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Reinforcing False Narratives in the Galilee Basin Coal Complex: A Double Book Review

July 30, 2018

By Michael Swifte, WKOG Collective

 

 

On the 5th of November 2012 I emailed Ben Pennings for the first time. I felt I had received an education in thinking on environmental issues through his Facebook page Generation Alpha which was light-years ahead in quality of content compared to that put out by the environmental NGOs that were prominent at the time. A month later we organised a Zombie attack on my former employer, the Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane. A year later we were shareholder activists at the AGM of the Galilee Basin rail frontrunner Aurizon. We pitched legally vetted questions about activists blocking trains on the vast Aurizon networks. Months later Ben and I were both part of the founding Galilee Blockade group. My focus was capacity building for long term blockading while broadcasting the capacity we were building. I brought in a former military capability specialist turned anti-fracking and holistic agriculture campaigner. Some of our members joined in on a tour of the Galilee Basin with the recently arrived 350 dot org. Our members pitched our plans by a camp fire in the bush, and if my memory of the events conveyed to me by Galilee Blockade members serves me correctly, our plans were roundly dismissed. There were other plans afoot.

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‘The Coal Truth: The fight to stop Adani, defeat the big polluters and reclaim our democracy’ by David Ritter, with chapters by Adrian Burragubba, John Quiggin, Geoff Cousins and others. UWA Publishing

The first thing you should know about Greenpeace Australia Pacific CEO David Ritter is that he’s a highly regarded and widely cited native title lawyer. Having acted for Traditional Owners in the Pilbara region, and authored articles and books on the subject, he ought to be very familiar with the Native Title Representative Bodies (NTRBs) who become prominent players when it comes to the pointy end of negotiations over Indigenous land use agreements (ILUAs). He ought to be able to comprehend the likely state of play for all the Traditional Owners affected by the development of the Galilee Basin coal complex better than most people. And yet, on the subject of native title rights, Ritter effectively hands the mic to one representative of a faction of only one of the Traditional Owner communities who’ve negotiated with Adani.

When you shine a spotlight on one individual, group, or faction you cast all others into darkness. Spotlighting is my name for what the StopAdani coalition do to Traditional Owners. Invisiblisation of certain inconvenient Traditional Owners is the net effect of spotlighting.  I am left with questions about those Traditional Owner groups who are left in the shadows. It seems to me, for the sake of justice and proper investigation of the political economy of a coal complex, that the diversity of Traditional Owners should be considered. I’ve been left with these questions:

How can one representative’s position represent all Traditional Owners?

Are not the peoples worth mentioning?

Were they not also threatened with compulsory acquisition?

I believe that the testimony of Juru elder Carol Prior is entirely worthy of inclusion in any history of this ‘war over coal’.

In his introductory chapter Ritter recalls an email conversation with Robert Manne in which he highlights the importance of “truth-telling” in social movements. Reading this made me think of the suggestion embedded in the book’s title and prompted me to ask myself “Does this book contain the ‘whole truth’?”. My answer to that question is a resounding “No!”.

If Ritter was telling the whole truth he would have been very clear about the name of the rail project that was in line for Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) funding and likely the subject of Export Finance and Insurance Corporation (EFIC) considerations. Greenpeace AP cleverly avoided naming the rail project in their ‘OffTrack’ report from December 2016 in which they substituted the actual project name, the ‘North Galilee Basin Rail Project’ which appears on 3 crucial ILUAs, for the fictional project name listed on the Adani Australia website, the ‘Carmichael Rail Project’.

If Ritter was telling the whole truth he would have stated that the Rockefeller Family Fund, Graeme Wood Foundation, and Bob Burton (with his extensive networks) helped John Hepburn get the ‘Stopping the Australian Coal Export Boom’ plan and funding together. It’s not surprising that Ritter does not mention Hepburn’s Sunrise Project and it’s relationship with John Podesta, the Climateworks Foundation and the Sandler Foundation as revealed by Wikileaks in the Podesta emails. I encourage you to have a look at the phalanx of impact philanthropists who were also recipients of Hepburns update emails. They come across as very much like venture capitalists, but instead of their objective being profits, they seem to be more concerned with shaping the discourse and the institutional underpinnings of resistance.

If Ritter et al were telling the whole truth (half the book is filled with essays by ‘leaders’ like John Quiggin, Will Steffen, and Geoff Cousins) they would have lamented that the majority of the Stop Adani coalition/alliance members ignored content and reportage of direct actions on their social media accounts. Direct actions by Frontline Action on Coal occurred in the Galilee and Bowen basins, and on Juru lands near Abbot Point starting in September 2017. Each of these actions materially slowed work being done by Adani and it’s contractors. In October 2017 I had an email conversation with 350 dot org dot au CEO Blair Palese about the sorry situation of direct actions involving arrests that were receiving little to no amplification from the institutions that existed to further the aims of those protesters. Palese explained to me that the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission had been investigating 350 AU and other organisations, and it was identified that sharing certain content could compromise campaign efforts. The saddest example of this is rather feeble explanation was when, 6 hours into the first ever direct action against Adani in the Galilee Basin, Missy Higgins announced her new role as ‘StopAdani ambassador’. I urged her through Twitter to make her first act as an ambassador to celebrate the efforts of activists in physically stopping machinery. Sadly there was no sharing of direct action content or coverage from the new ambassador. I’ve come to believe that the StopAdani coalition/alliance members value the brands and institutions they maintain so much that they are not prepared to compromise them in order to share the whole truth of direct actions.

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‘Adani and the War Over Coal’ by Quentin Beresford. NewSouth Publishing

Quentin Beresford is in the unique position of being the supervisor for the only published academic investigation that covers ILUA negotiations with Adani relating to the Galilee Basin coal complex. An honours thesis by Kate Arnautovic was drafted in early 2017 shortly before Justice Reeves determined that the March 2016 “self-determined” meeting facilitated by the Wangan and Jagalingou Family Council (W&J FC) was not properly constituted as a legitimate authorisation meeting under the Native Title Act 1993 (NTA). Arnautovic’s thesis focussed on the history of negotiations between Adani and the Wangan and Jagalingou People of which the W&J FC are a faction. I can only guess at why the Arnautovic thesis focusses on only one Traditional Owner group in the development of a coal complex.

Beresford ought to be familiar with Principle 1 of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) –  Guidelines for Ethical Research in Australian Indigenous Studies (GERAIS) which is about “recognition of diversity and uniqueness of peoples”. Beresford was co-supervisor on a 2015 doctoral thesis on ‘ethical research in Indigenous contexts’ which covered the various sets of ethical guidelines available including those developed by AIATSIS. But no guidelines provide detail about the ethics of ignoring Indigenous communities in selecting research subjects and framing research questions. The question that Beresford must ask himself is:

“Would the Juru, Birri, Jannga, and Wangan and Jagalingou peoples benefit from academic research into native title negotiations with Adani across the entire coal complex area?”

The collected works of John Quiggin, Kristen Lyons and Morgan Brigg were written in partnership with the Wangan and Jagalingou Family Council in a project hosted by the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland called ‘We Are The People From That Land: Centring Indigenous Peoples’ Rights in the Transition to a Sustainable, Low-Carbon Future’. These collected works were written by academics and published on progressive online platforms, but they contain no references or citations. Instead they rely on published and unpublished testimony from members of the W&J FC . The scope and framing of these works did not include all Traditional Owner groups who negotiated with Adani. Here too the mine and the Traditional Owners of the proposed mine location were the focus. The fact that Adani have all of the necessary rail corridor ILUAs in place was somehow contextually insignificant.

Each of the seven pieces of writing that make the collected works of Quiggin et al were published after Justice Reeves’ April 2017 judgement regarding the March 2016 “self-determined” meeting. But the existence of Justice Reeves determination was never acknowledged, and hence evidence of the factional split was masked off from view. Quiggin et al were in the partnership to give a voice and legitimacy to a narrative position supported by Graeme Wood and the networks built and maintained by John Hepburn and the Sunrise Project. In their first piece ‘Unfinished Business’ they paraphrased their W&J FC partners, but by the end of their New Matilda series called ‘Killing Country’ the authors had fashioned a talking point that the poorly constituted “self determined” meeting was “bona fide”. The Federal Court, and more specifically, Justice Reeves is the final arbiter of what, under the NTA, can be deemed to be “bona fide”. Any claim about the legitimacy of a native title authorisation meeting, no matter how righteous, must satisfy the requirements of the NTA. The false claims made about the March 2016 meeting after April 2017 only serve to misinform the public and can only exist because Quiggin et al, the W&J FC, David Ritter, Anthony Esposito, Tony McCoy and Quentin Beresford remain silent when they ought to provide a position.

Marcia Langton has provided the most important criticism of the W&J FC alliances and messaging. In a piece titled ‘Adani, native title and risky strategies’ published in The Saturday Paper in July 2017 Langton lays her arguments at the feet of Tony McAvoy and to a lesser extent Adrian Burragubba. McAvoy is the nephew of Burragubba; a W&J man; Australia’s first and most highly established Indigenous silk; and a native title lawyer of high regard. McAvoy didn’t author a reply to Langton preferring to let journalist Joshua Robertson share his very general dismissals of her arguments, namely: that there were indeed other Traditional Owners who have negotiated with Adani; that the McGlade amendments weren’t about the W&J Adani ILUA; and that Graeme Wood and the Sunrise Project had provided substantial financial support to establish the W&J FC. Beresford does not mention Marcia Langton or Warren Mundine. Langton’s name does not appear in the index, nor does her The Saturday Paper piece appear in the bibliography. Beresford dedicates 5 words to Langton and Mundine, “criticism from some Aboriginal spokespeople” without ever mentioning their names”.

Beresford attends to accusations that the Sunrise Project provided funding to the Wangan and Jagalingou Family Council in 2014, but only in the context of so called ‘conservative” media. While Hepburn has admitted that some “logistical support” was provided to the W&J FC, the true nature of that support has never been forthcoming. Beresford paraphrases Hepburn’s argument that it ought not be shocking or surprising that a Clinton senior advisor was being briefed on developments in the campaign. This argument ignores the significance of the collected impact philanthropies represented in the list of email recipients and the crucial role played by John Podesta and the Clinton Foundation in the politics and business of climate change. Beresford argues that Hillary Clinton has a commitment to “implementing the Paris agreement”, but if you look at Podesta’s efforts with the Climateworks Foundation, The Clinton Foundation, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Obama’s ‘Clean Power Plan’, and the Democrat’s support for the suite of new carbon capture utilization and storage (CCUS) bills, you will see a pattern of support for continued fossil fuel use. Hepburn’s emails to Podesta and others are a lot more significant than Beresford suggests. Hepburn indicated that he was prepared to go to extreme lengths to hide knowledge of the funding of his organisation and the relationship it had with the spotlighted Traditional Owner faction for the StopAdani coalition/alliance.

The most important piece of infrastructure in the Galilee Basin coal complex is the rail line, the means of export for up to a dozen mines. The rail project in question is mentioned only twice in Beresford’s book and does not appear in the index. The North Galilee Basin Rail Project (NGBR) is listed with the Queensland Department of State Development (DSD). No link appears in the bibliography which contains no more than a handful of references that name or make reference to primary source documents that confirm that the NGBR is Adani’s preferred rail project.

The NGBR was named in 2016 when the Queensland Minister for State Development Anthony Lynham announced that the ‘combined project’ was now a “critical infrastructure” project and it was named when the Queensland premier issued her veto letter to Adani stopping the controversial Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) concessional loan. As Lissa Schindler of Brisbane based figurehead group the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) said recently regarding the NGBR link “It’s their Achilles heel – if we stop the railway we stop the mines.”. While people like Michael West and Adrian Burragubba might argue that Adani can’t build their rail line without the Carmichael mine, I would contend that the opposite is true. No mines can be built in the Galilee Basin without a standard gauge rail line. Understanding the negotiations and relationships that make the NGBR possible are imperative if any efforts to stop colonised neo-liberal forces from opening up the Galilee Basin for decades of mining are to be successful.

In November 2013 Adani reported that Cultural Heritage Management Plans (CHMPs) had been made with Traditional Owners along the NGBR corridor. The status of negotiations with the Juru, Birri, and Jannga peoples was discussed in the report. At this stage John Hepburn et al had worked with US based global foundations and local impact philanthropists to develop broad plans which had been shared across networks like the Climate Action Network Australia (CANA). Beresford asserts that these efforts were “at the grass roots”. I was here in Brisbane and watched as the networks were developed, and philanthropically incubated players like 350 dot org and Avaaz were introduced. There was no grass roots campaign, just the capture of the efforts of good but misguided people. Anti tar sands campaigners Macdonald Stainsby and Dru Oja Jay coined a term for this back in 2009, they called it “offsetting resistance”. In a fashion that would be familiar to the early climate justice campaigners against the Athabasca tar sands Wood, Burton and Hepburn cooked up a plan that laid a path for 350 dot org to set up in Australia. Networks were effectively exploited across environmental NGOs, the Greens party and the media to advance particular talking points and ignore primary sources that threatened to compromise an oversimplified narrative.

When former Melbourne based renewable energy and climate campaigner Ellen Roberts is introduced by Beresford she is presented as part of a small local team at the Mackay Conservation Group. Roberts was active with the MCG when they were working with the Environmental Defenders Office – New South Wales on a court case against Adani. EDO NSW like EDO Qld had been allocated funding under the Hepburn/Burton/Wood plan. Roberts now works for Get Up as the lead Queensland organiser and is an ordinary member on the Queensland Conservation Council executive. Both of these organisations help fund the MCG legal challenge. In 2013 the Sunrise Project partnered with The Change Agency and the Nature Conservation Council of NSW to create the Community Organising Fellowship. In 2014 Roberts, while at MCG, graduated from the fellowship.

