Archives

Tagged ‘Natural Capital‘

Nature is Being Renamed ‘Natural Capital’ – But is it Really the Planet that Will Profit?

The Conversation

September 13, 2016

by Sian Sullivan

 

China’s Jiangxi mountains: now just an asset? Shutterstock

The four-yearly World Conservation Congress of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature has just taken place in Hawai’i. The congress is the largest global meeting on nature’s conservation. This year a controversial motion was debated regarding incorporating the language and mechanisms of “natural capital” into IUCN policy.

But what is “natural capital”? And why use it to refer to “nature”?

Motion 63 on “Natural Capital”, adopted at the congress, proposes the development of a “natural capital charter” as a framework “for the application of natural capital approaches and mechanisms”. In “noting that concepts and language of natural capital are becoming widespread within conservation circles and IUCN”, the motion reflects IUCN’s adoption of “a substantial policy position” on natural capital. Eleven programmed sessions scheduled for the congress included “natural capital” in the title. Many are associated with the recent launch of the global Natural Capital Protocol, which brings together business leaders to create a world where business both enhances and conserves nature.

At least one congress session discussed possible “unforeseen impacts of natural capital on broader issues of equitability, ethics, values, rights and social justice”. This draws on widespreadconcerns around the metaphor that nature-is-as-capital-is. Critics worry about the emphasis on economic, as opposed to ecological, language and models, and a corresponding marginalisation of non-economic values that elicit care for the natural world.

image-90160912-19269-1r24dco

Naming nature … but at what cost? Shutterstock

Naturalising ‘natural capital’

The use of “natural capital” as a noun is becoming increasingly normalised in environmental governance. Recent natural capital initiatives include the World Forum on Natural Capital, described as “the world’s leading natural capital event”, the Natural Capital Declaration, which commits the financial sector to mainstreaming “natural capital considerations” into all financial products and services, and the Natural Capital Financing Facility, a financial instrument of the European Investment Bank and the European Commission that aims “to prove to the market and to potential investors the attractiveness of biodiversity and climate adaptation operations in order to promote sustainable investments from the private sector”.

All these initiatives share the UK Natural Capital Committee’s view that “natural capital” consists of “our natural assets including forests, rivers, land, minerals and oceans”. People used to talk about “nature” or “the natural environment” – now they speak of “natural capital”.

image-80160912-19222-1a7ha8x

Growing profits. Shutterstock

So what does the word “capital” do to “nature” when they are linked? And should nature be seen in terms of capital at all? One controversial aspect, backed by IUCN’s Business and Biodiversity Programme, is receiving particular attention. This is the possibility of securing debt-based conservation finance from major institutions and the super-super-rich based on the value of income generated from so-called natural capital assets conserved in situ.

Capitalising natures

At the IUCN’s conservation congress a Coalition for Private Investment in Conservation was launched. Led by financial services company Credit Suisse, and backed by the IUCN and the World Wide Fund for Nature, the coalition builds on a series of recent reports proposing capitalising conservation in exactly this way.

In 2016, and following a 2014 report, Credit Suisse and collaborators published two documents outlining proposals for debt-based, return-seeking conservation finance. The most recent is called Levering Ecosystems: A Business-focused Perspective on how Debt Supports Investment in Ecosystem Services. In this, the CEO of Credit Suisse states that not only is saving ecosystems affordable, but it is also profitable, if turned “into an asset treasured by the mainstream investment market”.

The report proposes a number of mechanisms whereby “businesses can utilise debt as a tool to restore, rehabilitate, and conserve the environment while creating financial value”. The idea is that as “environmental footprints move closer to being recognised as assets and liabilities by companies, debt can be used to fund specific investments in ecosystems that lead to net-positive financial outcomes”. Debt-based financing – for example, through tradeable securities such as bonds – is framed as attractive in part because interest received by investors is “usually tax-deductible”.

The Levering Ecosystems report followed quickly from Conservation Finance: From Niche to Mainstream, steered by a small group including the director of IUCN’s Global Business and Biodiversity Programme. This report estimated the investment potential for conservation finance to be roughly US$200-400 billion by 2020.

Of course, investors loaning finance to projects associated with conservation also expect market-rate returns to compensate for investments considered to conserve, restore or rehabilitate ecosystems.

