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The Most Valuable Players of the Natural Capital League: Part 1

WKOG

August 30, 2017

 

The Natural Capital League (NCL) traces it’s roots to the 1982 Wallenberg Symposium titled ‘Integrating Ecology and Economics’.

35 years later we can share with you the 8 MVPs who have made the biggest contribution to the final capture of nature to under-write the “new economy”, an achievement of unprecedented scope under neoliberalism.

Here are the first 2 of the well networked and high performing NLC MVPs.

Gretchen Daily

Bankers love Gretchen Daily, and we can see why. When she was a research scientist at Stanford in the late 1990’s she edited a journal called ‘Nature’s Services: Societal Dependence on Natural Ecosystems’. She later went on to become a board member of The Nature Conservancy and a founding director of the Natural Capital Project (a joint effort with WWF) where she deals with governments and financiers. She recently received the Blue Planet Prize for her work to harmonize people and nature.

The Natural Capital Project has been working in China with funding from the Ministry of Finance of China, the Paulson Institute, and the National Science Foundation (NSF) to develop eco-mapping software to assess available and potential ecosystem services.

Here’s a quote from Gretchen Daily that shows how she sees the significance of her work.

“The future of human civilization depends on getting this right,”

[source] http://news.stanford.edu/2017/02/02/china-protect-areas-high-ecological-importance-identified-stanford-researchers/

(ALL RIGHTS, ALL USES) Gretchen C. Daily; conservation biologist, Department of Biological Sciences and Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford, co-lead of the Natural Capital Project, member of TNC board, photographed at her home on the Campus of Stanford University in California. PHOTO CREDIT: ©Mark Godfrey/TNC

 

Links:

Mark Tercek, CEO of The Nature Conservancy interviews Gretchen Daily

http://marktercek.com/dialogues-on-environment/gretchen-daily/

Mark Tercek on Hank Paulson and Gretchen Daily

https://www.naturalcapitalproject.org/natural-capital-symposium-sets-new-agenda/

Gretchen Daily honored with Blue Planet Prize for her work to harmonize people and nature

http://news.stanford.edu/thedish/2017/06/14/gretchen-daily-honored-with-blue-planet-prize-for-her-work-to-harmonize-people-and-nature/

Bob Costanza

Nobody has done more to advance the objectives of the Natural Capital League than Bob Costanza.  He was there at the 1982 Wallenberg Symposium and he contributed the practice of ‘shadow pricing’ for corporations and non government organisations who want to prepare for implementation of the natural capital agenda. He co-founded the journal Ecological Economics and co-founded the International Society for Ecological Economics. He also founded the journal Solutions and along with several of his colleagues is associated with the Next System Project which works on ‘new economy’ issues.

In 1997 he published a paper called ‘The value of the world’s ecosystem services and natural capital’. It is the best known attempt to put a monetary value on the earth’s systems. It was widely reported that the figure Costanza came up with was 33 trillion USD per year.

Here’s a quote from Bob Costanza that shows where his priorities lie.

“I do not agree that more progress will be made by appealing to people’s hearts rather than their wallets.”

[source] https://thebreakthrough.org/index.php/journal/past-issues/issue-2/the-rise-and-fall-of-ecological-economics#body54

Links:

Bob Costanza – ‘The Early History of Ecological Economics and the International Society for Ecological Economics (ISEE)’

http://isecoeco.org/pdf/costanza.pdf

NY Times 20/05/1997. ‘How Much Is Nature Worth? For You, $33 trillion’

http://www.nytimes.com/1997/05/20/science/how-much-is-nature-worth-for-you-33-trillion.html

Bringing Liquidity to Life: Markets for Ecosystem Services and the New Political Economy of Extinction

Research Gate

January 2016

by Jeremy Walker

 

John_Gledhill_painting_21

The Last Rhino. Artist John Gledhill [Source]

Abstract

This chapter attempts to situate the rise of market-based conservation policy, and its associated theoretical and policy frameworks such The Economics of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services within a wider history of what might be termed financialisation. Outlining a new chapter in the long history of ontological adjustment of ecological science to dominant accounts of political economy, this chapter explores the emergence of a novel political economy of extinction. This can be analysed in the transformations of theory: the reframing of the sixth extinction crisis within the neoliberal idiom of ‘natural capital’ and ‘ecosystem services’ reflects a history of the reprocessing of political and scientific ecological discourse in order to better accommodate it to reigning economic doctrines. TEEB and other articulations of market-based conservation do little to question the dominant economic theory that has licensed the financialisation of social, political and economic life and led to our current global economic crisis. As a species of power, it can also be analysed in the social connections of the corporate boardroom: where the professional authority, executive expertise, epistemic frameworks and political projects of senior conservation ecologists increasingly converge with those of the worlds most powerful bankers.

Bringing Liquidity to Life: Markets for Ecosystem Services and the New Political Economy of Extinction

Download full-text PDF

[Jeremy Walker is Lecturer in Environment, Culture and Society in the Social and Political Sciences Program. He holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts  from  the University of New South Wales,  a BA Communications (Social Inquiry, Hons) from UTS, and a PhD (History and Philosophy of Science) from UTS. Prior to his appointment at UTS he taught at the Dept. of Government and International Relations at the University of Sydney.]

The Resolution Copper Land Grab: How Environmental NGOs Expand Green Capitalism

Desert Water Grab

January 28, 2017

 

kareiva_pes_small

People were outraged at the way the Resolution Copper Mining (RCM) finally achieved their land exchange in Arizona. It was the underhanded way Senator John McCain got the legislation passed that fueled the anger, but what many are not aware of is that the swap may not have been possible without the efforts of certain environmental groups. Conservation efforts functioned as currency for Resolution’s access to land, so the land grab could also be called a green grab. Green grabs are taking place in Arizona and beyond, especially around water. The Resolution Copper land exchange provides us with a way to understand the utility of the partnerships corporations forge to gain access to coveted resources.

The land swap is not yet a done deal. An appraisal to determine the equivalence of the parcels to be exchanged is due to be completed this year, according to the Arizona Daily Sun.

“It’s a big ripoff,” Sandy Bahr, director of the Grand Canyon Chapter of the Sierra Club said in an interview last year. “The American public is getting chump change in return for this ecological treasure. The lands that are offered aren’t comparable.”

McCain’s website tells a different story:

Under the bill, the Resolution Copper company would give the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management about 5,500 acres of land identified by the Department of the Interior as ‘important’ for conservation, including property near the San Pedro River, an important migratory bird corridor and wetland habitat for endangered species. In exchange for these lands, Resolution Copper would receive about 2,400 acres of Forest Service land for the exploration and development of our nation’s top copper asset.

While the Sierra Club does not back up the claims about how important the lands are for conservation, a few other organizations did. Arguably, the land exchange may not have been possible without the help of some of these big, more corporate-friendly environmental organizations like The Nature Conservancy and Audubon Arizona, who were involved in affirming, and even contributing to the value of the land to be exchanged for Resolution’s intended mine site. This is something Rio Tinto (majority owner of RCM) had learned from in partnering with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Utah and Madagascar to arrange access to land a few years before. Multinational mining companies, Rio Tinto in particular, in partnership with NGOs, have been networking to improve the reputation and legitimacy of global mining activities since the ‘90s.

It’s clear that the quantity of land is disproportionate in the exchange. The acreage offered up to the feds for the trade (see map) is more than double Resolution’s desired area. However, McCain needed to sneak the exchange through in the National Defense Authorization Act to get it passed because the status and importance of the Chi’chil Bildagoteel/Oak Flat area resulted in nearly a decade of failed attempts to get the land exchange accepted prior to December 2014. Clearly, the conservation claims never swayed those with strong opposition to the mine, but they do count for something.

The appraiser is required to use nationally recognized standards to come up with the value of the parcels. But not only does Resolution actually have a voice in who gets the job to appraise the properties, the Uniform Appraisal Standards for Federal Land Acquisitions’ directive is that the appraiser determine only a market value (defined within the document) for the land. This does not seem to take into consideration the cultural, spiritual, historical, and environmental values such as those attributed by opponents of the mining in the Oak Flat/Apache Leap area.

Monetarily, while Rio Tinto spent “more than $18 million buying up” the parcels to exchange, the land to which Resolution Copper gained access could be worth around 7,000 times more – over $130 billion based on copper prices as of early 2015, as a former Florida Representative pointed out in The Nation. Copper prices had fallen, but the current price is back up to near where it was then. There are many other factors to enter into the equation, however. One is that Resolution Copper has directed hundreds of thousands of dollars towards the conservation activities that may have increased the value, even if not the market value, of the exchange lands.

While the promise of jobs seems to play a bigger role in Resolution Copper’s narrative, the exchange may have been unacceptable without the purportedly valuable conservation land tracts. And now that the legislation passed, whether it is truly an equitable exchange or not is irrelevant in some ways because if the appraisal sees those lands as insufficiently valuable, RCM will just have to add more land or cash to the deal.

Yet, the conservation values of the parcels offered up by RCM were necessary, and thusly emphasized, for public and federal acceptance. In addition to meeting the equal value requirement, land exchanges are required to serve the public interest, which includes “protection of fish and wildlife habitats, cultural resources, watersheds, and wilderness and aesthetic values,” and the Forest Service gets the final say.

Some of these NGOs have consulted with Rio Tinto to contribute to an accounting method to rate the quality of land, using something they call “quality hectares” as a metric based on various values such as biodiversity to frame as offsets the land parcels they intended to “donate“.

resolution-copper-offset-chart

Although the factors, which some refer to as “ecosystem services,” used for this type of valuation, are currently considered nonmarket values not likely to be used in the appraisal, they clearly were important to RCM in determining the value of their land parcels. “Ecosystem services” is an increasingly popular economic construct used to refer to the benefits ecosystems provide to humans.

It doesn’t seem coincidental that law firm Perkins Coie, who has worked for Resolution Copper, wrote a paper in which they made the following argument:

Over the longer term—and to the extent that appropriate methodology is developed and adopted—the BLM could also use the requirement that it obtain fair market value for use of public lands to ensure consideration of ecosystem services in determining land values and rentals.

Both the Forest Service and the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) have attributed legitimacy to recognizing ecosystem services within policy. Multinational mining companies (especially Rio Tinto) and the involved NGOs have been major players on a global scale in market valuation of ecosystem services as well as ways to profit from them.

Valuation of ecosystem services, even if incorporated into the appraisal process, would likely benefit RCM. Even while “cultural,” and more rarely, “spiritual” ecosystem services can be incorporated into the value of land tracts, the fact that the Oak Flat area is not part of a reservation and is not officially recognized as sacred or culturally important works against those who have a connection with the land such as the San Carlos Apache and others.

RCM and certain NGOs’ preferred approach to environmental problems is through market-based “solutions”, which result in transferring resources into private hands. While this is a land grab, the conservation aspect is significant. RCM will gain ownership of the Oak Flat area (unless stopped) by using as currency the parcels obtained and cultivated as conservation projects. The land swap could therefore be considered a green grab. The book (and article) entitled Green Grabbing defines the process as “the appropriation of land and resources for environmental ends” where “‘Appropriation’ implies the transfer of ownership, use rights and control over resources that were once publicly or privately owned – or not even the subject of ownership – from the poor (or everyone including the poor) into the hands of the powerful.”

Why does all this matter? Aside from having more understanding about why this land exchange is not justified, we can learn from how some NGOs partner with private interests to engage in more green grabbing. The Nature Conservancy facilitates the sale of water offsets to companies such as Coca Cola, for example, based on conservation projects in Arizona. They are also supporting the efforts of big housing developments to legitimize construction where aquifers and the rivers like the San Pedro are at risk. Since Rio Tinto has been so central to the development of payments for ecosystem services programs such as offsets, the early stages of this Resolution Copper land exchange effort may have been the foray of the concept of ecosystem services into Arizona.

San Pedro River and Conflicts of Interest

Although the land exchange involved properties in various areas of Arizona, the one in the San Pedro River basin, the 7B Ranch, is the most relevant here, partly because early legislative support for the exchange related to this river. It is also the largest parcel offered by RCM.

Water conservation at the San Pedro River was made central to the land exchange idea when Rick Renzi, US Congressman from Arizona at the time, drew Resolution Copper into a scandal. Renzi was convicted in 2013 of conspiring with the owner of a piece of land in the San Pedro River basin, “to extort and bribe individuals seeking a federal land exchange…” A combination of his connections with Fort Huachuca, an army installation  near the San Pedro, and his desire to have Resolution Copper purchase his friend’s property in the area caused Renzi to assert in 2005, according to Wall Street Journal, that his support of the land exchange

…would hinge in part on whether it helped fulfill a goal to cut water consumption along the San Pedro River… participants in the deal say. Fort Huachuca, a big U.S. Army base nearby, was under court order to cut water consumption, and it had been seeking help to retire farmland near the river. Mr. Renzi has longstanding ties to the base, the economic engine of the area… Resolution proposed buying and handing over to the government thousands of acres of bird and wildlife habitat along the banks of the San Pedro, which would further the water-conservation goal.

Due to the high price, Resolution Copper did not buy this property, but the land was sold to someone else. A different parcel in the San Pedro River basin became part of the exchange, a choice likely influenced by the water conservation needs of Ft. Huachuca, as emphasized by Renzi.

Renzi’s father was a retired army general who had served at Ft. Huachuca and his company (one of the congressman’s top campaign donors) has had major contracts with Ft. Huachuca. In 2003, Renzi had proposed “an amendment to the defense authorization bill, [that] would exempt Ft. Huachuca from responsibility for maintaining water levels in the San Pedro River as called for in an agreement made last year with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.” Backed by McCain, it passed in November that year, despite media pointing to the conflict of interest.

Dropping groundwater levels have directly impacted the San Pedro base flow. Ft. Huachuca has faced multiple lawsuits for their impact on the riparian environment due to their groundwater pumping.

McCain has shown that he has invested as well in the fate of Ft. Huachuca in relation to the river. His relationship with Renzi likely had a lot to do with it, but he’s continued his support of the fort in recent years. The state of the San Pedro River makes at least an image of water conservation important to the land exchange even with Renzi’s interests out of the picture.

Various partnerships have developed to address, or more likely greenwash the fort’s impact on the environment. The Department of Defense and Ft. Huachuca had already been working with The Nature Conservancy since at least 1998. Significantly, one of the more recent projects is the Upper San Pedro Partnership (USPP) also involving Audubon Arizona. This came out Renzi’s legislative amendment in 2003 which shifted responsibility for water use away from the fort and onto this broader coalition of the USPP.

Shaping the land swap was a combination of these NGOs’ relationships with Ft. Huachuca specifically around the San Pedro River Basin, and Rio Tinto’s relationships with these NGOs through Rio Tinto’s Kennecott Copper mine in Utah where they partnered with NGOs like The Nature Conservancy and the Audubon Society in the late ‘90s on a wetland offset program required due to the pollution of mining tailings.

Partnerships and Payments

Of course it makes sense that environmental groups be consulted about ecologically important issues. There’s a difference, however, between consultation and granting green credentials to mining companies for dubious conservation efforts when they’ll do more damage in the long run. Taken into consideration, additionally, should be the NGOs’ actions and the financial relationship between NGOs and corporations.

One role NGOs play is in acquiescing to the claim that there is no alternative to a particular mine or other development. Then somehow their pragmatism produces “win-win solutions” to supposedly mitigate mines’ damage (this is giving them the undeserved benefit of the doubt about their own financial interests in partnering with corporations). The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and Arizona Audubon, even while denying that they took a position on the land exchange, played integral roles in confirming and even generating some of the value of the various parcels RCM obtained and worked to glorify.

An International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) report described one way NGOs supported RCM (see chart above):

In consultation with conservation specialists, especially the Arizona Audubon Society, RCM rated the conservation value of the parcels in terms of ecosystem condition and priority for conservation in Arizona. In doing so, RCM was able to take a semi-quantitative approach using Rio Tinto’s quality hectares method, to determine whether the parcels represented equivalent or better conservation benefits than the government land.

According to Rio Tinto,

Quality Hectares are Rio Tinto’s current metric for tracking progress towards the [Net Positive Impact (NPI)] target at the global and site levels. A wide range of biodiversity values, including threatened species, rare habitats or non-timber forest products, may be expressed in terms of their quantity and quality.

It could be argued that RCM bought access to the copper ore in Oak Flat by funding NGOs’ conservation attribution of value to the land that RCM had accumulated. NGOs acted as consultants in choosing land parcels and quantifying their value, managed some of those parcels, wrote letters confirming their value, and thereby contributed to legitimizing the exchange.

Rio Tinto/Resolution Copper started funding Arizona Audubon Society in 2003. The mining subsidiary began lobbying for a land exchange in 2005 and in the same year contracted with TNC to manage the land parcel owned by BHP Billiton called the 7B Ranch.

The 7B Ranch was the piece of land in the San Pedro River basin that ultimately became part of the land exchange. Copper companies in Arizona have purchased land not only for mining, but BHP Billiton already owned some land near the San Pedro River prior to the idea for the land exchange, likely for the water rights.

The Superior Sun reported,

Resolution purchased 7B from BHP in 2007 with the intention of including it in an eventual land exchange… David Salisbury, Resolution Copper CEO, said that the company spoke to organizations such as Arizona Audubon and The Nature Conservancy to determine conservation targets that a number of agencies might be interested in…

Although Audubon hasn’t taken a position on the proposed land exchange, they have been on record since 2005 saying that 7B is an ecologically important piece of property…

With the plan in place, Resolution and its conservation partners hope to make 7B a ready-to-use asset for the [Department of the Interior] and the public.

The Tucson Sentinel reported in 2011, “7B Ranch, which contains one of oldest mesquite forests in Arizona, lies near the fragile San Pedro River. In 2007, Resolution Copper agreed to pay The Nature Conservancy $45,000 a year to manage the property.” They also noted the, “$250,000 in grants and donations that Resolution Copper and Rio Tinto have given to the Audubon Arizona since 2003.” Their coverage stated that the Sonoran Institute (SI) was also involved in identifying parcels that would be of value in the exchange.

RCM also supported SI for at least two years (2007 and 2008) and hired SI’s Dave Richins after, as The New Times revealed, he’d been doing work for RCM for a while prior to official employment. Luther Propst of SI authored an opinion column in the Arizona Republic in 2010 in favor of the Resolution Copper mine.

News outlets such as the Tucson Citizen reported in 2005 that, “the Audubon Society, the Nature Conservancy and the Sonoran Institute have all sent [Bruno Hegner, Resolution’s general manager] letters of support.” The Tucson Sentinel wrote that “Leaders of Audubon Arizona and The Nature Conservancy have said they neither support nor oppose the overall plan. But each group has formally attested to the conservation value of the Appleton-Whittell and 7B Ranch parcels, something that Resolution Copper has noted prominently in letters and testimony to Congress.” In 2011, 2012 and 2013, the Arizona chapter of TNC sent letters to legislators reiterating their neutrality on the legislation, but elaborating on the value of the 7B Ranch property. Audubon Arizona had been managing the Appleton-Whittell ranch since the 1980’s. Notably, other Arizona-based Audubon groups (Maricopa and Tucson) have been openly opposed to the mine.

Resolution Copper partnered with Audubon Arizona, TNC, Birdlife International, along with the Salt River Project and others on the Lower San Pedro and Queen Creek Project, described by Birdlife International:

A two-year programme (2006–2007) undertook the development of a bird conservation strategy… It assisted in the provision of detailed biodiversity assessments of the land exchange parcel on the Lower San Pedro River for Resolution Copper Company and with the establishment of baseline data for the mine’s operational biodiversity action planning.

Thanks to the project, the Lower San Pedro River, from “The Narrows” north to the confluence with the Gila River, has been surveyed, nominated and recognised as a state [Important Bird Area (IBA)]. During 2006–2007, existing and newly collected data were compiled and submitted to the Arizona IBA Science Committee, in support of the IBA nomination of the Lower San Pedro River, and the nomination was accepted.

Birdlife International, which Rio Tinto has been working with since 2001 is described as “a global alliance of conservation organisations working together for the world’s birds and people.” One of Birdlife’s main partners is the Audubon Society, a group with which they’ve had overlapping board members.

It is not so difficult to imagine that an “environmental” group, such as Birdlife or TNC would accommodate a mining project considering TNC participated in drilling oil on a property they were supposed to have retired from oil production. Kierán Suckling of the Center for Biological Diversity said that TNC “has shown over and over again its willingness to take corporate money in return for stealing, destroying, or polluting indigenous and poor human communities.” TNC has partnered with many of the most notorious corporations like Exxon, BP, Dow Chemical, and Monsanto along with Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton. Birdlife had also partnered with BP, which may have been a factor in Rio Tinto partnering with the NGO in 2001.

From Greenwashing to Green Markets

Mines have pock-marked the earth, poisoned the land, water, and living beings, displaced communities, and left other destruction in their wake. One of the most notorious mining conflicts forced Rio Tinto to shut down their mine on Bougainville Island of Papua New Guinea in 1989 due to an uprising largely in response to the environmental damage caused by the mine. A lawsuit was filed against Rio Tinto over “racial discrimination and environmental harm, as well as genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity,” arising from the mine and the military response as part of the decade-long civil war instigated by the company. Throughout the 1990’s major tailings containments collapsed each year around the world. Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton have both faced various strikes over working conditions. It’s no wonder they had to fix their reputation in order to do business.

While the Bougainville civil war was still raging, a study that Rio Tinto conducted in 1996 showed that the mining companies could benefit from addressing concern for biodiversity as part of their medium-to long-term business strategy. This may have played a part in the Rio Tinto chairman’s launch of the Global Mining Initiative (GMI) with nine of the largest global mining corporations in 1999. “The drivers for GMI were clear recognition that mining companies had problems of access to land, and access to markets, and cost of capital. The fundamental underlying reason was the reputation of the industry,” said Dr. John Groom, of mining company Anglo American.

Sarah Benabou writes that in 2000,

the GMI started a process of consultation and research known as the Mining, Minerals and Sustainable Development (MMSD) project to determine the fundamental orientations that would shape the future of the industry. This project led to the creation of the [The International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM)] in 2002. A few months later, at the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development, the ICMM and the [International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)] started a joint dialogue on mining and biodiversity ‘to provide a platform for communities, corporations, NGOs and governments to engage in a dialogue to seek the best balance between the protection of important ecosystems and the social and economic importance of mining’ (IUCN 2003: 1).

Benabou’s Making up for lost nature? A critical review of the international development of voluntary biodiversity offsets also describes how mining companies and NGOs at an IUCN/ICMM jointly-organized workshop in 2003 could draw upon each others’ experiences regarding ways to apply a biodiversity offset approach even if it couldn’t be “transposed term-for-term” in other situations. IUCN is one of the oldest and biggest environmental NGOs.

The relationship with Birdlife, initiated by Rio Tinto in 2001 was an early venture into partnerships with such NGOs. According to Rio Tinto, “the partnership has enabled both organisations to deliver outcomes that neither could have achieved as effectively when working alone.”

It would be a mistake to frame this simply as examples of greenwashing in attempt to solve mining companies’ public relations problems and access to land. In the context of the earth’s welfare and diminishing finite resources, the extractive industry and their partners have developed market-based tools like offsets to create new financial strategies. “In this zeitgeist of crisis capitalism, the environmental crisis itself has become a major new frontier of value creation and capitalist accumulation,” writes Sian Sullivan, Professor of Environment and Culture in the UK. The commodification and financialization of so-called natural capital and ecosystem services are central to this process.

19-ecoservices_balancedThe concept of ecosystem services originates with some in the field of Ecological Economics who argued that if destructive practices are unavoidable, then corporations should pay for the damage they have done (or will do) to that which we take for granted but can’t live without: the environment. Yet, if companies compensate for their externalities, a whole host of other problems arise with pricing, quantifying, simplifying and appropriating natural resources.

The introduction to Nature, Inc. spells it out: “Capitalism now endeavors to accumulate not merely in spite of but rather precisely through the negation of its own negative impacts on both physical environments and the people who inhabit them, proposing itself as the solution to the very problems it creates.” Similarly, co-editor of Nature, Inc., Bram Büscher posited elsewhere, “To believe that nature can be conserved by increasing the intensity, reach and depth of capital circulation is arguably one of the biggest contradictions of our times.”

IUCN, along with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), was involved in the early 1990’s in advancing the concept of ecosystem services, aka environmental services, beginning with their Global Biodiversity Strategy. This was a predecessor to the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) completed in 2005, to which IUCN and UNEP also contributed. MA has been considered a game-changer in the way it endeavored to apply a monetary value to ecosystem services; the wide variety of beneficial (to humans) functions deriving from ecosystems, like carbon sequestration and water purification.

One of the biggest payments for ecosystem services (PES) program currently is REDD or Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (the latest version is called REDD+) which Tom B. K. Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network said could lead to “the biggest land grab of all time.” REDD is a project of IUCN, supported by Rio Tinto (including in its early development). Rio Tinto claims that REDD+ allows them to offset their carbon footprint. The Nature Conservancy, and Birdlife International are proponents of REDD+.

REDD and the carbon trade in general have meant further financialization of nature, involving hedge funds, derivatives, and “a new generation of ‘commercial conservation asset managers’ required to broker these exchanges and revenues,” according to Sian Sullivan. “Conservation investing experienced dramatic growth after 2013, as total committed private capital climbed 62% in just two years from $5.1B to $8.2B,” reported Ecosystem Marketplace recently.

NGOs and negotiations have enabled and structured “new green market opportunities and practices as they orchestrate the social and political relations among various state and non-state actors through which the mechanisms, incentives and legitimating conditions for green grabs are established,” as is argued in Enclosing the global commons: the convention on biological diversity and green grabbing.

Experts from the big NGOs are called upon to design, implement, and/or verify such mechanisms as offsets. While carbon offsets are the most notoriously dubious, mining companies are involved in a variety of other offsets, both voluntary and regulatory.

Buying, Banking, Trading Offsets

In Utah, a land tract Kennecott wanted for storage of their tailings (materials left over from processing of mined substance) was designated as wetlands, which are regulated. So according to a case report put out by The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB),

Kennecott was thus required by U.S. law to offset, or mitigate, the loss of wetlands by the creation of an agreed number and value of habitat units… In 1996, Kennecott Utah Copper Company undertook the cleanup and construction of the 1,011 ha Inland Sea Shorebird Reserve (ISSR) in conjunction with a project to expand its tailings storage.

utah-kennecott-mine

Kennecott Utah Copper Mine (Rio Tinto)

In addition to the required wetlands offset, Rio Tinto established a “bank” of restored surplus habitat land which, as TEEB explained, referencing an unpublished study, “could be used to offset future impacts on wetlands (584 ha) adjacent to the mitigation site… Credits from the bank can be used by Kennecott or sold to others for wetlands mitigation in accordance with the terms of the Bank Agreement with the US government.” Banking converts wetland habitat properties into assets. Rio Tinto wrote in 2011 that they have, “successfully developed and then sold wetland credits” as part of the ISSR.

Essentially, companies can profit from ostensibly going above and beyond their responsibilities (or having a “net positive impact”) for mitigating the damage they cause through mining. In many cases, profit-driven wetlands banking has been shown to result in a net loss, however.

TNC and National Audubon Society were involved in developing this wetland mitigation plan. The ISSR also became an IBA in 2004 and is part of BirdLife International’s IBA Program.

BirdLife International also endorsed Rio Tinto’s activities across the world in Madagascar. Rio Tinto owns 80% of the QMM (QIT Madagascar Minerals) ilmenite (titanium dioxide) mine in Southeastern Madagascar which started mining in 2005. The mining activities “will remove more than half of a particular type of unique coastal forest.” BirdLife described the benefits of a project implemented by a BirdLife affiliate and supported by Rio Tinto:

The direct payments [for conservation] project aims to strengthen the conservation of Tsitongambarika’s unique and threatened biodiversity, enhance water security for QMM’s mining operations… and maintain ecosystem services essential for regional development.

Rio Tinto is partnered with this affiliate in a biodiversity offset program. Note that other than biodiversity, the benefits of the project are for the mine and/or “regional development” but are subsumed into conservation as well. The biodiversity offsets involve “the financing of, or provision of land for, biodiversity conservation outside of mining zones,” explains PhD candidate in Anthropology, Caroline Seagle. The idea is that aspects of biodiversity are exchangeable (or fungible) with others, so damage to this particular type of forest can be made up for elsewhere.

For aspects of ecosystems to be treated as fungible commodities, their uniqueness and complexity needs to be erased for the sake of market exchange. This “offset ideology” is “premised upon the monetization of nature and market rationality,” writes Seagle, in “Inverting the impacts: Mining, conservation and sustainability claims near the Rio Tinto/QMM ilmenite mine in Southeast Madagascar” (for a similar more accessible version, see “The mining-conservation nexus“).

“Through the paradigm of conservation finance and payments for environmental services (PES), the ‘offset ideology’ is less mitigatory and more compensatory – making up for local damage through land allocation or financial support of nature conservation,” criticizes Seagle.

Similar to Rio Tinto’s wetland banking, these mechanisms are not only intended to compensate for damage, but to create revenue. IUCN wrote in 2011 of Rio Tinto’s further steps in Madagascar to gain from conservation:

Rio Tinto is using established relationships with its biodiversity partners and specifically its relationship with IUCN to explore how ecosystem services can be accurately valued and the implications for corporate risks and opportunities.