In my March 2017 phone conversation with MCG coordinator Peter McCallum I was told that they had a tiny team that shared a limited number of full time roles. In 2013 and 2014 the MCG were staffed by imported personnel like Roberts and similarly the North Queensland Land Council employed former Greenpeace political lobbyists Jeremy Tager. It seems that the networks were always able to furnish ‘grassroots’ groups with new staff. Indeed the 8 months I spent in 2012 managing the Facebook page for the Friends of the Earth (FoE)- 6 Degrees team in Brisbane introduced me to a team, all of whom moved on to positions with Greenpeace, the Greens, Coast and Country, Market Forces and others I’m sure. In the years since that time I have realised the role FoE plays as an incubator. It gave the modern climate justice movement Ellen Roberts.

Impact philanthropists excel at marketing particular narratives and creating the impression among the public that well funded campaigns spring from the grass roots. They do this through partnerships, grants and most crucially the exploitation of networks. The best metaphor I can find for the way highly networked philanthropy works is the American football concept to ‘run inference’. At the heart of offensive strategy is the use of offensive team members to create opportunities for the ball carrier to score touch downs by interfering with defending players to create an unimpeded path to the end zone. In the same way the EDOs, Environmental Justice Australia, The Australia Institute, Australian Lawyers for Human Rights and the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis run interference for the StopAdani team.

In Ritter’s book former advertising mogul, environmental crusader and conservationist Geoff Cousins got given a whole chapter to talk about his scrambling visit to India. In Beresford’s book the business man and CEO of the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) also gets plenty of opportunity to speak, mostly about himself. The ACF effectively replaced the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) as the formal directorate for reef based campaigning in the lead up to the creation of the Stop Adani coalition. Over the 2016/17 summer break the Fight for the Reef campaign became the Fight for Our Reef campaign. In May 2017, the same month that the ACF published Michael West’s ‘Dirty Deeds’ report on the NAIF and Adani which contained no mentions of the NGBR, ACMS published their poorly referenced ‘fact sheet’ on the “Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project”. This document did mention the NGBR, but unlike the report commissioned for ACF by ACIL Allen for the senate NAIF inquiry, it quoted the rail corridor length for Adani’s fictional ‘Carmichael Rail Project’. This is a common mistake that has been made by amateurs and professionals. The NGBR length is listed as 310km while the combined length of NGBR and the rail component of Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project (CCMR) is 388km. My phone calls to ACMS staff did not reveal with any certainty who authored the fact sheet or if there was any willingness to improve the referencing. It was suggested to me at one stage that the fact sheet may have been prepared by StopAdani dot com.

Beresford’s book was drafted before the May 24 proceedings brought by Juru Enterprises Limited (JEL) against Adani and the Juru Aboriginal corporation Kyburra Munda Yalga Aboriginal Corporation (KMYAC). The concerns highlighted in the court proceedings which I attended have been articulated by Juru common law holders from since at least the middle of 2015. The confused reporting of Advisian who consulted to the Queensland Department of State Development on the Abbot Point Growth Gateway Project provides evidence that the neither the DSD nor Advisian knew where they stood in terms of Cultural Heritage Management Plans (CHMPs) and which Juru body should deliver them. Justice Rares determined that KMYAC who were placed under examination by the regulator of Aboriginal corporations the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations (ORIC) in October 2016 and placed into special administration in October 2017 made invalid ancillary agreements with Adani which diverted funds to the struggling KMYAC. Justice Rares determined that JEL were the “Juru nominated body” for the purposes of the 2013 ILUA and ancillary agreements with Adani. JEL have complained recently that Adani have been unresponsive since Justice Rares judgement came down and are currently seeking a stop order so that proper CHMP assessments can made with the appropriate bodies.

Ben Smee from The Guardian Australia has the honour of being the first journalist outside the NewsCorp silo to report on the travails of KMYAC. He is more concerned with his informants in JEL and the Juru people opposed to ILUAs with Adani than he is about the parlous state of KMYACs finances. I have suggested to him through social media that he ought to look at the role played by the former KMYAC chair and her current employer, the North Queensland Land Council (NQLC). The NQLC are the NTRB for the Juru People. As such they have facilitated authorisation meetings with Adani for both JEL and KMYAC. They also provide anthropological services and legal support as well as having the responsibility to support good governance in Indigenous organisations for the benefit of  Traditional Owner communities. The former chair of KMYAC is the director for the Townsville/Ayr Ward and the treasurer of the NQLC. If there is substance to Carol Prior’s concerns in 2014 that Traditional Owners on Palm Island had not been adequately notified of authorisation meetings for the Adani-NGBR ILUA, then the former KMYAC director is in the frame along with the NQLC.

Last week Ben Smee joined Bec Horridge on 3CR Earth Matters community radio show to talk about the concerns of his Juru informants. He didn’t mention the NQLC or how long Carol Prior has been loudly calling for transparency from KMYAC inside the Townsville Bulletin/NewsCorp silo.  Bec Horridge followed on from her discussion with Smee to share her 2017 interview with Carol Prior along with a recording of a recent speech. Horridge has been sharing Carol Prior’s testimony wherever she can. I convinced a friend at 4ZZZ ECORADio to broadcast Carol Prior’s testimony, but other than the few opportunities Horridge has hustled, Carol Prior’s testimony has been ignored. The StopAdani coalition are happy to have ‘Aunty’ Carol’s face on film and share general statements about her fight, they like to call her ‘aunty’, but they don’t share her testimony like Bec Horridge does. The Stop Adani coalition/alliance, Ritter and Beresford completely ignore the struggles of the Juru people while telling heavily filtered story of the Galilee Basin coal complex.

The crucial role played by Native Title Representative Bodies (NTRBs) is completely ignored by Beresford. Indeed it wasn’t until early in 2018 that either the W&J FC through their website or Quiggin et al in the Morgan Brigg instalment of Killing Country went into any detail about the what functions the Queensland South Native Title Service (QSNTS) actually serve in the delivery of an authorisation meeting. The very serious allegations made against Adani by Adrian Burragubba and Murrawah Johnson on behalf of the W&J FC necessarily implicate QSNTS. Indeed QSNTS staff would have to have allowed the alleged non-W&J people to attend and vote at the contested meeting. The contested registration of the April 2016 ILUA between the Wangan and Jagalingou People and Adani is the subject of a judgement held over from court proceedings in March 2018. If the judgement invalidates the ILUA then the Stop Adani coalition/alliance will claim a victory, but it will be the actions of QSNTS that will be in the frame exposing key failings of the native title system.

Tony McAvoy SC should be very familiar with the functioning of QSNTS having written in detail about the implementation of the 2007 reforms to the NTA and their implementation within the QSNTS. McAvoy sits on the Aboriginal Advisory Committee of the NSW EDO and in November 2017 he was a special guest along with Pat Anderson AO at the Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR) – Annual Dinner. ALHR are a partner in the Global Change Institute project for which Quiggin et al provided a voice. Did McAvoy advise that blame for manipulation of claim group member identification at the April 2016 authorisation meeting be squarely aimed at Adani rather than pointing the spotlight at the functions of the W&J People’s NTRB?

The native title system’s most crucial functions for delivering ownership-extinguishing contracts to miners are the simple majority votes at authorisation meetings by claim group members on ILUAs, and certifying the simple majority vote of the applicant group representing family and clan groups. Both of these functions are performed by NTRBs like QSNTS and the NQLC. If Adani has manipulated the native title system to secure ILUAs it has done it with the help of these 2 organisations and the ever present threat of compulsory acquisition by the state government. Only the interrogation of processes and accountabilities within bodies like the NNTT and ORIC can highlight the ways that the ILUA negotiation process, facilitation of claim group meetings, the execution and certification of ILUAs, and the limited non-commercially sensitive information provided to the NNTT for the purposes of accountability and arbitrating conflicts can mask manipulation of process by NTRBs.

Sometime after February 20, 2018 the Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Mines (DNRM) published RTI 15-315 which contained Adani’s map of the Galilee Basin coal complex area featuring the North Galilee Basin Rail Project and the boundaries of the four Traditional Owner groups along the NGBR corridor. This map had been provided to DNRM in early 2016. It would have been incredibly enlightening to the public if it had been made available back in 2016. I shared this map with StopAdani coalition/alliance members who took no interest.

Beresford follows the pattern set by StopAdani, the Qld state government, Adani, coalition member organisations, the ABC, The Guardian Australia, Fairfax, NewsCorp, and progressive and leftists media organisations in not telling the whole story and masking off the public’s access to primary sources and relevant discourses. The spotlighting of one Traditional Owner faction while largely ignoring all other groups, the silences around the North Galilee Basin Rail Project and the signed ILUAs along it’s corridor, the silences about the struggles of the Juru People, and the tendency to ignore direct actions by Frontline Action on Coal and Galilee Blockade are the behaviours that characterise the StopAdani coalition/alliance in their messaging, networking, and the content of their communications. The well briefed journalists, authors like Beresford, and the revolving doors that shuffle activists back and forth from .orgs to the Greens party serve to reinforce the talking points of the StopAdani coalition/alliance.

If there are any people whose work I would recommend in relation to the ‘war over coal’, or more correctly, the development of the Galilee Basin coal complex, it would be the following three women. The first is activist, inventor, and world class train stopper Annette Schneider who saved me from permanent exclusion from the Lock the Gate Group Page on Facebook in spite of our very different takes on Galilee Basin development. The second is Bec Horridge whose commitment to capturing the testimony of people on the frontlines is unmatched. The third is Dr Lily O’Neill, a person who understands the tension created when the values of Aboriginal autonomy are weighed up against the imperative to protect the environment.

 

References you wont find in either book

Academic writing

‘A tale of two agreements: negotiating aboriginal land access agreements in Australia’s natural gas industry’. PHD Thesis by Dr Lily O’Neill

https://minerva-access.unimelb.edu.au/handle/11343/111978

News and feature articles

‘Adani, native title and risky strategies’ by Marcia Langton

https://www.thesaturdaypaper.com.au/opinion/topic/2017/07/01/adani-native-title-and-risky-strategies/14988312004864

‘Leading Indigenous lawyer hits back at Marcia Langton over Adani’ by Joshua Robertson

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jun/09/leading-indigenous-lawyer-hits-back-at-marcia-langton-over-adani

‘Adani’s Australian project to generate $22 billion in taxes and royalty’ by Debjoy Sungupta (while Geoff Cousins was in India – not reported in Australia)

https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/industry/indl-goods/svs/metals-mining/adanis-australian-project-to-generate-22-billion-in-taxes-and-royalty/articleshow/57692866.cms

Institutional reports and government sources

‘North Galilee Basin Rail Project: Project overview’. Queensland Government – Department of Sate Development, manufacturing, Infrastructure, and Planning https://www.statedevelopment.qld.gov.au/assessments-and-approvals/north-galilee-basin-rail-project.html

‘North Galilee Basin Rail Project – Environmental Impact Statement: Chapter 15, Cultural Heritage’. Adani Mining Pty Ltd

http://s3-ap-southeast-2.amazonaws.com/adani/pdf/volume-1-chapter-15-cultural-heritage.pdf

‘Burragubba on behalf of the Wangan and Jagalingou People v State of Queensland [2017] FCA 373’. Justice Reeves, Federal Court of Australia

https://jade.io/article/526911

‘Australian Conservation Foundation – Carmichael – Abbot Point Rail: Financing Issues for Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility’ (Prepared by ACIL Allen for submission to the NAIF senate inquiry). The report can be found on this page listed as Attachment 1 in the ACF submission.

https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Economics/NAIF/Submissions

‘Question on Notice (Hansard, 20 October 2016, page 125 -126): SI-36’. Department of Industry, Innovation, and Science

http://www.aph.gov.au/~/media/Committees/economics_ctte/estimates/sup_1617/Industry/answers/SI-36_Waters.pdf

‘Answers to questions on notice received from the Australia Institute on 5 September 2017, following a public hearing in Canberra on 11 August 2017’. The Australia Institute

https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Economics/NAIF/Additional_Documents

‘QI2011/011 – Hancock Alpha Coal Project ILUA (Wangan and Jagalingou Area)’. The National Native Title Tribunal

http://www.nntt.gov.au/searchRegApps/NativeTitleRegisters/Pages/ILUA_details.aspx?NNTT_Fileno=QI2011/011

‘Guidelines for Ethical Research in Australian Indigenous Studies: 2012’. Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies

https://aiatsis.gov.au/sites/default/files/docs/research-and-guides/ethics/gerais.pdf

‘Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Mines: RTI 15-315’.

https://www.dews.qld.gov.au/rti-tool/dnrm/15-315

‘Abbot Point Growth Gateway Project Environmental Impact Statement Volume 4 – Supplement Report’ (Prepared by Advisian for the Queensland Department of State Development)

https://www.statedevelopment.qld.gov.au/resources/project/abbot-point-apx/supplement-report-part1.pdf

Websites

‘Native title holders lodge objection to proposed North Galilee Basin rail project’ by Isobel Roe

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-10-20/native-title-holders-lodge-objection-to-proposed/5826168

‘Premier Palaszczuk whitewashes our rights for Adani’. Wangan and Jagalingou Family Council

http://wanganjagalingou.com.au/palaszczuk-whitewashes-our-rights-for-adani/

‘North Galilee Basin Rail approvals and NAIF’. Environmental Defender’s Office Queensland

https://www.edoqld.org.au/galilee_basin_rail_approvals_naif

‘LIVE BLOG: Week of frontline action to #StopAdani’. Green Left Weekly

https://www.greenleft.org.au/content/live-blog-week-frontline-action-stopadani

‘Juru traditional owners call for Adani to stop work’. Bec Horridge with Ben Smee featuring interviews with ‘Aunty’ Carol Prior

http://www.3cr.org.au/earthmatters/episode-201807151100/juru-traditional-owners-call-adani-stop-work

 

 

 

“Clean Energy” is a Dirty Joke

We Suspect Silence

November 14, 2016

By Michael Swifte

 

clean-energy-is-a-dirty-joke

 

“Clean Energy” is a rhetorical device of unprecedented scope. A poorly defined but effective shield for any pundit, mouthpiece or messaging agent to use when speaking of a seemingly uncertain energy future. “Clean Energy” has given its name to many formal processes, organisations, and campaigns. Our climate leaders use the term when they talk about targets, and renewables, and “low carbon” futures. And for whatever it may signify “clean energy” does have a Wiki page, but (at the time of writing Nov 14, 2016) it is unpopulated and redirects you to the Sustainable Energy Wiki page.