In the documents above, financial returns are projected as coming in part from new markets in payments for ecosystem services and sales of carbon credits. These new markets will supply the potentially monetisable “dividends” of conserved and restored habitats as “standing natural capitals”. Investor risk is proposed to be reduced through mobilising these assets, as well as the “land or usage rights” from which they derive, as underlying collateral.

image-70160912-19262-znlcdj

Two redrawn graphs representing the design of debt-based conservation finance, as per Credit Suisse reports in 2014 and 2016.

The graphs above present two schematic diagrams redrawn from the Credit Suisse texts to indicate how these flows of financial value may be leveraged from areas capitalised as investable natural capital. The models are based in part on expectations that recent United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change support for international carbon compensation mechanisms will release new long-term sources of public funding to “balance anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases”, thereby boosting possibilities for financial flows from forest carbon.

Such financialising moves, nascent and clunky as they are, may yet have significant implications if applied to countries in the global south with remaining high levels of “standing natural capital”. Caution is needed regarding the possibility that forest-rich but least developed countries may become indebted to ultra high-net-worth investors who access returns on their investments from new income streams arising from conserved tropical natures in these countries.

What’s in a name?

image-60160912-19228-kul098

Pandas: sending a powerful message. Shutterstock

In 1986, the central secretariat of the WWF decided to change the name of the organisation from the World Wildlife Fund to the World Wide Fund for Nature. The thinking was that an emphasis on “wildlife”, borne of a concern for endangered species, no longer reflected the organisation’s scope of work for the conservation of the diversity of life on earth. It was considered that overall the organisation would be better served by the term “nature”. In other words, it seems that naming and framing “nature” matters.

Given the conversations and debates at IUCN’s World Conservation Congress, it seems important to ask: how exactly does the conservation of natural capital equate with the conservation of nature? Do these terms in fact invoke different things? If they do, then it is worth clarifying whether the conservation of natural capital is always good for the conservation of nature. If they don’t, then it remains worth querying why exactly “nature” needs to be renamed as “natural capital”.

 

 

[Sian Sullivan is Professor of Environment and Culture, Bath Spa University.]

Ecosystem Services for Whom?

A New Nature Blog

November 25, 2017

Darcey, Wanstead Park bluebellsEcosystem Services – the idea that we benefit from goods and services provided for free by nature. To be frank, the phrase is ugly. It’s ugly language to use to describe so much beauty – Nature; the bringer of joy, spirituality, reflection, contemplation, solace, inspiration.

Nature, the wellspring of human creativity, degraded to a service provider – like just another G4S or Carillion.

Language is vital. The words we use to describe things and processes constrain our thinking about the world – this is the main message of research on values and frames.

As it is with Natural Capital, so it shall be with Ecosystem Services.

Ecosystem Services is also a lie. The notion of a service provided conjures in our mind the idea that it is an economic transaction, just like going to the corner shop to buy a pint of milk (see how I framed that example?). But of course it is not a transaction, it is an extraction of resources, of goods, where nature has no choice about whether to provide the service or not. When we look at farm animals providing us with meat, do we call them service providers?

If a human takes a “service” from another human without permission, without payment, there are whole set of words to describe that relationship, none of them are pretty. So let’s avoid being too emotive about it and call it Ecosystem Servitude. A stronger, but equally appropriate word would be Ecosystem Slavery.

In a recent article, which I commented on this Monday, leading Oxford economics professor Dieter Helm described the idea that nature has intrinsic value as “harmless or dangerous”. To start with Helm displays his contempt for the notion of intrinsic value by misdefining it (perhaps through ignorance perhaps for effect). He suggests that intrinsic value means nature provides people with pleasure! What it is to see the world through such a utilitarian frame.

No, nature provides people with pleasure and this is a hugely important benefit for people, but it does not mean that therefore nature has intrinsic value. It may lead people to believe nature has intrinsic value, but that is a different thing. Anyway Helm regards whatever people believe or feel about nature as “harmless”, which is kind of him.

He goes on to suggest that it is dangerous for people to think nature has some kind of value in and of itself “that nature has value independent of people.” “to claim that there is value without us opens up the possibility that the world might be better off without us.”

Heaven forfend!

Does Helm seriously believe the world was put here for our benefit? Is Helm a christian of that ilk? Note how similar the language is to uber-neolibertarian Andrew Lilico, about whom I wrote yesterday.