For companies like Rio Tinto, robust methods of valuing ecosystem services and the development of well functioning markets for ecosystem services could provide an opportunity to use large non-operational land holdings to create new income streams for Rio Tinto and for local stakeholders and communities, through the sale of ecosystem service credits.

Biodiversity offsets became a primary tool to make headway into areas they wanted to mine. An IUCN document reiterated,

[For some] Multinational companies, whose operations have an impact on biodiversity and for whom license to operate – both formal concessions from governments and social license from communities – are key to business success. Their view of biodiversity offsets is that best practice on biodiversity – possibly including offsets, whether mandatory or voluntary – is important to access land, maintain reputation… and the avoidance of interference and disruption from NGOs and local communities.

The wetlands offsets in Utah and the biodiversity offsets in Madagascar are just two experiences the mining companies could learn from leading up to the Arizona land exchange. While Rio Tinto was mandated to buy wetlands offsets for their Kennecott Utah mine, in the Arizona case, RCM had to do a land exchange to access the Forest Service land, and there seem to be no other mandatory mitigatory steps required of RCM. But they did use ecosystem services to attribute value to the conservation lands, which seemed to have some utility for them.

The land exchange was framed in terms of offsets because it of its purported mitigatory function. In his testimony before the U.S. Senate Sub-Committee on Forests and Public Lands, the President of Resolution stated in 2009, “we believe the exceptional quality and quantity of the non-federal lands that will be conveyed into Federal ownership more than off-set any expected surface impacts to the lands acquired by Resolution Copper” (my emphasis).

The ICMM featured the Arizona land exchange in a 2010 Mining and Biodiversity case studies report, framing it as an offset as well:

Given Rio Tinto’s commitment to a net positive impact to biodiversity, the land exchange presents a unique opportunity to exceed the requirements of trading land of equivalent economic value by ensuring that the land parcels offered in the trade are also of equivalent or greater value for the conservation of biodiversity and provision of environmental services – a biodiversity offset (my emphasis).

The chart from this report (see above) shows the various parcels in Arizona Rio Tinto offered up as “offsets,” along with the their quality valuation, based on consultation with Audubon Arizona and other NGOs.

Again, the biodiversity and environmental services would likely not be accounted for in the official appraisal. However, Resolution’s claim of these voluntary offsets may have contributed to an attempt to prove that the swap is in the public interest.

Conservation Value

“The American public is getting ripped off,” Silver said. “The only land that is of value is the research center’s because it hasn’t been overgrazed, but it’s of no value to the general public because it wouldn’t be open to them, unlike Oak Flat that offers recreational opportunities to the public and is of cultural value to Native Americans,” Silver said.

Many, like Robin Silver, co-founder of the Center of Biological Diversity, as quoted by the Arizona Daily Sun disagree with TNC and Audubon Arizona’s opinions of the exchange parcels. Several environmental groups opposed to the mine detailed the damage the RCM would cause, as well as the poor quality of the exchange sites in their Scoping Comments for the Resolution Copper Mine DEIS.

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“The San Pedro is not free-flowing at the 7B Ranch,” Witzeman wrote.

Bob Witzeman, an environmentalist who spent several of his final years fighting against the Resolution Copper mine, commented that the 7B Ranch owned by BHP Billiton was likely purchased for its water rights and “is under no duress for need of protection… There is no danger of mining here, or developing homes here, because it is in a flood plain.”

In earning credit for offsets, protecting a site only counts for something if the site is under threat. This is called additionality. Some states and institutions require additionality as part of offset programs. The “counterfactual,” or what otherwise would have happened without a conservation project such as an offset program, is often difficult to ascertain. As far as the land exchange in Arizona goes, not only do many of the parcels seem of poor quality, especially compared to Oak Flat, it’s likely that there was no imminent threat to the largest parcel, 7B Ranch, nor the Appleton-Whittell parcel which was converted into a research facility in 1968.

This is not to say that conservation efforts are for naught (though there’s evidence that many of the projects, especially when profit-driven are not even effective), or that there is any legal weight to this point, but this needs to be considered. For example, regarding the 7B Ranch, Witzeman wrote, “BHP does own another riverside parcel with riparian habitat. BHP does plan to develop homes in that area, some 35,000 units. As of this time, they have made no commitment to protect this riparian habitat.” The land was still being preserved in 2013 (I was unable to find anything more recent) but the reason given that the real estate development plan didn’t come to fruition was the economic downturn in 2007.

This brings up another problem with offset programs called leakage. “Leakage occurs when environmentally destructive activities… are shifted from the places targeted for conservation to other sites,” explains Kathleen McAfee in Green economy and carbon markets for conservation and development: A critical view. Just one relevant example of leakage is when TNC purchased 500 acres along the San Pedro to retire it from agricultural irrigation only to have the seller begin irrigating a nearby 500 acre plot soon after.

Resolution’s protection of the 7B Ranch at the expense of nearby land can be shown in the case when the Sunzia transmission line project was in the planning stages, and two of the potential routes could have impacted the conservation value of the 7B Ranch. Resolution Copper sent a letter opposing those routes. The Final Environmental Impact Statement shows a somewhat different but nearby route as the BLM preferred alternative. RCM did not comment on other routes that would also affect the region. This not only shows that conservation is only important when it benefits the company, but it also points to another issue that comes up when profit factors into conservation. Scarcity, caused by development, increases the value of conservation products (such as offsets), thereby incentivizing conservation, but also more development.

Sian Sullivan argues that conservation banking is development-dependent. “Indeed, development that produces transformation of habitats is required for conservation credits to attain the prices that will encourage establishment of conservation banks and bankers, thereby generating trade in conservation credits as a funding strategy for conservation management.”

Seagle pointed out that as part of a strategy of sustainability in Madagascar – though applicable in other cases – Rio Tinto is paradoxically creating scarcity of biodiversity while claiming to save it.

Here and Now

The Nature Conservancy’s legitimization of development is not isolated to Resolution Copper, even in Arizona. Water is particularly vulnerable to green grabbing, as water is integral to ecosystem services as well as a necessary resource for industry. Aside from the partnerships with Ft. Huachuca noted above, TNC is also working with Castle & Cooke’s housing development called Tribute in Sierra Vista, as well as El Dorado Holdings’ Vigneto Villages housing development in Bensen, the latter involving a “mitigation parcel” as an offset. Both could be serious threats to the San Pedro and nearby aquifers, and require proof of assured water supplies.

A major threat to aquifers and other surface water in Arizona relates to what’s happening with the Central Arizona Project (CAP) water Arizona has come to depend on (though destructive). Arizona is taking voluntary Colorado River water reductions to delay an official shortage declaration triggered by Lake Mead’s water level. Water officials have been meeting with various leaders in different sectors to arrange voluntary cuts, with a plan to compensate water users (this may involve more market-based “solutions”) for 400,000 AF per year. Resolution Copper has secured a portion of Arizona’s stored water in the form of storage credits, which brings up more issues regarding recovery. RCM expects to also be able to access large quantities of CAP water, but this allocation is in a low priority category, and therefore is subject to cuts. Farmers, tribes, and others are subject to having to forego their share of CAP water, essentially to secure water for the mine (and other mining operations and water bottling, etc). As CAP reductions go into effect, stress on other sources of surface and ground water will increase.

What may be most troubling to readers is that an NGO has been selling water offsets based on watershed restoration projects, to companies like Coca Cola and Intel Corp. While they continue to use massive amounts of water, companies’ “water footprints” are allegedly reduced by voluntarily buying Water Restoration Certificates (WRC) from Bonneville Environmental Foundation (BEF). WRCs supposedly help restore a watershed in partnership with local landowners and big environmental groups like TNC. BEF also sells carbon offsets.

One such project involving TNC and BEF (supported by Walmart heirs’ Walton Family Foundation) is the relatively new Verde River Exchange Water Offset Program. Reading media coverage on this project, you wouldn’t gather that this is part of TNC’s efforts in developing water markets across the globe. Their 2016 report called Water Share: Using water markets and impact investment to drive sustainability says a lot more, revealing that their hypothetical model involves reallocating (selling or leasing) the majority of the “conserved” water from farming (that would otherwise contribute to the aquifer or river but is considered “lost”) to another sector in order to raise revenue to compensate farmers and to profit investors. These small-scale pilot projects may have much bigger implications in the future.

A few recently published papers (funded by the Walton Family Foundation) apply monetary value to and promote payments for ecosystem services of the Colorado River Basin, and suggest unbundling water rights to create a water market in the Western US. Water-marketing may be central to addressing the main obstacle to finalizing a Lower Colorado River basin Drought Contingency Plan – California’s Salton Sea. Arizona aims to resolve remaining tribal water rights claims on the state’s terms and facilitate water marketing. A major US/Mexico water agreement makes water marketing central to multiple aspects of the current and future versions. The Bureau of Reclamation has become involved in water marketing, and things may become even worse under Trump’s administration.

It is concerning that seemingly necessary feel-good projects in water conservation will actually serve capitalism. But there is no denying that there are many examples of this across the world. NGO/corporate partnerships have served to contribute to learning experiences, provide green credentials for mining companies and other development to influence media and decision-makers, and create new mechanisms for access to resources and financial gain.

Standing Rock water protectors’ efforts were evoked in an article on the Ecosystem Marketplace website in which the author declared that 2016 was a year for learning the value of water. The article promoted market-based mechanisms like those developed by TNC. The real lesson to be learned is not that the value of water should be translated into market terms, but instead many have learned that resource appropriation (when not invisible) is backed up by state violence or the threat of it. Those who physically obstruct the Resolution Copper mine, or in any other case, in protest may be treated similarly to the water protectors fighting against DAPL.

 

See an accompanying page on the San Pedro River for more on that.

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

The Art of Annihilation

September 24, 2015

Part thirteen of an investigative series by Cory Morningstar

Divestment Investigative Report Series [Further Reading]: Part IPart IIPart IIIPart IVPart VPart VIPart VIIPart VIIIPart IXPart XPart XIPart XIIPart XIII

 

“Sometimes people hold a core belief that is very strong. When they are presented with evidence that works against that belief, the new evidence cannot be accepted. It would create a feeling that is extremely uncomfortable, called cognitive dissonance. And because it is so important to protect the core belief, they will rationalize, ignore and even deny anything that doesn’t fit in with the core belief.” Frantz Fanon, in Black Skin, White Masks

 

Prologue: A Coup d’état of Nature – Led by the Non-Profit Industrial Complex

It is somewhat ironic that anti-REDD climate activists, faux green organizations (in contrast to legitimate grassroots organizations that do exist, although few and far between) and self-proclaimed environmentalists who consider themselves progressive will speak out against the commodification of nature’s natural resources while simultaneously promoting the divestment campaign promoted by the mainstream groups allegedly on the left. It’s ironic because the divestment campaign will result (succeed) in a colossal injection of money shifting over to the very portfolios heavily invested in, thus dependent upon, the intense commodification and privatization of Earth’s last remaining forests (via REDD, environmental “markets” and the like). This tour de force will be executed with cunning precision under the guise of environmental stewardship and “internalising negative externalities through appropriate pricing.” Thus, ironically (if in appearances only), the greatest surge in the ultimate corporate capture of Earth’s final remaining resources is being led, and will be accomplished, by the very environmentalists and environmental groups that claim to oppose such corporate domination and capture.

Beyond shelling out billions of tax-exempt dollars (i.e., investments) to those institutions most accommodating in the non-profit industrial complex (otherwise known as foundations), the corporations need not lift a finger to sell this pseudo green agenda to the people in the environmental movement; the feat is being carried out by a tag team comprised of the legitimate and the faux environmentalists. The public – wholly ignorant and gullible – has no comprehension of the following:

  1. the magnitude of our ecological crisis
  2. the root causes of the planetary crisis, or
  3. the non-profit industrial complex as an instrument of hegemony.

The commodification of the commons will represent the greatest, and most cunning, coup d’état in the history of corporate dominance – an extraordinary fait accompli of unparalleled scale, with unimaginable repercussions for humanity and all life.

Further, it matters little whether or not the money is moved from direct investments in fossil fuel corporations to so-called “socially responsible investments.” All corporations on the planet (and therefore by extension, all investments on the planet) are dependent upon and will continue to require massive amounts of fossil fuels to continue to grow and expand ad infinitum – as required by the industrialized capitalist economic system.

The windmills and solar panels serve as beautiful (marketing) imagery as a panacea for our energy issues, yet they are illusory – the fake veneer for the commodification of the commons, which is the fundamental objective of Wall Street, the very advisers of the divestment campaign.

Thus we find ourselves unwilling to acknowledge the necessity to dismantle the industrialized capitalist economic system, choosing instead to embrace an illusion designed by corporate power.

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The Increasing Vogue for Capitalist-Friendly Climate Discourse

“…there comes with celebritus politicus a kind of ‘plausible deniability’ – similar to … ‘conspicuous redemption’ – in the context of climate change celebrities – that gets turned into a kind of caring deniability designed to set loose the philanthropic sensibilities and materialities of celebritus politicus that very often work to hide the systematic and subjective violences upon which neoliberal capitalism are based.” — Age of Icons, Exploring Philanthrocapitalism in the Contemporary World, 2013

 

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“We can expect more with her new book, which focuses on climate politics and is due for release in September 2014, well timed to intervene in the debates surrounding the big UN talks in New York. Klein offers an alternative amongst the increasing vogue for capitalist-friendly climate discourse, though her 2011 article Capitalism vs the Climate may be showing its age.” — Road to Paris Website, 20 Women Making Waves in the Climate Change Debate, ICSU website. [1]

Road to Paris 2

Road to Paris 1

“It is a bitter irony of source journalism … that the most esteemed journalists are precisely the most servile.” — Lee and Solomon, 1990

Note the above reference to Klein’s book “This Changes Everything” and its September 2014 release date as “well timed to intervene in the debates surrounding the big UN talks in New York.” Indeed, This Changes Everything was the springboard for the “new economy” sought by Wall Street and empire. Note the framing of a new ideology around the word capitalism: “the increasing vogue for capitalist-friendly climate discourse” as well as “capitalist-friendly discourse”.

“Basically your ministers are not people who go in for decisions on the part of people, I don’t know whether you realize it or not…they had been looked upon as saviors.” – Ella Baker [Beyond MLK]

The simple reality that we kill capitalism – or capitalism kills us – does not draw billions in advertising revenue nor does it allow for the obtainment of public acquiescence to the financialization of Earth’s remaining commons. Thus, the framing of capitalism itself is most critical: “[Klein] leaves too much wiggle room for capitalism to escape a definitive condemnation…. She seems clear enough in the analysis that pervades the book that it is capitalism, yet she repeatedly qualifies this position by decrying ‘the kind of capitalism we now have,’ ‘neoliberal’ capitalism, ‘deregulated’ capitalism, ‘unfettered’ capitalism, ‘predatory’ capitalism, ‘extractive capitalism,’ and so on.” [When History Knocks, December 2014]

Capitalist friendly climate discourse has only become increasingly vogue because that’s what global media, on behalf of their owners, wish to sell us. And they have succeeded. The storyline has been swallowed, hook, line and sinker.

Klein’s contributions have not threatened capitalism; rather her efforts are utilized to not only protect it, but strengthen it.

Klein Reformist Capitalism 1

The United Nations Global Biodiversity Outlook 4 document states that “with concerted efforts at all levels, we can achieve the goals and targets of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011–2020.” (Note again the re-occurring references to the year 2020 in this report.) This is identified as critically important, as the world/UN intensifies its actions to meet the Millennium Development Goals, and “craft a successor agenda for sustainable development, and adopt a meaningful legal climate change agreement – all by the year 2015.”

And although the targets are not being met (the UN did not meet its Millennium Development Goals by 2015, for example; nor did nations adopt a legally binding climate change agreement that impact climate change), it matters little as the key goal is not mentioned in articles (such as those published in the Guardian) that focus solely on biodiversity loss. The Strategic Plan includes a set of 20 targets (the Aichi Biodiversity Targets) [2], most of which are supposedly to be achieved by 2020, with the overarching goal “ultimately aimed at achieving a 2050 vision of a world where biodiversity is valued, conserved, restored and wisely used, maintaining ecosystem services, sustaining a healthy planet and delivering benefits essential for all people.”

2015: On the Road to Paris

This Changes Everything: The 2015 TckTckTck

Based on the premise that “in December 2015, the world will get a new climate deal at the COP21 meeting in Paris,” it follows that the UN and those whose interests it serves had a vested interest in ensuring that the campaign “This Changes Everything” superseded the last campaign of this scale, which was the 2009 TckTckTck campaign leading up to COP15 in Copenhagen.

“This Changes Everything, initiated by an independent and growing network of young activists and campaign groups, aims to support the global movement against climate change by building bridges with social justice movements and the science that supports them. We want to raise awareness and participation, launching a wave of protest and direct action in the run up to December’s UN climate summit in Paris – and beyond.” [See screenshot below]

This Changes Everything Campaign Screenshot

TckTckTck was a corporate-driven communications campaign from its very inception. TckTckTck’s gross undermining of the world’s most vulnerable states that fought to defend the Earth will one day be understood as one of the greatest crimes against humanity the world has ever known. The following text is from a press release obtained from Havas advertising:

As its co-founder and co-creator, David Jones has led Kofi Annan’s ‘Tck TckTck Campaign for Climate Justice’ and is Global CEO of Havas Worldwide, running all creative, marketing and design companies throughout the network of more than 300 offices. Kate Robertson is one of the co-founders of the TckTckTck campaign and has been Chairman of the Euro RSCG Group since 2006.”

It is critical to note that 350.org, Avaaz , Greenpeace and Oxfam are the first NGO signatories to have partnered in this effort (as well as founding members of Global Campaign for Climate Action) with many of the planet’s most powerful corporate entities such as EDF (owns/operates three of the world’s top ten nuclear power plants by capacity), Virgin Group and Lloyds Bank. According to Hoggan and Associates Public Relations Firm (a venture of the DeSmog Blog co-founder, Jim Hoggan), during the 5 months of the campaign, TckTckTck and its partners registered 15.5 million names worldwide on an online petition. Also note that GCCA/TckTckTck was the leading NGO behind the 2014 People’s Climate March.

Consider the cunning and exhaustive marketing endeavour to re-frame the corporate global capture of nature’s commons (ecosystem services) as holistic, honest and ethical. Thus, one could reasonably hypothesize that the foundations and institutions that brilliantly strategize for the protection and expansion of hegemonic power would gladly welcome, and far prefer, the “This Changes Everything” campaign. A multi-million dollar “Tck-esque” campaign, financed by the United Nations, is as old and tired as the “green economy.” The patina is damaged. A citizen-led mobilization lends much needed legitimacy – for the most fraudulent agenda to ever be realized by the world’s most powerful psychopaths.

With the 350.org divestment movement and Klein at the helm, in addition to its partnership with The Guardian (which has also partnered with Klein personally outside of 350.org) and endorsement from the UN, 350.org et al have a position in the media to create mobilizations on cue, simply by calling out its army of divestment students, now global in scope. In the This Changes Everything website it should be noted that within Klein’s bio, 350.org continues to be referred to as a global grassroots movement – disregarding the fact that 1Sky (which merged with 350 in 2011) was an incubator project of the Rockefeller Foundation; it is still an NGO whose annual incomes exceeds millions; and it rewards staff with six-figure salaries. Due to its now global size (not to mention its oligarchic origins), 350.org is very far removed from the true concept of grassroots. The word disingenuous, in regard to this claim, is an immense understatement.

The Message

Of course. disingenuous is to be expected when one looks at the financing behind Klein’s This Changes Everything book and film project, formerly referred to as The Message.

Susan Rockefeller is the Co-Executive Producer of the documentary film This Changes Everything and founding partner of Louverture Films, LLC. Louverture is the production company for the documentary film This Changes Everything in partnership with The Message Productions, LLC / Klein Lewis Productions.

The fiscal sponsor of this endeavour was New York-based Sustainable Markets Foundation (SMF). SMF is financed by a multitude of foundations including Rockefeller Family Fund, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Energy Foundation, Park Foundation, Hewlett Foundation, Schmidt, Global Wallace Fund, Tides, etc. In addition, Tides receives millions in funding from Warren Buffett laundered through the Buffett family foundation NoVo.

“‘The Message’ is a multi-platform project on climate change. The first part of the project is a non-fiction book expected for release in fall 2014 by Naomi Klein, to be followed by a documentary currently in production. In 2011 and 2012, SMF received donations for and distributed grants to ‘The Message.’ Specifically, in 2011, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund gave SMF $50,000 for ‘The Message,’ Wallace Global Fund gave SMF $75,000 for ‘The Message,’ and Schmidt Family Foundation gave $40,000 to SMF ‘to support development of a film titled, The Message.’

 

“While those donations total $165,000 in 2011, that year SMF gave $112,360 – the difference seemingly represents SMF’s fiscal sponsor fee. The following year, the Schmidt Family Foundation gave SMF $100,000 ‘to support “The Message” film.’” [Source: United States Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works Minority Staff Report, July 30, 2014]

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Photo: Susan Rockefeller at her home on the Upper East Side in Manhattan, New York, on Sept. 8, 2015. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)

“But what appears as a natural property of the charismatic celebrity is actually produced by discourses of celebrity. (Matt Hills, 2005:151) The capitalist system uses celebrities to promote individualism and illusions of democracy (the ‘anyone can do it’ myth) […] capitalism retains its hold on society, by reducing all human activity to private ‘personalities’ and the inner life of the individual.” (Giles, 2000:19 and 72)

NAOMI KLEIN

“Credible celebrity endorsers can be deadly efficient in cutting into the toughest markets and combating the fiercest consumer resistance.” —Celebrity Culture, 2006

 

 

“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

 

When promoting her 2000 book, No Logo, in an interview with the Guardian, Klein claimed that Apple and other corporations were selling the consumers’ own ideas back to them (by tapping into their aspirations and dreams). Klein stated: “People are drawn to these brands because they are selling their own ideas back to them. They are selling the most powerful ideas that we have in our culture such as transcendence, and community, even democracy. These are all brand meanings now.” Her observation was dead-on. This begs the question of how an individual, once astute, can 15 years later, be blind to the parallels: an almost identical global marketing scheme now being applied to the populace in order to capture and privatize the natural environment. Today, Wall Street and other corporations are selling back to consumers their own ideas by tapping into their aspirations and dreams.

Just as hopes and dreams can now be bought and sold by advertising moguls, states and corporations, nature will be bought and sold by states and corporations, in large part made possible by the same social media that serves as the gateway for unprecedented manipulation, coercion, social engineering, and distraction. People are drawn to the manufactured illusions and false promises (renewable energy for all, a green utopia, etc.) precisely because they are being sold their very own ideas (embodied in aspirations and dreams). Indeed, as Klein herself stated, “They are selling the most powerful ideas that we have in our culture such as transcendence, and community, even democracy. These are all brand meanings now.” The difference is that Apple and other corporations delivered on ideas embodied in aspirations and dreams via singular consumer products. But the “new economy” that Klein et al advocate for has every intention of delivering on our ideas embodied in aspirations and dreams – in relation to our future within the natural world – by further expanding capital and commodifying the whole of Earth’s natural commons. Klein and her ivory tower cohorts provide the hope and dreams (“The convenient truth is that we can seize this existential crisis to transform our failed system and build something radically better,” said Klein in This Changes Everything) while the world’s most powerful institutions and oligarchs provide the predetermined solutions – “solutions” that the nonprofit industrial complex (NPIC) ensures remain shrouded in darkness behind the façade of solar panels, wind mills and co-operatives.

Some things don’t change. Two things that don’t change are 1) permanent/continual economic growth is a non-negotiable imperative of the capitalist economic system, and 2) capitalists will stop at absolutely nothing to grow/expand their capital. It is only through the acquisition of the labour of “visible minorities,” the oppressed and colonized peoples (via racism, classism, imperialism, colonialism and patriarchy) that the privileged can cling to their belief that the current crisis is somehow salvageable. With this in mind, the strategy is to have a global populace not only simply acquiesce to, but also demand that global leaders roll out “sustainable capitalism” (in other words, payment for ecosystems services, which is marketed, and consequently interpreted by the public, as nothing more than the “new economy,” sold by McKibben, Klein and others under the guise of vogue, capitalist-friendly climate discourse).

This strategy must be considered the most brilliant hoax since Buffett’s KXL. The people taking to the streets, demanding what the establishment decided upon long ago, is surely worth a toast of champagne on Wall Street as the world’s most powerful capitalists laugh all the way to the bank.

The paradox of having been blinded by the spectacle is the cult-esque faith that the new economy will save us, even as it further propels us to complete and absolute annihilation.

“We will tell you what you want to hear. You need not ever look in the mirror. We are your moral alibi. Love us. Protect us. We are you.” —Ivory Tower Saviours

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While Klein writes that “What the climate needs now is a contraction in humanity’s use of resources; what our economic model demands is unfettered expansion”, her push on divestment promises us the exact opposite. The “renewable energy revolution” (for those of privilege) based upon and dependent upon infinite and unfathomable amounts of steel, cement, aluminum and copper (all to be pillaged from an already exhausted planet), represents just one aspect of a goal grounded in denial. Further, when one takes into account that approx. 70% of all wind turbine supplies are manufactured by just 10 corporations, we can better comprehend a global campaign whose goal is to further empower the technocratic elite classes and strengthen corporate dominance. In the paper Fetishisms of Apocalypse, the author observes the pervasive framing of what mirrors the divestment ideology: “ruling elites have to be persuaded to act in their own interest now… forcing a wholly separate Society to homogenise itself around elite managers and their technological and organisational fixes.”

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Branding the Bourgeoisie

While Oprah Winfrey’s goal/vision is to divert protesters into Martin Luther King’s “strategic” model, Klein’s efforts divert protestors into the establishment’s “strategic” model. Klein’s celebrity partner Russell Brand (at the forefront of the 21st century trend of the bourgeoisie-revolutionary), makes his revolutionary stance clear (This Changes Everything UK, March 28, 2015) when he instructs his followers that “a facility for the will of the people [is] to be represented… so we have the ability to influence the institutions that control us….” Unfortunately, Brand has not been privy to a simple fact articulated by legitimate revolutionary voice, Assata Shakur, who warned long ago that “nobody in the world, nobody in history, has ever gotten their freedom by appealing to the moral sense of the people who were oppressing them.” Brand adds that “if we can’t influence those institutions, then the institutions have to go.” Yet, the reality is that institutions are merely bureaucracies “whose very functions are, first: to make money, and second: to pacify the masses by diverting their discontent into compromises with capital.” [Source] In Brand’s urging to create a facility “so we have the ability to influence the institutions that control us,” he reinforces both the system’s authority and the illusion of democracy.

The following observation is quickly becoming most prophetic as the populace continues to be enraptured by the spectacle:

“These historical distortions aren’t just academic: they affect how we view militancy and moderation today. If activists and supporters aren’t aware of the contribution that rowdy non-nonviolent marches made to the campaign, they might instead chalk it up to King’s horse-trading, and thus submit to elite calls for tighter leadership and a cooling-off period – a course that would undermine the crucial momentum of the movement. (Selma producer Oprah Winfrey has said it’s precisely her intention to divert protesters into King’s ‘strategic’ model.) If they come to associate the archetype of the well-funded, well-connected leader with strategic wisdom, they may find themselves embracing the next faux messianic figure who emerges to channel revolutionary energies into reformism, despite the fact that decades of liberal church leadership have brought real losses to the black community, including rollback of the Voting Rights Act.” Beyond MLK

Poet and writer Ryszard Kapuscinski once offered that “oil is a resource that anaesthetizes thought, blurs vision, and corrupts.” Perhaps this anaesthetization also lends itself to the origins of infinite growth as sacrosanct, coupled with a collective and insatiable thirst for artificial needs and false prophets – which seemingly cannot be quenched. Like the 17th century mad hatters poisoned by mercury, perhaps the thought processes of today’s productivist environmentalists have been anaesthetized, blurred and corrupted – by oil.

Embracing Our Icons of Privilege

“Celebrities are developed to make money.” — Graeme Turner, 2004

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Vogue Magazine (August 26, 2014: “Naomi Klein on This Changes Everything, Her New Book About Climate Change”)

 

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Getty Images

“A high-profile sports star like Michael Jordan or David Beckham can become a one-man super brand (Naomi Klein, 2001), able to move his audiences into new regimes of consumption.” — Understanding Celebrity, 2013

It is not mere coincidence that the progressive left’s most cherished idols are white, privileged, lucratively financed, climate/environmental “activists” that continuously jet-set around the globe. This is the same progressive left addicted to their Starfuck lattes, semi-annual vacations, cottages and shiny new cars. Rather, they love their idols – because they identify with them. Take a day to listen to likes of activists such as Dhoruba bin Wahad, Lorenzo Kom’boa Ervin, or Omali Yeshitela, and one quickly realizes that today’s white, privileged, lucratively financed appointed “leaders” are as flimsy, weak and homogenized as a loaf of Wonder Bread.