As someone who is hellbent on finding a way to destroy fossil fools there is one thing that is certain, this juggernaut will not rest till it’s all gone. That’s how fossil fools have always played their cronyistic, monopolistic, deeply networked game. That’s how I look at motive and likelihoods.

When I discovered that some of the very same people who were presenting the most popular arguments for why we should #keepitintheground were also paving the way for carbon capture and storage I began asking questions about the development of this particular form of energy generation. Questions like: Why would organisations that are telling us about carbon bubbles, carbon budgets, unburnable carbon, and stranded assets be supporting the continued burning of gas, coal, and trees, and the expansion of geological storage of CO2 under the North Sea in old oil and gas fields owned by Shell and Statoil? Surely they care about ending the destruction?

I quickly realised I was asking the wrong questions. I shouldn’t be asking why, I should be asking how? How do fundamentally economic concepts like unburnable carbon, stranded assets, and carbon budgets work for the inevitable continuation of fossil fuel extraction and the wholesale destruction of forests? How much political will for carbon capture and storage is out there and how is it expressed? How are pundits, mouthpieces or messaging agents able to use “clean energy” to mask their support for energy that is in no way clean?

It’s impossible to answer these questions without going on the journey to understanding how conflated logics and rhetorical devices appear, are transmitted, and express themselves in language. This is the very heart of psychological warfare, the understanding of the spread and power of particular logics, and how the management of information, it’s architecture and the imperatives behind it’s production facilitates mass deception and behaviour change.

My broad methodology for understanding the messaging sphere and comprehending the logical underpinnings of key pieces of language is this: follow the money, interrogate the messaging, and analyse the networks.

LEADERS – Politicians, corporate executives, high level public servants and UN chiefs

This is my messaging interrogation methodology for leaders: When I hear a leader use the term “clean energy” I compare that to the policy, technology, and investment objectives for which they speak, vote, develop networks, and maintain silence.

Here are some very stark examples:

US Department of Energy, Research and Development webpage has “CLEAN ENERGY R&D” emblazoned at the top, near the bottom of the page is carbon capture and storage, and nuclear energy. US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz has publicly thanked Senator Whitehouse for bringing forward a new bill aimed at providing tax credits for carbon capture utilisation and storage projects ( I’ll go into more detail later). Key projects funded by the US DoE involve CO2 scrubbed from coal-fired plants being used for enhanced oil recovery projects where CO2 is sequestered. Moniz has also publicly echoed James Hansen’s belief in nuclear energy as a key to “solving climate change”.

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Jeremy Corbyn talks a big “clean energy” game, but he also voted in support of the pro carbon capture and storage policies Labour took to last year’s election. He  once talked about reopening coal mines saying in an early interview

“The last deep mine coal mines in South Wales have gone but it’s quite possible that in future years coal prices will start to go up again around the world and maybe they’ll be a case for what is actually very high quality coal, particularly in South Wales, being mined again.”

In that same interview he responded in favour of CCS hinting at cost as a downside

“It’s complicated. At one level it looks very expensive but the advantages also look quite attractive”.

Of course he has since disingenuously distanced himself from his remarks about returning to coal mining saying “It was one question about one mine, I’m not in favour of reopening the mines.”

Canada’s environment minister Catherine McKenna stated in May this year that Canada’s carbon capture and storage projects were a

“real opportunity for Canada to export solutions” and made her support absolutely clear saying “So when you have carbon capture and storage, that’s certainly an innovative solution — a made-in-Canada solution,”

Compare those statements with her remarks at the Canada 2020 conference November 20, 2015, “And we’ll support progress in clean energy—because innovations in our energy sector can be commercialized, scaled up and exported. Done right, this will create good middle class jobs, grow our economy and reduce pollution, including greenhouse gases.”

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In my blog post of May, 2015 ‘The Climate Chief, the Summit, and the Silence’ I highlighted how then Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Christiana Figueres, in a Q & A session as part of the 2nd annual Australian Emissions Reduction Summit, derailed a question on “draw down” of CO2 (presumably through agricultural soil sequestration) to speak in favour of carbon capture and storage investment. I noted the absence of responses from the commentariat. One of the few organisations to take note of the climate chief’s words was called CO2-CRC a carbon capture and storage research project which is chaired by former Australian energy and mining minister Martin Ferguson. CO2-CRC are currently pumping sequestered CO2 under the Ottway Ranges in Victoria, Australia. Another organisation to take note (they actual used a meme I created without giving credit) was SaskPower CCS, the most advanced coal-fired CCS project on the planet.

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NON-LEADERS – Journalists, NGO and think tank spokespeople, celebrity spokespeople

Leaders represent institutions, corporations and political processes that impact on material change in the world. Non-leaders deal with ideas and supposed facts, and in essence seek to shape thinking for the better as they are paid to conceive it. As a representative of a media institution or a non-profit entity non-leaders are compelled to steer certain talking points, and observe relationships and platforms developed and defended by their particular institution or entity. Pointing out the contradictions between rhetoric and reality is simple, but if pointing out those contradictions helps to unpack or highlight an issue then non-leaders will largely ignore the contradictions, avoid unpacking the issue, and avoid engaging in meaningful discussion. Non-leaders with significant reach and networks are pivotal to the dissemination of talking points, conflated logics, and rhetorical devices.

My messaging interrogation methodology for non-leaders goes like this: When I read a piece from a key pundit/commentator/mouthpiece working with a media entity, think tank, or NGO I look for adherence to particular talking points and conflated logics. Most authors have sets of talking points suffused with conflated logics passed on to them through the media and through their networks of allies and affiliations.  My provisional assumption when reading a piece is that the author is not inclined to fully unpack an issue lest they stray into uncovering some inconvenient truths. Avoiding certain talking points signifies to me that the author would rather not give credence to those talking points. Silences are created by failing to speak to significant talking points. Silence is the hardest thing to identify and the most challenging component of messaging interrogation.

Non-leaders in the media employ what I call attending behaviour in avoiding certain talking points and triggers for unpacking inconvenient ideas and information. For the attending non-leader it’s all about speaking to an issue without really opening it up, not being utterly silent, erecting a defensible position which makes any real challenger seem petty.

Lets look at two non-leaders from the media, George Monbiot at The Guardian, and David Roberts at Grist and Vox.

Here’s a quote from a recent piece by Monbiot where he recognises the reality of increased demand for negative emissions and the role envisaged by many for CCS as a solution, then dismisses it – hyperlink to a story about last year’s cancelled 1 billion pound CCS competition in the UK.

“The only means of reconciling governments’ climate change commitments with the opening of new coal mines, oilfields and fracking sites is carbon capture and storage: extracting carbon dioxide from the exhaust gases of power stations and burying it in geological strata. But despite vast efforts to demonstrate the technology, it has not been proved at scale, and appears to be going nowhere. Our energy policies rely on vapourware.”

Reading this for the first time sent my head into a spin. Monbiot appears to be arguing that CCS would be alright if it worked. I tweeted Monbiot a bunch of memes with quotes which got the attention of the International Energy Agency, Green House Gas Research and Development Program Twitter account.

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Here’s a quote from a recent piece by Roberts called ‘No country on Earth is taking the 2 degree climate target seriously’.

“What is clear is that we are betting our collective future on being able to bury millions of tons of carbon. It’s a huge and existentially risky bet — and maybe one out of a million people even know it’s being made.”

In making his assertions on the state of political will for mitigation technologies like CCS, Roberts cites an obscure UNFCCC report from the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice titled: ‘Report on the structured expert dialogue on the 2013–2015 review’ It’s one hell of a document, I could sense that the delegates were drooling over the idea of pulping forests. Roberts is right in his conclusions about political will for bio-energy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) and CCS, but – here’s where the attending behaviour kicks in – including a hyperlink to a document doesn’t constitute unpacking the political will. Not when the title of your article refers to inaction from countries, and countries have politicians who are on record giving their support for carbon capture and storage investment. There are any number of documents, links, and names he could have shared that would have revealed the punchline, but he didn’t. We can’t say he didn’t attend to the subject, but we can’t say he smashed that pinata.

Roberts’ article is ostensibly a response to a report released by Oil Change International (OCI) in September this year titled THE SKY’S LIMIT: WHY THE PARIS CLIMATE GOALS REQUIRE A MANAGED DECLINE OF FOSSIL FUEL PRODUCTION.Roberts  introduces the themes of “cognitive dissonance” and “psychological schism” at the state of the collective response to climate change. He then presents the OCI article stating “This cognitive dissonance is brought home yet again in a new report from Oil Change” Indeed the OCI report written with “collaborators” that you could only call “the usual suspects” (climate cartel) elicits cognitive dissonance for the sheer number of qualified statements on CCS in the context of carbon budgets. The phrase “in the absence of CCS” and other similar phrases appear on more than half a dozen occasions. The below quote summarizes the position of the world’s leading green groups on carbon capture and storage.

“If CCS is eventually proven and deployed, it might provide a welcome means of further lowering emissions.”

In the end the OCI authors cite prudence as the most important consideration.

“However, we take the view that it would not be prudent to be dependent on an uncertain technology to avoid dangerous climate change; a much safer approach is to ensure that emissions are reduced in the first place by reducing fossil fuel use and moving the economy to clean energy. Therefore, we apply that assumption throughout this report.”

My feeling about David Roberts who is a colleague of Bill McKibben at Grist.com is that his job is to postulate on the things Bill McKibben can’t (lest he be compelled to unpack). While I agree with the earlier quote and recognise that I am probably one of those “one out of a million people”, I find it concerning that David Roberts can comprehend that we are indeed “betting our collective future” on carbon capture utilization and storage, but not attend to who and what constitutes the political will. I’ve formed the opinion over time that David Roberts conforms to the same remit and talking points as Bill McKibben, and that he has permission to go as close as possible to the hard limits without triggering the unpacking of political will.

There is an endless array of non-leaders from think tanks and NGOs that we could explore, but lets look at someone who has piped up and finally given a clear message about investment in the lead up to COP22.

Nicholas Stern chairs the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Environment. This is the research institute/think tank that I alluded to earlier when I explained what set me off on the journey of discovery into how fossil fools are manufacturing continued demand. While I have been watching Grantham and their allies closely for the last 3 years, it was only recently that I was able to find a quote from the horse’s mouth (Stern) that was succinct enough to share. The following quote is from a speech given at The Royal Society on October 31, 2016. It’s a very telling quote because it comes from an entity that promoted and repeatedly supported the divestment movement as well as hashtags/campaigns like #keepitintheground, and yet it clearly pushes for investment in CCS as a negative emissions technology.

“What can be done to achieve negative emissions? Carbon capture and storage technology is key.”

Here it is in meme form. Feel free to share it.

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GRUNT WORK

Here’s a quote from The Principles of Psywar by Jay Taber. I’ve worked to these two fundamental principles since I first read them.

“The first principle of psywar is never repeat the talking points of your enemy. The second principle is to deny them a platform to misinform.”

I’ve found these principles are great for maintaining the discipline of staying on-message during difficult discussions and developing a more succinct communication style.

Applying these two principles has given me stamina and strengthened my resolve. Grunt work requires hours of immersion in deflating, boring, and propaganda riddled content. My enemies are manufacturing hope, and funding every avenue that leads to new people, cultures, and markets to co-opt. But I can be realistic about the enormity, pervasiveness, and shape of the enemy because I have a strategy against their constant destabilising tactics.

Grunt work is the true revolutionary work.

FEEBLE RESISTANCE

Putting up feeble resistance is a way of manufacturing silence. This is precisely what is happening this year in the US with critical pieces of legislation introduced to congress seeking to facilitate the growth of the carbon capture and storage sector with a particular interest in CO2 enhanced oil recovery (EOR). Here I will discuss two pieces of complimentary legislation that have received bipartisan support, support from industry, support from the Natural Resource Defense Council, and support from one of the largest union organisations in the US, the AFL-CIO. Both bills seek to modify provisions in the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (bail out). I will show that the resistance is barely even visible. NGOs who claim to represent workers and/or the environment, organisations like the Labor Network for Sustainability have barely even acknowledged the existence of these new bills.

When Republican congressman Mike Conaway presented his bill the Carbon Capture Act in February 25, 2016 Brad Markell, Executive Director of the AFL-CIO’s Industrial Union Council had this to say as part of a “diverse coalition” which included Arch Coal, Peabody Coal, and Summit Power.

“CCS is absolutely critical to preserving good-paying jobs in manufacturing and industrial and energy production, while reducing the environmental footprint of these activities. The financial incentives in this legislation will also support much-needed construction jobs as we build projects and infrastructure for CCS. Representative Conaway has proposed a win-win for our economy and environment.”

Markell’s colleague D. Michael Langford, National President, Utility Workers Union of America, AFL-CIO had this to say on the same press release.

“There are few real examples of technology that are both good for the economy and good for the environment. Carbon capture technology is one true example. Incentives to develop and deploy carbon capture will have a positive effect on our economy while at the same time, reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A permanent extension of tax credits for Section 45Q of the Tax Code will be essential in building a twenty first century economy that provides large numbers good paying jobs while addressing environmental concerns.”

I challenged Joe Uehlein, Founding President of the Labor Network for Sustainability (LN4S) and former AFL-CIO strategist to put the position of LN4S forward in response to AFL-CIO support but his response was flat, defensive, and not worth posting. It wasn’t until Democrat Senators Whitehouse and Heitkamp introduced their bill, the Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage Act, that the resistance went from virtually nothing to slightly more than nothing.

Senator Whitehouse’s press release announcing the introduction of his bill neglects to mention coal based carbon capture or CO2 based enhanced oil recovery. Instead the focus is put on non fossil fuel based processes like industrial water treatment and algae biomass projects. This is also the theme he lead with on social media as you can see from the below image.