I put to you a thought experiment. Take your average nature reserve and consider what “services” it provides, to dogs. (or look at a specific example here)

  • A place to run around
  •  Do a wee and a poo
  •  Chase birds and rabbits (if they’re lucky, even a beaver!)
  •  Follow scent trails
  •  Dig a hole
  •  Social interactions with other dogs

 

There are also incidental benefits for owners.

If an alien arrived from a distant galaxy and landed near a nature reserve in lowland England, taking up an unobserved position to do a spot of nature-watching, what would they conclude? They would see an awful lot of people being led by their dogs to this place, where the dogs would have a great time. They would conclude that these places had been purposefully created to provide benefits for the dogs, wouldn’t they?

Nature Reserves provide ecosystem services for dogs.

Now consider ecosystem services for bees.

Taxpayers pay farmers through agri-environment schemes, to grow flowers (pollinators mixes) instead of food crops. So we are paying farmers to provide ecosystem services, in the form of nectar pollen and places for them to build nests, to bees. Unfortunately, we are also paying farmers to use bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticides on the adjacent crops, which via the soil, inevitably find their way into the flowers, killing the bees, or at least poisoning them.

Clearly we have not thought through this particular provision of ecosystem services for bees.

Add together the services for dogs, for bees and for every other living thing on the planet. This is one way of looking at the intrinsic value of nature. Perhaps Prof Helm could explain exactly why that is a dangerous concept. Perhaps it’s dangerous because it challenges the neoliberal frame which Prof Helm and his Natural Capital devotees wish the rest of us to adopt.

 

[Miles King has worked on British nature conservation for nearly 30 years. He has led conservation work at Plantlife and the Grasslands Trust as well as stints with English Nature, Dorset AONB and as a freelance conservation consultant. He writes about nature, society and politics at www.anewnatureblog.wordpress.com. In 2015 he is starting a new charity called People Need Nature, focussing on the importance of nature to people as a source of inspiration, joy, solace and contemplation.]

The Bankers at the Helm of the ‘Natural Capital’ Sector

January 26, 2017

by Michael Swifte

 

bankers-at-the-helm

Let’s put a spotlight on four bankers who positioned themselves in the ‘natural capital’ sector around the time of the Global Financial Crisis (GFC). Let’s have a look at some of their networks.

The reason these bankers have positions at the intersection of big finance and the conservation sector is because of their intimate knowledge of financial instruments and what some call “financial innovation”. They follow the edict ‘measure it and you can manage it’. They are the perfect addition to decades of work – as part of the sustainable development agenda – aimed at quantifying the economic value of nature in order to exploit it as collateral to underwrite the new economy.

Banker 1

fullerton_pes_small

John Fullerton is a former managing director at JPMorgan, he founded the Capital Institute in 2010, in 2014 he became a member of the Club of Rome, he has written a book called Regenerative Capitalism.

“No doubt the shift in finance will require both carrots and sticks, and perhaps some clubs.” [Source]

The first of Fullerton’s key networked individuals is Gus Speth who consults to the Capital Institute, he sits on the US Advisory Board of 350.org and the New Economy Coalition board and is good buddies with the godfather of ‘ecosystem services’ Bob Costanza. He has a long history supporting sustainable development projects and has some seriously heavy hitting networks. He founded two conservation organisations with which he was actively engaged up until 2o12, both organisations continue to support ‘natural capital’ projects among other diabolical efforts.

The second networked individual is Hunter Lovins, an award winning author and environmentalist who heads up Natural Capital Solutions and is an advisor to the Capital Institute. She is a long term cheer leader for green capitalism, climate capitalism, and sustainable development.

Banker 2

tercek_pes_small

Mark Tercek was a managing director at Goldman Sachs and became the CEO of The Nature Conservancy in 2008, he has written a book called Nature’s Fortune: How Business and Society Thrive by Investing in Nature.

“This reminds me of my Wall Street days. I mean, all the new markets—the high yield markets, different convertible markets, this is how they all start.” [Source]

One of Tercek’s networked individuals is conservation biologist Gretchen Daily, the person Hank Paulson sent him to meet when he accepted the leadership of The Nature Conservancy (TNC). Daily co-founded the Natural Capital Project in 2005 with the help of  WWF, TNC and the University of Minnesota.

Another prominent figure in TNC is Peter Kareiva, senior science advisor to Mark Tercek and co-founder of the Natural Capital Project, he is also the former chief scientist of TNC and its former vice president.