Even if our progressive left crowd stumbles across radical and critical thinkers – even when facts hit our progressives between the eyes – they do not dismiss their false prophets. Rather, insulated within their own identities and obscured by privilege, the liberal left is quick to dismiss any and all factual information and rush to their idols’ defense. Never before has it been so easy for pied pipers to lead the credulous astray.

Bill+McKibben+Marisa+Tomei+23rd+Annual+Environmental

Actress Marisa Tomei, honoree Bill McKibben and wife Sue Halpern arrive at the 23rd Annual Environmental Media Awards and after party, presented by Toyota and Lexus at Warner Bros. Studios on October 19, 2013 in Burbank, California

Bill+McKibben+United+Nations+Equator+Prize+fX0ulmRx9VTl

350.org co-founder Bill McKibben speaks on stage during the United Nations 2014 Equator Prize Gala at Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center on September 22, 2014 in New York City. Partners behind the celebrity-fetishized event include Conservation International, Nature Conservancy, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), United Nations Foundation, and USAID.

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Honoree Bill McKibben at the 23rd Annual Environmental Media Awards and after party, presented by Toyota and Lexus at Warner Bros. Studios on October 19, 2013 in Burbank, California.

It is not mere coincidence that most liberals admire those that tend to reflect their own lives, those with whom they can identify. Until recently, 350.org board member Naomi Klein lived between two homes in Canada; one home in Metropolitan Toronto and one on the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia. Klein is an author. Klein is married to a documentary film-maker. She is a jet-setter. Her fan base is somewhat similar in status. The same holds true for McKibben with homes in both the Green Mountains and the Adirondacks: A beautiful custom-built home with panoramic views of red pines on land once owned by the poet Robert Frost (Vermont) complete with a wood-fired hot tub. A second home in Johnsburg, New York, deep in the beautiful Adirondacks [Source]. Cars, travel, famous friends and a good job. Both McKibben and Klein are appointed and given celebrity status by the establishment, in a culture that feeds on celebrity fetish. It is safe to say that everyone who believes in them already lives like them – or wants to live like them. They do not identify with someone like Omali Yeshitela, whose rightful anger is not hidden, and who constantly is subjected to harassment by cops, on behalf of the state. Nor do they identify with any Indigenous radicals other than the tiny token handful who are stamped and certified by the NPIC. How can they identify with Indigenous radicals who face increasing suicide rates, impoverishment, lack of access to clean drinking water, and worse, on a daily basis? The critical thinkers and thought leaders in these unpopular realms would only invoke guilt for the privileged supporters of 350.org, etc. – most with good jobs and ample money and who very much want to keep their aforementioned privilege, good jobs and ample money. The liberal left embraces those who make them feel good and deserving of their privilege.

McKibben 1990 Wood Fired Hot Tub Nixed for Climate

Sarasota Herald-Tribune, February 7, 1990: “Faced with his belief that the world is literally going to hell, McKibben decide not to construct a wood-fired hot tub in his backyard. Instead he bought thermal-pane windows… And so it seems it has come to this…. That forsaking hot tubs and powerful leaf blowers and environmentally unsound communication is simply not enough. We must do more.”

McKibben 2012 Decides on Hot Tub

What a difference a day makes… The Boston Globe, January 22, 2012. “McKibben is no Luddite: His house near Middlebury College has indoor plumbing, a microwave, and a wood-fired hot tub.”

“Clearly activism is not what it used to be. Resistance was never what it was understood to be. And, capitalism is always reinventing itself. The power of capitalism as a global force has always been in the capacity of a system to adapt, incorporate and expand. Yet the prevailing sense that capitalism is undergoing a new phase in relationship to activism and resistance is palpable. [It is] in this shifting, murky, hard to define terrain, that critical consumer studies has emerged as an important new field of study.” — Commodity Activism: Cultural Resistance in Neoliberal Times, 2013

The “new economy” promises that this is possible. And that is what people of privilege want (and need) to hear. Who wants to ride a bike or take public transit when you can be seen in your new Tesla wearing your Prada scarf – a latte in one hand and the latest smart phone in the other?

Video: Ac”CLIMATE”izing Society to the “New Economy” featuring “actress” (celebrity) Michelle Rodriguez (running time 1:30)

 

 

Why should the 1% creating 50% of the global greenhouse gas emissions give up flying – when you can simply “fly clean,” dismissing the fact entirely that 95% of the world’s population have never flown. (“Air travel hit new records as well: in 2004, 1.9 billion passengers traveled 3.4 trillion kilometers. Yet only 5% of the world’s population has ever flown.” [Source]) With so many innovative consumer products, and collaborations that promise a sustainable future as pitched by the green new economy (designed exclusively for the wealthy), why give up anything at all? It is little wonder that the status quo have fallen in love with the illusion that the new economy will miraculously save us.

“In this, these markets of emotion and care come into their own: celebritis politicus is used to sell causes, contributions, concerns and socially responsible consumerism through a competitive market for poverty and enviro-tainment designed to develop, capture, and ‘use’ the fans of this poverty and enviro-tainment towards progressive ends.” — Commodity Activism: Cultural Resistance in Neoliberal Times, 2013

The irony is that while nature requires our colossal consumption to come to a grinding halt, the signals embedded in our messengers and subtexts (celebrities, sponsors, advertising, false hope and minimizing of reality, etc.) ever so subtly and skillfully demand the opposite. Collectively, the cognitive dissonance (in all political spectrums: left, centre and right) stemming from our disregard as a species for Earth’s natural limits guarantees the destruction of the shared biosphere and most likely, all life within it. Adding to this multifaceted psy-war is the fact that if fossil fuels were actually to be removed from the equation, whole societies would quickly collapse and cease to exist. As seductive as clean energy tales are as told by the UN, the NPIC and the media – at the bequest of the oligarchs, on whom they depend – there are no new Lexuses, Toyotas or Teslas, designer clothes, Vanity Fairs or jet travel in a fossil fuel-constrained world. Such desires will have to be wrestled from the hands of the privileged. Voluntary curtailing of consumption by those that consume the most is mere fantasy. Alas, such a fantasy is not only the last thing the elites would wish for, but indeed their greatest nightmare.

“Celebrities offer peculiarly powerful affirmations of belonging, recognition and meaning.” — Chris Rojek

Akin to how Halo cars serve to, first and foremost, capitalize the brand (Bloomberg: “The Beauty and Logic of the Million-Dollar Car”), our celebrity “leaders” are constructed in the same way: to capitalize the “new economy” (or “next system,” etc.) brand. The same holds true for the privileged left – those with purchasing power. The real value is in the association … the tapping into the elite aura emitted by the upper-echelon luminaries who have been appointed as the messengers for the environment. “[T]he everyday drivers of the lower-tier cars get to feel like they’re part of the correct club.” Indeed, “…celebrity culture can be visualized as a form of corporate incarceration, confining consumers in a tight social space in which they can aspire to the Good Life and find gratification only by following the imagined lives of others and striving to emulate them. If this is a prison, then it is one where the prisoners are ‘busily keeping the walls intact.’” [Source]

Patel Puma Awards

Avaaz founder Ricken Patel (left) and Zadie Smith (celebrity/author). PUMA Impact Award, The Times Center, November 13, 2013, NYC (Photo by Lauren Colchamiro)

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Left to right: Avaaz co-founder Ricken Patel, celebrity Susan Sarandon, and author/celebrity Zadie Smith for the PUMA Impact Award, The Times Center, November 13, 2013, NYC

Kumi Puma

Executive Director of Greenpeace Kumi Naidoo (left) and celebrity/actor Djimon Hounsou (right) at the 3rd Puma Creative Impact Award. Radialsystem V, Berlin, Germany, 13 Nov 2012 (photo: Zucker Kommunikation)

Olivia Zaleski, Kate Dillon, Michael Brune, Summer Rayne Oakes== RAINFOREST ACTION NETWORK Hosts the Opening Night Party for The GreenShows ECO Fashion Week== King of Greene Street, NYC== September 15, 2009== ©Patrick McMullan== Photo - WILL RAGOZZINO/PatrickMcMullan.com== ==

Left to right: Kate Dillon, Olivia Zaleski, Michael Brune and Summer Rayne Oakes, at RAN’s Don’t Bag Indonesia’s Rainforest campaign launch at the GreenShows, New York Fashion Week, December, 2009. Prior to his position as executive director working for the Sierra Club, Michael Brune was the executive director of the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) for seven years. Prior to his employment at RAN (1998-2010), Brune worked for Greenpeace as a public outreach director. Photo credit: Rainforest Action Network

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Amy Goodman (L) of Democracy Now and Susan Sarandon. PUMA Impact Awards at Times Center, November 13, 2013, New York City. (Photo: Robin Marchant)

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Avaaz and Purpose Inc. co-founder, Jeremy Heimans (far right) in Opportunity Green panel discussion for the “green economy,” with celebrity spokesperson Don Cheadle (second from left) (2011)

As author John Stauber observes: “Liberals need to believe reform is possible, liberal oligarchs need investments, liberal politicians need votes, liberal activists need jobs, and it all is done in acceptance of a corporate oligarchy which needs to make sure no real threat arises to its status quo. So we have many marriages of convenience.”

Those of privilege will not make leaders of non-white activists who identify privilege and whiteness as systemic constructs of an institution structured to maintain and expand the privileges of tyrannical powers – a system, within a structure, that promises nothing more than the acceleration of our global, ecological crisis, unparalleled in magnitude. Nor will those of privilege accept as their mentors those who accurately warn that the very structure and systems that protect and maintain privilege must be dismantled (and other ugly truths we refuse to acknowledge). There is a reason why Indigenous activists such as Kat Yang-Stevens take Rockefellers’ poster boy, Bill McKibben, to task – while 350’s Naomi Klein, in partnership with the Guardian, presents McKibben as a 21st century deity.

The truth is, we’re not going to talk about avoiding the catastrophic temperatures we’ve already allowed to transpire 1) because it is more than likely no longer possible to avoid them and, more importantly, 2) because collectively, the 1% creating 50% of the global greenhouse gas emissions will not willingly risk or give up their privilege. The wealthy minority, largely Euro-Americans of the western and northern hemispheres, will never voluntarily stop over-consuming energy – or anything else. The system demands that we continue. A contrived, false belief system rewards us for doing so. All necessary, disruptive, difficult and radical pathways are avoided by embracing illusory fantasies of a world where our privilege stays intact, simply by adding more infrastructure and expanding capital markets. Thus, we embrace the environmental “leaders” that the oligarchs have sanctioned / pre-approved for us, those with whom we, the privileged, identify and made iconic via the media, their most vital asset.

“Spectacle celebrities like Naomi Klein, while raising valid (albeit hypocritical) criticism of the complex, count on infantile consumers to maintain their activist credentials. Serving as proxies for consumer rage, yet asking nothing serious of them as citizens, makes these capitalist activists popular and profitable PR puppets. (I especially love Ms. No Logo’s logos.)” — Degrees of Evil: Savoring the nuances of co-optation, September 6, 2013, Intercontinental Cry

The Art of Conflation

Khrizantemy-Chrysanthemums-Yevgeni-Bauer-Vera-Karalli-(10)-Vera-flower-drop

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chrysanthemums (translit. Khrizantemy; 1914): a conflation of art, performance, and death  [Source]  

 

conflation
verb from “conflate”
occurs when the identities of two or more individuals, concepts, or places,
sharing some characteristics of one another, seem to be a single identity
— the differences appear to become lost.

 

bono clinton 2007

2007: “Former President Bill Clinton and musician Bono appear on stage during ‘Giving – Live At The Apollo’ presented by the MTV and Clinton Global Initiative at the Apollo Theater on September 29, 2007 in New York City.”

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2008: “U2 singer Bono speaks with Al Gore during the opening session of the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) on September 24, 2008, in New York City. Gore attended the fourth annual meeting of the CGI, a gathering of politicians, celebrities, philanthropists and business leaders to discuss pressing global issues.” (Spencer Platt / Getty Images)

 

In the October 12, 2007, CNN article The Bono-ization of Activism, Klein (rightly) criticizes the “Bono-ization” of the protest movement:

“…the new style of anti-poverty campaigning, where celebrities talk directly with government and business leaders on behalf of a continent (such as Africa) is another form of ‘noblesse oblige’ where the rich and powerful club together to ‘give something back.’ They are saying we don’t even need government anymore, it’s the replacement of nation states with corporate rule — this Billionaires Club, including Bill Clinton, that gets together to give a little something back.”

And yet, eight years later, Klein has fully immersed herself in this same (yet even more powerful) “Billionaires Club,” having replaced nation states with corporate rule. If anyone could be characterized as embracing “another form of ‘noblesse oblige’” it is Klein, the 350.org NGO she serves, and the climate cartel they run with – inclusive of Wall Street.

In 2007, Bill McKibben launched the national ‘Step It Up’ campaign (Clinton Global Initiative Commitment 2007) targeting members of the U.S. Congress to be ‘real leaders’ on climate change. Presidential candidates including Senators Barack Obama, Joe Biden, and Hillary Clinton attended Step It Up events and issued statements of support for 1Sky’s goals. Step it Up then morphed into 1Sky. 1Sky was an incubator project of the Foundation at its inception. [Further reading: Rockefellers’ 1Sky Unveils the New 350.org | More $ – More Delusion] At the 2007 Clinton Global Initiative, then President Clinton announced the 1Sky campaign. [Video, September 29, 2007: 1Sky at Clinton Global Initiative published by Step It Up][Clinton Foundation Press Release, September 27, 2007: “Working with partners 1Sky will raise $50 million to advocate for a simple set of goals and policy proposals to improve the federal government’s policies on climate change.”]

Four years (2011) after voicing very strong criticisms of the anti-poverty campaign’s engagement with Bill Clinton, a campaign that coincided with the 2007 Step It Up and 1Sky alliances with the Clinton Foundation, Klein would choose to serve on the 350.org board of directors as it officially merged with 1Sky.

“What’s complicated about the space that Bono and Geldof (Bob Geldof, founder of Live Aid) are occupying is that it’s inside and outside at the same time – there’s no difference. What’s significant about the Seattle movement (the WTO protests in 1999 and 2000) is that it’s less the tactics but the fact that it identifies that there are real power differences, winners and losers in this economic model.” [Klein: The Bono-ization of Activism]

In similar fashion, the space that 350.org and the NPIC “are occupying is that it’s inside and outside at the same time” – they are part and parcel of the same elite power structures Klein criticizes. “There’s no difference.” Like Bono’s Live Aid that Klein condemned, the divestment campaign, which Klein actively promotes, deliberately avoids the fact that “there are real power differences, winners and losers in this economic model” (i.e., the divestment model).

“Klein believes when celebrities such as Bono engage in talks with world leaders at forums such as Davos they are legitimizing the structures in place, and the inequalities that arise from these structures, rather than promoting any radical change. ‘The story of globalization is the story of inequality. What’s been lost in the Bono-ization is ability to change these power structures. There are still the winners and losers, people who are locked in to the power structures and those locked out.’” [The Bono-ization of Activism]

The official Road to Paris website cites Klein as one of the top twenty influential women in respect to this year’s “Road to Paris, United Nations Conference of the Parties” (with McKibben being cited as one of the top influential men). Like Bono lending legitimacy to Davos, Klein’s and McKibben’s luminary (and manufactured) status is being fully utilized in the same fashion: legitimizing the structures in place and the inequalities that arise from these structures. While Klein spoke to Bono’s legitimizing of globalization and inequality, 350’s partnership with the United Nations is stealth marketing that serves to whitewash the United Nations’ pivotal role as part of the finance/credit cartel subverting state sovereignty and undermining Indigenous autonomy. [Absence of the Sacred]

Failure to publicly expose and condemn the third pillar of the new economy – the commodification of nature via implementation of ecosystem services accounting – not only legitimizes the current power structures in place, but expands them and shields them from reproach. The inequalities that arise from this one single, and most critical, false solution (of many) not only legitimizes inequalities, it guarantees the finish line for the ongoing genocide – nothing less than total annihilation – of the world’s Indigenous peoples. The NPIC, as the third pillar of contemporary imperialism [3], which Klein has submerged herself in, ensures current power structures are not only kept intact, but strengthened and insulated.

Of course, this is not the first time 350.org has taken to subverting state sovereignty and undermined Indigenous autonomy.

“Bono’s Red initiative is emblematic of this new Pro-Logo age. He announced a new branded product range at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland last year called Product Red. American Express, Converse, Armani and Gap were initial partners, joined later by Apple and Motorola. The corporations sell Red branded products, with a percentage of profits going to Bono-approved causes. In this Pro-Logo world there is an irony of consuming to end poverty. Perhaps an even bigger irony: through initiatives like the Red card, consumer culture and branding is buying a stake in anti-globalization and alleviating poverty movement.” [The Bono-ization of Activism]

The global divestment campaign (as was the Stop the KeystoneXL! campaign) is emblematic of the increasingly sophisticated 21st century Pro-Logo age. Today, Bono’s 2008 branded product range promoting his Product Red has been replaced in the public realm with the divestment campaign’s ‘Fossil Fuel Free’ Funds and portfolios (while in the background, hedge funds and private investments comprise the portfolios of the ultra wealthy). Responsible Endowments Coalition, Energy Action Coalition, Sierra Student Coalition, As You Sow, Better Future Project (financed by Wallace Global Fund) and Ceres were initial partners, joined later by the Guardian and the United Nations. In this “capitalism vs the climate” world, there is a strengthening/expanding of capital markets to counteract capitalism. Perhaps an even bigger irony: through initiatives like the global divestment campaign, investment (which furthers consumption/consumer culture) is buying a stake in the anti-capitalist and environmental movements.

“What they’ve tapped into is a market niche. There’s nothing that’s inherently wrong with these initiatives except when they make radical claims that it’s going to end poverty. There’s a long history of radical consumption – what’s pretty unbelievable about this (the Red Label) is that they say it’s revolutionary and it’s going to replace other forms of politics.” [The Bono-ization of Activism]

What the divestment campaign has tapped into is a market niche. While the future will bear witness that there is / was everything inherently wrong with the divestment (dis)course, the framing that the campaign is in service to the fight against climate change is more than insulting. Remix: There’s a long history of “radical” consumption – what’s pretty unbelievable about this current version (the divestment campaign) is that they say it’s revolutionary and it’s going to replace other forms of politics.

In the 2007 article, Klein argued that Bono’s supporters believed he was being constructive because his camp was engaging with power, which she disagreed with. Yet eight years later, Klein has aligned herself with some of the most powerful oligarchs and institutions in the world.

Toward the end of the 2007 article, the author quotes an unidentified activist who stated charity concerts were a way to recorporate the issue. The parallels are striking, for who could disagree that the divestment campaign does perform the exact same function – “a way to recorporate the issue”?

In a single quote that serves to be most prophetic, the unidentified activist added: “It changes nothing.”

manray3

Kiki de Montparnasse, Man Ray (Radnitzky, Emmanuel)

 

Klein’s partnership with the Guardian newspaper; her placating of 350.org’s foundation funding; her chosen decision to remain silent on warmonger NGOs such as 350.org’s strategic partner Avaaz (in large part responsible for the death of hundreds of thousands in Libya [4], which they seek to be repeated in Syria); her silence on the NPIC undermining of vulnerable states at COP15 (with Greenpeace, 350 and Avaaz being the first signatories of TckTckTck); her acceptance of 350’s undermining of a sovereign state and the world’s Indigenous peoples; her scant, almost non-existent references to the military-industrial complex in relation to its massive (and exempted) contribution to both climate change and ecological devastation (case in point, consider the US Air Force (USAF) is the single largest consumer of jet fuel in the world – the avoidance of this subject is even more unconscionable considering US President Barack Obama is one of the most (if not the most) militarily aggressive US presidents in history, authorizing various airstrikes and military operations in at least seven Muslim countries); her silence on industrialized factory framing (livestock stats); and her failure to disclose the relation between 350’s KXL campaign and Buffett’s 21st century oil by rail dynasty, etc. — all demonstrate Klein’s own “noblesse oblige.”

Klein’s most glaring “noblesse oblige” is the exclusion of ecosystem services accounting in her international best seller, This Changes Everything. The promotional description reads: “The really inconvenient truth is that it’s not about carbon – it’s about capitalism.” The solution is delivered in the next line: “The convenient truth is that we can seize this existential crisis to transform our failed system and build something radically better.” The elites are indeed seizing this existential crisis to transform our failed system – it’s the financialization of the Earth’s commons referred to as “valuing ecosystem services.”

Consider that in a 505-page book written on climate and capitalism not a single chapter, or even a single page, explores the most pathological intent of the 21st century. One is tempted to conclude that investigative journalist Klein has simply overlooked another critical issue pertaining to the climate. Or perhaps Klein simply has no knowledge of this scheme. However, the word financialization does garner one vital mention – buried in the acknowledgements: “Two years ago, Rajiv and I were joined by Alexandra Tempus, another exceptional and diligent journalist and researcher. Alexandra quickly mastered her own roster of topics, from post–Superstorm Sandy disaster capitalism to financialization of nature to the opaque world of green group and foundation funding to climate impacts on fertility. She developed important new contacts, uncovered new and shocking facts, and always shared her thoughtful analysis.” (The single reference to ecosystems services within the book is found within one sentence on p. 34: “Nor have the various attempts to soft-pedal climate action as compatible with market logic (carbon trading, carbon offsets, monetizing nature’s “services”) fooled these true believers one bit.”)

Further consider an Earth Island Institute “Conversation” with Naomi Klein (Fall 2013) during which Klein is asked a direct question on monetizing ecosystem services. Interviewer to Klein: “It’s interesting because even as some of the Big Green groups have gotten enamored of the ideas of ecosystem services and natural capital, there’s this counter-narrative coming from the Global South and Indigenous communities. It’s almost like a dialectic.” Klein’s response is not only incoherent, she evades the question altogether:

Klein:

“That’s the counternarrative, and those are the alternative worldviews that are emerging at this moment. The other thing that is happening … I don’t know what to call it. It’s maybe a reformation movement, a grassroots rebellion. There’s something going on in the [environmental] movement in the US and Canada, and I think certainly in the UK. What I call the “astronaut’s eye worldview” – which has governed the Big Green environmental movement for so long – and by that I mean just looking down at Earth from above. I think it’s sort of time to let go of the icon of the globe, because it places us above it and I think it has allowed us to see nature in this really abstracted way and sort of move pieces, like pieces on a chessboard, and really lose touch with the Earth. You know, it’s like the planet instead of the Earth.

 

“And I think where that really came to a head was over fracking. The head offices of the Sierra Club and the NRDC and the EDF all decided this was a “bridge fuel.” We’ve done the math and we’re going to come out in favor of this thing. And then they faced big pushbacks from their membership, most of all at the Sierra Club. And they all had to modify their position somewhat. It was the grassroots going, “Wait a minute, what kind of environmentalism is it that isn’t concerned about water, that isn’t concerned about industrialization of rural landscapes – what has environmentalism become?” And so we see this grassroots, place-based resistance in the movements against the Keystone XL pipeline and the Northern Gateway pipeline, the huge anti-fracking movement. And they are the ones winning victories, right? I think the Big Green groups are becoming deeply irrelevant. Some get a lot of money from corporations and rich donors and foundations, but their whole model is in crisis.”

 

Noblesse oblige indeed.

Klein’s contributions have not threatened capitalism; rather her efforts are utilized to not only protect it, but strengthen it.

Perhaps this is the icing on the cake that is the Rockefeller and Clinton 350.org/1Skye project: Participation in the Clinton Global Initiative is by invitation only. The membership fee is $20,000 ($19,000 tax deductible) per year. 2014 annual meeting sponsors include HSBC, Barclays, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, The Coca-Cola Company, Ford Foundation, Monsanto, Proctor and Gamble, The Rockefeller Foundation, Blackstone, Deutsche Bank, Dow, Exxon Mobil, and others. Clinton Global Initiative University includes McKibben’s Middlebury College within its network. (“These 70 schools have pledged more than $800,000 to support CGI U 2015 student commitment-makers.”) Thus, it is of little surprise to find that in December of 2014, Global CEO cites both McKibben and Klein as those within the top ten list of “inspirational CSR leaders” as voted by their readers.

Identified in the 2007 Clinton Global Initiative membership along with princes, baronesses, heads of states, and CEOs are none other than:

  • Mindy Lubber, President of Ceres (in 2013, Morgan Stanley created the Institute for Sustainable Investing – Lubber serves on the Institute’s Advisory Board, which is chaired by Morgan Stanley’s Chairman and CEO James Gorman), Stern Citi Leadership & Ethics Distinguished Fellow
  • Kumi Naidoo, Secretary General, CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation (Chair/president of Greenpeace and TckTckTck aka GCCA, International Advisory Council for 350.org and SumofUs)
  • Billy Parish, Coordinator and Co-Founder, Energy Action Coalition (1Sky Board of Directors)
  • Betsy Taylor, Chair 1Sky Campaign (Ceres Board of Directors, Greenpeace Board of Directors, President of Breakthrough Strategies and Solutions, SumofUs Advisory Board)
  • Lynne Twist, Trustee of The John E. Fetzer Institute (Pachamama Alliance founder)
  • Timothy Wirth, President of the United Nations Foundation (Next System Initial Signatory)

 

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Markets and Corporations: The Appointed Stewards of Nature

“Recognizing that public awareness of the economic value of ecosystems and biodiversity and the fair and equitable sharing of this economic value with the custodians of biodiversity are key incentives for the conservation of biological diversity and the sustainable use of its components ….” [COP 10 Decision X/1, 2004]

Over the last decade, and in particular since Rio+20 in 2012, the goal to implement payment for ecosystem services (PES) has been further developed and expedited by UNEP, the World Bank, the UK Government, TEEB for Business Coalition, WBCSD, and a wealth of other institutional and organizational actors.

The promise of the “new economy,” in which the “biosphere economy” will play a pivotal if not leading role, can perhaps be best understood simply by carefully absorbing the following direct quotes. The quotes are taken from the report titled The Biosphere Economy: Natural Limits Can Spur Creativity, Innovation and Growth – a 2010 paper by Volans, Business for the Environment (B4E) and Tellus Mater. (Volans and Tellus Mater are discussed later in this series). Note that the new economy of ecosystem services, markets and corporate entities will be considered the custodians (as referred to at COP10) or stewards of Earth’s “natural capital.”

“…issues that governments, policy-makers and regulators should be considering as a matter of urgency: 1 Steward national natural capital. Take early steps towards the reshaping and eventual regulation of financial markets and business, based on their role as stewards of ‘national natural capital.’

 

 “This has led the Global Canopy Programme (GCP) to create the concept of tropical rainforests as ‘Eco-Utilities.’

 

“New markets are emerging in the ecosystems space, with marketplace intelligence provided by firms like the Katoomba Group and Ecosystems Marketplace, both part of Forest Trends. The biggest market is for carbon, with the world market growing from $11 billion in 2005 to $32 billion in 2006, $64 billion in 2007, $126 billion in 2008 and being forecast to reach $170 billion in 2010 and $3.1 trillion dollars in 2020, with $1 trillion of that value relating to the USA.”

 

“Other growing ecosystem-related markets include: $3.4 billion of regulated biodiversity offset transactions per year, water ($500 million in 2010), and ‘forest carbon’ ($149.2 million in 2008). Currently, there are at least 40 local water quality market experiments in the USA.”

 

“Mainstream banks already playing into this space include JP Morgan, which bought both the carbon broker Ecosecurities (for $130 million) and the offset intermediary Climate Care. Goldman Sachs is also increasingly active through its GS Sustain, while a steady trickle of new investment firms, among them EKO Asset Management Partners, are being formed to work in this space.”

 

“While most of these markets are still voluntary, and many focus on offsetting business impacts, other experiments are emerging that aim to direct capital flows to sustain ecosystem services. One example focuses on the creation of ‘forest bonds,’ driven by an agreement between UK-based Canopy Capital and the Government of Guyana. The central idea is to channel capital to preserve forest services such as rainfall generation, moderation of extreme weather, carbon storage and biodiversity maintenance. The shape of things to come?”

 

“Already, global economic losses due to the degradation of ecosystems and biodiversity from deforestation alone is estimated to be running at somewhere between $1.9 and $4.5 trillion – every year…. On the positive side of the coin, however, the market opportunities likely to be created by the shift in the prevailing market paradigm are likely to be at least as extraordinary.”

Among the “innovators” tailoring “ecosystem metrics for business” is Gretchen Daily, co-founder of the Natural Capital Project (NCP), a 10-year joint venture of Stanford University with the Nature Conservancy and the World Wildlife Fund.

Keep in mind that the Nature Conservancy and WWF represent two of the most corporate of all NGOs within the NPIC. The Nature Conservancy is in partnership with Monsanto and Lockheed Martin (to name just two). WWF is partnered with and greenwashes corporations such as Coca-Cola (responsible for the murder of union leaders in Columbia and Latin America) while actively advancing the agenda of Monsanto (invested in by Gates). The “green” capitalists who are proponents of a commodified ecosystem share Monsanto’s and WWF’s disturbing genetic engineering ideology. A said solution as designed by Natural Capital Project is the Integrated Valuation of Ecosystem Services and Tradeoffs (InVest) software:

“InVEST quantifies the ecological assets in a region – and models how their value will change under alternative scenarios. The metrics developed to assess the biophysical and economic value of ecosystem services are intended for integration into business strategy and policy decisions.” [Shaping Climate-Resilient Development: A Framework for Decision-Making, a Report of the Economics of Climate Change Adaptation Working Group by The ClimateWorks Foundation, Global Environment Facility, European Commission, McKinsey & Company, The Rockefeller Foundation, Standard Chartered Bank and Swiss Re, 2009.]