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This is when Friends of the Earth US stepped in with a letter to congress calling the 45Q tax credit amendments for which both bills were created, a CO2-EOR subsidy. The closing sentence of the letter highlights that it’s not coal based carbon capture and storage or even the storage of CO2 in old oil reservoirs that FoE US and the long list of cosignatory NGOs (photo below) are taking issue with, but the purported increase in oil that can be recovered.

“Enhancing oil recovery is not a climate solution. Neither is further subsidizing the oil industry. In fact both are a step in the wrong direction. That is why we ask you to oppose any attempts to extend or expand the Section 45Q tax credit.”

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There are more than 30 co-signatory NGOs to the FoE US letter but when they went to social media it all fell flat. None of the usual cross promotional back patting and content sharing that allied NGOs are well known for happened.

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INFORMATION ARCHITECTURE AND NETWORKED STRUCTURES

There is a global group called the Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM) which holds forums, events and discussions for energy ministers and secretaries. Within this arrangement there is the Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum, this is where the real “clean energy” action happens. Below is a screen grab from the Carbon Capture Use and Storage page of the CEM website which you should have a look at. If you do you will see that details of their position on CCUS is buried away. Similar structuring-out exists in the US for the Clean Energy States Alliance which leaves the definition of “clean energy” to be determined by the vagaries of energy infrastructure development and regulation for each state.

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DEMAND FOR NEGATIVE EMISSIONS TECHNOLOGY

The propagandists have effectively manufactured demand for negative emissions. Power only ever makes win-win plays. Every failure to deliver real emissions reductions creates more demand and there are legions of mouthpieces looking for good metrics, ready to pump the hopium and spell out the technofixes. The propagandists know that the biggest risk to their agenda comes from free, open, and informed discussion. A thorough and relevant discourse has never occurred for carbon capture and storage. The CCS loving Bellona Foundation (Twitter admin) all but acknowledged this to me recently.
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COP22 will deliver “clean energy” finance and climate finance. The punchline to the dirty joke has been protected. Senior editors, NGO trustees, impact philanthropists, and senior bureaucrats all know how to guide inquiry away from the no go zones. They know that the worth of everyone who works under them is contingent on their ability to discern the dog whistles and self censor.

MITIGATION TRADING

While nations struggle to implement carbon taxes and emissions trading schemes new CCS projects have developed that when the time comes will be able to demonstrate that they have the capability to sequester carbon at scale. Australian economist Allan Kohler theorised that the Australian Emissions Reduction Fund, Safeguard Mechanism  could represent a “proxy ETS”. It could come to pass that the Gorgon Gas Project which began sequestering CO2 under Barrow Island off the coast of Western Australia this year could retrospectively claim a subsidy for their efforts. Will Australia in the near future use this sequestered carbon to satisfy their climate commitments?

The city of Rotterdam has put itself forward as a future CO2 export hub and the Teesside Collective industrial decarbonisation project still claim they are “leading the way in low carbon technologies”. Remi Erikson, CEO of DNV GL clearly thinks that a North Sea CO2 storage hub is bankable.

Another meme to share.

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Storage capacity for CO2 has been successfully commodified before any kind of discussion about the international agreements that are meant to cover activities like undersea storage have even happened. The London Protocol and Convention which is administered by the International Maritime Organisation is not ready to manage the development of undersea storage, and the maritime area managed by OSPAR Commission north of the Atlantic has permitted under sea storage in the North Sea at Norway’s Sleipner field. OSPAR are very supportive of investment in carbon capture and storage. Here’s a quote from the Quality Status Report 2010.

 “Capturing carbon from combustion at source and transporting this to sub-seabed geological reservoirs could help mitigate climate change over century-long time scales and thus help with the transition to a lower carbon economy.”

THE SHOW WILL GO ON

I tried to find the source for the proliferation of “clean energy” as a pivotal propaganda term. Looking at the list of attendees at the 2009 Getting to 350 conference was very enlightening. Lewis Milford who heads up the Clean Energy States Alliance was there as was James Hansen who advocates nuclear over renewables. Members of Al Gore’s Climate Project were there along with ecological economist Bob Costanza and the nuclear and carbon capture spruiking Jesse Jenkins.

I found the likely source of “clean energy” by digging into the Podesta emails and following the trail back to 2006 and the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting (link has already disappeared) where Podesta was championing the “Clean Energy Investment Boom”. The Clinton Global Initiative had a key role in bringing 350.org to global prominence. Podesta recently sat down with US Energy Secretary , Ernest Moniz  and I’ll let the meme tell you what they both agreed on.

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New US president? Makes little difference. There was no ‘war on coal’. The clean power plan was never clean. “Clean Energy” has paved the way for the financing of carbon capture utilization and storage as critical to the development of our energy systems, and fundamental to the decarbonisation of industry.

Let’s give Al Gore the last word $$$$$$$$$

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Darkening the White Heart of the Climate Movement

New Internationalist

December 1, 2015

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by Wretched of The Earth Collective

At London’s climate march, the ‘Wretched of the Earth’ bloc, representing communities of colour on the frontlines of climate change, were supposed to lead. At the last minute, the march’s organizers changed their minds. Joshua Virasami and Alexandra Wanjiku Kelbert from Black Dissidents were there.

The Wretched of the Earth are a collective of over a dozen grassroots Indigenous, black and brown organizations representing diaspora from the Global South. Over the past few months, we have fought tooth and nail to lead last weekend’s London climate march alongside Indigenous delegates from frontline communities on their way to the Paris climate summit. We know that our presence was only allowed so the NGOs could comfortably check the ‘diversity’ tick-box. While we knew it would not be an easy space to be in, the violence and hostility we faced on Sunday was worse than we expected.

As Wretched of The Earth speakers fired up the 50,000-strong crowd with a message of decolonization, delivered from a crane above them – another hard-fought-for concession – the march organizers carefully plotted for their animal props to move ahead of us via a side channel. With minutes to go, the mainstream banner suddenly appeared in front of us for the press photos. We stormed forward and unravelled our own banner, only to realize it was a stand-off. They wouldn’t begin the march unless we put our message behind theirs; theft of narrative – in some cases literally, as banners were physically pulled from people’s hands. From that point until the end it was a violent tussle to lead the march.


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NGOs summoned the police on our black and brown bodies. Re-read that last sentence. Suggesting that our symbolic coffins – calling out BP and BHP Billington for the blood on their hands – were health and safety hazards, they attempted to remove them. Our placards placing British Imperialism in the framework of Climate Injustice were radioed in to be taken down, as they ‘didn’t fit the message of the day’. They tried to recapture the front of the march by stopping it in the middle of central London and moving their banner back. They then slowed down the rest of the marchers that followed us, effectively separating us off. But we stood our ground, together. We write our own rules.

The NGO narrative appealed to the perpetrators again, asking them to ‘do something’. Their narrative read ‘We do this #ForTheLoveOf Skiing’. Our narrative is one which has a context wide enough to contain the solidarity needed for systemic change. It is one which doesn’t compartmentalize the struggle into climate, racism, migration. It acknowledges that to be truly insurrectional, one must be intersectional.

We held placards and gave speeches that explained clearly that another war in Syria is a war on Mother Earth. That war and corporate climate genocidal mega-development is the main driver behind forced displacement and the migrant ‘crisis’. That the white-hetero-patriarchal-imperial ideology which premises this continued climate colonialism is that which perpetuates racist and patriarchal policing, prisons and austerity in the Global North.

There is much cause to celebrate, over 600,000 people took to the streets on Sunday across the world. Most of the major NGOs, from Avaaz to Friends of the Earth, went on a self-congratulatory tirade, talking about ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusivity’. Something needs to be made clear: the global climate movement starts at the frontlines of corporate colonialism, in Indigenous territories, where black and brown communities fight back against European-sanctioned climate genocide. And that’s why our placards read ‘We die first, We fight first, We march first’.

‘People get used to anything. The less you think about your oppression, the more your tolerance for it grows. After a while, people just think oppression is the normal state of things. But to become free, you have to be acutely aware of being a slave.’ The revolutionary Assata Shakur said it.

We ourselves in the Wretched of the Earth bloc have had to decolonize our minds in order to recognize the shackles on our bodies, in order to recognize the insidious and acute nature of our oppressor. We therefore have a duty to up the ante where the stagnant water of colonialism has trapped the fight for justice from flowing toward freedom. The Climate Movement needed the medicine, and we have the remedy.

‘The white liberals are foxes, who also show their teeth to the Negro, but pretend that they are smiling’. Malcolm X said it. Colonized peoples rising up recognize a forked tongue by necessity. We see the liberal foxes prowling between the ranks of the NGOs, dangling carrots before the people, knowing that the millions in their coffers are not for systemic change, but for their liberal methods of teasing people toward an empty empathy. The behavior of the NGOs – Avaaz at their head – on Sunday showed why climate campaigners need a decolonization treatment.

Now more than ever, we know that not only do we have to fight against climate change and the capitalist-colonialist system which it hails from, we also have to fight against the UK’s whitewashed colonialist climate movement which perpetuates the oppression, erasure and brutality we face daily.

The march organizers, ITV, BBC, all of the echo chambers of the status quo will have you think we weren’t even there. Yet ’Still fighting Co2onialism’, was the banner leading the Britain’s biggest climate march, because we can no longer afford to place the onus on people recycling and expect the polluters to lead us to liberty. Neither the government nor the NGO liberal line will lead us to justice. This is a war of narratives, and ours is decolonial.

 

 

 

The Colonial Origins of Conservation: The Disturbing History Behind US National Parks

Truthout

August 25, 2015 

By Stephen Corry

Yosemite National Park. Beginning with the 1864 Yosemite Grant Act, Native Americans were evicted from almost all US park lands.

Yosemite National Park. Beginning with the 1864 Yosemite Grant Act, Native Americans were evicted from almost all US park lands. (Photo: Tamara Evans/Flickr)

Iconoclasm – questioning heroes and ideals, and even tearing them down – can be the most difficult thing. Many people root their attitudes and lives in narratives that they hold to be self-evidently true. So it’s obvious that changing conservation isn’t going to be an easy furrow to plow.

However, change it must. Conservation’s achievements don’t alter the fact that it’s rooted in two serious and related mistakes. The first is that it conserves “wildernesses,” which are imagined to be shaped only by nature. The second is that it believes in a hierarchy, with superior, intelligent human beings at the top. Many conservationists still believe that they are uniquely endowed with the foresight and expertise to control and manage so-called wildernesses and that everyone else must leave, including those who actually own them and have lived there for generations.

These notions are archaic; they damage people and the environment. The second also flouts the law, with its perpetual land grabs. For nature’s sake as well as our own, it’s crucial to expose how these ideas grew and flourished, to understand just how mistaken they are. There’s an ongoing attempt to wipe from the map the quagmire around conservation’s wellspring, to pretend it’s all now transparent and sunlit. It isn’t.

Some conservationists, usually those lower in the pecking order, have the morality to face reality. They must prevail. With enough support, they will propel the industry from below toward a radically different approach, one that stands a far better chance of saving the environment and one using far smaller sums of money to do so.

This iconoclastic revolution is urgently needed, and there’s no better time: 2015 is the 125th anniversary of Yosemite National Park, and 2016 completes a century for the United States National Park Service. These are highly symbolic anniversaries: Conservation dogmas were rooted in colonial conquest and were inextricably bound up in the genocide committed against Native Americans. Both lies – that of the wilderness and that of the inferiority of some human beings – were in full flower by 1916, though they were seeded earlier when the US began to invent the parks model that is still, all too harmfully, exported around the world.

The Eviction of the Ahwahneechee People From Yosemite

The conservation movement (and its problems) really began with the 1864 Yosemite Grant Act. Conservation leaders like John Muir believed that the indigenous people who had inhabited Yosemite for at least 6,000 years were a desecration and had to go. Muir deemed them “lazy” because their hunting techniques yielded a good living without wasted effort. Such prejudice is alive and well today: An official in India said that tribal people don’t want to leave their forest because they get “fodder and income … for free” and are too lazy to work, so must be evicted.

White invaders saw the land as pristine wilderness because it didn’t conform to their European industrial image of productivity. In reality, Yosemite had long been an environment shaped by its inhabitants through controlled undergrowth burning (which created its healthy forests with big trees and a rich biodiversity), tree planting for acorns as a food staple, and sustainable predation on its game, which ensured species balance.

In the 19th century, the newcomers didn’t hesitate to send in the army to police this wilderness and get rid of everyone else. One historian, Jeffrey Lee Rodger, is sympathetic to the cavalrymen, but admits their “improvised punishments … were clearly extralegal and may have veered into arbitrary … force.” He might have compared such “punishments” with those still supported by conservation today, particularly in Africa and Asia, where tribal people are routinely kicked out of parks and beaten, even tortured, when they resist.

Native Americans were evicted from almost all the American parks, but a few Ahwahneechee people were tolerated inside Yosemite for a few more decades. They were forced to serve tourists and act out humiliating “Indian days” for the visitors. The latter wanted the Indians they saw in the movies, so the Ahwahneechee had to dress and dance as if they were from the Great Plains. If they didn’t serve the park, they were out – and they all did finally die or leave, with their last dwellings deliberately and ignominiously burned down in a fire drill in 1969.

As Luther Standing Bear declaimed, “Only to the white man was nature a wilderness … to us it was tame. Earth was bountiful.” The parks were and are supposed to preserve their “wilderness,” but they’ve never been very successful. In the case of Yosemite: over a thousand miles of often-crowded roads and hiking trails were constructed; trees were felled to make viewpoints; the balance of species was altered as animal and human predators were eliminated; trout were introduced to delight anglers; a luxury hotel was built; bear feeding areas were established to thrill visitors, so conditioning the animals to scavenge for human food; and hoteliers carried out a “firefall” for a century, in which burning wood was pushed over Glacier Point to cascade thousands of feet into the valley (the scars remain visible nearly 50 years after it was halted).

