protest, let alone do anything about it.

So, the presence of this seemingly spontaneous protest has dual layers to it. On the surface, it is about this singular pipeline and the possible problems that may arise due to its placement in close proximity to their living area.  However, in the same vein as non-violent direct action (NVDA) is based on the civil rights movement in the United States and its perceived success here in this country (although all evidence points to the contrary), many of the singular atrocities that galvanized the black community to utilize this particular means of protest, such as the murder of Emmitt Till and the arrest of Rosa Parks for not sitting in the back of the bus, were mere sparks that set off the powder keg that was already present in society due to the centuries long oppression that preceded them.

Similarly, the pipeline is just the catalyst for addressing inequities that have laid dormant for far too long. This is the layer beneath the surface where the righteous anger residing on the reservation has been fomenting since the natives were forced into this open air prison by the barrel of a gun decades ago. Whether it was this pipeline or some other form of intrusion on the land that the state said was theirs after surrendering as an entire ethnic group in order to not be fully exterminated, the need for capitalism to continuously gobble up everything in its path inevitably led to this current situation, where the natives are a harbinger for all of mankind as the extremities of needed energy accumulation will close on all of us more and more with each passing day whether we choose to accept it or not. And as current flow always follows the path of least resistance, the state has always looked first to the reservation system and its inhabitants to appropriate anything it may need to survive since the continued existence of the indigenous is seen as an inconvenience rather than a necessity by most non-indigenous citizens in this country.

As NVDA is a remnant of the aforementioned much ballyhooed civil rights movement, the response by the state has advanced and evolved while the tactics employed by the ethnic victims in regards to white supremacy has stagnated and remained the same. This is no more apparent than in the current actions by private interests regarding the indigenous uprising. During the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, the state employed attack dogs on protestors as a response to their marches. In the present iteration of the response, it isn’t the state that has employed these abusive tactics, it is the corporation that now has its paid minions to deliver counterattacks to the movement. ICYMI, a private security company, was employed by the manufacturers of the pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners, to confront the protesters by employing attack dogs to disperse the crowd and put a final end to this perceived effrontery to the dominant culture.

As this is a new wrinkle in the oppression of the masses, the million-dollar question is who or what is supposed to be held accountable for any injuries caused by the use of these tactics by private interests? Is it now a civil matter, even though the state is saying that it is in the public interest to have this land for the pipeline, as the term “eminent domain” is as nebulous term imaginable in masking the interest of private corporations by way of determining land appropriation as an expression of the public good. Can the corporation be taken to civil court for these attacks? As the land is in the grey area of appropriation, is it public or private land at this juncture? These are all legal questions that aren’t being addressed because the hope was that this endeavor would cease all of the ongoing uproar in North Dakota. In addition, these ill-defined forms of accountability make it much more difficult for the aggrieved to seek redress from those in power.

In the end, the most important thing for this uprising is to not just relegate the movement to this pipeline and the leaders must speak honestly about the need to attend to all the inequalities that have been imposed on the natives on this particular reservation and the reservation system as a whole. Of the over 500 treaties that have been entered into between the government and the First Nations people, all have been broken in some form or fashion by the U.S. government.  And these acts of broken treaties have been deemed legal by the same justice system that is supposed to be fair and balanced in its decision making as it purports to be based on an eponymous “rule of law”, something not reliant on the arbitrary positions of man. Yet, the U.S. populace readily believes this when all empirical evidence shows that this is anything but the case. Either the “rule of law” is faulty or our implementation of it is at issue.  More than likely, it is just a nice term utilized by the powers that be to inculcate people into an imaginary belief that when the outcome of a particular case is not to their well being or liking it is because of the weakness of the case and not due to systemic biases related to the arbiters culturally inculcated belief that anglo ethnicity and the attending economic system is more important than any aggrievement of the indigenous.

Whatever the reason for these decisions, the fact of the matter is that Einstein once famously said that “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results”. As such, there can be nothing more insane than expecting redress from the same justice system that has deemed 500 instances of broken treaties over a span of centuries to all of a sudden change course in this given instance regarding the ongoing pipeline conflict. Hence, this movement must be utilized as a tool to recognize, respect and ultimately implement the indigenous stated goals of self-determination, decolonization and self-government.

It is going to take a concerted effort that goes beyond a simplified NVDA that was used to allow black people the “privilege” of doing acts that are in hindsight trivial things, such using the same bathrooms as white people. The old stale tactics of the past can’t be used as the goals aren’t the same in this instance (self-determination from people who aren’t looking for integration as they want to be recognized as a sovereign nation within a nation) as those previously attempting to be obtained during the civil rights movement (an assimilationist integration based off of a wholly acknowledged acceptance regarding non-anglo inferiority by both oppressors and oppressed). To use sports as an analogy, this is akin to using a baseball bat on a soccer field or utilizing a hockey stick during a basketball game.

As this is the case, the strategy employed by the modern indigenous can’t be the same as those who preceded them in this country.  As Cuba famously utilized its guerrilla strategy in assisting African nations in their battles to end European colonialism, the devices employed by the First Nation members must be different than anything ever employed previously.  What is to stop the indigenous from aligning their interests with MEND in the Niger River Delta, whose enemy is also the multinational corporations trespassing on its land? This is another organization that is going through the same issues as the Standing River Sioux and numerous other tribes, like the Black Hill Sioux and their land being destroyed by uranium mining and coal mining on the Black Mesa plateau that has disaffected the water source of the Hopi and Navajo tribes. In addition, there needs to be a network of groups who have the same interests who must now band together with a common goal which is to stop the continuous encroachment of private interests in their particular domains at one level, as well as to address the fact that this will invariably be all of us.

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When all is said and done, this protest in North Dakota is the only portion of this conflict that is for the good of the public as the pipeline itself is anything but a benefit to humans or any other life form, no matter what portions of the mainstream society profess in this regard.  By any measurement of what is beneficial to the continuance of sentient beings on this Earth, the uprising in North Dakota is one of the few relevant ongoing acts presently. Although near-term human extinction (NTHE) is almost a certainty at this point, whatever portion of life that can be salvaged, be it human or otherwise, must start somewhere and it has to be at the grassroots level since the expectation that any portion of the establishment will save us is beyond insane when all evidence to this juncture has proven otherwise.

Ultimately, the First Nation members need to use this as a catalyst for an overall change in their collective living circumstances. Their problems reside in having their entire existence totally dependent on the goodwill of a white power structure that still sees them as savages. This structure, whose continuance is dependent on institutional racism, only gives a nod to the indigenous when they dress like them, use them as mascots or talk about the fact that their members’ great, great, great grandma was a First Nation member or something to that effect. Other than those few useless nods to the people and culture, the systemic need is to keep them isolated, weak and emaciated on a reservation where the only thing to be done is take the resources under their feet and relegate them to eternal impoverishment and disenfranchisement.

As the pipeline is a mere conduit of the resource that flows through its vessels, the uproarious response by the First Nations community is the conduit of the centuries long anger which as has been internalized on these outposts of human despair. We can only hope that the rupture of  First Nation emotions will make all of the previous pipeline fissures pale in comparison.