 

“Introduce natural assets as a key area of value across the C-Suite agenda. Map and understand your company’s critical dependencies on ecosystem services – and the early actions that can be taken to create a better balance between your business and nature. Again, pick high-powered partners, such as Global Footprint Network, the Natural Capital Project, the World Resources Institute, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, TEEB (the Economics of Biodiversity and Ecosystems) project team, or WWF.”

 

“Take Pavan Sukhdev, former managing director of the Markets Division of Deutsche Bank – who later in 2010 will launch the findings of the TEEB study, the acronym standing for ‘The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity,’ an initiative of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The focus of his work – and of a growing number of economists – is the creation in the coming decades of what we will call here the ‘Biosphere Economy.’ And the evidence suggests that this will be as profound in its impacts as the original Industrial Revolution, with the critical difference that this time the economy will be working with the grain of the biosphere, rather than against it.”


‘As NCP economists began preparing to include a value for ‘natural capital’ in Britain’s GDP calculations by 2020,” they recognized this concept as a move that promises to be the greatest change in national accounting practices since their creation 70 years ago. [Source: Whipple, 2012]

The Bank of Natural Capital is an “educational initiative” of The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity project (TEEB), the brainchild of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP); the European Commission; the German Federal Ministry for Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety; and the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. [5]

Like climate, biodiversity is no longer about ecology – it’s about economics.

“The ‘biodiversity treasure trove’ provides the global economy with an invaluable and extensive potential for innovative products and processes that is still widely untapped.” — Sigmar Gabriel, Environment Minister of Germany, leading up to the Potsdam Initiative [6], March 9, 2007

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Who will be the Bill Gates of Ecosystem Services?

“The financial value at stake is mind-boggling – and the business opportunities likely to be created by the shift in the prevailing market paradigm are astonishing…. Who will be the Bill Gates of ecosystem services?” — The Biosphere Economy, 2010

The February 19, 2015 Stockholm Resilience Centre (Stockholm University) article, Time to Reconnect to the Biosphere, represents a brilliant example of how to skillfully and ever so subtly manufacture public acquiescence for payment of ecosystem services under the guise of ethics:

“Too many consider environmental issues to be an obstacle for development. But the conflict between financial growth and ecological sustainability is nothing but a mental construction…. It is time to realise that societies and economies are integral parts of the biosphere and start working on more adaptive ways of governing our natural capital, not for the sake of the environment only, but for our own development. Poverty alleviation and future human development cannot take place without a wider recognition of nature’s contribution to our well-being, health and security.” — Stockholm Resilience Centre, February 19, 2015

Johan Rockstrom, executive director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre [5], is a leading advocate for the valuation/payment for ecosystem services, the key pillar of the “new economy.” Rockstrom panders to the most powerful foundations, institutions and capitalists on the planet.

The Great Transition Initiative provides an example of how NGOs create the illusion of democracy and feigned concern, as detailed in the August 2014 article Monetizing Nature: Taking Precaution on a Slippery Slope. The article concludes the following: “Even though the trend toward the privatization of public goods has been pervasive over the past decades, we should not acquiesce so easily in allowing the privatization of the most basic public good of all – nature itself. We must meet the grave environmental challenges of the twenty-first century with boldness and prudence, using the precautionary principle, along with the principles of fairness and democracy, to set boundaries that human action must not transgress.”

Such articles give the illusion that NGOs will fight to ensure “democracy” is adhered to, with “boldness and prudence.” The reality is that such fence-sitting articles that feign concern are instrumental in the normalization, slowly over time, of specific language, terminologies and corporate ideologies in order to create acquiescence to further the corporate capture of nature and further the corporate domination of our minds. The objectification of Nature becomes normalized; both anthropocentrism and speciesism are strengthened. This is the identical strategy utilized for creation and gradual acceptance of the carbon trading mechanism REDD/REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries). [Further reading: Fundación Pachamama is Dead – Long Live ALBA | Part II]

When the public became aware of REDD, scores of NGOs spoke out against it, as did the Indigenous people across the globe. Yet while publicly the environmental “movement” appeared to be against REDD, behind closed doors, an army of NGOs and jet-setting climate “activists” were quietly and effectively building public consent, which was being sought by the foundations, corporations and the UN. As the Bolivian delegation stood alone on the world stage opposing carbon markets and REDD/REDD+ (while also developing and presenting alternatives), behind the marketing and branding veneer of the non-profit industrial complex, some realities were made crystal clear: “In September 2011, the 64th Annual UN DPI/NGO Conference took place in Bonn, Germany. About 1,500 people from 70 countries turned up. On the third day of the meeting, a remarkable thing happened. Not a single participant at the conference put up their hand to disagree with a declaration which promotes REDD as a carbon trading mechanism.” [Source]

“No one raised their hand to object to a single word in the declaration text. In an email distributing the document, Dodd states that, ‘The Declaration was accepted unanimously by the 1500 NGOs and other stakeholders present.’” Manufacturing Consent on Carbon Trading, Chris Lang

A similar strategy can be identified in respect to divestment.

Lock up the Treasury.

 

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One of the most human-centric beliefs of all those in pursuit of commodifying the commons must be accredited to Julia Gray, Head of Sustainable Development and Environmental Management, Allianz Group, who states: “It is clear that our man-made infrastructures and Nature’s ecological infrastructures are becoming increasingly interdependent.”

Nature’s ecological “infrastructures” (formerly known as ecosystems – and before that, forests, meadows, Nature’s gifts, etc.) have never and will never become dependent – in any way – on manmade infrastructures. Considering the Earth is billions of years old, and humans have been in existence for a mere blink of an eye, such a belief is nothing less than distressing. Yet so is the unceasing belief in the global economic capitalist system that is slowly but surely destroying us. The idea that nature needs humans in any way, shape or form must be considered human narcissism at its most extreme.

Carbon Disclosure Project

The Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), a special project of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors in New York [Source: Unilever website], is cited as an independent not-for-profit organization, formed after an initiative led by the institutional investor community. [Source] CDP has 501(c)3 charitable status through Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors in New York and is a registered charity in the United Kingdom. [Source]

According to the Natural Edge Project, the Carbon Disclosure Project began in *2003 with a group of 87 institutional investors with assets of over US$9 trillion under management who wrote to the 500 largest quoted companies in the world, asking for the disclosure of investment-relevant information concerning their greenhouse gas emissions. [Source] [*Other sources show CDP was formed in 2002.]

By 2007, five years after its inception, CDP had morphed into a coalition of over 315 global investors with more than $41 trillion in assets. [Source: Unilever website]

In 2010, CDP was called “The most powerful green NGO you’ve never heard of” by the Harvard Business Review. [Source] A powerful alliance was formed that would engage with international bodies that implement policy described in the following way:

“The four regional climate change investor groups – IIGCC, INCR, IGCC and AIGCC – also announced today the formation of the Global Investor Coalition on Climate Change (GIC) to represent the international investment community on climate change policy and investment issues at a global level. The GIC, which will be working closely with other networks including UNEP FI (Finance Initiative), Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) and the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), will provide a focal point for engagement with international policy-making bodies.” — Principles for Responsible Investing, UNEP Financing Initiative, November 20, 2012

Note that the five institutions above (IIGCC (Europe), INCR (North America), IGCC (Australia and New Zealand), AIGCC (Asia) and GIC (Global Investor Coalition) are all Ceres NGOs.

By 2014 CDP’s coalition had again more than doubled: “More than 767 institutional investors support the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP). In total, these investors manage assets worth more than US$92 trillion, thus owning a stake in the majority of the world’s listed companies with the highest revenue.” [Source: Seimens Press Release]

Paul Dickinson is a co-founder of CDP, with Tessa Tennant and the financier Jeremy Smith. Prior to founding CDP (for which he continues to serve as executive chairman), Dickenson encountered the economist Dr. Hazel Henderson whose statement “turn your deepest purpose into a revenue stream” struck a chord with Dickinson. Dickinson is an author of numerous books, including Beautiful Corporations, which have been translated into six languages. [Source]

April 24, 2012, Ceres website:

“Tessa Tennant, President and co-founder of The Ice Organisation, has been awarded the fourth-annual Joan Bavaria Award for Building Sustainability into the Capital Markets. The announcement was made at Tuesday’s opening reception of the Ceres annual conference, which runs April 25-26 at the Westin Boston Waterfront Hotel in Boston, MA.”

Also a CDP co-founder, Tessa Tennant’s expertise in investment is extensive. Tennant co-founded The Ice Organisation, which “encourages consumers to purchase more sustainable products and services from a wide range of retail partners, mobilizing mass consumer purchase power to reduce carbon emissions and mitigate the effects of climate change”; co-founded the UK’s first equity investment fund for sustainable development in 1988, now called the Jupiter Ecology Fund; is the chair and co-founder of the UK Social Investment Forum; co-founded the Association for Sustainable & Responsible Investment in Asia (ASrIA) in 2001 and remains on the board; served as a member of the UK Government’s Advisory Committee on Business and the Environment in the early nineties; assisted in the development of the HRH The Prince of Wales’s Business in the Environment initiative, which educates senior business executives on practical ways to integrate social and environmental solutions into their business operations; is chair of the Global Cool Foundation; and served as a World Wildlife Fund UK Ambassador and fellow of the Schumacher Society. [Source: Ceres]

Another CDP co-founder and financier, Jeremy Smith, is a Partner at Berkeley Energy, a private equity firm focused upon renewable energy projects and project developers in the emerging markets. Smith has worked in the investment and clean energy realm since 2000. Prior to Berkeley, Smith gained experience with Tersus Energy, Conduit Ventures, and Gartmore (acquired by Henderson Global Investors in 2011). Smith began his career with Credit Suisse First Boston in the International Mergers & Acquisitions Group. [Source]

CDP corporate partnerships include Siemens, Turkiye Sinai Kalkinma Bankasi, Dell, Hewlett Packard, L’Oréal, PepsiCo, Cadbury Schweppes, Nestlé, Procter & Gamble, Tesco, Unilever, Lloyds TSB, Amcor, Johnson Controls, Métro-Richelieu, Schneider Electric, NH Hoteles, and Ventas, Inc.

The so-called clean energy economy (recognized as the greatest “climate wealth opportunity” of our time) is in dire need of a massive cash injection. The required magnitude is colossal:

“Financing (of renewable energy) must double by 2020 and double again to $1 trillion by 2030 in order to avoid global warming of more than 2 degrees Celsius, reports Ceres, the host of yesterday’s conference…. The goal of quadrupling investment from its current state ‘is the right order of magnitude.’” — Ceres Press Release, January 16, 2014

It is critical to once again note that Ceres has been both a key partner and an advisor to the divestment campaign from inception. In summation, today’s leading social capitalists insist the world must quadruple its investments in “renewable” energy by 2030, which also means that climate change is the greatest opportunity to expand capitalism beyond its current limits.

Why the Oligarchs Have United in Pushing the Divestment Campaign

At a Glance:

 

  • The economic models of the 20th century are now hitting the limits of what is possible.
  • Assigning nature’s resources as monetary assets (ecosystem services/payment for ecosystem services) visible in national accounts and economic strategies is the key to growth in the 21st century.
  • The most vital pillar (of three) identified under the “new economy” is the valuing and mainstreaming of nature’s services (biodiversity) into national and international accounts.
  • Financial markets and business will be assigned as the new “stewards of national natural capital.”
  • Global growth has become stagnant, as identified by global institutions such as McKinsey: Can long-term global growth be saved? (January 2015, McKinsey and Company).
  • The IMF and World Bank Group identify a reduction in the growth of the global economy as a primary risk to the world (October 10, 2014).
  • The “greening of economies,” as recognized by the UN, is not a reduction in global economic growth, rather, it is considered a new engine of growth.
  • Changing the capitalist system is not to be considered (Generation Investment).
  • The three key dates are 2015 (international agreement), 2020 (sustainable capitalism and ecosystem services accounting in place), and 2050 (the Earth’s ecosystems and biodiversity to be fully commodified).
  • The mainstreaming of “sustainable capitalism” is to be in place by 2020 (Generation Investment).
  • Economists have been “preparing to include a value for ‘natural capital’ in Britain’s GDP calculations by 2020.”
  • The ideologies/concept behind the commodification of the commons began in earnest at least 25 years ago and likely far earlier than that.
  • $60-70 trillion over the next decade-and-a-half is required for planned mega-infrastructure projects [Source].
  • The biggest market is for carbon, with the world market growing from $11 billion in 2005 and being forecast to reach $3.1 trillion in 2020, with $1 trillion of that value relating to the USA.
  • A steady flow of new investment firms is expanding to exploit the emerging eco-systems markets.
  • Financing (of renewable energy) must double by 2020 and double again to $1 trillion by 2030; quadrupling investment from its current state is the stated goal.

 

From Part XI: 2 Degrees of Credendum | In Summary, Divestment as symbolism:

 

  • The Do the Math tour, as the precursor to the global Divestment campaign, established and reinforced the false premise that the world retains a “carbon budget” that enables us to safely keep burning for decades to come.
  • Like 1Sky/350, the campaign is top-down, not grassroots up as presented. Not only has this global “movement” been sanctioned by the elites, it has been developed in consultation with Wall Street and financed from inception by the world’s most powerful oligarchs and institutions.
  • The campaign successfully invokes a certain naiveté and innocence due to the said premise (a moral divestment imperative) of the campaign.
  • It provides a moral alibi and evokes illusions of white saviour/moral superiority of those that divest/divest-invest while the very people divesting are those that comprise the 1% creating 50% of all global GHG emissions (anyone who can afford to board an airplane). Shuffling their investments does not change this fact or alleviate/absolve one’s role in accelerating climate change and ecological destruction.
  • Protesting fossil fuels cannot and will not have any effect on fossil fuel consumption, production or destruction without legitimately and radically addressing Annex 1 consumption, economic growth under the capitalist system, human population (specifically in Annex 1 nations), the military industrial complex and industrial factory farming.
  • The chosen campaign of divestment rather than the boycott of fossil fuels in combination with proposed sanctions on fossil fuel corporations demonstrates the insincerity of the campaign and its true intentions as sought (and developed) by its funders.
  • Divestment effectively constructs the moral acceptance of “green” consumption. The global divestment campaign confirms that the “market” can be and is the solution.
  • The campaign constructs and further reinforces the falsehood that there is no need to change either the economic system (beyond reforming capitalism) or dismantle the power structures that comprise it; nor is it necessary to address the underlying values, worldviews, classism, racism, colonialism and imperialism that are driving this physical and psychic
  • It diverts attention away from the proliferation of private investments, hedge funds and privatization – key mechanisms in the “new economy.”
  • It provides a critical discourse to divert attention away from the most critical issue of the 21st century: the commodification of the commons (in similar fashion to how the Stop the KeystoneXL! campaign was instrumental in enabling Buffett’s rail dynasty, only far more critical in significance).
  • It builds on the 21st century corporate pathology “Who Cares Wins,” whereby “kindness is becoming the nation’s newest currency.” The pathology behind this intent is the corporate capture of “millennials” by manipulation via branding, advertising and social media.
  • Direct contact with “millennials” in colleges and universities around the world invokes pre-determined and pre-approved ideologies as sought after/controlled by hegemony while building loyalties: future NGO “members” / supporters, future “prosumers,” future “investors.”
  • The campaign draws attention to the statistic that “just 90 companies caused two-thirds of man-made emissions” while making no mention that a mere 1% of people are creating 50% of all the global GHG emissions – the very people that comprise their target audience.
  • Although highlighting the fact that “just 90 companies caused two-thirds of man-made emissions” is critical, this information is being conveyed and utilized only to implement the financialization of nature.
  • The campaign stigmatizes fossil fuel investments which, by default, protect the 1% creating 50% of the global GHG emissions from similar stigmatization.
  • Success is measured by the number of institutions divesting-investing, and “shares/likes” on social media, ignoring the fact that divestment does nothing to reduce emissions as the world burns.
  • The divestment campaign presents a capitalist solution to climate change, presenting, repackaging and marketing the very problem as our new solution. Thus, the global power structures that oppress us are effectively and strategically insulated from potential outside threats.

 

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“There is, of course, something contradictory in calculating a price for some­thing you do not wish to trade. Perhaps realising this, one ecological advocate of ecosystems valuation has tried to claim that: ‘Valuing ecosystem services is not identical to commodifying them for trade in private markets’ (Costanza, 2006: 749). That there is no commoditisation, or market-like exchange, implicit in ecosystem services valuation is plainly wrong. As the NRC report states: ‘The use of a dollar metric for quantifying values is based on the assumption that individuals are willing to trade the ecological service being valued for more of other goods and services represented by the metric (more dollars).’ This requires converting ecosystem functions into goods and services, and is clearly identical in approach to a model for trading commodities in a market. — Clive Spash, 2008 [Source]

Akin to those of privilege pretending their screen-addicted children are actually gifted computer geniuses, such are the lies we tell ourselves in order to believe in a system whereby we “benefit” at the expense of others and the destruction of nature.

 

Next: The final segments of this series will be published in 2016

 

 

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

 

 

EndNotes:

[1] ICSU’s principal source of “core” income is dues from members and a subvention from the host country, France. The other major sources of income are grants from various organizations and foundations. [Source]

[2] The Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020, and its 20 Aichi Biodiversity Targets, were agreed by the international community in 2010 in Nagoya, Japan, and have since been re-affirmed by the United Nations General Assembly and at the Rio+20 summit in 2012. [Source]

[3] “Accordingly, a nonprofit-corporate complex (based in international non-governmental organizations, NGOs) dominating an array of social services, many of which were performed by the state in the past, emerged as the third pillar of the triangular structure of contemporary imperialism during the 1980s. It represents a kind of “Third Way” on the part of capital that privatizes state functions and occupies key strategic points within civil society (co-opting social movements) while seemingly outside the realm of private capital – thereby enabling an acceleration of privatization and reinforcing the hegemony of monopoly-finance capital globally.” [Source]

[4] 500,000 dead, 30,000 in terrorist-run prisons, 2.5 million exiled, tens of thousands of refugees.

[5] The original TEEB study was launched by Germany and the European Commission in response to a proposal by the G8+5 Environment Ministers in Potsdam, Germany in 2007, to develop a global study on the economics of biodiversity loss.

[6] The Environment Ministers of the G8 countries and of Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa, the European Commissioner for the Environment and senior officials from the United Nations and the IUCN (The World Conservation Union) met in Potsdam in March 2007. The meeting resulted in, among other things, the announcement of a course of action for the conservation of biological diversity and for climate protection: “The clear message of this meeting is that we must jointly strengthen our endeavours to curb the massive loss of biological diversity. It was agreed that we must no longer delete nature’s database, which holds massive potential for economic and social development.” [Source]

 

 


McKibben’s Divestment Tour – Brought to You by Wall Street [Part XII of an Investigative Report] [Building Acquiescence for the Commodification of the Commons Under the Banner of a “New Economy”]

The Art of Annihilation

September 24, 2015

Part twelve of an investigative series by Cory Morningstar

Divestment Investigative Report Series [Further Reading]: Part IPart IIPart IIIPart IVPart VPart VIPart VIIPart VIIIPart IXPart XPart XIPart XIIPart XIII

 

“Sometimes people hold a core belief that is very strong. When they are presented with evidence that works against that belief, the new evidence cannot be accepted. It would create a feeling that is extremely uncomfortable, called cognitive dissonance. And because it is so important to protect the core belief, they will rationalize, ignore and even deny anything that doesn’t fit in with the core belief.” Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks

 

Prologue: A Coup d’état of Nature – Led by the Non-Profit Industrial Complex

It is somewhat ironic that anti-REDD climate activists, faux green organizations (in contrast to legitimate grassroots organizations that do exist, although few and far between) and self-proclaimed environmentalists, who consider themselves progressive will speak out against the commodification of nature’s natural resources while simultaneously promoting the toothless divestment campaign promoted by the useless mainstream groups allegedly on the left. It’s ironic because the divestment campaign will result (succeed) in a colossal injection of money shifting over to the very portfolios heavily invested in, thus dependent upon, the intense commodification and privatization of Earth’s last remaining forests, (via REDD, environmental “markets” and the like). This tour de force will be executed with cunning precision under the guise of environmental stewardship and “internalizing negative externalities through appropriate pricing.” Thus, ironically (if in appearances only), the greatest surge in the ultimate corporate capture of Earth’s final remaining resources is being led, and will be accomplished, by the very environmentalists and environmental groups that claim to oppose such corporate domination and capture.

Beyond shelling out billions of tax-exempt dollars (i.e., investments) to those institutions most accommodating in the non-profit industrial complex (otherwise known as foundations), the corporations need not lift a finger to sell this pseudo green agenda to the people in the environmental movement; the feat is being carried out by a tag team comprised of the legitimate and the faux environmentalists. As the public is wholly ignorant and gullible, it almost has no comprehension of the following:

  1. the magnitude of our ecological crisis
  2. the root causes of the planetary crisis, or
  3. the non-profit industrial complex as an instrument of hegemony.

The commodification of the commons will represent the greatest, and most cunning, coup d’état in the history of corporate dominance – an extraordinary fait accompli of unparalleled scale, with unimaginable repercussions for humanity and all life.

Further, it matters little whether or not the money is moved from direct investments in fossil fuel corporations to so-called “socially responsible investments.” The fact of the matter is that all corporations on the planet (and therefore by extension, all investments on the planet) are dependent upon and will continue to require massive amounts of fossil fuels to continue to grow and expand ad infinitum – as required by the industrialized capitalist economic system.

The windmills and solar panels serve as beautiful (marketing) imagery as a panacea for our energy issues, yet they are illusory – the fake veneer for the commodification of the commons, which is the fundamental objective of Wall Street, the very advisers of the divestment campaign.

Thus we find ourselves unwilling to acknowledge the necessity to dismantle the industrialized capitalist economic system, choosing instead to embrace an illusion designed by corporate power.

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Enraptured by the Spectacle

AUTPALfg2_4_gdn_150309_01_s_

“We can’t destroy a system when we don’t understand its structure and our place in it. It’s impossible to defeat a dominating class if we don’t even perceive them as such.”Stephanie McMillan

The Guardian must be considered another key media empire that is subservient to corporate power under the guise of progressive liberalism. “Founded by textile traders and merchants the Guardian had a reputation as ‘an organ of the middle class’ (Engels, 1973), or in the words of C.P. Scott’s son Ted ‘a paper that will remain bourgeois to the last (Ayerst, 1971)'”. [Source ] The fact that the Guardian’s advocating of western Imperialism/military interventions is virtually impossible to differentiate from the right is lost amongst its ardent liberal supporters. The Guardian’s contempt for anti-imperialist movements was made clear in its 1961 coverage of the assassination of Congolese independence leader and revolutionary, Patrice Lumumba; a recurring theme through the Guardian’s history. [Even in death, the Guardian continues to whitewash imperialism and colonialism, and re-invent historical facts and European crimes: “Lumumba… was deposed in September 1960, and executed by firing squad on 17 January 1961. The Guardian, August 17, 2013] Thus, it is fascinating to observe their colossal effort in the unveiling and framing of its major series on the climate crisis (“Climate change: why the Guardian is putting threat to Earth front and centre”).

“With increasing frequency, we are party to a white liberal and “multicultural”/”people of color” liberal imagination that venerates and even fetishizes the iconography and rhetoric of Black and Third World liberation movements, and then proceeds to incorporate these images and vernaculars into the public presentation of foundation-funded liberal or progressive organizations. I have also observed and experienced how these organizations, in order to protect their non-profit status and marketability to liberal foundations, actively self-police against members’ deviations from their essentially reformist agendas, while continuing to appropriate the language and imagery of historical revolutionaries. Suffice it to say that these non-profit groups often exhibit(ed) a political practice that is, to appropriate and corrupt a phrase from Ruth Wilson Gilmore, “radical in form, liberal in content”. —Dylan Rodriguez

Witness the campaigns developed in consultation with Wall Street that are being pushed into the public realm by a corporate/liberal media (consider that six corporations control 90% of the media in America in the US alone) and also an alleged “progressive” media which, are all critically dependent on foundation financing with much of it owned by corporate media (example Huffington Post, an entity that was at one time considered laughably “independent” by liberals and not restricted to mainstream norms due to its private ownership, was eventually acquired by AOL Time-Warmer) in tandem with the non-profit industrial complex. Witness the language hammered into society’s psyche (carbon bubble, carbon budget, stranded assets, new economy, clean energy, natural capital). Witness author and 350.org board member Naomi Klein’s book (touting a supposed system change made palatable to the privileged since it is no change at all) being utilized as a key instrument to advance the “new economy”. Witness the desire “to change everything” being embraced by the same aforementioned institutions, including corporate greens like WWF (pushing forward the agenda of Monsanto) et al. Thus, it is critical to acknowledge what should be obvious, yet is not due to decades of indoctrination. The intended result of this global saturation has already been designed and decided upon by the oligarchs. There is no legitimate desire to advance an already devolving society that continues to devolve—faith in oligarchs to provide a solution to our multiple and overarching crises is proof of this. Rather, the only legitimate desire is to further expand capital markets, thereby expanding corporate dominance. The fact that the end-game strategy is presented under a guise of ethics, and delivered by false prophets, is part and parcel of the spectacle.

SoS3

“Capitalists, the stewards or servants of capital, are compelled to maximize surplus value by whatever means necessary.”Stephanie McMillan

The spectacle enables, coddles and most importantly, nurtures willful blindness. We turn away from the inevitable fact that long before the fantasy of a new economy comprised of a third industrial “clean energy” revolution begins to re-shape the planet, we will have completely exhausted the carrying capacity of our shared planet and will have at last exhausted the Earth’s final remaining natural resources.

On May 5, 2015, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund website posted the following:

“The Carbon Tracker Initiative won the award for Innovation in Communicating Sustainability at the Guardian Sustainable Business Awards on May 14, 2014. According to The Guardian, Carbon Tracker’s April 2013 report, Unburnable Carbon: Wasted Capital and Stranded Assets, reframed the climate debate by translating climate risk into energy demand and prices.”

One thing is true; the climate debate has been masterfully re-framed. When instruments of hegemony such as The Guardian give ample space and ample resources for the task of brilliantly executing memes such as the carbon budget, carbon bubble, and stranded (carbon) assets, we must ask ourselves not only why, but more to the point, who will benefit. The question then becomes why The Guardian and many of the world’s most powerful institutions, NGOs, media, think tanks and foundations (inclusive of the United Nations) have, in united fashion, so heavily invested all their resources to ensure this outcome. Akin to Emma Goldman’s incisive observation “If voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal”, if divestment changed anything, you would be hearing nothing about it in the vast network and channels controlled by global hegemony. So again, the question must be asked as to the underlying reason and true purpose regarding the actions envisioned, sought and financed by the world’s most powerful and pathological oligarchs.

“[The non-profit industrial complex] “represents a kind of “Third Way” on the part of capital that privatizes state functions and occupies key strategic points within civil society (co-opting social movements) while seemingly outside the realm of private capital—thereby enabling an acceleration of privatization and reinforcing the hegemony of monopoly-finance capital globally.” [Source]

Embedded within the success of this discourse, we have major corporations which comprise even more powerful conglomerates. The same corporations and conglomerates launder their massive wealth through foundations, legally evading taxes while buying influence and securing power, all under the guise of philanthropy. The institutions, think tanks, the non-profit industrial complex, the media-industrial complex, etc. are all vitally dependent upon the “philanthropy” (i.e. strategic investment) of their benefactors, to whom they are both absolutely dependent upon and accountable to. The creation of such dependence is not lost to foundations and the oligarchs they represent: editorial control is guaranteed without even asking, which is as politically correct, preferred and most effective form of self-censorship that has ever been devised in this world.

The Guardian serves an elite, privileged and affluent readership. It’s razor-sharp focus on advertising strategy for increased market share and revenues reflect as much. It follows that the more affluent the readers, the more advertising, and the more revenue. It also follows that the more affluent the readership, the higher the rates of advertising. Logic dictates that to increase affluent readership, the content within must convey a world view, that both reflects and gratifies the interests, needs, and perceptions of the corporation (that profits from selling a product), the affluent consumer, and the product itself.