Taylor Ricketts is also a co-founder of the Natural Capital Project, at the time of founding he was the director of conservation science at WWF. He’s now the director of the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics which was founded by Bob Costanza.

Banker 3

tall-paulson-misconstrued

Hank Paulson is the former CEO of Goldman Sachs, he was US treasury secretary during the GFC, he’s a former chair of the TNC board and the driving force behind the 2008 bail out bill. In 2011 he launched the Paulson Institute which is focussed on China, he has written a memoir called On the Brink: Inside the Race to Stop the Collapse of the Global Financial System.

Even before he was made treasury secretary by George W Bush, Paulson had an interest in conservation finance and greening big business. He was a founding partner of Al Gore and David Blood’s, Generation Investment Management which operates the “sustainable capitalism” focussed Generation Foundation. He has worked with Gus Speth’s World Resources Institute and the Natural Resources Defense Council to develop environmental policy for Goldman Sachs. In 2004 he facilitated the donation from Goldman Sachs of 680,000 acres of wilderness in southern Chile to the Wildlife Conservation Society and in 2002-04 he and his wife Wendy donated $608,000 to the League of Conservation Voters. He has also worked with the second largest conservation organisation on the planet Conservation International.

“The environment and the economy have been totally misconstrued as incompatible,”[Source]

 

“[…] It is is clear that a system of market-based conservation finance is vital to the future of environmental conservation.” [Source]

Banker 4

pavan-maxresdefault

Pavan Sukhdev is a former managing director and head of Deutsche Bank’s Global Markets business in India, he was the study leader of the G8+5  project, he founded the Green Accounting for Indian States Project, he co-founded and chairs an NGO in India called the Conservation Action Trust, he headed up the United Nations Environment Program – Green Economy Initiative which was launched in 2008, he has written a book called  Corporation 2020: Transforming Business For Tomorrow’s World 

Sukdev’s work cuts across more than a dozen UN agencies and scores of international agencies and initiatives. Here are just some of them: IUCN, ILO, WHO, UNESCO, IPBES, WEF, IMF, OECD. Every kind of commodity and economic activity has been covered through his work.

“We use nature because she’s valuable, but we lose nature because she’s free.” [Source]

There are only a one or two degrees of separation between these bankers and the environmental movements with which we are very familiar. Looking at key networked individuals connected to the representatives of the financial elites – bankers – helps to highlight the silences and privately held pragmatic positions of many an environmental pundit. “Leaders” of our popular environmental social movements don’t want to be seen or heard supporting the privatisation of the commons, but they remain silent in the face of a growing surge towards collateralization of the earth. Perhaps they too believe that using nature to capitalise the consumer economy is preferable to the toxic derivatives that precipitated the GFC. Either way the underlying motivation – for anyone who might feel that ecosystem services thinking is useful for the earth – is the desire for the continuation of our consumer economy.

 

nature-bar-code

LISTEN: The Lies They Tell. The Pitiful State of Environmentalism and its Neoliberalization

Wrong Kind of Green

October 29, 2016

The “New Economy” is Not Inclusive

“The route for real change is not via those who are already totally vested in the growth economy and have gained power through it. Rather look for power amongst those who are disenfranchised by the capital accumulating system. Give them voice. Look to organisations that care for them and if they do not exist, create them. Remember that the vast majority are disenfranchised by the current economic system.”

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

[Filmed by Nemnövekedés – Degrowth – Published September 9, 2016]

 

 

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

The Heinrich Böll Foundation

December 3, 2015

by Clive Spash

 

+++

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

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

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

costanza_meme_pes_small

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

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

kareiva_pes_small

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

tercek_pes_small

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

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

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

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

rebrand 4

 

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

 

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

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

Real-world Economics Review, Issue no. 75

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

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

 

truth

 

Excerpt:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Download the paper:

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

 

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

 

Earth Economics

Running with Bad Company

Public Good Project

May 6, 2016

By Jay Taber

Earth-Economics

Earth Economics–founded by Greenpeace USA Executive Director Annie Leonard–is a partner with the Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies (CERES), which is in turn a partner of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD). CERES funders are associated with Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley and Bank of America. WBCSD is part of a Wall Street strategy to dislodge the United Nations Center on Transnational Corporations, and prevent enforceable rules governing the operations of multinational corporations.