The Native Americans’ own fires, their ancient practice of seasonal and controlled undergrowth burning, was stopped. One result is the devastating conflagrations that now plague California; those simply wouldn’t have happened on the Natives’ watch.

This wasn’t preservation, it was reshaping the environment to extract tourist dollars. In spite of this, and the fact that the National Park Service has presided over a loss of biodiversity and dozens of species extinctions, many conservationists have continued to believe they’re better at protecting environments than the tribal peoples who live in them.

Scientific Racism in the Conservation Movement

The conservation movement’s historically dismissive attitudes toward indigenous people were intertwined with the ideas of scientific racism and eugenics that were just beginning to emerge when the Yosemite Grant Act was passed. Charles Darwin had published The Origin of Species five years before the passage of the act, and Darwin’s cousin, Francis Galton, was beginning to develop his racist ideas of eugenics, declaring, “The feeble nations of the world are necessarily giving way before the nobler varieties of mankind.” Eugenics enthusiasts in Britain included writer H.G. Wells and playwright George Bernard Shaw, who thought those he saw as genetically inferior, who couldn’t “justify their existence,” should be humanely gassedJohn Maynard Keynes, William Beveridge and Marie Stopes joined up, together with most of the liberal intelligentsia.

In the US, eugenics and conservation were born twins. Wealthy big-game hunters, including Teddy Roosevelt and his friend Madison Grant, both major conservationists, were among the most enthusiastic to embrace the racist creed. Their initial priority was to conserve the herds that provided their sport, and the easiest way to do that – so they thought – was to remove the “predators” who were killing the game to eat (and for its leather) rather than to hang horns on the wall. But these predators were principally human hunters – both Native Americans and poor colonists trying to eke a living from an unfamiliar world.

Ousting these subsistence hunters had the opposite of the desired effect. Elk herds in Yellowstone, for example, grew beyond the carrying capacity of the land. (The same is happening now, with elephants in Botswana.) Weak animals, once the first to fall from hunter’s arrow or wolf’s fang, started reaching reproductive age. The herd grew, but the animals sickened as hunger took its toll. Seeing their precious trophies fading through their bungling, the elite came up with ideas of “game management,” still applied today. The key is to cull, keeping the herd smaller but stronger.

They then turned their attention to the human “herd,” which was expanding rapidly from European immigration. Following Galton, they categorized humankind into hierarchical “races” and feared the country being swamped by what they considered to be lower races, including “Mediterraneans,” “Alpines,” and Jews.

The big-game hunting boys saw themselves as a different ilk. As the “Aryans” from northern Europe, they saw themselves as the creators of “true” civilization, science, culture, religion and wealth. They believed that racial mixing would threaten their “race” and what they saw as its irreplaceable talents. They passed laws to reduce immigration to the United States from “non-Aryan” countries, they outlawed interracial marriage and imposed segregation wherever possible, and they coercively sterilized anyone they could get their hands on who didn’t fit their bill; no one with a mental, physical, or even social, problem was safe, particularly the poor.

The most important hunter-turned-conservationist, Madison Grant, was also their principal writer. He was a key supporter, often founder or leader, of a dozen or so conservation groups that still exist, though he barely appears in their official histories. Among the most prominent were the Save the Redwoods League; the New York Zoological Society (now the Wildlife Conservation Society, WCS); and the National Parks Association (now the National Parks Conservation Association).

His book, The Passing of the Great Race, was published in the year the National Park Service was founded. Science Magazine’s glowing review enthused over its “solid merit.” Thirty years later, it would be cited by German Nazis who couldn’t understand why they were on trial: They were, they pleaded, simply emulating the United States, where scientific eugenics had long been used to shape society. Grant had sent a translation of his book to Hitler, who called it his Bible.

Widespread Support for Eugenics

Scratch the record anywhere in the early conservation movement, and eugenics sounds loud and clear: Alexander Graham Bell, who falsely claimed to have invented the telephone and who was one of the founders of the National Geographic Society; two charter members of the Sierra Club, David Starr Jordan (founding president of Stanford University) and Luther Burbank were all prominent members of the movement. George Grinnell, founder of the Audubon Society (and Edward Curtis’ mentor) was Madison Grant’s close friend for nearly 50 years. The National Park Service’s first director, mining magnate Stephen Mather, was backed by Charles Goethe, of the Audubon and Kenya Wildlife Societies, regional head of the Sierra Club and outspoken advocate of Nazi eugenic laws.

In 1937, Goethe wrote to Otmar Freiherr von Verschuer, director of “racial hygiene” in Frankfurt, saying, “I feel passionately that you are leading all mankind herein,” according to Garland E. Allen’s 2012 essay, “Culling the Herd,” in the Journal of the History of Biology. Verschuer was doctoral supervisor and collaborator of Josef Mengele, infamous for his barbaric experiments on children in Auschwitz. He continued to excel after the war, as professor of genetics at Münster.

In one article, “Patriotism and Racial Standards” published in a 1936 issue of Eugenical News, Goethe enthused, “We are moving toward the elimination of humanity’s undesirables like Sambo, the husband to Mandy the ‘washerlady.’ ” In 1965, on his 90th birthday, Goethe was dubbed the state’s “number one citizen” by California’s governor. He fought immigration from Mexico, making the racist argument that Mexicans have low IQs.

Eugenics grew into the establishment belief of the first half of the 20th century and didn’t falter seriously until 1945, when an American battalion stumbled into Buchenwald, just after its prisoners had seized it from fleeing camp guards.

When the Nazis had built it, their second concentration camp, an oak tree growing inside its fences had consciously been conserved. It was symbolic, though not about nature: Goethe (no relation to the conservationist) had written poetry, including some of Faust, under its branches.

The military defeat of Nazism was to unveil scientific eugenics as a true Faustian pact, absurdly false and grotesquely violent. That should have been its end. But as with much in this history, the fog of obfuscation hangs over the landscape: Eugenic affiliations are continually denied or censored.

Acclaimed figures in post-war European conservation included former Nazis like Prince Bernhard, a founder of WWF (who joined the allies before the war), and Bernhard Grzimek, the self-proclaimed “savior of the Serengeti,” cofounder of Friends of the Earth Germany, and former director of the Frankfurt Zoological Society – one of Europe’s biggest conservation funders. He made sure the Maasai and other tribes were expelled.

So did Mike Fay of the Wildlife Conservation Society, the creator of the Nouabalé-Ndoki Park in the Congo, which kicked out the Mbendjele people, using US taxpayers’ money. The Wildlife Conservation Society trained the guards who now beat Mbendjele people for suspected poaching. Given the way they’re treated, it’s frankly not surprising that those who once lived on and from the land “poach” if the opportunity arises: Conservation breeds poachers.

When today’s environmental leaders press for curbs on immigration and population, it can only call to mind this violent past. Did David Brower, for example, founder of both Friends of the Earth and Earth Island Institute, have to assert that having children without a license should be a crime – given that he had four of his own?

Few environmentalists protest at the theft of tribal lands or stand for indigenous rights. For example, John Burton, of the World Land Trust, formerly of Friends of the Earth, and Fauna and Flora International, openly opposes the very idea, though other key players, some in Greenpeace for example, have signaled support for tribes.

The unexpurgated history of conservation matters because it still shapes attitudes toward tribal peoples. Conservationists no longer pretend to be saving their “race,” but they certainly claim to be saving the world’s heritage, and they mostly retain a supercilious attitude toward those they are destroying.

Such attitudes must change. Conservation nowadays, particularly in Africa and Asia, seems to be as much about land grabbing and profit as anything else. Its quiet partnerships with the logging and mining industries damage the environment. Tribal people are still abused, even shot, for poaching, when they’re just trying to feed their families, while “conservation” still encourages trophy hunting. The rich can hunt, the poor can’t.

In spite of the growing evidence to the contrary, many senior conservationists can’t accept that tribal peoples really are able to manage their lands. They’re wrong. It’s a great con trick and it’s time it was stopped.

Other conservationists are keen to do better. They deserve to know there’s a groundswell of public support behind them, pushing for a major change in conservation to benefit, finally, tribal peoples, nature, and us all.

[Stephen Corry is the director of Survival International, the global movement for tribal peoples’ rights. The organization has a 46-year track record in stopping the theft of tribal lands. Survival’s work on conservation has wide endorsement from environmentalists.]

350: Agent Saboteur

September 18, 2014

by Cory Morningstar

 

Knowledgeable people and authentic activists that are going to the “People’s” Climate March must re-ignite the “People’s Agreement” (Cochabamba, Bolivia, 2010), reject 350’s corporate agenda, and step aside for the Indigenous nations to resume their proven leadership in protecting Mother Earth.

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Participants sit in bleachers at the packed World People’s Summit on Climate Change and Mother Earth’s Rights, Photo by The City Project

 

The World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth that took place in April of 2010 in Cochabamba, Bolivia, was the first and only climate conference that 1) was led by Indigenous Peoples (approx. 35,000 people attended), 2) was hosted by a state with an Indigenous President (Bolivia’s first Indigenous President) 3) was presented by a state with a very strong position on climate change (still to this date, the state that holds the strongest position in the world), and 4) produced the first democratically written document by its members as an answer to climate change – later to be submitted and recognized by the United Nations (due to the State of Bolivia representatives, no thanks to climate justice groups.) The resulting declaration, the People’s Agreement that resulted from this conference, would come to represent the only climate declaration ever written that could serve as an ideological and scientific foundation to build upon; that could have possibly (and realistically) averted, or at least mitigated, advancing climate crisis and ecological collapse – if only it had been acted upon at that time.

It was during this conference that American 350.org co-founder, Kelly Blynn, had a tantrum. The People’s Agreement was calling for a maximum of 300 parts per million of carbon dioxide. When pressed (by the former Green Party Canada leader and activist, Joan Russow, and myself) to consider the necessity of changing the 350.org logo (by crossing it out with an x and placing the new number/logo “300” beside it), an irritated Blynn stated that she and her co-founders would never agree to do so as 350.org was “the most powerful brand in the world.” (For the moment, let’s ignore the fact that “the most powerful brand in the world” aside, 350 ppm is a death sentence for coral reefs, small island developing states, and billions of people living along low lying coastlines. A fact disclosed in an Alliance of Small Island States Briefing prior to COP15.)

 

350UnderminesBolivia

 

Whiteness & Aversive Racism

In the ultimate display of arrogance, it was clearly demonstrated that 350.org’s sole purpose for attending the conference in Bolivia was to literally undermine the host country’s official policy position on climate change (300 ppm, 1ºC limit, etc.). After exhausting all resources to have the “brand” (numeral 350) adopted as the official target cited in the evolving text of the draft document (350 ppm rather than 300 ppm), their efforts were finally defeated after both Russow and I challenged the 350.org colonial superiority at that evening’s plenary, which was packed with Bolivian citizens. Ultimately, the pre-industrial measurement of 280 ppm was rightfully added to the document. [1]

Ironically, the Bolivian-hosted conference was created in direct response to the December 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 15 or “Hopenhagen”) in Copenhagen, Denmark, where Avaaz and 350.org, under the umbrella of TckTckTck (a campaign created by Havas advertising agency), undermined the necessary targets and radical emission reductions courageously put forward by the some of the Earth’s most vulnerable states. The Copenhagen conference’s proposed climate goal was a full one degree Celsius higher than the one put forth by the State of Bolivia, thereby knowingly sentencing these populations to certain death in order to maintain white Euro-American privilege. [The Most Important COP Briefing That No One Ever Heard | Truth, Lies, Racism & Omnicide]

While the State of Bolivia demanded that a 1ºC temperature increase not be exceeded, and the G77 called for severe, radical and necessary emission cuts, the non-profit industrial complex (NPIC), including most “climate justice” groups called for double this: the target of a full 2ºC temperature increase. A few of the more legitimate groups barely mustered the valour to “demand” the world not exceed 1.5ºC. One may wish to note that over 20 years ago, both Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth fully recognized the global average temperature increase must not exceed 1ºC (as clearly evidenced in documents). Yet at COP15, two decades later with climate change advancing rapidly, both groups under the TckTckTck umbrella participated in the 2ºC lie and the manipulation of civil society.

 

 

 

[1] “Developed countries shall take the lead and strive towards returning greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere to well below 300 ppm CO2eq with a view to returning concentrations to levels as close as possible to pre-industrial levels in the longer-term, and to limit the average global temperatures to a maximum level of 1ºC with a view to returning temperatures to levels as close as possible to pre-industrial levels in the longer-term, with deep and adequate economy wide emissions reductions in the medium and long terms and taking effective measures to fulfill their commitments relating to the provision of substantial financial resources, capacity building and to provide technology
development and transfer of environmentally sound technologies and know how to developing country Parties. These enabling means are critical and an important measure to enhance the contribution and voluntary efforts of developing country Parties to the efforts of stabilizing of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere.”

McKibben’s Divestment Tour – Brought to You by Wall Street [Part IV of an Investigative Report] [Marketing a Fallacy]

The Art of Annihilation

April 23, 2014

Part four 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

 

 “Of all our studies, it is history that is best qualified to reward our research.” — Malcolm X

 

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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.

The purpose of this investigative series is to illustrate (indeed, prove) this premise.

+++

Marketing a Fallacy

There-is-No-Alternative

It is imperative to understand that the “solutions” being proposed in response to our unparalleled planetary ecological crisis will be only those that have the ability to enhance profits or build brand value, thus increasing revenues/profits. Yet, the fallacy of such “solutions” cannot be understated. The industrialized capitalist system is dependent upon growth. Infinite growth on a finite planet is not possible – a 5-year-old child can understand this fact because it is simple common sense (i.e., he or she would not wish to keep growing forever). Growth is dependent upon destruction of the natural world and exploitation of the world’s most vulnerable people. Violence is inherently built into the system. The idea that a “green economy” under the capitalist system will somehow slow down our accelerating multiple ecological crises and climate change is a delusional fallacy of epic proportion. Ceres allows corporations to continue this delusion and constructs a paradigm that conditions a culture to believe the fallacy.