Thus, it is par for the course that while liberals fawned over The Guardian’s unveiling and framing of its major series on the climate crisis on March 6, 2015, (“Climate change: why the Guardian is putting threat to Earth front and centre”), the following item went relatively unnoticed:

“The Guardian, CNN, Reuters, and more enter into a global ad alliance. Five of the biggest online news publishers in the world are joining up to form a supercontinent. For advertising.” — Pangae Alliance, March 18, 2015

The goal and methodology behind the alliance of the Pangaea Alliance, The Guardian, CNN International, Reuters, the Financial Times, and the Economist to form a supercontinent for advertising is to capture premium rates from brands. Pangaea’s partners claim that “the value of the alliance is that it brings together an influential and trusted global audience for advertisers.” Specifically, the alliance will allow advertisers to access 110 million unique readers (‘global influencers’). Pangaea will also disclose all data of it’s readers to corporations. Although they claim this information will be remain anonymous, the newspapers understand this data is of crucial value to those corporation they seeks as clients. The Wall Street Journal agrees:

“The data is crucial. One thing we can do together is share first-party data with each other and create unique, compelling audience segments,” [Tim Gentry, global revenue director at Guardian News & Media and leader of the Pangaea project] explained. For example, subscription information from one publisher might be combined with behavioral information from other to create a detailed profile of a user that an advertiser is willing to pay a premium to reach.”

Guardian 2

Above screenshot: Highlighting the obvious hypocrisy. The Guardian feigns concern for the climate – while simultaneously feeding desires to further expand high carbon western lifestyles via consumption and material wealth. Such constructive criticisms are conveniently dismissed by most.

This aspect is also most pertinent: “Pangaea is being led by The Guardian, with plans to launch in April with display ads and later expand into other formats like native advertising and publisher trading desks.” [Source] One can be forgiven if they do not know what “native advertising” is, as it’s a fairly recent advertising ploy:

“Sometimes you have to look pretty hard to see it, because it’s intentionally camouflaged to fit right into the flow of news on the page. It goes by different names, sponsored content, content marketing, branded content or promoted news, but these days most people in the trade are calling it “native advertising.”— Ads, Disguised As News (VIDEO) John Oliver Goes After “Native Advertising” , Feb 14, 2015

Of course the Guardian is not the only media outlet adored by the left that willfully exploits the trust and naiveté of their readers. “Alternet, Salon.com and Truthout have published material written by “Global Possibilities,” a special interest group funded in part by the oil company BP and a group of automotive and energy industrialists represented through The Energy Foundation (Global Possibilities, 2013)”[Source: Conjuring Clean Energy: Exposing Green Assumptions in Media and Academia]

Rebranding Productivism

Image: Rebranding productivism in mainstream media via philanthropy and funded groups

The scope of Empire’s boundaries is colossal. The toxic role of the industrial-media complex in promoting the voracious aims of private power is a given. With this simple truth in mind, consider the global media in their making of 350’s Bill McKibben and Naomi Klein (and also, recent hero on the left Russell Brand) into global superstars with icon status. In the March 2015 issue of Prospect Magazine, the article World thinkers 2015: the results describes number 3 recipient, Naomi Klein as follows:

“The New Yorker described her as ‘the most visible and influential figure on the American left,’ though her books are read around the world.”

Yet what is critical, and what both the industrial-media complex and global marketing executives understand as the most important aspect, is to what specific audience Klein appeals to. Notwithstanding its title, The New Yorker is read nationwide, with 53 percent of its circulation in the top ten U.S. metropolitan areas. According to Mediamark Research Inc., the average age of The New Yorker reader in 2009 is 47 (compared to 43 in 1980 and 46 in 1990). The average household income of The New Yorker readers in 2009 is $109,877 (the average income in 1980 was $62,788 and the average income in 1990 was $70,233). [Source: United States Census Bureau.]

Without question, media is the key instrument strategically utilized by the oligarchs/elites who own and control the media-corporate complex (it’s value, challenged only by that of the non-profit industrial complex), as the key apparatus toward global hegemonic power. It is exploited, with precision, to both instil and enforce illusions and discourses which are paramount to ensuring the global populace remains isolated from political processes such as the global expansion and implementation of environmental markets and payment for ecosystem services respectively. The Guardian’s March 6, 2015 article, “Climate change: why the Guardian is putting threat to Earth front and centre” signals the agenda has been set: the building of/creation of public acquiescence via social engineering. The policy documents that serve as the foundation for global implementation have been written and are now in place; the agenda is now in its final stages. This discourse effectively eradicates potential threats in the form of alternatives, criticisms, direct actions, hacktvism, and most importantly, a united demand and effort to completely dismantle the capitalist system. Citizens, including those on the left who consider themselves radical in nature, are manipulated to actively engage in and further their own domination. The hegemonic system, inclusive of media (and in this case led by the Guardian) and advertising firms, which equate social media with the second coming of Christ, now retain more insight and clarity into people’s wants, dreams and needs, than the people do themselves. This 21st century windfall has prompted corporations and advertising firms to re-name the enthusiastic brand-advocate consumer, the degrading term “prosumer”, with its representative youths, referred to as “millennials”, representing a 30 trillion dollar jackpot.

Earth day 2015 signalled the unleashing of the new psywar on behalf of market-oriented politics: “the sharing economy, the caring economy, the solidarity economy, the restorative economy, the regenerative economy, the sustaining economy, the resilient economy, and, of course, the new economy” (The Next System Project). Other terminology includes regenerative capitalism, transformation of finance, inclusive economy, transparent economy, natural systems, natural capital, third millennium economy, social capital, the next system, and many neologisms being tested for public acceptance. The media-industrial complex, in tandem with the Non-Profit Industrial Complex (NPIC), has rolled out the final phase in the global corporate capture of the commons: public acceptance. Here we will bear witness to the art of manipulation, coercion and social engineering.

Examples include: A Bee’s Invoice: The Hidden Value in Nature; Rapping For REDD: Will Ecosystem Services Go Mainstream This Earth Day?; Is Nature Ready to Transform Big Business? The Banking Nature-Trailer (December 2014) asks the question “Can markets succeed where politics has failed?” implying that markets are separate and distinct from politics. Whether intentional or not, framing such as this is a fine example of psywar at its best.

Note that the Capital Institute project (regenerative capitalism) (April 20, 2015 video: Reimagining Capitalism, full version) “was honored to be shortlisted in the Communications Category of the 2014 Guardian Sustainable Business Awards.”

Payment for Ecosystem Services

“He treats his mother, the earth, and his brother, the sky, as things to be bought, plundered, sold like sheep or bright beads. His appetite will devour the earth and leave behind only a desert.” — Chief Seattle, 1780-1866

The goal to commodify the commons under what has come to be known as “(payment for) ecosystem services” (as well as Natural Capital, Biosphere Economy, etc.) will look to the private sector for investment. The scheme promises corporations, private investors and the world’s most powerful financial institutions both ownership and control (i.e. expansion of power) of Earth’s natural resources, as the return on capital investment. We bear witness to an explosion of new environmental markets and ecosystem services products which are already being developed in order to capture the trillions of dollars to be made from the capture and exploitation of “natural capital”. The implementation of payment for ecosystem services will create the most spectacular opportunities that the financial sector has ever witnessed. New markets offer speculation that promises unimaginable profits.

This is a new mechanism for generating profits for the wealthy (those with financial capital on the top tier) via the global commodification of nature’s functions and services. In essence, the implementation of payment for ecosystems services represents an unprecedented coup: a privatization of the commons. A free-for-all for further corporate capture like nothing the world has yet witnessed. Corporations and the financial institutions are frothing at the mouth. Never before has neoliberalism witnessed such opportunity and scope as in the expansion of markets and capital. The commodification of most everything sacred, the privatization and objectification of all biodiversity and living things that are immeasurable, above and beyond monetary measure, will be unparalleled, irreversible and inescapable.

Of critical importance is the manufacturing of consent. Capitalism constructs and nurtures ideologies designed to appeal to and reabsorb its opponents; a circular and systematic means of maintaining existing power structures.

Lining the brick walls of the NPIC, environmental analysts and their peers demonstrate their resolute loyalty and complete subordination toward the oligarchs they serve and protect, and the neoliberal paradigm as a whole. Bear witness as they implore via the echo-chambers of the media-corporate complex, that the policies being drafted on global ecosystem services must be democratic, fair and just. In tandem with marketing executives, the liberal progressives will create the required obfuscations and deliver on what they are funded to do, represented by the following: create irrelevant discourse in the media (examples: debating the importance of stopping the Keystone XL pipeline in the past and the global divestment campaign to stop market financialization of fossil fuel corporations in the present); frame what is a political issue as a non-political issue; normalize/naturalize the monetization of ecosystem services ideology by highlighting the said “benefits” (which are scripted by the World Bank, the UN, think tanks, foundations and those who comprise the helm of the NPIC); build acquiescence by strategically utilizing environmental language to normalize a project that furthers privatization, market expansion/expansion of natural capital (as an adjunct to the divestment campaign in moving markets from the unsustainable fossil fuels to the commons in a new form of exploitation) and the intensification of neoliberalism; obscure the interests of those pushing forward the entire agenda; create necessary illusions to prolong belief in a failed and suicidal system; and finally, employ heavy rhetoric of Indigenous rights to counteract opposition that correctly foresees the future dispossession and eviction of Indigenous land throughout the world, in addition to the violence and brutality that this will invoke. The implementation of “ecosystem services” accounting effectively creates a new mechanism for “legal” land grabs (which are already proliferating due to recent “opportunities” for pensions, etc. via land agricultural investments.) As the only intelligent response to the amalgamation of this information, we should all consider the words of the Mohawk Warriors Society regarding what is sadly becoming the only retort to the ongoing omnicide: “They aren’t scared of us because we’re willing to take up arms. They’re scared of us because we’re willing to die.”

“This we know; the earth does not belong to man; man belongs to the earth. This we know.” — Chief Seattle, 1780-1866

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Capitalism Has Reached Its Limits

United Nation’s Financialization of Earth

First Phase Digital

UN Photo: March 25, 1947: “Trygve Lie, Secretary-General of the United Nations, accepts from John D. Rockefeller III, acting for his father, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., a check for $8,500,000 for the purchase of the 6-block Manhattan East River site where the United Nations will build its permanent headquarters. Mayor of the City of New York, William O’Dwyer, is seen at right. Ceremony took place on the first anniversary of the Security Council in New York. Empire State Building, New York.” (UN archives)

This particular segment of the divestment series, inclusive of quotes and references, is perhaps the most critical if one is to understand the financial-indicators and collective pathology behind the global goal to commidify (i.e., financialize, privatize, monetize), all of Earth’s natural resources. Let’s begin with the observation by the world’s most powerful institutions that the industrialized capitalist system has reached the limits of what is possible:

“Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, argues that the benefits of combating climate change include ‘new green jobs in clean tech and clean energy businesses up to ones in sustainable agriculture and conservation-based enterprises.’ Interestingly, too, he backs up his business case with an in-house financier. Recognizing that ‘the economic models of the 20th century are now hitting the limits of what is possible,’ Pavan Sukdhev, a senior banker from Deutsche Bank currently seconded to UNEP to lead the research, comments that, ‘Investments will soon be pouring back into the global economy – the question is whether they go into a new green economy.'”—Volans website, November 4, 2008

The three pillars of the green economy (a false dictation of an alleged full restructuring and reconstruction of the global economy) are the following: 1) valuing and mainstreaming nature’s services into national and international accounts; 2) employment generation via “green jobs” and policies; 3) instruments and market signals able to accelerate the transition from a carbon based economy to a supposedly green economy. In relation to the apparatus used by mainstream society to attain these objectives, think tanks, the media-corporate complex and the non-profit industrial complex, must be considered to be the key instruments of achieving these three pillars.

According to UNEP, “The Green Economy initiative has three pillars – valuing and mainstreaming nature’s services into national and international accounts; employment generation through green jobs and the laying out the policies; instruments and market signals able to accelerate a transition to a Green Economy.” — Volans website, November 4, 2008

One year later, Paris 2009:

“Investments will soon be pouring back into the global economy – the question is whether they go into the old, extractive, short-term economy or a new and more sustainable green economy that deals with multiple challenges while generating economic and social opportunities for the poor and the well-off alike. Mobilizing and re-focusing the global economy towards investments in clean technologies and ‘natural’ infrastructure such as forests and soils is the best bet for achieving real growth, combating climate change and triggering an employment boom in the 21st century” — Achim Steiner, Executive Director, United Nations Environment Programme, Business for the Environment (B4E) Global Summit 2009, Summary Report

At the helm of the corporate strategy to push forward and implement environmental markets (if in appearances only) is the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). The UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director is the charismatic and articulate Achim Steiner, former Director General of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). As a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), the IUCN partners with corporations such as Shell and boasts “corporate green” members such as the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). The IUCN acquired funding of approximately $100 million in 2010 with funding from the private sector having increased considerably.

Steiner is often credited with the ‘Green Economy’ scheme. From inception, this concept appeared to be perceived by environmentalists, largely as a euphemism for business as usual, with the appearance of collective resistance peaking at the Rio+20 Earth Summit in 2012. Since that time however, aside from the commendable efforts of a tiny group of smaller NGOs (Nature Not for Sale), one observes that, opposition to the monetization of nature, appears to have all but vanished as evidenced by schemes like REDD and its acceptance by the mainstream environmental movement. Regarding the response of the environmental movement or lack thereof, the silence is deafening. The increase in Steiner’s power-base is made evident via the recent unleashing of a full-scale psywar where the environmental NGOs and luminaries within or aligned with the NPIC, serve as signatories or advocates of the payment for ecosystem services that lie just below the surface of these newly launched, saccharine campaigns. The fact that “the green economy” has been killed, in order to save it (Purpose Inc.) is apparent in the waves of holistic language that brilliantly markets pathology as sustainability, as represented by the goals of organizations such as Purpose Inc.

A close associate of Steiner is Braulio F. de Souza Dias, Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) [1] secretariat. Regarding Steiner and his compatriot Dias, these two individuals (and the organizations they serve) comprise just two of the key architects behind the steadfast goal to transform every living thing on our planet—into a tradable service or commodity.

“As recently as this past June, at the Rio+20 summit on sustainable development, the Rockefeller Foundation and the United Nations Global Compact launched a new framework for action to help meet social and environmental needs.” — United Nations Press Release, September 10, 2012

[Video: Achim Steiner courting world’s elites. Published September 4, 2014 by The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) WBCSD is a CEO-led, global association of some 200 companies dealing exclusively with business and “sustainable development”. (Further reading on WBCSD: McKibben’s Divestment Tour – Brought to You by Wall Street | Part VIII: The “Social Capitalists”)

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The Key to Growth in the 21st Century

“If I had to put a label on the emerging paradigm, which I believe started to evolve from the early 1960s, I would call it the ‘Gaian’ or ‘Lovelockian’ Paradigm.  It speaks of a world in which humankind is forced to evolve profoundly different mindsets, behaviours and cultures.  A world in which BP’s original ‘Beyond Petroleum’ branding would make perfect market sense, indeed would be second nature. And a world in which the services delivered by our biosphere are no longer taken for granted, but instead are accurately valued by market exchange mechanisms.”

 

“In this context, May also saw the launch of another Volans report, The Biosphere Economy, sub-titled ‘Natural limits can spur creativity, innovation and growth’.  In the report we quote UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner to the effect that “The economic growth of the last two centuries has relied on the mismanagement of natural assets. Governments are starting to understand that making these assets visible in national accounts and economic strategies is the key to growth in the twenty-first century.”

In the June 14, 2010 Volans article, entitled ‘Getting into Deep Water‘, the author John Elkington highlights the challenges that lie ahead for the aforementioned “emerging paradigms”:

“Instead, the challenge is to shift our behaviours, our cultures and, ultimately, the prevailing paradigm.  One of our current generation of interns is helping us explore the behavioural change agenda.  In parallel, we are having stimulating discussions with a number of companies and agencies on the topic—with a potential longer-term action research project in the pipeline. But the scale of the culture change and paradigm shift challenges is mind-boggling.” [Volans is discussed later in this series]

Rebranding the Green Economy: The New Economy

rebrand 4

In December 2015, the world will get a new climate deal at the COP21 meeting in Paris.” —The official Road To Paris website

Avaaz co-founder Jeremy Heimans of Purpose Inc. (Avaaz’s for-profit public relations arm) explained how his firm would systematically organize people around a movement that encapsulated the green economy. This was crucial because as Heimans pointed out, the “green economy” was in a rut. In order to achieve the stated goal of re-emergence by rebranding yet in essence remaining the same, Heimans was clear on the critical strategy: Kill “green” marketing (including the key term “green economy”), in order to push forward the green economy of the mainstream environmental movement – without saying as much. The establishment would kill the green economy, in order to save it.

Heimans states:

“…Well, the results of our research really have two main conclusions I want to share with you today, and the first is a little startling and it may create a little bit of a disequilibrium… and that is that I think we need to kill the language and imagery and green in order to have any real shot at scaling sustainable consumption. Sustainable consumption just isn’t working right now as we’ll talk about in a moment. We’re going to have to kill green as a frame for consumers in order to try to rework that problem.”

Heimans summarizes the methodology:

“… the answer we think is to get behind the businesses that are at this intersection of mass participation where you can get lots of people in a network, you can grow market share very quickly of the new forms of businesses that are green, but don’t knock on the door and announce themselves as green. If we can do this, if we can create a new economy that takes these models that can very quickly acquire market share and we can give people a sense they’re part of something much bigger, we’ll build the green economy, we just won’t talk about it and we won’t say that we’re doing it.”


 

Jump forward to the present socially acceptable “new economy”– a necessary re-branding to achieve the stated goal to “systematically organize people around a movement that encapsulated the green economy mainstream.”

The oligarchs are most grateful to the army that comprises the NPIC. Without this army, who would cloud the dynamics at a juncture where clarity is essential? In terms of our society’s collective willingness, there resides an almost disturbing eagerness to be led astray, creating a ripe atmosphere for the accepted domination of the very oligarchs, false prophets and corporate entities that are the cause of the aforementioned omnicide. Those who have brought us to the ecological precipice are to be repackaged as environmentally conscious saviours.

To build acquiescence, and even demand, for “sustainable capitalism” and the initial gradual implementation of ecosystem services valuation/accounting by 2020 to facilitate this, a pathological mindset is simply embedded into the “new economy” (i.e. “green capitalism”) ideology, without saying as much. Regarding this implementation, the powers that be will expand capital markets and commence the implementation of (payment for) ecosystem services, they just won’t talk about it and they won’t say that they’re doing it.” What is marketed to the public as “the new economy” (sold to the public under the guise of a multitude of campaigns saturated in holistic language) is fully understood by the non-profit industrial complex and the world’s most powerful intuitions and elitists, as capitalism not only rebranded and protected, but propelled for its continuance. Consider that while the term ecosystem services saturates the public sphere (via the NPIC and media), the most critical aspect of the scheme, that of “payment for” services rendered, is rarely, if ever, mentioned in this regard. Welcome to the greatest psywar of the 21st century: a hegemonic, global concerted effort, unparalleled in scale and magnitude.

“Once you put a price on nature in order to protect it, you may find someone willing to pay slightly more in order to destroy it”— Neil Brown, Fund Manager, 2013, Counterbalance

If First You Don’t Succeed – Try, Try, Try Again

“Growth based on real, concrete value can fundamentally only be achieved by constantly increasing the rate of exploitation.” (the extraction of surplus value from the working class).”—Stephanie McMillan, Capitalism Must Die!

 

“We know that something is happening when Klaus Schwab the founder of the world economic forum said in his opening speech a few months ago that we were witnessing the end of capitalism…” —Bob Massie, 2012 Strategies for a New Economy Conference (video)

McKibben Massie Fullerton

From left to right: Bill McKibben (350.org), Mark Fullerton (Capital Institute) and Bob Massie (New Economy Coalition)

The President of Capital Institute in 2010, “a collaborative working to explore and effect the economic transition to a more just, regenerative, and thus sustainable way of living on this earth through the transformation of finance” is John Fullerton. Fullerton is director of the New Economy Coalition and advisor to Richard Branson’s Business Leader’s initiative (“B Team”). Fullerton is referred to as a “thought leader” in the “New Economy” and “financial system transformation”.” Prior to founding Capital Institute, Fullerton was a Managing Director of JPMorgan for two decades.  At JPMorgan, Fullerton managed various capital markets and derivatives businesses around the globe, before shifting focus to private investments and subsequently residing as the Chief Investment Officer of LabMorgan through the merger with Chase Manhattan before ultimately retiring from the bank in 2001. Fullerton writes the “Future of Finance” blog, which is widely syndicated on platforms such as The Guardian and the Huffington Post. [Full bio]

“The Capital Institute’s mission is predicated on the belief that capital markets can be transformed with the aid of enlightened public policy supported by a shift in societal awareness. We also hold the view that enlightened capitalists, through their collective actions, can lead the way to a more just, resilient, and sustainable economic system, even ahead of enabling public policy.”— Capital Institute, Can Nature Be Monetized?

The Capital Institute’s Board of Directors and advisors is mainly comprised of investment finance executives. Of special interest is the overlapping connections to Ceres, the Wallace Fund, George Soros, Richard Branson, the New Economics Foundation (sister organization (in America) of the New Economics Foundation, the New Economy Coalition which are all a general representation of environmental markets, natural Capitalism, ecosystem services valuation/accounting, and whiteness (an adjective most expressive of Western privilege and the physical phenotype representative of said privilege).

Robert A. Johnson, PhD, is the current Executive Director of the Institute for New Economic Thinking which is financed by the “liberal” George Soros. Johnson was previously a managing director at Soros Fund Management, where he managed a global currency, bond, and equity portfolio specializing in emerging markets. In addition, Johnson served as Chief Economist of the U.S. Senate Banking Committee and Senior Economist of the U.S. Senate Budget Committee. [Full bio]

Another member of the board is Peter Kinder, who also serves on the finance advisory committee of the Wallace Global Fund, as well as on the President’s Council of CERES – two key partners/backers of the divestment campaign. [Full bio]

In addition to the aforementioned individuals, the Board of advisors of The Capital Institute also include Lawrence Lunt , a member of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Global Leadership Council; Richard Zimmerman a Senior Vice President, Private Banker, for HSBC Private Bank in New York; Graciela Chichilnisky, is the author of the carbon market of the UN Kyoto Protocol that became international law in 2005; Hazel Henderson (“turn your deepest purpose into a revenue stream”); Hunter Lovins, President of Natural Capitalism Solutions (NCS), author of “The Way Out: Kickstarting Capitalism to Save Our Economic Ass (2012), sequel to “Natural Capitalism”, founder of Rocky Mountain Institute which partnered with Richard Branson’s Carbon War Room in December, 2014; Peter Victor (Capital Institute) Stewart Wallis, Executive Director of New Economics Foundation (NEF). Prior to NEF, Wallis was International Director of Oxfam [Full list of Board of Advisors]

Under Capital Institute’s “Brain Trust” section“, self-described as “Thought leaders of the regenerative economy”, a single project is highlighted: The Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN), an NGO “promoting a more transparent and efficient global impact investing market.” GIIN was created in 2009 under the fiscal sponsorship of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisor (more aptly described a capitalist incubator project for the “green economy”). The GIIN Investors’ Council is a comprised of institutions, private foundations, and institutional investors that collaborate to determine, refine and promote “best practices” for a faux green industry. Members include but aren’t limited to, The Rockefeller Foundation, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Deutsche Bank and JP Morgan. GIIN asset owners include entities such as Oxfam GB and Shell Foundation. GIIN Asset managers include Generation Investment Management, Leapfrog Investments, New Forests and many others while GIIN service providers include, but are not limited to, The Nature Conservancy, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), United Nations Capital Development Fund, and Environmental Defense Fund.

“In this paradoxical, nightmare-like scenario, where ruling class criminals throw back pennies and moral judgements to those whose lives they have destroyed in the name of capitalism, we begin to see the true meaning of capitalist charity.” — Michael Barker

In Capital Institute’s first GIIN profile, it is reported that GIIN’s first working group, Project Terragua, is “exploring ways to increase impact investment in sustainable agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa.” “A recent project of the Terragua Working Group has been the formation of Mtanga Farms (Tanzania, Africa) by GIIN Investor Council members, The Tony Elumelu Foundation and the Calvert Foundation in partnership with Heirs Holdings and Lion’s Head Global Partners” (a London investment bank, conceived by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation). Mtanga produces maize, soya and barley while pursuing an ambitious strategy in cattle and meat processing. It is working with Seed Co and Last Mile Alliance whose committed partners include, but are not limited to, Syngenta AG and Bayer CropScience. Via funding from sources such as NORAD, which are funneled through the Voxtra Foundation, there is a disserted effort on farmer training and recruitment to act as wholesalers and storage hubs for seed. The training and recruitment is implemented by those within the NPIC.

Another organization that is part of the GIIN network is TransFarm Africa (TFA), included in a group offering new inroads into capital markets in the Global South called the New Markets Lab, which was established in 2010. Originally incubated at the aforementioned William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the initiative was designed in large part, to persuade Africa’s small-scale farmers and entrepreneurs to rapidly transition away from subsistence farming toward market-oriented production systems. TransFarm Africa’s proof of concept, Mtanga Farms Limited, illustrates the innovative approach TFA pioneered combining investment and policy to unlock market potential.

“Basically, millions of small holder farmers have to go through a transformation from being subsistence to commercial producers”—It is the decade of agriculture in Africa. Food security will become the next tradable commodity [Source]

Investors Council

Figure 1 – GIIN Investors’ Council Members

By themselves, the GIIN’s inclusion of The Rockefeller Foundation, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Ford foundation, as key architects of so-called Green Revolution, institutions which are leading proponents and financiers of transgenics (a new breed of genetically modified organisms which are a primary example of 21st century imperialism with impunity) speaks volumes about the nature of this new “regenerative” economy. [Further reading: The “Green Revolution”, Bill Gates, Philanthropy and Social Engineering]

By any honest estimation, this “new” (and in this case being falsely categorized as “regenerative”) economy is the continued and furthering of colonization and land grabs for foreign interests under the guise of ethics.

Up Next: The Next System Project

New System Project Signatories

Another related and recently launched effort in the emerging pyswar on behalf of market-oriented politics is The Next System Project. The Next System Project Website is registered to John Duda of Community-Wealth.org. The next system co-chairs are Gar Alperovitz and Gus Speth.

Alperovitz is a board member of the New Economy Coalition, a “thought leader” at the aforementioned Capital Institute, a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Demos, and Associate Fellow at the Tellus Institute (discussed further in this report).

Speth’s full bio of elite positions held within the non-profit industrial complex and to a more important extent, presidential administrations (as it portends Western global governance) is extensive. Under the Jimmy Carter administration, Speth was a member (and chair) of the U.S. President’s Council on Environmental Quality from 1977-1981. Also, Speth served as a senior advisor to President Clinton (1992) and is identified as a member on the Council on Foreign Relations (1987-1992, June 30, 1993-2000, 2001-2006). In addition, Speth is a founding board member of the New Economy Coalition and serves on the advisory board of the Capital Institute. Presently, Speth serves on the boards of 350.org (U.S. advisory council), 1Sky (which morphed into 350.org in 2011), the Natural Resources Defense Council (of which he was a co-founder), World Resources Institute (WRI) (founder), Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and the Institute for Sustainable Communities.

During Speth’s tenure at WRI (1982-1993), the organization focused on and pioneered the use of “natural resources accounting” (valuing ecosystem services) while simultaneously making tentative overtures to the corporate world —one of the first environmental NGOs to do so. Following the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, which called upon governments to develop national strategies for sustainable development, Speth left WRI to run the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). From 1993 to 1999 Speth served as Administrator of the UNDP where he was considered the highest-ranking American in the UN system, “in effect the No. 2 job at the U.N. next to the secretary general.” [Source] The concept of WRI’s efforts on valuing ecosystem services accounting culminated in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, the first-ever global audit of ecosystem services, which was completed in 2005 in partnership with various U.N. agencies and most prominently the World Bank. More recently, in November of 2013, WRI and the Rockefeller Foundation—in collaboration with Forum for the Future and the Economist Intelligence Unitconvened a meeting in Bellagio, Italy on “The Future of Revaluing Ecosystems”, an illustration of the combination of the capitalist economy and environmentalism, the foundation of the “green economy.” [Source]

Comparable to Speth, another example of the merging of Western economic theory and conservationism is David W. Orr, a prominent member of the environmental movement. Orr (signatory of the previously mentioned The Next System Project) serves as an advisor to Capital Institute. Orr’s extensive bio includes serving as a former board member at the board Rocky Mountain Institute and trustee at the Worldwatch Institute. He has also served as board member of The New Economy Coalition.

Celebrity-driven

“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

To emphasize how entrenched the adherence of capitalist precepts are a necessary adjunct of mainstream Western acceptability, Initial signatories of The Next System Project include the aforementioned Orr Bill McKibben (350.org), John Fullerton (President of Capital Institute), Bob Massie (former President and CEO of the New Economy Coalition, former president of Ceres), Van Jones-The Dream Corps & Rebuild The Dream (350.org U.S. advisory council), May Boeve-350.org, Danny Glover, Noam Chomsky, Oliver Stone, Hunter Lovins (Natural Capitalism Solutions), Anna Galland (MoveOn.org Civic Action – a front-group for the Democratic Party), Lindsey Allen (Rainforest Action Network), (Timothy E. Wirth) United Nations Foundation and Better World Fund), Rev. Lennox Yearwood (350.org U.S. advisory council), Jill Stein (2012 Green Party Presidential Nominee) and many more names, the majority affiliated with leading NGOs within the NPIC.