Ceres Sachs Blood Mckibben

May, 2013: “CalSTRS CEO Jack Ehnes, Generation Investment Management Co-Founder David Blood (formerly of Goldman Sachs) and 350.org’s Bill McKibben have a lively conversation about how investors can influence the transition to a low-carbon economy.” Ehnes also serves on the Ceres board of directors.

As noted in The Social Capitalists–Part VIII of an investigative report documenting the corruption of the non-profit industrial complex by Wall Street–researcher Cory Morningstar revealed that one third of the CERES network companies are in the Fortune 500, and that since 2001, CERES has received millions from Wall Street corporations and foundations. Further, she observed that CERES president Mindy Lubber is a promoter of so-called “sustainable capitalism” at Forbes. Bill McKibben (founder of 350) was an esteemed guest of CERES conferences in both 2007 and 2013.

1Sky, which merged with 350 in 2011, was created by the Clinton Foundation and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. Betsy Taylor of 1Sky/350 is on the CERES board of directors. In 2012, Bill McKibben and Peter Buffett (oil train tycoon Warren Buffet’s son) headlined the Strategies for a New Economy conference. Between 2003 and 2011, NoVo (Buffet’s foundation) donated $26 million to TIDES Foundation, which in turn funds CERES and 350. Suzanne Nossel, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State under Hillary Clinton, is on the TIDES board of directors.

Fullerton_ PES _small

As reported in Axis of Evil, the 2016 Investor Summit on Climate Risk—co-hosted by CERES, the United Nations Foundation and the United Nations Office for Partnerships—focused on the ‘New Economy’ unveiled by the financial elite at COP21. The ‘New Economy’–promoted by CERES and the Wall Street-funded social media marketing agencies Avaaz, Purpose and 350—forms the core of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) promoted by Bill Gates, Jeremy Heimans (Avaaz & Purpose), and Bill McKibben (350). The ultimate target of the SDGs is the privatization of Indigenous and public resources worldwide.

12118989_10153722926348417_7350311640244877278_n

In Building Acquiescence for the Commodification of the Commons under the Banner of a “New Economy”—Part XII of Morningstar’s investigative report—she says, the goal to commodify the commons under what has come to be known as ‘payment for ecosystem services’ and ‘Natural Capital’ will look to the private sector for investment. “The scheme,” she remarks, “promises corporations, private investors and the world’s most powerful financial institutions both ownership and control (i.e. expansion of power) of Earth’s natural resources.”

Litovsky_ PES

“The implementation of payment for ecosystem services,” Morningstar observes, “will create the most spectacular opportunities that the financial sector has ever witnessed.” This new mechanism for generating profits for the wealthy, she says, represents “the commodification of most everything sacred,” and “the privatization and objectification of all biodiversity and living things that are immeasurable, above and beyond monetary measure”—a mechanism that, “will be unparalleled, irreversible and inescapable.”

Money Can Buy You Nature

In Hijacking the Environmental Movement, I wrote that the ‘New Economy’ privatization cheerleaders, i.e. 350, Avaaz and CERES, all have fundamental ties to Wall Street moguls and finance sector criminals, and are “currently pressing for changes in international law that would give the finance sector carte blanche in privatizing all of nature.” What this so-called ‘sustainable capitalism’ is in reality sustaining, I observed, “is totalitarian corporate control of world governance and human survival.” Earth Economics, initially founded by TIDES, is a key player in promoting this scheme.

earth economics 1

Earth Economics: “We Take Nature Into Account”

As I noted in Architects of the Final Solution, “For ubercapitalists like Bill Gates and their sycophants like William Jefferson Clinton, who promote the false hope of neoliberal globalization, terminating the collective ownership of indigenous nations in exchange for totalitarian corporate control of the planet’s resources is a dream coming true.”

Global Goals 11

 

 

[Jay Thomas Taber is an associate scholar of the Center for World Indigenous Studies and a contributing editor of Fourth World Journal. Since 1994, he has served as communications director at Public Good Project, a volunteer network of researchers, analysts and journalists defending democracy. As a consultant, he has assisted Indigenous peoples in the European Court of Human Rights and at the United Nations.]

Don’t Put a Price Tag on Nature

Take Part

March 11, 2016

by Richard Conniff 

 

The ‘ecosystem services’ idea devalues the natural world by trying to monetize it.