Red Truth, White Cover-Up: How the Udalls, Sierra Club and White Environmentalists Sold out Navajos and Hopis on Black Mesa

By John Redhouse, Navajo

Navajos from Big Mountain protesting coal mining  in front of the Navajo Nation Council Chambers. Photo by Cate Gilles, news reporter found dead in Tucson in August of 2001.

As a Navajo and Indian rights activist since 1969 and an active member of the Navajo and Indian environmental movement since 1970, I can say that Rob’s (Rob Smith of Sierra Club) version of the Udall-Brower compromise is a gross misrepresentation and distortion of what really happened back then.

Stewart and Morris Udall’s roles in the compromise are well documented in my 1980 “The Navajo Hopi Land Dispute: Its Energy Aspects and Implications”, 1980 “Who Is Behind the Navajo Hopi Land Dispute”, and 1985 “Geopolitics of the Navajo Hopi Land Dispute.” Sierra Club guru David Brower’s role was a big part of the compromise.

Behind closed doors, they (Udall brothers and Brower) met with energy and water industry captains to come up with the infamous Plan B Alternative to the proposed Grand Canyon hydroelectric dams. In 1969-70, I was a member and field representative of the National Indian Youth Council and worked with many Navajo and Indian rights organizations, including the Chinle-based Committee to Save Black Mesa and the Los Angeles Chapter of the United Native Americans.

Flashback: The Eco-Establishment

Katherine Barkley and Steve Weissman, “The Eco-Establishment,” in: Ramparts (eds.), Eco-Catastrophe (Harper and Row, 1970), pp.15-24.

Ask Vietnam protesters about the April 22 National Environmental Teach-In and they’ll tell you it’s a scheme to contain their spring offensive against the ecological disaster in Southeast Asia. Ask young blacks about this new movement to save the ecosystem and they’ll tell you that it is a way of distracting attention from the old movement that was supposed to save their skins.

Then go and talk to an environmental activist, a Survival Walker. Ask him why the ecology movement has turned its back on Vietnam and civil rights and he’ll explain, with a convincing freshness the old New Left has lost, that the sky is falling. He’ll point out that we all have to breathe and that none of us – white or black, Vietnamese peasant or American marine – has much of a future on CO2. We all must eat, and a diet of pesticides is deadly. We all need water, and the dwindling supplies are unfit for human (or even industrial) consumption. We all depend on the same limited forests, mines, oceans and soil, and we are all going to choke on the same waste and pollution.

To this new ecology activist, nothing could be more obvious: we’ve all got to unite behind the overriding goal of unfouling our common nest before it’s too late, turning back the pages of the environmental doomsday book. If we succeed, then we can get back to these other questions. There is no stopping, he will add, an idea whose time has come.

He will be right, too-though a bit naive about where ideas come from and where movements go. Environment will be the issue of the ’70?s, but not simply because the air got thicker or the oceans less bubbly, or even because the war in Vietnam got too bloody to have to think about every day. It will be the issue of the ’70?s because such stewards of the nation’s wealth as the Ford Foundation, with its Resources for the Future, Inc. (RFF), and Laurance Rockefeller’s Conservation Foundation needed a grass-roots movement to help consolidate their control over national policymaking, bolster their hold over world resources, and escalate further cycles of useless economic growth.

[II]

The environment bandwagon is not as recent a phenomenon as it seems. It began to gather momentum back in the mid-’60?s under the leadership of Resources for the Future. “The relationship of people to resources, which usually has been expressed in terms of quantity, needs to be restated for modern times to emphasize what is happening to the quality of resources,” warned RFF President Joseph L. Fisher in his group’s 1964 report. “The wide variety of threats to the quality of the environment may well embrace the gravest U.S. resources problem for the next generation.” The following year, Resources for the Future established a special research and educational program in environmental quality, funded with a $ 1.1 million grant from its parent organization, the Ford Foundation.

Created by Ford in the early ’50?s during the scare over soaring materials costs, RFF had just made its name in conservation by organizing the Mid-Century Conference on Resources for the Future, the first major national conservation conference since Teddy Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot staged the National Governors’ Conference in 1908. Held in 1953, the Mid-Century Conference mustered broad support from both the country’s resource users and conservers for the national conservation policy already spelled out by President Truman’s Materials Policy Commission. It was this Commission, headed by William S. Paley (board chairman of CBS and a founding director of RFF), which had openly affirmed the nation’s inalienable right to extract cheap supplies of raw materials from the underdeveloped countries, and which set the background for Eisenhower and Dulles’ oft-quoted concern over the fate of the tin and tungsten of Southeast Asia. Insuring adequate supplies of resources for the future became a conservationist byword.

By the mid-’60?s, Resources for the Future had begun to broaden its concern to include resource quality, thus setting the tone for a decade of conservationist rhetoric and behavior. The trustees of the Ford Foundation, an executive committee of such international resource users and polluters as Esso and Ford Motor, established a separate Resources and Environment Division which, since 1966, has nourished such groups as Open Space Action Committee, Save-the-Redwoods League, Massachusetts Audubon Society, Nature Conservancy, and the Environmental Defense Fund. A year later, the Rockefeller Foundation set up an Environmental Studies Division, channelling money to the National Academy of Science and RFF and to Laurance Rockefeller’s own pet project, the Conservation Foundation.

The conservationist-planners’ new concern over threats to the quality of resources, and to life itself, was actually an outgrowth of their earlier success in assuring cheap and plentiful raw materials. It had become clear that supplies of resources would be less a problem than the immense amount of waste generated as a by-product of those now being refined. The more industry consumed, the more it produced and sold, the larger and more widespread the garbage dumps. Rivers and lakes required costly treatment to make water suitable for use in homes and industry. Smoggy air corroded machines, ruined timberlands, reduced the productivity of crop lands and livestock – to say nothing of its effect on the work capacity of the average man. Pesticides were killing more than pests, and raising the spectre of cumulative disaster. Cities were getting noisier, dirtier, uglier and more tightly packed, forcing the middle class to the suburbs and the big urban landowners to the wall. “Ugliness,” Lyndon Johnson exclaimed sententiously, “is costly.”

This had long been obvious to the conservationists. Something had to be done, and the elite resource planners took as their model for action the vintage 1910 American conservation movement, especially its emphasis on big business cooperation with big government.

[III]

When the 1890 census officially validated the fact that the frontier was closed, a generation of business and government leaders realized with a start that the American Eden had its bounds. Land, timber and water were all limited, as was the potential for conflicts over their apportionment. What resources should timber-men, grazers or farmers exploit? What should be preserved as a memory of the American past? Who would decide these questions? The conservationists – Teddy Roosevelt, Chief Forester Gifford Pinchot and some of the bigger timber, grazing and agricultural interests – pushed heavily for a new policy to replace the crude and wanton pillage which had been part of the frontier spirit. While preservationists like John Muir were fighting bitterly against any and all use of wild areas by private interests, the conservationists wanted only to make sure that the environment would be exploited with taste and efficiency.

Roosevelt and his backers won out, of course. And the strategy they used is instructive: failing initially to muster congressional support for their plan, they mobilized a broadly based conservation movement, supposedly to regulate the private interests which they in fact represented. Backed by the widespread public support it had whipped up, the conservationist juggernaut then began to move the country toward a more regulated – but still private – exploitation of its riches.

Of course, the private interests which had helped draft this policy also moved – to staff the regulatory agencies, provide jobs for retiring regulators, and generally to put the right man in the right niche most of the time. Within short order, the regulatory agencies were captives of the interests they were supposed to regulate, and they were soon being used as a screen which kept the public from seeing the way that small interests were squeezed out of the competition for resources. Their monopoly position thus strengthened by regulatory agencies, these large interests found it easy to pass the actual costs of regulation on to the citizen consumer.

[IV]

The old American conservation movement had reacted out of fear over resource scarcities; the new movement of the mid-’60?s feared, as well, the destruction of resource quality. And the corporation conservationists and their professional planners in organizations like Resources for the Future onceagain looked to government regulations as an answer to the difficulties they foresaw. Only this time the stakes were much higher than they had been at the early part of the century. Many of the resource planners want an all-encompassing environmental agency or Cabinet level Department of Resources, Environment and Population. Holding enormous power over a wide range of decisions, this coordinating apparatus would be far more convenient for the elite than the present array of agencies, each influenced by its own interest groups.

Who will benefit from this increased environmental consciousness and who will pay is already quite clear to business, if not to most young ecology activists. “The elite of business leadership,” reports Fortune, “strongly desire the federal government to step in, set the standards, regulate all activities pertaining to the environment, and help finance the job with tax incentives.” The congressional background paper for the 1968 hearings on National Policy on Environmental Quality, prepared with the help of Rockefeller’s Conservation Foundation, spells out the logic in greater detail: “Lack of national policy for the environment has now become as expensive to the business community as to the Nation at large. In most enterprises, a social cost can be carried without undue burden if all competitors carry it alike. For example, industrial waste disposal costs can, like other costs of production, be reflected in prices to consumers. But this becomes feasible only when public law and administration put all comparable forms of waste-producing enterprises under the same requirements.” Only the truly powerful could be so candid about their intention to pick the pocket of the consumer to pay for the additional costs they will be faced with.

The resource planners are also quite frank about the wave of subsidies they expect out of the big clean-up campaign. “There will have to be a will to provide funds,” explains Joseph Fisher, “to train the specialists, do the research and experimentation, build the laws and institutions through which more rapid progress [in pollution control] can be made, and of course, build the facilities and equipment.” The coming boondoggles – replete with tax incentives, direct government grants, and new products – will make the oil depletion allowance seem tame. And what’s more, it will be packaged as a critical social service.

The big business conservationists will doubtless be equally vocal about the need for new bond issues for local water and sewage treatment facilities; lead crusades to overcome reluctance of the average citizen to vote “yes” on bond measures; and then, as bondholders themselves, skim a nice tax-free six or seven per cent off the top.

It isn’t just the citizen and taxpayer who will bear the burden, however. Bedraggled Mother Nature, too, will pay. Like the original conservation movement it is emulating, today’s big business conservation is not interested in preserving the earth; it is rationally reorganizing for a more efficient rape of resources (e.g., the export of chemical-intensive agribusiness) and the production of an even grosser national product.

The seeming contradictions are mind-boggling: industry is combating waste so it can afford to waste more; it is planning to produce more (smog-controlled) private autos to crowd more highways, which means even more advertising to create more “needs” to be met by planned obsolescence. Socially, the result is disastrous. Ecologically, it could be the end.

Why don’t the businessmen simply stop their silly growthmanship? They can’t. If one producer slowed down in the mad race, he’d be eaten up by his competitors. If all conspired together to restrain growth permanently, the unemployment and cutbacks would make today’s recession look like full employment, and the resulting unrest would make today’s dissent look like play time at Summerhill.

[V]

They began in the mid-’60?s in low key, mobilizing the academicians, sprinkling grants and fellowships at the “better” schools, and coordinating research efforts of Resources for the Future, the Conservation Foundation, RAND, Brookings Institution, the National Academy of Science and the Smithsonian Institution. Major forums were held in 1965 and 1966 on “The Quality of the Environment” and “Future Environments of North America.” Research findings were programmed directly into industrial trade associations and business firms.

Then the resource people put their men and programs in the official spotlight: Laurance Rockefeller (founder of and major donor to the Conservation Foundation and also a director of RFF) chaired both the White House Conference on Natural Beauty and the Citizens’ Advisory Committee on Recreation and Natural Beauty (which Nixon has rechristened his Citizens’ Advisory Committee on Environmental Quality). Conservation Foundation President Russell Train headed up Nixon’s Task Force on Resources and Environment, with help from Fisher and several other directors of RFF and the Conservation Foundation, and then became Undersecretary of Interior.

Then the media were plugged in, an easy task for men who have in their hands the direction of CBS, National Educational Television, Time-Life-Fortune, Christian Science Monitor, New York Times and Cowles publications, as well as many of the trade journals and conservation magazines. Independent media, seeing that environment was now news, picked up and broadcast the studies which the conservation elite had produced. Public opinion leaders told their public, in Business Week’s words, “to prepare for the approval of heavy public and private spending to fight pollution.”

Finally, the grass roots were given the word. RFF, Ford and Rockefeller had long worked with and financed the old-time conservation groups, from Massachusetts Audubon to the Sierra Club, and now the big money moved beyond an appreciation of wilderness to a greater activism. When, for example, David Brower broke with the Sierra Club, it was Robert O. Anderson of Atlantic-Richfield and RFF who gave him $200,000 to set up Friends of the Earth (prudently channeling the donation through the organization’s tax exempt affiliate, the John Muir Institute).

When Senator Gaylord Nelson and Congressman Pete McCloskey got around to pushing the National Teach-In, it was the Conservation Foundation, the Audubon Society and the American Conservation Association which doled out the money while Friends of the Earth was putting together The Environmental Handbook, meant to be the Bible of the new movement.

The big business conservationists and their professionals didn’t buy off the movement; they built it.

[VI]

Ecology activists out picketing a polluter or cleaning up a creek will have total freedom to make up their own minds about the threats to our environment, and they will have every right to choose their own course of constructive action. Yet they will surely never get a dime from Robert Anderson, or even a farthing from Ford or Rockefeller. And so far, the grass-roots ecology movement has done nothing but echo the eco-elite.

Ecology, unlike most of the fractured scientific field, is holistic. It talks of life and its environment as a totality: how organisms relate to each other and to the system which provides their life-support system. As a discipline applied to human affairs, then, ecology should help us get a whole view of our natural and social environment-from oxygen cycles to business cycles, from the jeopardized natural environment to the powerful institutional environment which creates that jeopardy. If it revealed these interconnections, ecology would become, as it has been called, a “subversive science,” subverting the polluters and resource-snatchers who now control the conservation of the nation’s wealth. It would point the finger not simply at profit-making polluters or greedy consumers, but at the great garbage-creation system itself – the corporate capitalist economy.