Akin to the aforementioned ” regenerative system” which repackages white power seizing control of African lands and peoples as a successful example of ” regenerative capitalism”, The “Next System Project” is the 2008 “A Green New Deal – simply refurbished:

A Green New Deal is a report released on July 21, 2008 by the Green New Deal Group and published by the New Economics Foundation. The New Economy Coalition – is the sister organization (in America) of the New Economics Foundation. Authors of this paper include (but are not limited to) Larry Elliott, Economics Editor of the Guardian, Jeremy Leggett (Carbon Tracker), and two staff of Friends of the Earth (Friends of the Earth has held membership on the Ceres Board of Directors since inception).

The Green New Deal is a package of policy proposals to address climate change. Proposals of the Green New Deal generally reinforce the recommendations of Institutions ICLEI and TEEB, the NPIC, and the Basel II and similar monetary accords. Financial institutions, such as the Economist have consistently supported its general principles, those being: consistent support/demand for global carbon and emissions charges and a monetary value on nature’s services. Notable proponents included Jill Stein, the New Economics Foundation, and Van Jones. Consistent with this continuing recycling of the same policies with different nomenclature, The United Nations Environment Programme launched a Green Economy Initiative known as the ‘Global Green New Deal’.

Some countries cautioned that The Green New Deal would threaten national sovereignty over the control of their natural resources, such as Bolivia. Bolivia’s response to these machinations was clear: that the Green New Deal signaled a “privatization and commodification of nature.” In a subtle rebranding that is all too familiar in the press, both the media-industrial complex and NPIC, came to refer the “Green New Deal” as the “green economy”, the former being a term that had to be killed, in order for the latter as a construct to be saved. (“The NIBR-report provides an overview and critical assessment of the “Global Green New Deal” as an agenda for transition to a green economy.”)

New Economy Coalition

Consider that in June of 2012 Bill McKibben and Peter Buffet headlined the weekend conference, Strategies for a New Economy Conference. The entire press release reads like a list of “who’s who” in the world of elitist, classist, green bourgeoisie. The relationship between McKibben, the Ceres affiliates and the oligarchs they serve is laid bare for all to see. These are extremely interconnected, well-established relationships with strong alliances and loyalties bound together by privilege, philanthropy, and whiteness — the” Whole Foods” of the New Economy.

In March of 2012 Bob Massie was appointed as the President and CEO of the New Economics Institute, now known as The New Economics Coalition. The New Economics Institute (NEI) was established in 2012 as the U.S. counterpart of the UK based New Economics Foundation, established in 1986. This formation was led by the E. F. Schumacher Society and the UK NEF. In 2013, the New Economics Institute in turn merged with the New Economy Network (which included key Ceres associates such as Green America and Friends of the Earth) to create the New Economy Coalition “which would focus on connecting and amplifying new economy organizing across the U.S. and Canada”.

At the June 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, the Global Transition to a New Economy was launched. A collaboration between the UN Stakeholder Forum for a Sustainable Economy [2], New Economics Foundation, and the Green Economy Coalition, the project consisted of a user-generated global online map where anyone could self-identify with examples of the “new economy” ventures happening around the world. The Stakeholder Forum receives funding from governments, UN agencies, foundations and international financial institutions. In addition, the Green Economy Coalition (GEC) is collaboration of NGOs, research institutes, UN organisations, business to trade unions. Members include NEF, Natural Capital Coalition, WWF, UNEP, Philips, WBCSD [Full list]

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Just Transitions Tour with Bob Massie, March 2015

In further detailing the intertwined aspects of mainstream environmentalism and its capitulation to the continuance of the capitalist economy, Massie’s relationship with Ceres, the UN and the Divestment Campaign is extensive:

  • Former executive director/President of Ceres from 1996 to 2003
  • Ceres senior fellow; Ceres Board of Directors from 2001-2009
  • In 1998, in partnership with the United Nations and major U.S. foundations, he co-founded the Global Reporting Initiative with Dr. Allen White of the Tellus Institute, and served as its Chair until 2002. [Source] [White is also founder of Global Initiative for Sustainability Ratings (GISR) – a joint project of Ceres and Tellus Institut [3]
  • Proposed and led the creation of the Investor Network on Climate Risk, a network of 110 institutional investors representing more than $13tn in assets
  • Received the Joan Bavaria [founder of Ceres] Innovation and Impact Awards for Building Sustainability in Capital Markets in 2009

 

In 1994, Bob Massie won the statewide primary election and became the Democratic candidate for Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts. During his tenure as executive director of Ceres, Massie increased the Ceres organization’s size and revenue ten-fold. Massie’s inspiration comes from reading a paper about incompletely theorised agreements written by Cass Sunstein, husband of Samantha Power, the United States Ambassador to the United Nations. [July 8, 2014]

In January 2011, Massie declared his candidacy for the United States Senate and began actively campaigning for the Democratic nomination for that office. McKibben actively supported Massie’s campaign utilizing his brand 350.org. [The following quote is in regards to a fundraiser with Bill McKibben, Founder of 350.org: “Mark your calendars: Thursday, June 2nd, Bill McKibben, a founder of the grassroots organization 350.org, is coming to Massachusetts to speak at a fundraiser for Bob’s campaign for US Senate.”]

In October, 2014 Massie stepped down from being the coalition’s president (Announced July 25, 2014). Shortly afterwards in December, 2014, McKibben stepped down as chair of the board at 350.org to become a ‘senior advisor. Massie’s departure from the New Economy Coalition and subsequent promotion of the “new economy” under the 350.org banner (as well as his 350.org tour) signals two things: 1) 350.org remains the more (and perhaps most) powerful force to successfully instil behavioural change, and 2) the global campaign to build both demand and acquiescence for the “new economy” is now the primary task assigned to the NPIC.

350.org Video: February 24, 2015. Bob Massie on A New Economy (Running time, 2:58)

New Economics Foundation (NEF) UK

NEF UK is one of the largest think-tanks in the UK today. NEF UK’s total income for 2013-14 was £3,556,076, the largest contributor being Oak Foundation. The Oak Foundation grants massive amounts of cash to some of the world’s most recognized NGOs. Examples include WWF International (USD 444,449/36 months and USD 3,000,000/34 months, 2014), 350.org (USD 1,500,000/36 months, 2014), Carbon Tracker Initiative (USD 940,800/36 months, 2014), Purpose, (USD 505,939/12 months, 2014), Climate Works (USD 2,400,000/4 years, 2012), NRDC (USD 1,500,000/3 yrs, 2012) Environmental Defence (USD 1,500,000,/3 yrs, 2012) TckTckTck (USD 600,000 2012 and 1,000,000 2yrs/2013), and a multitude of others. [Oak Foundation Annual Reports: 2012, 2013, 2014]

Oak’s funding to NEF UK is significant: USD 95,982 (2012), 93,380 (2013), USD 1,600,000 (2014) (36 months-to achieve systemic economic change in Europe), USD 360,654 (2014) (36 months “To provide economic arguments on the importance of the implementation of the European Common Fisheries Policy and the benefits for society as a whole if fisheries are sustainably managed.”)(hyperlink added)

To detect what current goals and policies are being sought to further serve corporate interests, one only has to observe the ebbs and flows of grants directed toward specific NGOs that will carry out specific campaigns. There is no better example of this than Oak Foundation funding of the TckTckTck (GCCA) campaign created by the global advertising firm Havas, and the UN in the lead up to COP15. The 2009 Annual report shows USD 5,000,000 (including a Special Interest grant of USD 2,500,000).

“The New Economy Coalition (NEC)(U.S) is a collaborative network of more than 120 organizations and businesses working to build the movement for just and sustainable future. Faced with interconnected ecological and economic crises, we believe it’s time for deep changes to both our economic and political systems. We believe it’s time for something new—a new economy.” [Source: CommonBound.org] New Economy Coalition Members include 350.org, Capital Institute, Natural Capitalism Solutions, New Economic Foundation, Patagonia, Trillium Asset Management. [Members]Sponsors include but are not limited to: Pax World Investments, Green Century Funds. [Source]

Major gifts and grants for NEC amounted to $1,390,000.00. Of special interest are the donations from Neva Rockefeller Goodwin (Ceres Board of Directors, 2001-2012) and NoVo Foundation (Buffett family) who gifted 100,000 or higher. Venture capitalist Farhad Ebrahimi and Rockefeller Brothers Fund gifted between 50,000-100,000.00. (2012-2014 support as of January 31, 2014)

Note that Gar Alperovitz, co-chair of The Next System, serves on The New Economy Coalition’s board of directors, as does John Fullerton, founder and CEO of Capital Institute. [The New Economy Coalition Board of Directors: David M. Abromowitz, Gar Alperovitz, Jessica Brackman, Farhad Ebrahimi, John Fullerton, Neva Goodwin, Hildegarde Hannum, Leah Hunt Hendrix and Will Raap. Note that Bill McKibben formerly served on the advisory board.]

+++

“Much like NGOs and other movements, celebrities have stepped into the gap of the growing democratic deficit both nationally and globally and attempted to fill this up in very interesting, private-led, ‘collectivized’ ways.” — Commodity Activism: Cultural Resistance in Neoliberal Times, 2013

Gone is the green economy. Welcome to the Next System, the Regenerative System, the New Economy, the Biosphere Economy, etc. A fusion of rhapsodic and mellifluous language that creates a sublime chrysalis to further expand capital markets. The second verse is the same as the first.

It’s almost as the world’s most powerful institutions and oligarchs, in a united effort of unparalleled dimension, want to sell us something.

And they do. All they needed were some charismatic spokespeople at the helm, sustained by the fifth column on the front line, to sell their product.

“When she [Ella Baker] left to help found SNCC in 1960, she warned the students about the phenomenon of the “charismatic leader…It usually means the media made him, and the media may undo him…such a person gets to the point of believing that he is the movement.”—Beyond MLK

 

Next: Part XIII 

 

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

 

EndNotes:

[1] The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) convened the Ad Hoc Working Group of Experts on Biological Diversity in November 1988 to explore the need for an international convention on biological diversity. In May 1989, it established the Ad Hoc Working Group of Technical and Legal Experts to prepare an international legal instrument for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity. By February 1991, the Ad Hoc Working Group had become known as the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee. Its work culminated on 22 May 1992 with the Nairobi Conference for the Adoption of the Agreed Text of the Convention on Biological Diversity. The convention was opened for signatures on June 5, 1992 at the UN Conference on Environment and Development more widely known as the Rio Earth Summit. It remained open for signature until 4 June 1993, by which time it had received 168 signatures. The Convention entered into force on 29 December 1993. [Source]

[2] “Stakeholder Forum was founded in 1987 as UNED UK – United Nations Environment and Development UK (UNED UK), operating as the National Committee for UNEP in the UK. The organization continues to fulfil this function, but was renamed Stakeholder Forum for a Sustainable Future in 2000 to reflect the broad range of activities that the organization undertakes. Stakeholder Forum played a key role in the preparations for and follow-up to the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002 and the 2012 Earth Summit (www.earthsummit2012.org). It is also the leading organisation in developing and facilitating global multi-stakeholder processes on sustainable development.”

[3]The directors included, but were not limited to, representatives from Deutsche Bank Group, Royal Dutch/Shell, Bob Massie for Ceres, and American Federation of Labor–Congress of Industrial Organizations.

 

 

Human Rights vs. Right Based Fishing: The Ideological Battleground in Siem Reap

World Forum of Fishers People

April 28, 2015

By the international secretariat of the World Forum of Fisher Peoples – 26 April 2015

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(2014) Photo courtesy of Masifundise 

On 23-27 March 2014, six representatives from the global fisher movements, the WFFP and WFF, supported by ICSF and a couple of researchers, participated in the UserRights2015 Conference in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Few in numbers, these delegates represents millions of people from indigenous and small-scale fishing communities. The additional 130 participants were from government, inter-governmental organisations, academia, big business, and international conservation organisations.

Even after the five days in Cambodia, it remains somehow unclear what the conference aimed at achieving. Bringing together 140 people from across the world – of whom only about 45 were women – should clearly aim at something more concrete than providing “… guidance on how to support appropriate rights-based systems in fisheries and thereby contribute to a sustainable future:”1

During the five days, it became clear that the dominant, hegemonic view brought to the fore by most speakers and delegates centred around ‘private property’ as a fundamental basis for user rights in fisheries. In fisheries governance this is also referred to as Rights Based Fishing, ITQs, Wealth Based Fishing or Catch Shares by various different players.

There is an irony in this almost fundamentalist belief in private property. On the one hand the FAO – the key host of the conference – and the World Bank aims at eliminating huger and reducing rural poverty. On the other hand, the World Bank – as one of the most powerful players in fisheries governance globally – admitted that the private property system is good for some and bad for many. If the very system aggressively promoted by the World Bank – and many other participants at the UserRights conference – is bad for many, how then can it contribute to eliminating hunger and reducing poverty?

For more examples on the devastating consequences of private property systems in fisheries – or Rights Based Fishing – see the Global Ocean Grab: A Primer.

The WFFP delegates repeatedly argued – from the floor, as panellists and in presentations – that small-scale fisheries must be governed by applying a Human Rights Based approach. The underpinning principles of such an approach include equality, indigenous peoples rights, food sovereignty, gender equity, poverty alleviation for all, customary and traditional rights, traditional low-impact fishing, and participation in governance. Yet, these arguments only gave rise to a minimal dialogue, and on numerous occasions the responses were degrading and unwarranted.

The form of the conference allowed for many short and long presentations but limited scope for real engagement and dialogue. As such, it took the shape of an ideological battleground, where the strongest voice may end up being the one that finds its way into a conference report. Considering that proponents of private property were stronger in numbers and were allocated the majority of slots – air time – at the conference, it is feared that the views of the WFFP will becomes oppressed in the outcomes of the conference. While we do not know what to expect in terms of concrete outcomes, it is speculated that the conference will produce a report that will be used by the FAO with respect to its future work on fisheries governance, including the International Guidelines on the responsible Governance of tenure of land, fisheries and forests (Tenure Guidelines) and the International Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries (SSF Guidelines).

Considering that the FAO recently endorsed the SSF Guidelines (2014) and the Tenure Guidelines (2012), it was expected that the FAO would use the guidelines to set the scene and inform the contents of the programme. Yet, aside from a couple of references on the official conference website and the mentioning of the guidelines in an opening speech, it was only the WFFP, WFF and ICSF who consistently made use of the guidelines to inform presentations and dialogue. Many participants seemed unaware of the guidelines – or outright ignored their existence – and the FAO officials showed disappointingly little interest in picking up on the linkages between the main theme of the conference – ‘user rights’ – and the Tenure and SSF Guidelines.

Considering that the FAO has invested huge amounts of human and financial resources in the development of the guidelines, this almost ignorant position is even more controversial.

The strategic use of language in Siem Reap

While many of the ‘usual suspects’ spoke openly about the need for private property, ITQs and similar terms in relation to fisheries governance, some adapted the language and thereby masked their underlying belief in private property as the one and only solution. This way of adapting the language is used to strategically persuade others – including fisher movements across the world – about their ‘honest’ and ‘sincere’ support and not only in Siem Reap but more generally so. At face value, it can be difficult to distinguish the good from the bad, but by looking just a bit deeper it’s not that difficult at all. One approach is to look where the funding comes from, and another is to do a bit of research on the political positions of the various actors and to find out who is serving on their boards. Too often, and in particular with international conservation organisations, we see a very close tie with multinational agri-businesses, super-market chains or other financial giants, and some are even governed by top-business people from the same funding corporations.

In the light of the above, it should come as no surprise that the overall impression of the WFFP is that the conference failed in ‘providing guidance’ – which was the only concrete objective of the conference mentioned on the website. Yet, the participation in the conference was crucial for a couple of reasons. Firstly, without the interventions of the WFFP and friends from WFF, ICSF and a couple of researchers, the conference would have been an assembly of neo-liberal thinkers and institutions who would have had an unhindered opportunity to develop their own plans for fisheries governance on the basis of private property regimes. Secondly, the knowledge and information about some of the key actors and their agendas, which we have gained by participating in the conference, is critical for developing and refining strategies on how to push for a Human Rights Based approach and the implementation of the FAO Guidelines.

A couple of facts about UserRights2015

Donors/partners: Environmental Defence Fund (EDF), Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad) Norad and Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida)

Participants: 95 men and 45 women

1 The only concrete reference to the objectives of the conference on the official website: http://www.fao.org/about/meetings/user-rights-2015/en/

McKibben’s Divestment Tour – Brought to You by Wall Street [Part IX of an Investigative Report] [Mainstreaming Sustainable Capitalism]

The Art of Annihilation

April 30, 2015

Part nine of an investigative series by Cory Morningstar

Divestment Investigative Report Series [Further Reading]: Part IPart IIPart IIIPart IVPart VPart VIPart VIIPart VIIIPart IXPart XPart XIPart XIIPart XIII

 

“Sometimes people hold a core belief that is very strong. When they are presented with evidence that works against that belief, the new evidence cannot be accepted. It would create a feeling that is extremely uncomfortable, called cognitive dissonance. And because it is so important to protect the core belief, they will rationalize, ignore and even deny anything that doesn’t fit in with the core belief.” — Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks

 

Prologue: A Coup d’état of Nature – Led by the Non-Profit Industrial Complex

It is somewhat ironic that anti-REDD climate activists, faux green organizations (in contrast to legitimate grassroots organizations that do exist, although few and far between) and self-proclaimed environmentalists, who consider themselves progressive will speak out against the commodification of nature’s natural resources while simultaneously promoting the toothless divestment campaign promoted by the useless mainstream groups allegedly on the left. It’s ironic because the divestment campaign will result (succeed) in a colossal injection of money shifting over to the very portfolios heavily invested in, thus dependent upon, the intense commodification and privatization of Earth’s last remaining forests, (via REDD, environmental “markets” and the like). This tour de force will be executed with cunning precision under the guise of environmental stewardship and “internalizing negative externalities through appropriate pricing.” Thus, ironically (if in appearances only), the greatest surge in the ultimate corporate capture of Earth’s final remaining resources is being led, and will be accomplished, by the very environmentalists and environmental groups that claim to oppose such corporate domination and capture.

Beyond shelling out billions of tax-exempt dollars (i.e., investments) to those institutions most accommodating in the non-profit industrial complex (otherwise known as foundations), the corporations need not lift a finger to sell this pseudo green agenda to the people in the environmental movement; the feat is being carried out by a tag team comprised of the legitimate and the faux environmentalists. As the public is wholly ignorant and gullible, it almost has no comprehension of the following:

  1. the magnitude of our ecological crisis
  2. the root causes of the planetary crisis, or
  3. the non-profit industrial complex as an instrument of hegemony.

The commodification of the commons will represent the greatest, and most cunning, coup d’état in the history of corporate dominance – an extraordinary fait accompli of unparalleled scale, with unimaginable repercussions for humanity and all life.

Further, it matters little whether or not the money is moved from direct investments in fossil fuel corporations to so-called “socially responsible investments.” The fact of the matter is that all corporations on the planet (and therefore by extension, all investments on the planet) are dependent upon and will continue to require massive amounts of fossil fuels to continue to grow and expand ad infinitum – as required by the industrialized capitalist economic system.

The windmills and solar panels serve as beautiful (marketing) imagery as a panacea for our energy issues, yet they are illusory – the fake veneer for the commodification of the commons, which is the fundamental objective of Wall Street, the very advisers of the divestment campaign.

Thus we find ourselves unwilling to acknowledge the necessity to dismantle the industrialized capitalist economic system, choosing instead to embrace an illusion designed by corporate power.

+++

 

Al Gore and David Blood

Blood & Gore Generation: of Commodification, Privatization, and Indoctrination

“Between 2008 and 2011 the company had raised profits of nearly $218 million from institutions and wealthy investors. By 2008 Gore was able to put $35 million into hedge funds and private partnerships through the Capricorn Investment Group, a Palo Alto company founded by his Canadian billionaire buddy Jeffrey Skoll, the first president of eBay Inc.” — Forbes, November 3, 2013

 

“Civil society has a central role in accelerating the transition towards Sustainable Capitalism. NGOs must take a 360-degree approach to the process of mainstreaming Sustainable Capitalism, realising their ability to influence stakeholders in every part of the business ecosystem. NGOs must engage with investors, companies, regulators and policy makers to encourage the rapid and effective adoption of Sustainable Capitalism through campaigns, lobbying efforts and partnerships with the private sector.” — Sustainable Investment Paper, Generation, February 15, 2012

For an accurate grasp of the true objective behind a national/international marketing campaign (the Keystone Pipeline campaign is another fine example), one is wise to bypass the non-profit industrial complex (NPIC) in its entirety and go directly to researching the investment firms and corporations who are set to increase market share and reap billions in profits via such campaigns. Campaigns funded by foundations (set up by the oligarchs) serve and protect the system with well-oiled precision. Billions of dollars funnelled into the NPIC laundering machine, on which corporations would be taxed otherwise, have never been such a sound and secure investment.

Perhaps the most telling and revealing of the world the NPIC wishes us to embrace is the investment firm recommended by 350.org et al: Generation. [PDF: A Complete Guide to Reinvestment] Under the section “What types of reinvestment exist?, Mutual Funds,” the top two examples listed (four in total) are 1) Generation Investment Management Climate Solutions Fund II and 2) Generation Investment Management Credit Fund.

“We are advocates for Sustainable Capitalism…. The first, which is our principal platform for activity, is a partnership model whereby we collaborate with individuals, organizations, and institutions in our effort to accelerate the transition to a more sustainable form of capitalism. In addition, the Foundation also supports select grant-giving related to the field of Sustainable Capitalism, engagement with the local communities where we operate, and an employee gift-matching program.” — Generation Foundation

Generation is an independent, private, owner-managed partnership with offices in London and New York. The firm was co-founded in 2004 by Al Gore and David Blood. From 1985 to 1999, Blood served in various positions at Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. From 1999 to 2003, Blood served as a Co-Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of Goldman Sachs Asset Management. Blood served as a director of Goldman Sachs International. Blood sits on many boards including his director position held at NewForests (“establishes US presence in May 2007 to capitalise on growing investment interest in environmental markets in the US”). Its investment strategies focus on forests, timberland, and environmental markets; “NewForests have a limited number of private accounts clients to develop particular project and policy expertise in reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD) in other countries.” (REDD and Biomass). Blood also holds a position as director of The Nature Conservancy, the revolving door for Goldman Sachs executives. [Blood’s full bio].

Mark Ferguson, Peter Harris, Peter Knight and Colin Mark Le Duc are also co-founders of Generation Investment. Both Ferguson and Harris held prestigious positions at Sachs. Al Gore is Co-Founder, Chairman, and Partner of The Climate Solutions Fund of which Marc Le Duk is also a co-founder.

Generation is largely an institutional investment management firm, operating at the wholesale level (major pension funds, foundations, etc). The corporatocracy and covertness behind such investing is apparent when one considers the fact that law restricts the amount of information that firms (that focus on institutional clients) can provide, to “ensure that the general public is not enticed into investing in unsuitable and overly complex products”. [1]

“Mainstreaming Sustainable Capitalism by *2020 will require independent, collaborative and voluntary action by companies, investors, government and civil society, which we hope to accelerate by advancing the discourse on the economic benefits of sustainability.” — Sustainable Investment Paper, Generation, February 15, 2012

[*David Blood: “…we say in our paper 2020, the truth is we have a view that it really needs to happen by 2015 – otherwise we are increasingly in trouble.” Breakthrough Capitalism Forum lecture, May 29, 2012]

A key area of focus is to ensure the capitalist system is kept intact; to establish the acceptable parameters of the “market revolution.” In particular, in concise language, Blood and Gore make it exceptionally clear that alternatives to the suicidal capitalist system need not, should not and will not be considered:

“Capitalism has great strengths and is fundamentally superior to any other system for organising economic activity. It is more efficient in allocating resources and in matching supply and demand. It is demonstrably effective in wealth creation. It is more congruent with higher levels of freedom and self-governance than any other system. It unlocks a higher fraction of the human potential with ubiquitous, organic incentives that reward hard work, ingenuity, and innovation. These strengths are why it is at the foundation of every successful economy.

 

“Critically, capitalism has proven itself to be adaptable and flexible enough to fit the specific needs of particular countries. Capitalism comes in many forms, from that practised in the US to the very different model that has been adopted within communist China. The causes and consequences of these variations are, of course, significant – but the more important fact remains: the mainstream debate is about how to practise capitalism not whether we should choose between capitalism and some other system.” [Emphasis added] [Source]

Generation Investment is acknowledged for its contribution in the May 2013 41-page document Institutional Pathways to Fossil-Free Investing in collaboration with Phil Aroneanu and Jamie Henn of 350.org, Bob Massie of the New Economics Institute and others interconnected within this campaign. The sponsors listed are 350.org, Responsible Endowments Coalition (REC), Sustainable Endowments Institute and Tellus Institute. [2]

“By Year Five of the simulation, the portfolio has become fossil free and its five-percent targeted reinvestment has been allocated, across a variety of asset classes, as shown in Figure 4. Half of the target (2.5 percent of the entire portfolio) can be re-allocated to sustainable, fossil-free domestic and international public equities, through existing strategies with investment managers such as Generation Investment Management, Impax Asset Management, Portfolio 21, and Trillium Asset Management, among others.” — Institutional Pathways to Fossil-Free Investing

Video: Ceres lecture featuring Bill McKibben with David Blood:

https://vimeo.com/66321774

Generation’s key action is “to accelerate mainstreaming Sustainable Capitalism.” Insight into the coming corporate capture / commodification of the commons via the global implementation of “payments for ecosystem services” (PES) is made clear under the Current Initiatives section where it is stated: “Until there are policies that establish a fair price for widely understood externalities, academics and financial professionals should strive to quantify the impact of stranded assets and analyze the subsequent implications for assessing investment opportunities.” [Emphasis added.]

The top three sectors of focus for Generation are key to how the 21st century is being shaped: 1) Agricultural and Forestry Solutions (think genetic engineering, biomass burning, land grabs, and commodification of forests/REDD 2); Behaviour Change (think Avaaz/Purpose); 3) Bio-based Fuels, Plastics and Chemicals. (See all key sectors of focus that have been publicly disclosed.) (Note that 350.org et al are now publicly campaigning on/promoting the false solution of biofuels.)

Three such partnerships (publicly disclosed) include World Resources Institute, Natural Resource Defense Council (both represented on the Ceres board of directors), and The Climate Reality Project (formerly identified as Alliance for Climate Protection). Under Memberships and Initiatives, we find Ceres, the Ceres Investor Network on Climate Risk (INCR), Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, and many others.

“We provide business-building expertise, access to Generation’s investment, corporate, NGO and sustainability networks and a long term strategic perspective and commitment to our portfolio companies.” [Source]

And the icing on the cake:

“Five percent of the profitability of the firm is allocated to The Generation Foundation, which will support global non-profit sustainability initiatives.”

Gore and Blood identify five key imperatives that “have the potential to accelerate the transition to Sustainable Capitalism”. The first imperative identified is the need to identify and incorporate risks from stranded assets.

Enter Carbon Tracker.

Carbon Tracker

carbon-tracker-presentation-anthony-hobley-at-sitra-helsinki-21-may-2014-10-638

Ruse: noun 1. an action intended to mislead, deceive, or trick; stratagem

Utilizing research from the Potsdam Institute [3], Carbon Tracker made the case for “unburnable carbon” in the July 2011 seminal report “Unburnable Carbon: are the world’s financial markets carrying a carbon bubble?” The report suggested that the top 100 coal and 100 oil-and-gas companies had a combined value in 2011 of $7.42 trillion, much of it based on reserves that can never be used. Such reserves are one example considered by Tracker that have the potential to become stranded assets – thereby exposing investors to risk. The tracker employs (and supplies) the so-called “carbon budget” as a measure (and apparatus) as to how much more carbon the world can continue to “safely” burn.

“The concept of ‘stranded assets‘ gained prominence last year when another report by the Carbon Tracker Initiative calculated that 60-80% of the world’s coal, oil, and gas reserves would be ‘unburnable’ if the world leaders agreed to emissions reductions to limit warming to 2°C…. In essence, any price on carbon or emissions reduction policy could cut oil demand enough to strand any number of a company’s proven reserves.” — Desmog Blog, September 13, 2014

Carbon Tracker’s second “unburnable carbon” report (Unburnable Carbon 2013: Wasted Capital and Stranded Assets (PDF) is co-authored with LSE’s (London School of Economics) Grantham Research Institute. The Institute has been financed/supported in part by the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) through a grant for US$2.16 million (£1.35 million) to fund several research project areas from 2012 to 2014. LSE’s Grantham Research Institute membership includes (but is not limited to) Fred Krupp, president of Environmental Defense Fund; Vikram Singh Mehta, chairman of Shell Companies (India); Carter Roberts, president and CEO of WWF (US); and Sir Evelyn de Rothschild, chairman of EL Rothschild Ltd.

The aim of the Grantham Research Institute is to strengthen the analytical and empirical underpinnings of the ‘green growth’ concept in relation to both developing and developed countries.” [Source] [GGGI Partners] Yvo de Boer is the Director-General of GGGI [People]. Prior to joining the global accountancy firm KPMG in 2010, Mr. de Boer led the international process to respond to climate change in the role of Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) from 2006 to 2010.