(Photo: Lena Trindade/Brazil Photos/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Not too long ago, Mexican free-tailed bats seemed like a perfect example of how conservationists could use the “ecosystem services” idea to save the natural world. These bats feed on insect pests in the Southwestern United States, and researchers have calculated that they provide a benefit to cotton farmers that was at one point worth about $24 million a year.

It would, of course, have taken a miracle worker to get the farmers to pay for a service they had always gotten for free. But before that could happen, technology and market forces intervened: BT cotton, a strain of cotton genetically modified to produce the insecticide BT, came on the market. The BT took over the job of controlling insect pests on cotton farms, and suddenly the free-tailed bats were like buggy-whip makers in the automotive age or newspaper reporters today. The value of their services plummeted by 80 percent.

Cases like this have led a lot of biologists to wonder, as the title of a recent article in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution put it, “Have Ecosystem Services Been Oversold?” These critics increasingly question the validity of the entire ecosystem services movement on practical and moral grounds. They ask, among other things: What happens when technological and market forces make the services a species provides, and thus the species itself, seem worthless? Is it even right to monetize and in some cases privatize nature, the ultimate public good?

The questions are worth asking because the ecosystem services idea is a movement, beloved by many conservation organizations, and the subject so far of more than 15,000 peer-reviewed articles in scientific journals. Schemes to pay for ecosystem services, such as REDD, are also a big deal in global financial markets. You might think REDD is a brand of apple ale with really stupid television advertising. But it’s an international program, arguably overhyped, called Reducing Emissions From Deforestation and Forest Degradation.

The idea behind REDD is twofold: Forests sequester carbon, harbor biodiversity, and otherwise provide ecosystem services. So why not get corporations, governments, and others to pay to protect those services, if only to offset their own carbon emissions or earn public relations bonus points? Thus Norway, a leader in the movement, has pledged $3 billion under REDD schemes to protect threatened tropical forests in Brazil, Indonesia, and other countries. This is serious money being put to work to protect natural resources, so you can understand why conservation groups might love the idea.

But much as was the case with the free-tailed bats, “there are no markets for many of the goods and services that ecosystems provide,” Jonathan Silvertown, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Edinburgh, points out in the “Oversold” article. The solution for ecosystem services proponents, he writes, has typically been to “invent a market” like the REDD scheme for carbon credits. Or they “pretend there is a market” and ask people how they would value ecosystem services in hypothetical situations. But “make-believe markets” are highly likely to fail when people are otherwise, he writes.

But make-believe markets are highly likely to fail when people are otherwise relentlessly focused on nickel-and-dime realities. The market mentality also degrades nature by attempting to turn it into a commodity. “People are not allowed to sell their organs or their children,” Silvertown writes, citing the 2012 book What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets. “These have intrinsic value that is beyond price.” That’s true of species and habitats too.

The attempt to sell nature went spectacularly wrong for the government of British Prime Minister David Cameron. When he came to power in 2010, he pushed to sell off the roughly 1,000 square miles of forest that until then had been owned and protected by the national Forestry Commission. The ecosystem services idea seemed to offer the new government a bright, shiny “technocratic rationale for the deployment of its natural capital,” Silvertown writes, with the added likelihood of putting bright, shiny millions into government coffers.

Some conservation groups went along, “taking the view that it is regulation” of the forests “and not ownership that matters.” But Cameron, a conservative, was slashing regulations at the same time. The response from the British public was furious. It turned out that no amount of money could make up for what it perceived as the loss of its forests, and no amount of monetizing could capture the value of simply being able to walk in the woods. Cameron quickly backed down, with one government source describing the whole idea as “a cock-up,” or what Americans might call a FUBAR: “We just did not think.”

So, let’s think. Where does all this leave the ecosystem services idea? Trying to “unbundle” all the things we get from the natural world and put a price on them cheapens nature, and it cheapens us. The people who first developed the idea in the mid-20th century meant that conservation could benefit from showing people how their lives depend, in all sorts of unseen ways, on the natural world: Intact wetlands save downstream cities from flooding, coastal marshes serve as nursing grounds for offshore fisheries, and that air you breathe? Yes, it’s an ecosystem service, provided by healthy forests and obscure ocean microorganisms.

This is the only sense in which the ecosystem services idea deserves to live—as a constant reminder of how utterly we all depend on the priceless blessings of the natural world.