But this is a far cry from the ecology movement as we have inherited it. Ecology, the science of interconnections, becomes a matter of cleaning up beaches and trying to change individuals’ habits and attitudes, while ignoring the institutions which created them and practically all environmental damage.

The grass-roots ecology groups do have politics-the politics of consumer boycotts, shareholder democracy and interest group pluralism, all of which show a wonderfully anachronistic faith in the fairness of the market, political and economic. “If Dow pollutes,” say the boycotters, “then we just won’t buy Saran Wrap.” If Super Suds won’t make biodegradable soap, we’ll buy Ivory. If Ford and Chevy won’t make steam cars, we’ll buy Japanese imports. From the planned obsolescence in automobiles, to 20 brands of toothpaste, much of what industry produces is insulting to the intelligence while also serving no real need; it is waste, to say nothing of the enormous pollution entailed in overproduction.

Consumer sovereignty has gone the way of the dodo, its passing noted two decades back by that stalwart defender of the new corporate capitalism, John Kenneth Galbraith. Consumers just don’t control what gets produced, or how. To educate or build support for some stronger action, boycotts, like the picket line, work well. Bi to change production habits, an ecology movement will really hay to pull the big plug at the other end of the TV transmitter, or better at the production line itself.

Failing in the economic arena, the ecology groups can of course try their hand directly in the political marketplace. Oil has its lobby the auto manufacturers theirs. Why not a People’s Lobby? Californians have already created one, which is now pushing in Sacramento for a referendum “to make the polluters pay.” The Environmental Defense League, geared primarily to the court system, also defending the environment in Congress. The Sierra Club have already lost its tax-exempt status for being too political, and number of the older conservation groups are pushing new, stream-lined legislation. The strategy seems to be paying off, winning victories here and there. Most of the victories, however, mere strengthen the regulatory agencies, which, after public vigilance peters out, will become tools of the big corporations.

Where boycotts and stockholder strategies simply fail, this interest group politics may lead the ecology movement off the edge of a very well-conserved cliff. Eco-catastrophe threatens to kill it all – and Mother Nature, too. But to engage in the give-and-take of interest group politics, the ecologists must grant serious consideration to and must compromise with the oil interests, auto manufacturers and other powerful business groups. Standard Oil gets Indonesia only if they will market that country’s prized sulphur-free oil here; the auto makers can keep producing their one-man-one-car civilization in return for making additional profit (and apparent compromise) on smog control. The world is dying: write your congressman today.

From lobbying, the eco-groups will move into the nearest election, trying to put Paul Ehrlich or David Brower in office. But elections aren’t won on single issues. Allies must be wooed, coalition built. Already parochial and out of sympathy with the blacks an other out-groups, the environmentalists, anxious to infiltrate the electoral system, will become even more respectable and more careful to avoid contamination by “extreme” positions or people. The will become further compartmentalized and will be at dead center sacrificing even those of their own who refuse to compromise.

Avoiding “politics,” the ecologists have taken up the old liberal shuck. Give equal freedom to aristocrats and the people, to bosses and workers, to landlords and tenants, and let both sides win. The scheme, of course, overlooks the one-sided distribution of resources, money and media-power. Some “reformers” will have all they need, but their solution, which will become the solution, is itself a good part of the problem. Profit-seekers and growth-mongers can’t co-exist with Mother Nature and her fragile children without doing them irreparable harm.

To save any semblance of democracy, a decent relationship to the environment and perhaps the environment itself – ecology, the “in” movement, must become a movement of the outs. It must be committed to a long-term militant fight on more clearly understood grounds – its own grounds. That too might be impossible. But, as Eugene V. Debs once observed, it’s a lot better to fight for what you want and not get it, than to fight for-and get-what you don’t want.

Katherine Barkley is a staff member of the Pacific Studies Center.

http://peoplesgeography.com/links/the-eco-establishment/

The Climate Movement: Australia’s Patrons of Climate Change Activism

"Then there’s the revolving door. Some who opposed the CPRS when they worked for environmental groups now work in parliament for the Greens, where cheering for the CEF is expected. Meanwhile, like the carbon lobby, big-brand environmental groups recruit former political staffers and senior bureaucrats. Radicals have been replaced by ‘realists’ who know that if they collaborate with the powers that be – often former colleagues – they can secure incremental wins without threatening the system." …

The Nation Reviewed

By Guy Pearse

September 2011

With Tony Abbott up in the polls, both sides saying they’ll stand or fall on climate policy, and some believing effective ‘climate action’ and the fate of ‘progressive politics’ this decade are at stake, much of the environmental movement has decided it must cheer for Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s Clean Energy Future (CEF) carbon-pricing package. As Abbott and an emboldened carbon lobby paint Gillard’s plan as economic Armageddon, environmentalists are cheering as if the clean energy revolution has begun.

Image Caption: Aided by Purves Environmental Fund, sculptor Mark Coreth rides his life-sized ice polar bear in Sydney, 3 June 2011. © Reuters/Daniel Munoz

Image Caption: Illustration by Jeff Fisher.

It’s a far cry from 2009 when the environmental movement split over the so-called Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS). The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF), World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Climate Institute went one way – backing the CPRS in exchange for Labor adopting a highly conditional 25% emission-reduction target for 2020. The Greens, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, Wilderness Society, Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC) and GetUp!, among others, went another way, knowing the conditions attached to the 25% target meant it wouldn’t happen. Now environmentalists are cheering almost as one, not just for ‘climate action’ but for Gillard’s plan.

The Greens, as co-authors, declare “the old, polluting ways will have to change and a new, exciting era is set to begin”; the ACF calls the plan an “important step to start Australia’s transition to a low carbon economy”; the Climate Institute calls it a “vital step towards lower pollution and clean energy in Australia”; the WWF says it “will finally create a financial incentive to change old habits and old technologies”. Even Greenpeace calls it “the fundamental first step in our journey towards a clean energy future”.

Everyone is emphasising that ‘first step’ bit, as if using the same talking points. Under the “Say Yes” banner, the message that ticking the carbon price box equals a clean energy future is being amplified. At one “Say Yes” rally, GetUp! boss Simon Sheikh declared: “Now is a moment of celebration” and “We’re ready to power our economy with 100% renewable energy. We say yes!” The banners proclaim: “Say yes to cutting carbon pollution” and “Unlock clean energy”. One GetUp! video affirms: “get rid of our reliance on fossil fuel”. It’s implied that the government’s plan will achieve these things.

But will it? The Greens say the CEF package is superior to the CPRS: the official 2050 emissions reduction target was 60% – now it’s 80%; the CPRS allowed unlimited use of imported carbon credits, allowing Australia to outsource almost all its obligations – now imported credits aren’t allowed until 2015 and then only for 50% of polluter liabilities; there’s a new Clean Energy Finance Corporation with $10 billion to spend and a Carbon Farming Initiative to encourage farmers to store more carbon in vegetation and soils. The Greens have sought to make backsliding harder by institutionalising what they can. So, for instance, governments will have to publicly explain if they choose not to accept emission cap recommendations from the proposed Climate Change Authority.

It’s better than the CPRS, but here’s the curious thing – most of the flaws of the CPRS remain in the CEF. Big polluters are again excused from paying for 66–94.5% of their emissions, notwithstanding Gillard’s claim that “big polluters will pay for every tonne of carbon pollution they put into our atmosphere”. There’s the same inadequate 5% unconditional emissions reduction target for 2020; same hypothetical 25% target; still no carbon price at the bowser; billions of dollars going to emission-intensive power generators; $1.3 billion to coal producers whose exports are Australia’s largest contribution to climate change; and handouts to householders still mean most Australians won’t notice a carbon price. It’s another huge money-go-round that intercepts the price signal a carbon tax is intended to send industry and consumers to drive a shift to lower-emission behaviour. The pledge to pay owners of 2 gigawatts of the most emission-intensive coal-fired generation to exit the industry is an admission pricing carbon this way won’t achieve even that.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the emission projections are familiar. Treasurer Wayne Swan and Climate Change Minister Greg Combet say the agreed package would “closely match” Treasury projections released earlier this year. They envisage Australia’s domestic emissions (excluding carbon credit imports) to “increase around 10% from 2010 to the late 2020s”. With the 50% limit on credit imports ending in 2020, we’d rely mainly on outsourcing emission cuts to meet our targets well into the 2030s. Even by 2050, domestic emissions are barely below 2000 levels! Meanwhile, even with the carbon price, and well before 2050, coal-industry output doubles.

For all Gillard’s hype that a carbon price will “turbo-charge” clean energy, projections show almost no increase in renewable energy deployment prior to 2020 beyond what’s required to achieve the existing 20% renewable electricity target. With coal exports doubling and coal seam gas exports growing faster, renewables would by 2020 still account for less than 2% of energy produced in Australia.

In truth, there’s much less difference between the two major parties than either side makes out: both have a 5% target; both price carbon – Labor through a carbon tax and emissions trading, the Coalition by effectively running a national tender process for emission reduction; both cosset fossil-fuel addiction – the Coalition mainly by paying farmers to increase carbon storage in soils, Labor by importing carbon credits.

Ask people in the movement why everyone’s cheering for a plan you’d expect them to stomach under sufferance and the responses all begin the same way: “This is strictly off the record.” Most cite partisan bias, driven more by Pavlovian habit than ideology. While relations with the Coalition have usually been acrimonious, Labor has delivered various groups their biggest wins and political influence. A former insider of the Climate Institute tells me its unofficial mission when established was to “get rid of John Howard”. Post-Howard the CEO is said to have defined its new role as being Labor’s “mine-sweeper”. A “Say Yes” campaign insider recently told me: “People are so desperate to get something rather than nothing that we’re all running cover for Labor; so, rather than getting a better scheme from them or the other side, it’s all about helping Gillard sell the scheme.”

Another reason cited for the cheering is the increasing tendency of environmental groups to focus on incremental wins. Rather than asking ‘What needs to be done?’, they’re asking ‘What’s possible soon, given the lie of the land?’ Rapid transitions to renewables and away from fossil-fuel exports are considered unthinkable, given the grip that coal companies and unions have on both major parties. Settling for much less ambitious goals and overstating their significance is easier.

Then there’s the revolving door. Some who opposed the CPRS when they worked for environmental groups now work in parliament for the Greens, where cheering for the CEF is expected. Meanwhile, like the carbon lobby, big-brand environmental groups recruit former political staffers and senior bureaucrats. Radicals have been replaced by ‘realists’ who know that if they collaborate with the powers that be – often former colleagues – they can secure incremental wins without threatening the system.

Most ‘suit-wearing’ greenies also sport a neo-liberal faith in markets, with many building careers promoting the idea that emissions trading is the solution to climate change. Thus, campaigners at groups such as the WWF, the ACF and the Climate Institute turn ‘think global, act local’ on its head, believing a global carbon trade is paramount, not local action. To a worldview that cares not where emissions are cut but that cuts are made globally, at least cost, importing carbon credits en masse and ignoring coal exports fits perfectly. Never mind that a lower carbon price makes renewables deployment here less viable. Ross Garnaut’s starring role on the national stage as a carbon-price Pied Piper from the neo-liberal establishment encapsulates the dominant mindset.

Lastly, there’s the widespread desire to fill the tent. Many said ‘never again’ after the suspension of the CPRS in 2009. The Mittagong Forum, which was founded a decade earlier in the Southern Highlands, NSW, and intended to keep the environment movement singing from a similar song sheet, was torn apart. The acrimony within the ACF was intense – irate members resigned. I’m told that the Climate Institute’s board ordered an internal review of strategy. Since then, the groups that did a backroom deal with then Prime Minister Rudd have been on a charm offensive – encouraging a much broader group to come on board. Frustrated campaigners explain that the more groups involved, the faster the race to the bottom. One tells me: “If you’ve got ACF, WWF and the Climate Institute in the tent, you can’t talk about export coal; can’t talk down ‘clean coal’ or importing carbon credits or carbon farming.” As the carbon price becomes the issue upon which Labor stands or falls and the Greens’ forward momentum depends, the tent is filling up with unions, celebrities and GetUp!, among others.

This partly explains the cheering, but it’s hard not to wonder if something else is also going on here. Money explains the behaviour of many campaigning against Gillard, as those in her corner are quick to highlight; the proudly sceptical and coal-friendly Institute of Public Affairs, for example, has admitted they rarely take a position different from the “dozen energy firms” who contribute funds to them, because “otherwise they’d stop funding us”. Should we expect different from those funding big-brand green groups? It might seem like a diverse range of groups are all concluding independently that Gillard’s carbon price equals clean energy future, but they’re largely funded through two wealthy farmers: Robert Purves and Mark Wootton.

Robert Purves is the former chair and major shareholder of health group DCA; Mark Wootton is married to Eve Kantor, Rupert Murdoch’s niece. Through the Purves Environmental Fund (PEF) and the Poola Foundation respectively, they bankroll most of Australia’s best known environment groups, including many of those behind the “Say Yes” show.

The Poola Foundation, established in 1995, has for years been the ACF’s principal donor. The ACF’s building was gifted by a Poola-linked company in 2009, providing a permanent rental income stream. A donation of $10 million from the estate of Eve Kantor’s late brother (administered by Wootton and Eve Kantor) established the Climate Institute in 2005, with another $4 million invested since. Climate change “couldn’t be left to the environment movement”, says Wootton. Through the Climate Institute, the Poola Foundation provides office space to support the AYCC, and it is the largest contributor to the Australia Institute think tank. It originally funded the Mittagong Forum and provided resources and personnel to establish the Australian Environmental Grantmakers Network to co-ordinate environmental philanthropy.