Carbon Tracker could very much be considered the key stratagem, foundation, glue and more importantly, a veil or even a shield for both the divestment campaign (global in scale), and the so-called carbon “budget.” Reports, data and papers released by this foundation-financed think tank are pumped through the channels of power, the result being the legitimization of concepts that have no basis in reality if it were not for the non-profit industrial complex, in tandem with media, ensuring no one states – or even notices – the obvious, that the emperor has no clothes.

“A vain Emperor who cares about nothing except wearing and displaying clothes hires two swindlers who promise him the finest, best suit of clothes from a fabric invisible to anyone who is unfit for his position or ‘hopelessly stupid.’ The Emperor’s ministers cannot see the clothing themselves, but pretend that they can for fear of appearing unfit for their positions and the Emperor does the same. Finally the swindlers report that the suit is finished, they mime dressing him and the Emperor marches in procession before his subjects. The townsfolk play along with the pretense, not wanting to appear unfit for their positions or stupid. Then a child in the crowd, too young to understand the desirability of keeping up the pretense, blurts out that the Emperor is wearing nothing at all and the cry is taken up by others. The Emperor cringes, suspects the assertion is true, but continues the procession.” [Source]

In this instance, the emperor is the oligarchy as a collective, the ministers are the sycophants that comprise the NPIC, and the townsfolk – not wanting to appear stupid or undeserving.

Reports such as Carbon Tracker’s serve to legitimate, normalize and thus sanction the already capitalist-sanctioned “activism” that deliberately assists in pushing forward particular policies and agendas already conceptualized (years and even decades in advance) by the funders and the elite.

carbon-tracker-presentation-anthony-hobley-at-sitra-helsinki-21-may-2014-3-1024

Consider who finances the work of the Carbon Tracker. “The work of Carbon Tracker has been made possible by the vision and openness to innovation shown by organisations such as the following”: The Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Bloomberg Philanthropies, The Tellus Mater Foundation, Generation Foundation, Wallace Global Fund, The European Climate Foundation, The Growald Family Fund, The Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust ,The Polden Puckham Charitable Foundation, The Ashden Trust, Zennstrom Philanthropies, MAVA Foundation, The Velux Foundation, and The Grantham Foundation. After you consider the “who” behind the financing, consider “why” the financing.

Wallace Global Fund refers to its interest in funding Carbon Tracker as Support for a collaboration between climate activists and financial analysts seeking to align the action of world capital markets with the reality of global warming.”

“The ability to deal with people is as purchasable a commodity as sugar or coffee and I will pay more for that ability than for any other under the sun.” — John D. Rockefeller

Millions of dollars funnelled through foundations into institutions, who in turn churn out reports, serve a pivotal purpose. Slick reports, marketing and PR build security (and acceptance/acquiescence amongst the populace) for the investment strategies belonging to the endowments (as well as the trustees) of the very foundations such institutions/NGOs are funded by. This is nothing more than polished PR at arm’s length intended/financed to promote said investments – as well as divestments. The appearance of an independent think tank evokes trust in the public realm. The oligarchs know how to manage, shape and modify behavioural change amongst the public. We are a public of rampant consumption and continued devolution, by design. There is little doubt that the billions of dollars the elite have pumped into the NPIC must quantify as one of the best long-term investments they have ever made.

The concepts of carbon budget, stranded assets and carbon asset bubbles have indeed gained traction with many people. This is in part due to the repetitive messaging of familiar language and unthreatening implications (via a massive injection of funding; Rockefeller et al must be pleased), the précis being that a person of privilege and monetary wealth can simply move his/her money from coal or Exxon and re-invest it into “clean” investments such as massive solar projects in deliberately impoverished Africa that will export the energy to those who already have it in Europe, geothermal, biomass projects that burn the remaining Earth’s forests and whole cultures into ashes, or REDD, which commodifies Earth’s forests for the even further expansion of capital. Pick your poison wisely. In less than 30 minutes we have “saved the world” and we still retain our wealth and privilege. Yet in reality, nothing has changed, the system demands continued growth, clean energy demands fossil fuels and vast resources from an already depleted planet, and the world continues to warm. To divest and feel no consequences is far preferred (by the 1% creating 50% of all global GHG emissions) than actual/tangible divesting from vacations (flying), personal automobiles, clothes dryers, steaks, lawn-mowers, leaf-blowers, Starbucks, etc. etc. etc. – including iPhones, iPods, iEverthing, with emphasis on the word “I.”

“The investor effort, called the Carbon Asset Risk (CAR) initiative, is being coordinated by Ceres and the Carbon Tracker initiative, with support from the Global Investor Coalition on Climate Change.” — Ceres Press Release, October 24, 2013

The organizations behind the quickly-emerging “new” economy are all very much interwoven, as are the players and key people. James Leaton, Research Director for the Carbon Tracker Initiative (2010 onward), was recently featured at the May 1-2, 2013 Ceres conference with 350.org’s McKibben and Bob Massie (former president and CEO of the New Economy Coalition). Leaton was also featured at the INCR Annual Meeting at the Ceres conference titled The 21st Century Investor: Ceres Blueprint for Sustainable Investing conference which took place April 30, 2013.

Carbon Tracker is identified as one of the key NGOs engaged with the US Divest-Invest Coordinating Committee (USCC). The combination of a need to be both an environmentalist and a capitalist (definitely not in that order) in the organization is represented in the following job posting:

As You Sow job description, February 13, 2015: “Organizations in the Coalition: 350.org, Responsible Endowments Coalition, Intentional Endowments Network, Hip-Hop Caucus, Energy Action Coalition, Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Black Mesa Water Coalition, Carbon Tracker, California Student Sustainability Coalition, Divest-Invest Philanthropy, Divest-Invest Individual, Fenton Communications, Mayors Innovation Project, Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies (CERES), New Economy Coalition, GreenFaith, Healthcare without Harm, Sustainable Initiatives at Partners HealthCare, As You Sow, or other organizations engaged with Divest-Invest.”

Key staff at Carbon Tracker demonstrate that a vital prerequisite to being hired/chosen by the Tracker is vast experience in carbon markets.

Prior to his role at Carbon Tracker, Leaton was a sustainability and climate change consultant at PricewaterhouseCoopers, focusing on the financial sector, advising blue chip clients on risks and “opportunities.” Prior to PricewaterhouseCoopers, Leaton spent five years at WWF as a senior policy advisor, focusing on the links between energy and finance.

“‘Assets are already being written down due to increasing competition between energy sources, air quality standards being introduced to reduce health impacts, and measures to reduce carbon pollution combining to change the energy landscape,’ said James Leaton, Research Director at Carbon Tracker. ‘Avoiding high cost, high carbon projects which are failing to deliver a return on capital will improve shareholder returns.'” — Ceres Press Release, October 24, 2013

Mark Fulton is currently an adviser to the Carbon Tracker Initiative and Senior Fellow at Ceres. He is a recognized economist (of 35 years) and market strategist at leading financial institutions including Citigroup, Salomon Bros and County Natwest. Prior to this role, Fulton was head of research at Deutsche Bank Climate Change Advisors at Deutsche Bank (from 2007 to 2012). He is currently a member of the Capital Markets Climate Initiative, UK Department of Energy and Climate Change. From 2010 to 2012 he was co-chair of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Finance Initiative Climate Change Working Group. In 2011 and 2012, Fulton served on the technical committee of the UN Secretary-General’s Sustainable Energy for All.

“‘Many of the responses investors have received from the companies thus far acknowledge that there is a legitimate risk issue around carbon reserves, and companies are open to continued engagement from the investor community to determine the scope,’ said Mark Fulton, a member of the Carbon Tracker’s Advisory Board and a Ceres adviser.” — Ceres Press Release, October 24, 2013

Anthony Hobley has been Chief Executive Officer of the Carbon Tracker Initiative since February 2014. Hobley played a key role in helping design the UK’s pilot emissions trading scheme and also in developing key aspects of the EU ETS (Emissions Trading System). Hobley was seconded to Norton Rose Fulbright’s Sydney office between 2010 and 2012 where he was heavily involved in the development of the emerging carbon and clean energy markets in Australia and Asia. He was a key figure behind the creation of the business advocacy group Businesses for a Clean Economy, a coalition of businesses arguing for a price on carbon. Anthony was also behind the creation of the business group Climate Markets & Investment Association where he is the current president. He also sits on the boards of the Verified Carbon Standards Association and on the Advisory Board to the Climate Bonds Initiative. [Source | Full Bio]

The Carbon Tracker advisory board is made up of representatives of carbon market institutions.

The board includes: Nick Robins (co-director of the UNEP Green Finance Enquiry), Lois Guthrie (CEO of the Carbon Disclosure Standards Board), Tessa Tennant (founder and board member, Association for Sustainable and Responsible Investment in Asia – ASrIA), Ben Caldecott (programme director, Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, University of Oxford) Catherine Howarth (CEO at ShareAction), James Stacey (head of sustainable finance strategy at Earth Capital Partners), Jemma Green (previously VP of sustainable finance at JP Morgan), Meg Brown (previously director of climate and sustainability research at Citi Investment Research), Stanislas Dupré (founder & director at 2° Investing Initiative), Bevis Longstreth (previously commissioner of the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Laura Sandys (member of parliament for South Thanet), Mark Lewis (senior sustainability analyst and co-ordinator of energy transition & climate change research at Kepler Cheuvreux), and Neil Morisetti (director of strategy at UCL Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy Department, previously special representative for climate change at the UK Foreign Secretary.)

Ben Caldecott’s elite standing in the interlocking directorate is extensive. Identified as a British environmentalist, economist, and commentator, he serves on the advisory board of Carbon Tracker, and as a trustee of the Green Alliance think tank. He serves as head of government advisory for Bloomberg New Energy Finance, director of the Stranded Assets Programme at the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, adviser to The Prince of Wales’ International Sustainability Unit, academic visitor at the Bank of England, and visiting fellow at the University of Sydney. He is head of European Policy at Climate Change Capital, directing the CCC think tank and advising CCC funds and clients on the development of policy-driven markets. Caldecott has previously worked as research director for environment and energy at the think tank Policy Exchange. Caldecott serves on the advisory network of the Natural Capital Declaration, which is key (discussed at length further in this report). Caldecott has worked in parliament and for a number of different UK government departments and international organisations, including UNEP and the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO).

Caldecott has been instrumental in building government support for “clean coal.” Thus, UK leaders are all calling for an end to unabated coal – code for carbon capture and sequestration/storage.

Ben C

Above: Business Summit on Climate Leadership 2011 Speakers. Ben Caldecott – Head of European Policy, Climate Change Capital, second in from far right (Flickr, Climate Group)

Carbon capture and sequestration (CSS) and enhanced oil recovery (EOR) (which uses the sequestered CO2 to recover more oil out of depleted oil fields) is a critical component of the “new economy.” CCS is to gain acceptance as a vital component of the new “low carbon” economy where societies can continue production/burning of both coal and oil under the guise of “emissions reduction measures.” In tandem with the quiet proliferation of biomass (supported by the NPIC) and other false solutions, this economy has already begun:

“In the Weyburn oil field in Saskatchewan, Canada – where CO2 from the Dakota Gasification Company’s coal gasification plant in Beulah, ND is piped north to pump into the oil field, buying 25 more years of oil production – 2.8 times more CO2 would be released from all of the extra oil they expect to produce than the amount they ‘sequester’ (ignoring reports of leakage). In the Permian Basin (TX/NM), 47% of the amount of CO2 pumped into the ground is re-released by burning the extra oil produced (that would otherwise stay in the ground).” [Source]

Stephen Tindale, former executive director of Greenpeace UK, is another “environmentalist” in support of carbon capture and storage. In a series on his website Climate Answers , the commentary CCS: What the EU Needs to Do – Part 1, with Nick Horler, chief executive of ScottishPower, is supported by Caldecott. Both Tindale and Caldecott have contributed significant language and concepts to the discourse on climate since this 2010 piece. Here we witness just one aspect of the many realms of genius behind the marketing/branding of the instrumental stranded/bubble/budget language that has “changed everything.” Coal in particular, has been identified and condemned by both the media and NPIC as a coming stranded asset. Thus coal is “saved” from stranded status when CCS is deployed; the “carbon bubble” refrains from bursting; and the amount of “unburnable carbon” in the “carbon budget” reduced.

As with all the shaping of our shared futures by the elite, the pathway to CCS is clear in the 2008 Green Alliance paper, A Last Chance for Coal, with contributions from Ben Caldecott while at the Policy Exchange think tank. The paper notes that it is critical Europe’s commitment to CCS be realized before 2020; 12 short years away from the paper’s publication date. The year 2020 is a critical date of vast significance – a recurring deadline for all environmental market solutions to be in place.

While the front figures in the “movement” such as 350’s Bill McKibben and Naomi Klein repeat and inflate the language of stranded assets, carbon bubbles, budgets, divestment and renewable energy, the issue of CCS is rarely mentioned or touched upon, while the most critical issue that has ever faced humanity, the financialization of nature, via the global implementation of “payments for ecosystem services,” receives no attention whatsoever. It’s not that these appointed “leaders” don’t understand the “this changes everything” world that the oligarchs have been working toward for decades. They do. Consider that Caldecott, as a key figure in the delivering/marketing of mainstream finance to “clean energy” partnered with 350.org for the 2014 “Stranded Down Under Tour” in Australia.

“It appears to us that divestment is the bait and engagement is the fishing rod – divestment is vital in hooking people’s attention, and the engagement tools and analysis is [sic] essential to reel the capex [capital expenditures] in. Investors and NGOs now need to have the patience to catch enough fish.” — Carbon Tracker Website

Most, if not all organizations and investment firms promoting or affiliated with the divestment campaign have vested interests in the expansion of false solutions such as CCS, biomass, carbon credits/trading and environmental markets – all clamouring to cash in on the promise of the most unparalleled wealth opportunity of the 21st century.

The Investor Expectations: Oil and Gas Companies was developed by the IIGCC with support from Ceres’ INCR, IGCC and AIGCC. It builds on the Carbon Asset Risk (CAR) Initiative, through which 75 investors managing more than $3 trillion in assets engaged with 45 of the world’s largest fossil fuel companies. The CAR initiative is coordinated by Ceres and Carbon Tracker, with support from IIGCC and IGCC, which lead engagement with fossil fuel companies in Europe and Australia/New Zealand respectively.

The Carbon Asset Risk (CAR) Initiative: “In the long term, investors want to see fossil fuel companies adapt, remaining successful by: Focusing on fewer projects at the low end of the cost curve; Returning capital to investors; and Diversifying business toward cleaner, lower-carbon energy sources, including renewables, energy efficiency and carbon capture and storage (CCS).”

Divest-Invest

“The transition to a low-carbon economy will be the most significant economic change in history. It will be deeper, more fundamental than the industrial revolution, and faster than the technology revolution. And it’s going to happen in the next five to 10 years…. The leadership of Divest-Invest is important, the leadership at 350.org.” — David Blood, Generation Investment, Divest-Invest Transcript, Fenton Communications, Wallace Global Fund, and Inst. for Policy Studies, September 22, 2014

 

The common definition of a Divest-Invest commitment is a pledge to divest from the top fossil fuel companies within five years and to move those assets into clean energy investments. As the movement has spread, participants have tailored the timing and sequence of commitments to their particular circumstances. The working group has recognized the variety of these circumstances and has designed this process to allow institutions to meet both their fiduciary and moral responsibilities. — Arabella Advisors, Measuring the Global Fossil Fuel Divestment Movement, September 19, 2014

The global divestment campaign targets 200 of the world’s largest publicly traded fossil-fuel corporations: 100 from oil and gas and 100 from coal. These are ranked according to the size of their proven reserves. The Measuring the Global Fossil Fuel Divestment Movement report (September 19, 2014) discloses the following:

“The working group relied upon self-reported data from individual commitments to determine the number and scope of divest-invest pledges. Individuals agreed to a standard pledge, and most completed a brief survey. The standard pledge (available at http://divestinvest.org/individual) states:

  1. I will make no new investments in the top 200 oil, gas, and coal companies [as defined by the Carbon Tracker 200].
  2. I will sell my existing assets tied to these oil, gas, and coal investments within three to five years.
  3. I will invest in the new energy economy.

It is critical to note the language and the framing of the divest-invest campaign (which isn’t necessarily the same as divestment at large). To begin, the term “new” (in #3) refers to both the “new economy” and, in this instance, the “new energy economy,” which is strategic. As discussed in 2014 by Avaaz/Purpose Inc. co-founder Jeremy Heimans, the former term “green” (as in “green economy”) is, for all marketing intents and purposes, dead. For clarity, individuals agree to not invest in the top 100 public coal, oil and gas companies listed by the “Carbon Tracker 200.” All other investments appear to be fair game: biofuel/biomass, nuclear, the military-industrial complex/weapons industry, the chemical industry, factory farming, aviation, BNSF, pornography… it’s all up for grabs. One can move their investments from Exxon over to Lockheed Martin & make a killing – both literally and figuratively. Not only is there a plethora of fuel-intensive stock options/investments, those divesting are given a full five years to follow through on their commitment “to meet both their fiduciary and moral responsibilities,” meaning that a corporation/entity can announce their “commitment,” have 350.org greenwash their persona, and then five years later, when staff positions, economic opportunities, etc. have changed, toss it out with the bath water if they wish to do so. Further, it is not enough to simply divest – one must agree, most importantly, to “invest in the new energy economy.” Thus, the idea of starving the corporate stranglehold, even if only in a limited way, is effectively out the window.

Oil services companies, pipeline companies, refiners, holding facility companies, etc. are all fair game for those wishing to divest. Yet the reality is that none of these industries/companies make their big money from shareholders or stock markets. These companies make the bulk of their profits by booking reserves and selling their product directly to market. Further, most of the capital for the shale gas and oil revolution comes from private equity. “Big oil” has not been at the centre of it. Rather, the centre is comprised of smaller independent and private companies. The more one understands the industries and the business, the more one comes to the realization of what a hoax the “divest-invest” campaign actually is.

Divest-Invest Philanthropy

Divest Invest Allies and Advisors

The Divest-Invest NGO is comprised of three pillars: 1) Divest-Invest Philanthropy [4], 2) Divest-Invest Individual and 3) the Divest-Invest Advisors and Allies.

In her role as CEO of Phoenix Global Impact, Jenna Nicholas is consulting with the World Bank on social impact bonds; she is coordinating the Divest-Invest: Philanthropy Initiative, appointed by the Wallace Global Fund as of March 2014. Nicholas is an associate to Calvert Special Equities and sits on the advisory groups of the Impact Hub DC, Nexus Global Youth Summit and High Water Women. [Full Bio]

Allies and advisors of the Divest-Invest campaign are to ensure success: “Advisors and allies keep core campaign staff informed on various financial, business, community and legal trends relevant to the pledge and/or steps for follow-through…. In collaboration with Divest-Invest Philanthropy and many other movement partners and allies, we are accelerating the transition to a sustainable and equitable economy. [Source]

Such groups are popping up everywhere. Whether there are dozens, hundreds or even thousands has yet to be ascertained. But one thing is certain. They have been tactically preparing for the “new economy” windfall.

Consider the 2° Investing Initiative [2°ii], a multi-stakeholder think tank working to align the financial sector with 2°C climate goals: “Our association consists of more than 30 member organizations and 60 individual members, most of whom are serving in financial institutions (banks, asset management, private equity, brokerage, etc.). Some other members are experts from different fields (consulting, accounting, extra-financial analysis, etc.), either researchers (economy, climate economics), or public servants. Two of our members are Members of the European Parliament (former Ministers of Environment in their respective countries).”

Members:

2C Investing Members

Peers and links within this particular interlocking directorate include the Carbon Tracker Initiative (which coined the term “carbon bubble”), Long Finance, Finance Watch, OECD, Climate Change Capital, UNEP-FI (a partnership between the United Nations Environment Programme and financial institutions), Asset Owners Disclosure Project, Climate Policy Initiative, E3G (Third Generation Environmentalism), CDC Climat, McKinsey Global Institute, Climate Bonds Initiative, BNEF (Bloomberg), GABV (Global Alliance for Banking on Values), BankTrack and The Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC is a Ceres initiative).

Over and over again we witness (yet ignore) the interlocking directorate: NGOs, executive board members, advisors, fellows, CEOs, politicians, bankers and media – all working together for the expansion of capital markets. And although the divestment campaign appears fresh out of nowhere, the NGOs assigned to capture the public’s trust, waiting in the wings, did not simply fall from the summer sky. The organizing and deployment is precise, strategic, seductive and global in scale.

As one investigates the history and financing of the divestment campaign, one begins to recognize specific organizations that appear/overlap more frequently than others, for example, Ceres, Ceres entities, United Nations organizations, 350.org and Carbon Tracker. These groups lead in shaping the public opinion and providing the discourse required to implement already conceived/awaiting policies that serve hegemonic interests (expansion of capital markets), while simultaneously securing, strengthening and insulating capitalism itself.

Investment Terminology

In the July 7, 2014 article, Why the Fossil Fuel Divestment Movement is a Farce, the author sheds much needed light on investment terminologies and information that are little understood by the average citizen:

“Notice the words ‘publicly traded.’ In other words, fossil fuel divestment would target only major corporations that are listed on the stock market. But pension funds and endowments, the entities largely targeted by the 350.org campaign, invest hundreds of billions of dollars in privately traded securities, such as hedge funds and private equity – vehicles that are invested at all levels of the fossil fuel economy. (In particular, hedge funds and private equity have been found to be the key financial backers of the fracking boom.) Were the Massachusetts divestment bill to pass, state pension funds would invariably still be invested in the fossil fuel economy.”

The20billioncarbonbubble1

Graphic: Public companies represent a small piece of the pie; $7 trillion in fossil fuel reserves as opposed to private and national companies that represent three times this market size. Source

The cautionary reference to hedge funds is significant. Note that Blood & Gore’s Generation Investment is a hedge fund. Also note the tight relationship between 350.org founder Bill McKibben, hedge fund billionaire Tom Steyer, the US Democratic Party and the crème de la crème of the establishment Left (to be discussed later in this report). On May 6, 2014 CNN reported that the top 25 hedge fund managers took home $21 billion among them.

The author [Why the Fossil Fuel Divestment Movement is a Farce] continues:

“The divestment campaign argues that 200 publicly traded fossil fuel companies dominate the fossil fuel exploration market. But they ignore that such companies frequently depend on private equity and hedge funds for financing new investments when large banks are uninterested in taking on further risk. The public can rarely (if ever) verify that these types of arrangements take place, even if it is a teacher attempting to verify what her pension fund is doing with her money.

 

“The divestment campaign argues that 200 publicly traded fossil fuel companies dominate the fossil fuel exploration market. But they ignore that such companies frequently depend on private equity and hedge funds for financing new investments when large banks are uninterested in taking on further risk. The public can rarely (if ever) verify that these types of arrangements take place, even if it is a teacher attempting to verify what her pension fund is doing with her money.

 

“Pension funds and endowments have not always invested in the private market. In the 1980s and before, in fact, they were almost exclusively invested in publicly traded securities. Laws such as the Securities Act of 1933, the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and the Investment Company Act of 1940 allowed the public to verify how the companies in which pension funds and endowments were investing used their funds and provided transparency to investors in order to prevent fraudulent activity.

 

“By focusing only on publicly traded securities, the fossil fuel divestment campaign ignores the corporate misdeeds of a sector that holds billions of dollars of investments in a dirty energy economy.

 

“The same is not possible with privately traded alternative investments, which have been on the rise since the early 1990s. (It is difficult to ascertain why exactly pension funds and endowments have funneled assets into private markets, as there is little evidence that they perform any better than stocks and bonds and a great deal of evidence that they are far riskier. Private market money managers are notorious as great salesmen, and a series of pay-to-play scandals have implicated some of the largest hedge funds and private equity firms.) Regardless, today pension funds and endowments are by far the largest investors in hedge funds and private equity.” [Emphasis added]

carbon-tracker-presentation-anthony-hobley-at-sitra-helsinki-21-may-2014-6-1024

Above: Private and institutional investors represent Carbon Tracker’s largest/key target audience.

The author continues, citing conflict of interest:

“Further compromising the campaign is its questionable line of funding. It has received at least $350,000 from Jeremy Grantham, a hedge fund manager who oversees more than $500 million in assets for public pension funds in Massachusetts. According to a report from Inside Philanthropy, 350.org also receives funding from billionaire hedge fund manager Tom Steyer. (The organization declined to state exactly how much money it has received from Steyer and Grantham.)

 

“Farallon Capital Management, which Steyer founded, has major investments at all levels of the fossil fuel economy. While he is no longer at the helm, during his leadership it pursued major deals in fossil fuels, as a recent report from Reuters showed. In fact, the firm had been a target of student activists before he began funding them.

“Grantham, for his part, argued in an interview with The Guardian that he felt that student activists should ‘stamp their feet’ to get their university endowments to divest from fossil fuels ‘because they can do that.’ With his firm’s significant investments in the fossil fuel economy – according to first quarter 2014 filings, $1.2 billion in Chevron, $570 million in ExxonMobil and $240 million in Monsanto – he, apparently, cannot.” [Emphasis added]

Jeremy Grantham apparently encourages others to stamp their feet and divest while his firm, decidedly, does not. He is not alone. Following the media saturation of September 22, 2014 that hailed the Rockefeller Brothers Fund (RBF) divestment as a historic world event, few reported that RBF had decided to hang on to their Exxon stocks. [This is discussed at length later in this report.]

Here it is important to recall that Carbon Tracker is affiliated with London School of Economics Grantham Research Institute. Jeremy Grantham co-founded the Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment in 1997. Funding was given to both Imperial College London and London School of Economics to establish the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment. In 2011, the Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment donated $1 million to both the Sierra Club and Nature Conservancy, and $2 million to the Environmental Defense Fund. The Foundation has also provided support to Greenpeace, the WWF and the Smithsonian. [Source] As noted earlier in this report, London School of Economics Grantham Research Institute membership includes (but is not limited to) Fred Krupp, president of Environmental Defense Fund; Vikram Singh Mehta, chairman of Shell Companies (India); Carter Roberts, president and CEO of WWF (US); and Sir Evelyn de Rothschild, chairman of EL Rothschild Ltd.

In the July 10, 2014 rebuttal, Why a Movement is Never a Farce, the author frames the divestment campaign as a Gandhi-esque movement. Yet there are items that an astute citizen must consider distinct red flags: “Endorsements have come from such unexpected places as the World Bank, and even former Treasury Secretary and Goldman Sachs’ COO Henry Paulson this past week.” Given the references to Gandhi and endorsements that “have come from such unexpected places as the World Bank,” it is of interest to note that Martin Luther King’s first trip to India to study Gandhi was paid for by the RJ Reynolds (tobacco empire) family (funneled through Quaker group American Friends Service Committee.) In a letter, an AFSC official writes that the trip seems to have been designed as a photo-op to “build up King as a world figure, and to have this buildup recorded in the US.”

The author then writes: “It is a sign of divestment’s power that it has gained endorsements from the likes of Wall Street, but we shouldn’t fool ourselves into trusting either Wall Street or the White House to show us the way to a new economy. Accepting endorsement, however, is not the same as taking direction; fossil fuel divestment is a grassroots movement led by students, not billionaires, and is firmly committed to justice and solidarity. I know because myself and countless other students and recent alumni – with the vital support of nonprofits – have poured the last few years of our lives into building it. Call that misdirected, sure, but don’t call it Astroturf.”

Yet it’s not “a sign of divestment’s power that it has gained endorsements from the likes of Wall Street” – the divestment campaign is Wall Street. 350.org (with McKibben at the helm) developed the divestment campaign in consultation with Wall Street. The author is, however, correct that the purpose of the divestment campaign is very much “to show us the way to a new economy.” As 21st century lambs of the oligarch, well-intentioned students are utilized, used and misdirected via tactical manipulation.

Steyer, Bloomberg, Soros & the Democrats

McKibben and Steyer March-7

Photo: People’s Climate March, 2014. Bill McKibben (350.org founder) with Tom Steyer, hedge fund billionaire and founder of Generation Next

“It’s a big club, and you ain’t in it.” — George Carlin

An example of so-called progressive media amplifying Carbon Tracker’s disapproval of coal use in China (Carbon Tracker report: “Energy Access: why coal is not the way out of energy poverty”) appears straightforward. As does the slide presentation published October 29, 2014 by Carbon Tracker: Is Coal a Sinking Ship? Yet perhaps it isn’t.

Consider that the demand for coal in both China and India is going to do nothing but grow. Then consider this: In an effort to support its own mines and workers and economy, China is in the process of cutting all purchases of imported coal as rapidly as possible (April 14, 2015: “China’s coal imports decline by 42 percent during first quarter…. The international coal market is saddled with excessive supplies for the moment….”). India, still trying to provide basic power to citizens, is also rejecting further dependence on international coal. On November 12, 2014 the Power and Coal Minister of India, Piyush Goyal, stated “in the next two or three years we should be able to stop imports of thermal coal.” This position has been endorsed by India’s Prime Minister. This certainly puts a damper on U.S. plans to ship an additional 100 million tons of coal per year to Asia via three proposed coal ports – an aggravating deterrent that must also extend to Australia which plans to open mega coal mines in Queensland’s Galilee Basin, as well as the world’s largest port (at Abbot Point right in the middle of the Great Barrier Reef) for export to China. Not only does India have more coal than Australia, India has 57 times more labourers.