 

 

[Richard Conniff is the author of House of Lost Worlds: Dinosaurs, Dynasties, and the Story of Life on Earth, and other books.]

The “Purpose” of “Consumer Activism” & COP21 – “We Mean Business”

Wrong Kind of Green

December 11 2015

We Mean Business Logo

 

“The spectacle is not a collection of images, but a social relation among people, mediated by images.” — Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle

The most critical of ecological nightmares – the key driving forces of climate change, those being first world consumption:

 

Interwoven with exploitation of Earth and her most vulnerable citizens and sentient beings, the continued genocide of Indigenous peoples as the caretakers of our lands and forests, the continued meltdown of Fukushima, are problems from a different world, a different lifetime.

They have no place amongst the negotiations led by 1% of the Earth’s population creating 50% of the global greenhouse gas emissions.

The ultimate goal of course has now been achieved, the non-profit industrial complex (and those it feeds) having not only succeeded in establishing the global acquiescence for a third industrial revolution under the guise of “clean energy”, it manufactured a global demand – saving a suicidal economic system teetering on the verge of collapse. Rather than recognizing this is a  unique and rare opportunity in our history to allow and ensure this lethal economic system fails, all radical resistance (as activism) is now passé. In vogue is “activism as choice” for what technological solutions (i.e further consumption/growth) can “save” the humans species (of privilege).

On September 15, 2014, one week prior to the People’s Climate March in New York, Inside Climate News published the article Only $1 Trillion: Annual Investment Goal Puts Climate Solutions Within Reach. From the article:

“Leading up to the UN Climate Summit next week in New York, business groups and investors who manage trillions of dollars published reports and held meetings to call for action. Last week, investment groups publicized the creation of We Mean Business, an umbrella organization of investors urging world leaders to agree on a plan for fighting climate change.”

From the Climate Group (incubated by Rockefeller as in-house project that later evolved into a free-standing institution) website:

“The Climate Group is a proud partner of We Mean Business – a coalition of organizations working with thousands of the world’s most influential businesses and investors.”

The founding partners of We Mean Business are:

  1. Business for Social Responsibility (BSR)
  2. CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project)
  3. Ceres
  4. The B Team (founded by Richard Branson)
  5. The Climate Group
  6. The Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group (CLG)
  7. World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) [Further reading: http://bit.ly/1lBgbU0]

Together these organizations represent thousands of the worlds most powerful corporations and investors.

We Mean Business Network partners:

  1. Asset Owner Disclosure Project (AODP)
  2. CEBDS
  3. Climate Leadership Council (CLC)
  4. WWF Climate Savers
  5. EPC, Japan-CLP
  6. National Business Initiative
  7. Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI)
  8. The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI)
  9. United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI)

We Mean Business working partnerships were formed with the following organizations:

  1. Carbon Tracker
  2. Carbon War Room
  3. Climate & Clean Air Coalition
  4. Climate Markets & Investments Association
  5. E3G
  6. Forum for the Future
  7. Global Alliance for Energy Productivity
  8. International Emissions Trading Association
  9. Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC/Ceres)
  10. Rocky Mountain Institute (now partnered with the Carbon War Room)
  11. The Business Council for Sustainable Energy
  12. The New Climate Economy
  13. The Shift Project
  14. United Nations Global Compact
  15. World Bank Group
  16. World Resources Institute

[Further reading: Building Acquiescence for the Commodification of the Commons Under the Banner of a “New Economy”]

Ceres, a founding member of We Mean Business is a key partner of the 350.org divestment campaign which was created in consultation with the organizations “friends on Wall Street“. Ceres, 350,org, B Team, Avaaz, The Climate Group, We Mean Business and CDP are all “Earth to Paris” partners. (“Earth To Paris, a coalition of partners helping to drive awareness about the connection between people and planet as well as the need for strong climate action, announced it will host “Earth To Paris—Le Hub” a two-day, high-impact, live-streamed summit on 7 and 8 December in Paris during COP21 — the United Nations climate conference to deliver a new universal climate change agreement.”) [Source]

The ideologies espoused by “We Mean Business” are transparent in the following (01:40) interview with Avaaz & Purpose co-founder Jeremy Heimans by We Mean Business.