Robert Purves is more prolific, particularly since establishing the PEF in 2004. He has given millions of dollars to the WWF, is the primary sponsor of the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists and supports the core global team running Earth Hour. A polar bear made of ice that paraded through Sydney streets in June was also Purves-funded. Few people realise that Purves substantially funded the writing and extensive promotion of Tim Flannery’s book The Weather Makers. The AYCC credits core funding provided by Purves, their only ‘gold supporter’, for their exponential growth in 2010. Purves has also funded Sustainable Business Australia, The Climate Group, the Climate Action Network Australia, the Copenhagen Climate Council and Clean Up Australia. He funds the Total Environment Centre and its Green Capital program, which hosted one of Julia Gillard’s first speeches after the release of the CEF package. Purves funds Terrestrial Carbon Group and the Bio-CCS Group, which push all manner of cheap carbon-credit generating alternatives to switching away from fossil fuels to help Australia meet emissions targets: carbon farming, forest protection abroad, growing algae with CO2 from coal-fired power stations. Through Sustainable Business Australia (SBA) he also co-hosts Carbon Expos for those keen to profit from trading such credits.

Wootton and Purves are hardly the only philanthropists assisting green causes. Wotif.com founder Graeme Wood’s record-breaking $1.6 million contribution to the Greens prior to the 2010 federal election drew plenty of attention. What sets Wootton and Purves apart is their ubiquity – especially on the issue of climate change – and their hands-on approach: Purves is a former president and current board member of WWF (Australia), a former board member of WWF (International), the chair of SBA, a governor of AYCC and the only non-scientist member of the Wentworth Group. Similarly, Mark Wootton chairs the Climate Institute board and, until recently, sat on the boards of both the ACF and the Australia Institute.

Moreover, both men appear to advocate the ‘carbon price as panacea’ approach championed by Rudd and now Gillard. “It’s all about putting a price on carbon,” says Purves; it’s a “conservative, market-based solution”, says Wootton. As far as I can tell, neither has publicly opposed continued coal export expansion, cast doubt over ‘clean coal’ or opposed the large-scale use of imported carbon credits. While both back renewable energy, they’re also strong advocates of bio-sequestration options that help avoid a switch away from fossil fuels. The organisations they fund take similar views; a coterie of corporations deeply enmeshed in vast new coal- and gas-mining projects, or simply poised to gain from the carbon credit opportunities promoted by Wootton and Purves, now co-fund the same organisations.

This is not to parallel the friendly takeover of environmentalism in the past decade with the self-interested clout exerted by those funding Australia’s carbon lobby. Wootton and Purves might gain from generating carbon credits on their farms, but by all reports their philanthropy is driven by genuine altruism rather than vested interest. However, they embody much of what movement insiders cite as problematic – neo-liberal minded corporate greenies chasing incremental results based on ‘what’s possible’. So perhaps it’s inevitable that, as more groups come to rely heavily on the same patronage, the environment movement’s centre of gravity has shifted.

If more people knew to what they were saying ‘yes’, and to whom, it’s hard not to wonder whether there’d be a lot less cheering. Now, as in 2009, the Poola Foundation and Purves-backed entities are teaming up with Labor to establish a minimalist carbon price deal that allows Australia’s contribution to climate change to keep increasing during the most crucial of decades and beyond. Naturally, Labor and its unions are geeing up the “Say Yes” crowd. The ACTU is again in the thick of the action and, having received a

$1.12 million donation from Australia’s largest coal union in 2010, GetUp! is cheering too. There’s been a cumulative cost of up to $5 million for the omnipresent ‘independent’ commentary produced by the Garnaut Climate Change Review from 2007–11. A $12 million advertising campaign is up and running and soon the government will distribute grants of “up to $250,000 for organisations to engage with the public on the opportunities of a clean energy future”. It’s a new strategy, but the same people and money taming environmentalists into backing yet another ineffective policy.

After a decade of false starts, Gillard’s plan shows beyond doubt that the only carbon price Australia will adopt is one that largely defeats the purpose of a carbon price. The Turnbull-backed CPRS was probably the best deal negotiable between the two major parties, just as the Gillard plan is probably the best the Greens could expect from a partnership with Labor. Pricing carbon this way does not equal a clean energy future, but that will take years to dawn on many in the cheer squad. Meanwhile, perhaps the best that can be said of the Gillard package is that passing it makes room for issues that the current debate has kept off the table. With the carbon price box finally ticked, the massive expansion in Australia’s fossil-fuel emission exports will become harder to ignore. When we finally confront that issue we’ll be getting serious as a nation about a Clean Energy Future.

http://www.themonthly.com.au/australia-s-patrons-climate-change-activism-climate-movement-guy-pearse-3786

An Open Letter to The Nature Conservancy

An Open Letter to The Nature Conservancy

Image courtesy of Unsuitablog

Dear TNC people:

This is a letter I sent to my lists some months ago. I would ask you to consider distributing it among yourselves and to the conference planners.

I just read of your October conference where business leaders will once again pretend to address the global ecological crisis. I do understand your dilemma: how to defend and perpetuate the industrial consumer society that relies on endless economic growth, i.e capitalism. Susan George of the Transnational Institute wrote a quite wonderful book, The Lugano Report, on this very subject.

We in the environmental community fully understand your plight. But we understand more: we understand the problem. The business community does not yet understand it. It is simply this: economic growth in a finite planet cannot continue and in fact it has ended for all intents and purposes. Economic growth as traditionally understood is OVER.

The power that be will of course continue to throw money at it and hold high level conferences like yours and come up with imaginary “solutions” that only conceal the problem and thus allow it to grow larger. Some of you may actually believe that growth is compatible with preserving wildlife and ecosystems. Let me disabuse you of this view. As long as humans overbreed, overproduce and overconsume, they will necessarily infringe on and eventually destroy the other species on this planet and their ecosystem. Dave Foreman’s book Man Swarm makes this quite clear.

We have a choice: stop overpopulation, consumption and growth, or destroy the planet on which we depend. There is NO middle way to grow AND save the planet. You MUST accept this fact as the premise of your conference and all your plans. Do I make myself clear?

No amount of media hype, government subsidy, financial sleight of hand or regulatory manipulation will change this. Anyone who believes the contrary is whistling in the darkening dark. We are witnessing the convergence of several crises, none of which will disappear. Some flimsy temporary tinkering with monetary or fiscal policy and other icing on the cake may provide some temporary relief in one of the crises, but the others will proceed apace, uncontrolled and uncontrollable. And so it will continue.

If you want the full honest truth, then let me suggest some names: Richard Heinberg as first choice, James Kunstler, Yuri Orlov, the Post-Carbon Institute, maybe Dave Foreman himself, and for some side “entertainment”, you can screen Dave Gardner’s documentary “Growthbusters”, which will premiere in October. This of course assumes you are open to hearing things that are at odds with your faith in growth and consumerism.

Sincerely,

Lorna Salzman

Dear friends in business, arts and culture:

Some of you will be annoyed at this message. I apologize for the intrusion. However, for those of you with an open mind, I ask that you read this short statement from two highly informed and credible activists, one Canadian and one American.

For those of you in the business community, let me beseech you to read and absorb this message. It is not unique nor is it new. It comes on the heels of reports from Canada indicating that despite the broad public concern over climate change, the Canadian government and environmental NGOs continue to refuse to inform the public as to the real extent and gravity of the climate change threat. This withholding of information is echoed here in the United States, replaced by reports and studies on the topic of renewable energy, as if this were a solution to the problem, or even an option at this point in time.

If you are not already worried about what kind of world your children or grandchildren face, then let me appeal to you on strictly economic and financial terms. Very shortly, probably before another decade passes, the developed world that is hooked on fossil fuels and economic growth will experience major energy and environmental constraints and obstacles which will in turn disrupt society and economies across the world and cause social chaos on an unprecedented scale. While the overpopulated less developed world will bear a large part of the brunt of this eco-collapse due to its impact on food crops and drinking water, industrial societies may actually be more adversely affected because they have more to lose in the way of infrastructure, transportation, energy supplies, and food supplies for large cities.

The crisis will first appear in the form of higher prices for energy and goods, followed by scarcities and maldistribution, followed by a forced contraction of commerce and business, especially in construction, maintenance and repair. In my opinion, the economic recession we are in today will not ease up before the new crisis of contraction begins. In other words, we face a global recession of indefinite duration, not a recovery.

It is long overdue for businessmen, entrepreneurs, corporations, investors, financiers and especially government to develop and implement a Greenprint for Survival. I say Greenprint, picking up on the 1972 “Blueprint for Survival” published by The Ecologist in Great Britain and its late founder/editor Teddy Goldsmith, a man of great foresight and insight. The original Blueprint, endorsed by dozens of leading scientists and others from all over the world, analyzed all the trends and sectors of the world economy and environment, and stated clearly and forcefully the impossibility of continued economic growth, the necessity for moving quickly to a steady-state society rather than one based on a continued through-put of energy and resources, and a redesign of human settlements to allow maximum political and economic decentralization.

The necessity for a relocalization of our economy, in terms of food, energy, transportation, commerce and industry, has now become a major subject of discussion but not one that is widespread because business, government and financiers still grasp onto the hope that economic growth and consumption can and will resume to their original extent and form. It is clear that as long as even some environmental groups withhold the truth about climate change and related issues (loss of biodiversity, destruction of ocean fisheries, diminution of fresh water supplies as glaciers disappear, etc.), neither government nor the business community will take any steps commensurate with the threat. For them, the laws of nature and inexorable drive towards eco-collapse have no importance. The sound of denial is deafening.

Some of you have written me in anger and disbelief, quoting pseudo-scientists and studies that have never been peer reviewed or published in any credible scientific publication. Most if not all of these are produced routinely by those with ties to special interests, especially those in energy, such as Exxon, the coal companies, and the nuclear industry (at least what remains of it). As such they have no more credibility than the front page of the National Inquirer. Perhaps it is comforting to the doubters and deniers that some scientists purvey good news. Their comfort, however, is shortly to disappear. The question they need to ask themselves, if they are honest and have any shred of compassion for their descendants, is this: What if the deniers are wrong?

Greed, self-interest and economic hegemony are powerful motivators but not for the good. If the deniers manage to suppress the bad news and twist the facts, they must be regarded as subversives, even terrorists, determined to impose their view of Business As Usual on the rest of us, with all the suffering, deprivation and societal catastrophe that this will bring. Those of you in the corporate or business world who still have an open mind and are willing to hear the truth may represent the last and best hope that our country has of shaking our government awake and instilling common sense into it. If any of you are up to this urgent responsibility, you should not delay but should reach out to others in the business community and demand that they open their ears and eyes to what is really happening. Please give this serious thought.

Lorna Salzman

+++

The following is an excerpt from the article From the Non-Profit Industrial Complex with Love | Explosive Climate Report Kept from Public:

2010 marks a significant new direction in the climate negotiations. The People’s Agreement, agreed upon during theWorld People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth on April 22nd, 2010 (Cochabamba, Bolivia) is by far the best position to date. It is also the first position to state the necessary targets as well as the realities based on climate science. Climate justice advocates now have a legitimate position paper, critical text of which is now being recognized for the first time by the UNFCCC. Climate justice groups across the world, including Canada’s Council of Canadians; Canada’s largest citizens organization, have endorsed and campaign on this powerful agreement. Surely now is the time to pull together and work harder than ever. Solutions do exist. Therefore, the question that must be asked is this: Why is the climate crisis being abandoned by many and why has an incredibly powerful report been kept from the public – when the public wants action?

It is important to note that all big greens including 350.org, RAN, Greenpeace, CAN Canada and CAN International have thus far declined to endorse the People’s Agreement. CAN-International has roughly 500 members in over 80 countries.

Friends of the Earth groups in Africa; Cameroon, Ghana, Liberia, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda endorse the People’s Agreement. You can read their press release here:http://bit.ly/962OZE

They Know – And Have Known for a Long Time

On 18 April 2007, Ken Ward of Grist writes:

The deliberate decision a decade ago to downplay climate change risk in the interests of presenting a sober, optimistic image to potential donors, maintaining access to decision-makers, and operating within the constraints of private foundations has blown back on us. By emphasizing specific solutions and avoiding definitions that might appear alarmist, we inadvertently fed a dumbed-down, Readers Digest version of climate change to our staff and environmentalist core. Now, as we scramble to keep up with climate scientists, we discover that we have paid a hefty price. Humanity has <10 years to avert cataclysm and most U.S. environmentalists simply don’t believe it.

If we did believe it, we would be acting very differently. Why do we continue, in our materials and on our web sites, to present climate as one of any number of apparently equally important issues? Why, if we really believe that the fate of the world will be decided within a few years, haven’t our organizations liquidated assets, shut down non-essential program[s] and invested everything in one final effort? Why, given the crushing circumstances, is there essentially no internal debate or challenge to our inadequate course of action? Why, for that matter, aren’t environmentalists all working weekends?

These are not gratuitous questions. Environmentalists are not immune from the social and cognitive barriers that make it difficult for almost every individual, institution, society, and nation to come to terms with the threat of cataclysm. However, the whole point of environmentalism is to anticipate precisely the conditions in which we now find ourselves. The purpose of the precautionary principle is to encourage the long view, “out even to the 7th generation,” and the ethos of environmentalism is a fundamental challenge to the dominant paradigm. Our values and principles are supposed to buck us up when, as individuals, we lose our way.

A must watch 2009 video of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ross Gelbspan is riveting. Seldom does anyone have the conviction or courage to speak so boldly, so bluntly. Gelbspan reveals that what began as an initial response of many institutions – denial and delay – has now grown into a crime against humanity. Based on his investigative reporting, Gelbspan speaks of how politicians, big oil and coal, journalists, and the irresponsibility of the big greens have fueled a climate crisis. Gelspan has an interesting theory about why the environmental movement, downplaying the risks and avoiding talk of climate catastrophe, has communicated the climate crisis to the public with unrealistic “optimism.” He suggests that perhaps they are emotionally traumatized deep down by what they really know about the terrible extent of the risks of catastrophic climate change.

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“It may seem impossible to imagine that a technologically advanced society could choose, in essence, to destroy itself, but that is what we are now in the process of doing.” – Elizabeth Kolbert, Field Notes from a Catastrophelsas