A “no coal for China” anthem as sung by the non-profit industrial complex can also be interpreted as de facto promotion of natural gas/fracking, nuclear, etc. Consider the Bloomberg media coverage (referencing Carbon Tracker) in the article covering China moving from coal to gas. As Bloomberg (Bloomberg Philanthropies being a financial backer of Carbon Tracker) has been financing the fracking boom, one might question if there is a coordinated effort between Michael Bloomberg and former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson who, along with billionaire Tom Steyer’s Next Generation, have launched the Risky Business Project.

From the Risky Business website:

“Launched in October, 2013, the Risky Business Project focuses on quantifying and publicizing the economic risks from the impacts of a changing climate.

 

“Risky Business Project co-chairs Michael R. Bloomberg, Henry Paulson, and Tom Steyer tasked the Rhodium Group, an economic research firm that specializes in analyzing disruptive global trends, with an independent assessment of the economic risks posed by a changing climate in the U.S. Rhodium convened a research team co-led by climate scientist Dr. Robert Kopp of Rutgers University and economist Dr. Solomon Hsiang of the University of California, Berkeley. Rhodium also partnered with Risk Management Solutions (RMS), the world’s largest catastrophe-modeling company for insurance, reinsurance, and investment-management companies around the world. The team’s complete assessment, along with technical appendices, is available at Rhodium’s website, climateprospectus.rhg.com.”

The Risky Business Project is a joint partnership of Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Paulson Institute, and TomKat Charitable Trust (established in 2009 with funding from Tom Steyer and Kat Taylor), one of many financiers of 350.org (see image below). Additional support for the project has been provided by the Skoll Global Threats Fund, the Rockefeller Family Fund, the McKnight Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the Heising-Simons Foundation. Staff support for the Risky Business Project is provided by Next Generation, also co-founded by Steyer.

350 Funders

Bloomberg Philanthropies also invests in oil and gas via Willet Advisors. Logic dictates that due to its holdings/investments in the gas/fracking industry, Bloomberg will therefore highlight any victories against dirty coal – including faux ones. Thus although the divestment campaign is successful in the stigmatization of coal corporations, the label of corporate pariah does not extend to carbon sequestration schemes, industrial biomass and a score of other false solutions that will comprise the bulk share of the “clean” economy. Rather, such false solutions are grossly labeled as victorious and sought after by the appointed “leaders” of the environmental “movement.” Consider the re-tweet of the article Shell’s Global Warming Strategy Is Psychopathic & Paranoid, Says Former UK Climate Envoy by Bill McKibben in which the gist of the argument is why Shell is dragging their feet on carbon capture and sequestration. Further consider that the Bureau of Land Management’s plan to convert Nevada’s Pinyon Forests to biomass that threatens ancient rituals is backed by partner organizations such as Sierra Club, in partnership with Barrick Gold and Barrick Corp. This is just one instance of biomass facilities planned or already in operation under the guise of “clean” energy and/or carbon neutrality.

Bill McKibben Tweet CCS Shell 2

Steyer must be considered king hedge fund bourgeois extraordinaire with close ties to those in power. Time magazine, May 22, 2014: “So when Barack Obama appeared at Tom Steyer’s San Francisco home for a fundraiser last year, the President had to know there would be an ask. The 56-year-old Steyer is a hedge-fund billionaire and a major-league Democratic donor.”

August 6, 2014, Politico:

Billionaire Tom Steyer joined fellow liberal billionaire George Soros for a lunchtime meeting with Obama adviser John Podesta at the White House on Feb. 20, according to White House visitor logs. That was just days after Steyer pledged to spend $100 million on the midterm elections. Steyer also met with Podesta on March 31, along with NextGen Climate Action COO Josh Fryday and Denver attorney Ted White, managing partner of Fahr LLC, an ‘umbrella entity’ for Steyer’s various organizations.

 

“According to records, Steyer has visited the White House on at least 12 occasions since 2009 for meetings with top-level administration officials including Rahm Emanuel, Bill Daley, Pete Rouse, Heather Zichal, Jon Carson and David Lane. Those records only cover through April, and Steyer is known to have attended a June 25 meeting with Podesta, John Holdren, Valerie Jarrett and others to discuss his ‘Risky Business’ report on climate change.”

Exploiting climate change destruction to garner votes for the Democrats is par for the course within the NPIC; exploiting climate change destruction to further unprecedented “climate wealth opportunities” is not only the best game in town – it’s the best game on the industrialized planet.

 

Next: Part X

 

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

 

EndNotes:

[1] Source: “M. Mills, personal communication, 2010.” In Howell, Robert. “The Challenge of Sustainability for the Financial Sector.” International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability.

[2] The Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment (US) also serves to promote the divestment campaign in the “Education Center” where one finds “Fossil Fuels, Divestment & Reinvestment.” Within this section, under other resources, the link titled Institutional Pathways to Fossil Free Investing brings us back to the May 2013 41-page document Institutional Pathways to Fossil-Free Investing [emphasis added].

[3] “Thanks to the Carbon Bubble report, we now have some better numbers to help us grapple with that question. Based on research by the Potsdam Institute, the report suggests that if the world wants an 80% chance of staying within the 2ºC limit, we should avoid emitting more than 565 gigatonnes (GT) of CO2 by 2050. That equates to just one-fifth of the world’s total proven fossil fuel reserves, which contain enough carbon to produce a massive 2,795GT of CO2, the report estimates.”

[4] The DivestInvest Philanthropy steering committee and working group members include: Ellen Dorsey, Ellen Friedman, Richard Woo, Tom VanDyck, Melissa Beck, Jenna Nicholas, Farhad Ebrahimi, Vic de Luca, David Gordon, Florence Miller, Peter Martin, Anne Stetson, Jon Jensen, John Goldstein, Shally Shanker and Ginny Quick.

Just Say No to 350

A Culture of Imbeciles

April 30, 2015

By Jay Taber

privatization of commons

When 350 targeted Bolivia and The Peoples Agreement on Climate Change for subversion in 2010, it was an act of aggression with roots in the 2009 attempted coup — funded by the U.S. State Department — in reaction to the 2008 constitutional revolution of Bolivia’s indigenous peoples. The inspiration for the indigenous uprising, that saw the world’s first indigenous head of state elected, was the 2005 attempt at privatization of Bolivia’s water by the US-based Bechtel Corporation that foreshadowed the “new economy” promoted by 350 in 2014.

Privatization Future

That “new economy” builds on other privatization schemes on a global scale; REDD and other carbon-market shell games, like fossil fuel divestment, are the ultimate institutionalization of the theft of public resources by the finance sector. The finance sector – that in 2008-2009 devastated the US and EU economies through loan fraud and bank bailouts – has now set its sights on privatizing all aspects of life on earth.

waves_accounting_0

Cheerleading global privatization — enabled by UN agencies like the IMF and World Bank — are financier-sponsored NGOs like 350, Avaaz and Ceres–all of which have fundamental ties to Wall Street moguls and finance sector criminals. Having hijacked the environmental movement on behalf of Wall Street, these false fronts are currently pressing for changes in international law that would give the finance sector carte blanche in privatizing all of nature.

bank-of-natural-capital2

With the 2007 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples – a threat to globalization – the finance sector immediately began co-opting the indigenous peoples movement through foundation grants to compromised NGOs approved by the UN. These compromised NGOs and individuals are paid to legitimize the annihilation of indigenous nations via UN agencies in partnership with Wall Street.

Greed Economy

Indigenous peoples from five countries told the UN Rio+20 summit that the green economy is a “crime against humanity” that ‘dollarises’ Mother Nature and strips communities of their rights.

Photo: KeystoneUSA-ZUMA / Rex Features

As indigenous nations challenge Wall Street and the UN over globalization, compromised NGOs like 350 distort reality through social and mainstream media. The “new economy” they promote is essentially what used to be called fascism. While finance sector puppets like Naomi Klein charm gullible liberals with bromides and syllogisms about sustainability, what they are in reality sustaining is totalitarian corporate control of world governance and human survival.

 

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

Green Economy, Red Herring

2012

by Clive Spash

revolt4

“We see the goals of Rio+20, the ‘Green Economy’ and its premise that the world can only ‘save’ nature by commodifying its life-giving and life-sustaining capacities as a continuation of the colonialism that indigenous peoples and our Mother Earth have faced and resisted for 520 years.”
Photo: EPA/MARCELO SAYAO


This year sees Rio plus 20 years and much activity especially from United Nations (UN) related institutions to push forward various agendas which the environmentally concerned might welcome. The financial and banking crisis signals for many the tip of the iceberg of reality into which modern industrial economies must inevitably run. Growth of material and energy throughput is then doomed to sink. However, the reports and rhetoric prepared for Rio have little to do with attempts to revive the anti-growth and limits to growth discourse under de-growth or décroissance (a topic explored in a special issue of Environmental Values next year). No, the thrust of the argument being put on the agenda is that re-establishing growth as fast as possible is good, if not essential and unquestionable, but it should be a bit greener. We might venture to ask why this is deemed an adequate response to biophysical limits, increasing social inequity and general systems failure?

At the base of the international response is a dispute over ‘what is the problem?’ in the first place. If you are amongst the top few per cent of the worlds’ population who own the vast majority of its wealth and run its business interests then there is no problem. A financial crisis is just another opportunity to make money by switching assets (e.g., out of dollars or Euros and into gold) and then switching back when the time is ripe. War, famine and environmental disasters are all opportunities for the business men and women with the right goods and services in the right place at the right time. One man’s poverty is another man’s cheap labour and source of cost-efficient profit making. This line of thinking is what we now see being expressed far and wide as necessary to address environmental problems from climate change (Stern 2006) to biodiversity (TEEB2010) using newly created financial instruments (Spash 2010a; 2011).

The approach has been nicely encapsulated in the UN’s promotion of the ‘Green Economy’ with a more than 600 page report released last December. A UNEP policy brief aimed at informing Rio 2012 provides a succinct explanation of what this means:

In the transition to a Green Economy, policymakers should ensure that the full range of goods and services provided by ecosystems, including those which are currently non-monetised, are fully integrated in decision making and public policy. […] Placing a value on ecosystem services through mechanisms that facilitate investment in ecosystems will at the same time benefit local people and the private sector who are rewarded for good environmental stewardship. (UNEP 2011: 3)

Faith is required, namely faith in market mechanisms and the ability of technical experts to first value the environment and then capture those values with market institutions and private property rights. Yet the message is simultaneously intertwined with expressions of concern for the poor, the seriousness of environmentalproblems and the need for change. We are told that, the Green Economy ‘is a new development path that is based on sustainability principles and ecological economics’ (UNEP 2011: 2). The model is of course not new but involves rapid deployment of a growth stimulus package which is now Green because it will use ‘economic models for wealth creation, to focus increasingly on the value of ecosystem goods and services and natural capital’ (UNEP 2011: 7). ‘Compared with previous development paths, the uniqueness of a Green Economy is that it can directly turn natural capital into economic value whilst maintaining it, and conduct total cost accounting’ (UNEP 2011: 8). As if the smell of herring were not strong enough to lose the environmental trail, we are also informed that the aim is for ‘a common language of comprehensive ecosystem valuation’. The environment neatly slips off the agenda and is replaced by growth, jobs, capital investment and wealth accumulation. The environmentalists, conservation biologists and ecologists can be replaced by accountants.

Industrialisation and the spread of markets and consumerism was long ago recognised as corrosive of social and individual values. In this issue, Cannavò (2012) shows this concern formed an integral part of Jeffersonian Republicanism and the writings of Thoreau. The struggle for a more meaningful life which is environmentally benign is both a personal and community challenge. Thoreau’s ideal appears as a halfway house between living in towns to toil for needless luxuries and realising personal integrity and moral virtue from living in wild lands. What the Green Economy lacks is the essential reconnection with Nature that would put humans in context as members of a larger community of organisms. This divergence from conquering Nature is one that separates Thoreau from Jefferson, the environmentalist from the developer. The aim of Thoreau is to tread lightly on the planet while gaining basic requirements for personal flourishing, as exemplified by his experiment growing beans within a semi-wild natural setting. The point is rather different from maximising production while hoping to avoid destroying the basic systems upon which we depend.

The links between human social and environmental relationships are too easily neglected in favour of the simplistic splitting of the world into us and them, man and nature, culture and wilderness, economy and environment. As Matthews (2012) explains, the ontological human-animal distinction has been employed at various points in time to designate women, children, indigenous peoples, and ‘others’, as non-human. This serves to justify violence and oppression. Nature as object for economic exploitation falls within this same frame. Matthews calls for us to deconstruct how we think and conduct our lives so that we might feel, think and act differently.

The complexity of meanings of Nature is too easily brushed aside by calls for comprehensive total cost accounting. Ioris (2012) refers to the technobureaucratic rationality of monetisation and water pricing as removing the plurality of meanings associated with the allocation, use and conservation ofwater. Environmental economics is described as having subverted other values. He recognises a sentient ecology in which knowledge emerges out of feelings, sensitivities and skills developed through long experiences in particular environments. This bears a striking resemblance to Thoreau, and also attacks strong social constructivism as implying human cognition outside the world of Nature. At the same time Ioris argues for the values of water being generated from a perpetual interplay between individuals, their social groupings, and the multiple forms of socio-ecological interaction. Water takes on different meanings for different people. He concludes that systems of valuation are intensely politicised, involving struggles between groups. Thus, no single value dominates but multiple systems of values overlap and meaning is constantly reconstructed in relation to material, symbolic and discursive practices.

That the conceptualisation of reality is subject to contestation and change is exemplified by Van Assche, Bell and Teampau (2012). They argue that knowledge and power are intertwined. An imposed scientific discourse for environmental protection is shown to have in part alienated Romanians in the swamps of the Danube delta. The lack of trust in outside authorities creates a dismissive attitude to the value of wildlife and ecosystem protection. When this mixes with the personal experience of working directly in the swamplands and traditional and cultural values, the result can be confused and self-contradictory discourses. The same birds are at one moment described as beautiful and the next as ugly, while socio-economic problems are blamed on particular species that are derided as needing extermination because they compete with humans. The recent privatisation of common resources (fish and reed) that local people once depended upon did no more to help than earlier development plans and fish farms of the Soviet era. Both economic models have identical core features of growth and exploitation with an imposed technocentric value frame that fails to relate to local people.

Rejecting a single correct discourse challenges the traditional approach of science and claims to truth based upon objectivity. Western governments are increasingly aware of the potential for open scientific debate to undermine policy positions, which they claim are scientific, factually based and objective. Muzzling government scientists to prevent them talking to the media is now openly practised in Canada (Ghosh 2012) and was my personal experience in Australia (Spash 2010b). Contrary to the claims of the Green Economy, protection of the environment is in opposition to traditional economic interests and therefore the discourse must be controlled. Once again a series of dichotomies are employed to support a black-and-white, us-and-them mentality in which rhetoric replaces reason. Such a conflict is discussed by Robins (2012) for the case of genetically modified crops in Australia. The problem goes beyond one of different discourses and values and exposes changing reality through technology. The result is to remove whole ways of life and relationships to Nature.

A core of concern running through the papers in this issue relates to the metaphysical (ontological) questions of what exists, what are the primary entities of concern, what are their most general features and relationships? The ontological understanding of the world we inhabit appears challenged in a changing social and economic system that is undergoing crisis. One tendency, as seen in some of the papers, is to move from the realisation that knowledge is created in contested social and political contexts to assuming that all reality is a social construction. From there it is a small step to claiming all positions are equally valid. However, this seems to confuse ontology with epistemology. The distinction is between what exists and how we form knowledge about the world and what then is the meaning of truly knowing something.

The environmental movement has long depended upon scientific investigation, empirical evidence and the acceptance of a biophysical reality. At the same time the social context and community aspects of valuing and relating to the world are accepted and seen as important, from Thoreau’s good life to the social norms preventing littering, as investigated by Torgler, García-Valiñas and Macintyre (2012). The vision for the future must, then, combine social ecological and economic understanding – but not in some simplistic unifying language of a Green Economy, nor through denying basic realities.

Societal, economic and environmental crises are unified as the result of an old but common deception that growth is good, more is better and there can be more for everyone. In the Green Economy the poor are promised environmental riches, recycled materials and renewable energy can be exploited without environmental impact, and technology always finds a substitute for what runs out. All things can be made compatible by ignoring the basic contradiction between ever-expanding human activity and a finite world. The illusion grows thinner every day, but in Rio expect to see people wearing green tinted spectacles and waving smoked fish at each other.

 

[Clive Spash I am an economist who writes, researches and teaches on public policy with an emphasis on economic and environmental interactions. My main interests are interdisciplinary research on human behaviour, environmental values and the transformation of the world political economy to a more socially and environmentally just system.]

 

References

Cannavò, P. 2012. ‘The half-cultivated citizen: Thoreau at the nexus of republicanism and environmentalism’. Environmental Values 21(2): 101–124.

Ghosh, P. 2012. ‘Canadian government is “muzzling its scientists”’. Retrieved 22 February 2012, 2012, from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-16861468.

Ioris, A.A.R. 2012. ‘The positioned construction of water values: pluralism, positionality and praxis’. Environmental Values 21(2): 143–162.

Matthews, J. 2012. ‘Compassion, geography and the question of the animal’. Environmental Values 21(2): 125–142.

Robins, R. 2012. ‘The controversy over GM canola in Australia as an ontological politics’. Environmental Values 21(2): 185–208.

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

Spash, C.L. 2010b. ‘Censoring science in research officially’. Environmental Values 19(2): 141–146.

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

Stern, N. 2006. Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change. London, UK Government Economic Service.

TEEB 2010. The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity: Mainstreaming the Economics of Nature: A Synthesis of the Approach, Conclusions and Recommendations of TEEB. Bonn, UNEP.

Torgler, B., M. García-Valiñas and A. Macintyre. 2012. ‘Justifiability of littering: an empirical investigation’. Environmental Values 21(2): 209–231.

UNEP 2011. ‘Restoring the natural foundation to sustain a Green Economy: A centurylong journey for ecosystem management’. International Ecosystem Management Partnership (IEMP) Policy Brief. Nairobi, UNEP: 30.

Van Aasche, K., S. Bell and P. Teampau. 2012. ‘Traumatic natures of the swamp: concepts of nature in the Romanian Danube Delta’. Environmental Values 21(2): 163–183.

 

 

Terrible Economics, Ecosystems and Banking [TEEB]

Social Ecological Economics

2011

by Clive Spash

TEEB 1

Why do conservation biologists, ecologists and other natural scientists working on environmental problems feel the need to copy, or rather parody, a narrow economic discourse? At opposite ends of Europe (Austria and Norway) I have this year listened to prominent spokespersons from such disciplines making use of supposed economic values calculated for everything from wetlands to bees. Despite the problems (see Spash and Vatn 2006), values are being transferred as needed across time and space. The recommendation is for more monetary valuation and improving the techniques of environmental cost-benefit analysis amongst which stated preference methods (e.g. contingent valuation) have become predominant. When challenged the typical response is: ‘I don’t pretend to understand the details. Yes there may be problems and everyone knows contingent valuation is nonsense, but these numbers get attention.’ Well do they and if so from whom and to what end?

For those who may have failed to notice, 2010 was declared biodiversity year by the United Nations. One attempt to gain relevance for the loss of biodiversity and ecosystems degradation as an international public policy problem followed the above approach. I refer to the project supported, by the United Nation’s Environment Programme, entitled The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB), which produced its final synthesis report at the end of last year subtitled: Mainstreaming the Economics of Nature. Indeed the aim was to follow the global cost-benefit method of the, claimed to be successful, Stern Review on climate change (despite no noticeable impact of that report on greenhouse gas control). TEEB differs from Stern in conducting no new work but, rather, actually is a review (which Stern was not). While the project has covered much ground through a variety of reports the synthesis report is the key summary in which those driving the project show their true colours. The synthesis report is packed with monetary numbers transferred out of context and stated as if objective facts. The document is, of course, almost purely a rhetorical exercise (as was the Stern Review, see Spash 2007). The stance of those natural scientists employing the same approach, and supporting this and similar initiatives, is both rhetorical and pragmatic. Getting international reports produced and government officials to listen then seems worthwhile regardless of the means. This is New Environmental Pragmatism in action (Spash 2009).

The great success, of switching away from an ecologically driven discourse involving plural values to a monistic pseudo-economic one, is then that big business and financially squeezed governments appear to be listening. For example, the UK Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Caroline Spelman, has made the following endorsement of TEEB, being used in the publishers publicity blurb: ‘We need to understand the true cost of losing what nature gives us for free, and integrate this into our decision making across government, business and society. At the national and international level TEEB for Policy Makers helps us think about how this can be done.’ In October 2010, the United Nations Finance Initiative (UNFI) published a briefing entitled Demystifying Materiality: Hardwiring Biodiversity and Ecosystems into Finance. This is an initiative supported by organisations such as Rio Tinto, Industrial Development Corporation, JP Morgan Chase & Co., Uni Credit Group, Credit Suisse, Citigroup, Barclays, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, and many others.

That the numbers are crude and lack theoretical foundation is actually almost irrelevant. Once in print they can be used and cited, for whatever ends seem suitable, as has been done with numbers on the value of the world’s ecosystems and all remaining wild nature. In any case the real aim is not to demonstrate that Nature has value. Indeed, the big message here is that demonstrating value in money terms is not enough. No. Values need to be ‘captured’. How, you might ask? Easy, through new institutional arrangements or, in other words, market-like institutions.

Traditionally the main financial and banking concerns around the topics of ecosystems and biodiversity have been damage to a corporation’s reputation when it gets caught polluting or destroying the environment, although only if this is reflected in the share price. Potential impacts on a development project’s finances (e.g. due to delays trying to meet regulations) have also been something to note. However, reports like TEEB, and the associated UNFI briefing, point in a different direction. They indicate that there is much for the finance and banking sectors to consider besides taking care of the risks and potential liabilities.

Financial institutions can seize opportunities related to biodiversity and ecosystems services in different ways: early movers can bolster their organisation’s reputation and create value for marketing practices; building capacity in-house can be beneficial in terms of advisory services for corporate clients; advising clients how to integrate biodiversity and ecosystems services in supply-chain management can lead to cost reductions for clients; and last but not least, financial
institutions that understand the new and expanding environmental markets can profit through offering brokerage services, registries, or specialised funds. Nothing like a financial crisis to get the high flyers of the banking world into innovation mode.

If you thought great ideas like tradable permits might be limited to carbon markets then think again. Innovative marketing devices like wetland banking, biodiversity banking and endangered species credits are now ready, available and being implemented. The USA endangered species credit system is a biodiversity cap-and-trade system producing ‘endangered species credits’, which can be used to offset a company’s negative impacts on threatened species and habitats. Bio-banking has been pioneered in Australia, where in 2006 a pilot project in New South Wales allowed developers to buy ‘biodiversity credits’ to offset negative impacts on biodiversity. These credits can be created by ‘enhancing’ other land (e.g. areas previously degraded by development). Then back to the USA for wetland banking, where companies or individuals undertaking development or agricultural expansion are allowed to degrade or destroy wetland ecosystems by making payments called environmental credits. As the TEEB synthesis report notes, there is big money in these schemes with the market for wetland credits in the USA estimated at $1.1 to $1.8 billion. No more worrying about absolute protection or annoying regulations – just opportunities to trade and create new financial instruments to capture those wild values roaming too freely for their own good.

Developers with enough ready cash will be unfettered (as if they were not already: see Veuthey and Gerber, 2011). Is this the success ecologists and conservation biologist pushing monetary values having been trying to achieve? This is not about protection or conservation this is about banking, finance and investment returns. This is about removing regulation and restrictions. Increasing possibilities for trading financial instruments has little apparent relevance for the drivers of ecosystem degradation and biodiversity loss (e.g. human population increase, war, corruption and greed, colonialism). Changing the international banking and financial institutions to redirect development away from environmental destruction would seem to require a little more than making wild claims for the monetary value of bees. Dropping the discourse of plural values, and those discourses which empowered ecologists and conservationists in the first place, is at best misguided. Not just species are threatened but social and environmental responsibility itself.

One thing these issues raise is the over reliance on collective action and the need for alternatives. Individual action, for example, is often undermined by the argument that any one person can contribute so little that doing anything is pointless. Last year in this journal Hourdequin (2010) made an eloquent attack on the logic of such a position within the context of climate change. This issue sees her defending that stance in reply to a commentary. As climate change has shown, misguided strategies are unfortunately not limited to ecosystems and biodiversity. In this issue Gardiner (2011) discusses geoengineering the climate. Such options arise due to the failure of governments and international organisations to take serious mitigation measures to prevent human induced climate change. How does the Royal Society suggest addressing this institutional and political failure? By using science and technology as if there were no issues of power politics. The many-faceted ethical aspects of the approach are carefully surveyed by Gardiner.

We then return to conservation biologists, who come in for criticism from Joye and De Block (2011). While noting the influence of Wilson’s writing on the concepts of biodiversity and biophilia they critically analyse the latter. This brings into question the faith shown in the evolutionary explanation for human relationships to life-forms and the assumptions surrounding biophilia and biophobia. Further food for thought in terms of how conservation biologists perceive human motivation.

The theme of human motivation continues with Ojala and Lidskog (2011) presenting a study raising a range of interesting issues about human intervention in natural systems and the value conflicts which people feel. The life-form here (mosquitoes) is perceived as largely negative and this supports an eradication programme in central Sweden using aerial chemical applications. Reading the mixed motives and justifications seems to rather strongly contrast with an evolutionary biophobic explanation, and so lends credence to part of the argument by Joye and De Block. Short-termism, anthropocentrism, systems control and narrow species preferences seem to dominate in the Swedish case study.

A different type of value conflict concerns the endangered Moabi tree. Here we observe the spread of markets, power of developers and international trade. The conservation of Moabi is certainly not served by the extension of the commodity frontier outlined in this study. Nor would the further extension of property titles, wood trade, and monetary exchange values via TEEB or UNFI mechanisms help. Indeed the intervention of the World Bank appears as an extension of the trade problems driving exploitation. Solutions require addressing the fundamental power relationships embedded in a colonial past. Veuthey and Gerber (2011) use a feminist ecological economics perspective to explore the value pluralism and conflicts. This reveals the commoditisation of Moabi as a tool of power through which environmental valuation is imposed, claims made on the resources of the politically weak, and socio-environmental impacts on the poor are traded-off against financial returns for the rich.

The issue closes with an appeal to the concept of mercy for Nature and its inclusion as an environmental virtue to be added to virtues like love, care, respect, humility, and wonder for Nature. Being merciful then demands a different behaviour than might be legally permissible or institutionally sanctioned. Mercy does not seem to be compatible with treating another less harshly for primarily egoistic reasons, e.g. as a means of avoiding trouble or lining one’s pockets. So
don’t expect to find mercy amongst orthodox economists’ or financiers’ reasons for avoiding ecosystems destruction and biodiversity loss. As Ferkany (2011) notes, environmental ethicists have seemingly tried every avenue of appeal to inspire their fellow human beings to forbear in the wanton destruction of Nature. To these he adds the prospect of a charge of mercilessness.

A new report then seems to be required. Something to explain the current merciless economics of scientists and society (MESS). Although, exploring the MESS is unlikely to be of much interest to empowered neoliberal politicians or the banking sector.

Part IIa Mainstream Economists Shutout Reality:

[Clive Spash is an economist who writes, researches and teaches on public policy with an emphasis on economic and environmental interactions. My main interests are interdisciplinary research on human behaviour, environmental values and the transformation of the world political economy to a more socially and environmentally just system.]
References
Ferkany, M. 2011. ‘Mercy as an environmental virtue’. Environmental Values 20(2): 265–283.
Gardiner, S. M. 2011. ‘Some early ethics of geoengineering the climate: a commentary on the values of the Royal Society Report’. Environmental Values 20(2): 163–188.
Hourdequin, M. (2010). ‘Climate, collective action and indivudal ethical obligations.’ Environmental Values 19: 443-464.
Joye, Y. and A. de Block. 2011. ‘“Nature and I are Two”: a critical examination of the biophilia hypothesis’. Environmental Values 20(2): 189–215.
Ojala, M. and R. Lidskog. 2011. ‘What lies beneath the surface? A case study of citizens’ moral reasoning with regard to biodiversity’. Environmental Values 20(2): 217–237.
Spash, C. L. (2007). ‘The economics of climate change impacts à la Stern: Novel and nuanced or rhetorically restricted?’ Ecological Economics 63(4): 706-713.
Spash, C. L. (2009). ‘The new environmental pragmatists, pluralism and sustainability.’ Environmental Values 18(3): 253-256.
Spash, C. L. and A. Vatn (2006). ‘Transferring environmental value estimates: Issues and alternatives.’ Ecological Economics 60(2): 379-388.
Veuthey, S. and J-F. Gerber. 2011. ‘Valuation contests over the commoditisation of the moabi tree in South-Eastern Cameroon’. Environmental Values 20(2): 239–264.