“We’ve been talking in a broader way about the future of consumer activism, of organizing people not as citizens but as consumers.” — Jeremy Heimans, Purpose, 2011

September 15, 2014, This Changes Nothing. Why the People’s Climate March Guarantees Climate Catastrophe:

“What you are about to witness is the global mobilization of “consumers” to be ushered into the green economy, without SAYING it is the green economy. The climate parade in NYC, coinciding with the release of 350’s Naomi Klein’s new book, is the launching pad.

 

The kings and queens of hegemony have rolled the dice and placed their bets on Avaaz, 350.org and Naomi Klein (350.org board member) to usher in the illusory green economy under the guise of a so-called “new economy.” Their winning bet is that author Naomi Klein’s latest book will be the vehicle that ignites their new economy, and thus “changes everything.”

 

It is not by accident that foundation-financed “progressive” media and those within the non-profit industrial complex are heavily promoting Klein’s upcoming book release with multiple side events. It is not by accident that Avaaz’s latest petition titled The Global People’s Climate March has strategically modified the This Changes Everything book title to “Join to Change Everything” and “To change everything, it takes everyone.” Note the similar language employed by WWF: “To change everything, we need everyone.”

The fact that the Peoples Climate March was designed and orchestrated as a mass mobilization social engineering experiment financed by the oligarchs to”change everything” (expand capital and existing power structures) is captured in the (01:40 minute) video titled We Mean Business Momentum:

“And hundreds of thousands of people marched in New York City and all across the world. The momentum became contagious.”

 

The dystopian focus on perpetual growth via consumption as the solution to climate change is clear in the following We Mean Business video (3:40). Also note the reference to “Natural Capital” which is code for the global privatization of nature via payments for ecosystems services (PES) which is currently being implemented into policies behind closed doors.

“It won’t be about sacrifice. It will be about a new era of clean abundance.” — Steve Howard, Ikea

Activist Kevin Hester writes: “It is always worth looking for pearls of truth where the hubris and arrogance of the spin doctors lets them down… ‘the future of consumer activism’ … there you have it, the scam laid bare, they can never disown the market.”

This begets the question: is “the future of consumer activism” (under the guise of a “new economy”) already here?

sacrilege-2 (2)

Klein OECD

Photo: 24 November 2015: Naomi Klein (left) and Angel Gurría, Secretary-General of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). In January 1998 Mexican President Zedillo appointed Jose Angel Gurria as Minister of Finance. “One top official at Nomura Securities summed up Wall Street’s euphoria upon hearing of Gurria’s appointment. ‘He’s one of ours.’” Gurría also negotiated the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) which came into force on January 1, 1994. [Further reading: Our “Man in Mexico” and the Chiapas Massacre]

Indeed the foundation has been laid. After all, Naomi Klein’s book and film project (financed by the same oligarchs who bestow billions of dollars upon the non-profit industrial complex) was not made available for free in an exclusive online format. The book, a #1 international bestseller is being translated into 25 languages. Millions of books, driving and flying to international climate events/parades, social metrics, and a multitude of other foundation financed “activist” activities, all assist in the propping up of a capitalist economic system that is “flying at close to stall speed“. 

+++

[Further reading: The Increasing Vogue for Capitalist-Friendly Climate Discourse]

 

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

The Art of Annihilation

September 24, 2015

Part twelve of an investigative series by Cory Morningstar

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

+++

Enraptured by the Spectacle

AUTPALfg2_4_gdn_150309_01_s_

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

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

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

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

SoS3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Guardian 2

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

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

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

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

Rebranding Productivism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Payment for Ecosystem Services

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

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

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

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

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

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

+++

Capitalism Has Reached Its Limits

United Nation’s Financialization of Earth

First Phase Digital

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

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

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

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

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

One year later, Paris 2009:

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

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

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

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

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

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

+++

The Key to Growth in the 21st Century

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

 

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

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

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

Rebranding the Green Economy: The New Economy

rebrand 4

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

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

Heimans states:

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

Heimans summarizes the methodology:

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


 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

McKibben Massie Fullerton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Investors Council

Figure 1 – GIIN Investors’ Council Members

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

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

Up Next: The Next System Project

New System Project Signatories

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

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

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

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

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

Celebrity-driven

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Economy Coalition

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

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

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

16471623129_eaca2e6715

Just Transitions Tour with Bob Massie, March 2015

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

New Economics Foundation (NEF) UK

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

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

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

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

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

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

+++

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

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

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

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

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

 

Next: Part XIII 

 

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

 

EndNotes:

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

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

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