Archives

Tagged ‘Natural Resources Defense Council‘

Environmentalism and Democracy in the Age of Nationalism & Corporate Capitalism

December 14, 2017

by Clive Spash

 

 

Recently my masters’ students and I watched the film Carbon Rush. This reveals how numerous carbon offset projects – under the Kyoto Protocol’s emissions trading related Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) – are devastating the lives of some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world, and simultaneously destroying the environment on which they depend for their survival. CDM projects (such as dams, waste incinerators, wind farms, commercial forestry and oil palm plantations) suffer from dubious or no additionality and may as easily increase as reduce net greenhouse gas emissions. Yet, the international climate community commonly regards offsetting as central to climate change policy. Such schemes have proliferated due to the desire for making money out of environmental crises and a total disregard for exploitation of the poor and weak, the very groups that ‘development’ (clean or dirty) was supposed to help. In the neoliberal era the rule of the banking and finance sector and multi-national corporations means prioritising making profits by shifting costs onto others; something that has long been recognised as the modus operandi of the business enterprise (Kapp, 1978).

Environmental commodification, trading and offsetting are business as usual approaches to  environmental policy. Whether converting wetlands into bankable assets as in the USA or greenhouse gases into tradable permits as in Europe, the justification is that the preservation of the capital accumulating growth economy requires mechanisms that institutionalise the ‘right’ to undertake environmental degradation. There is also consensus across political divides about the need for economic growth. In the UK, neither Corbyn (Labour) nor May (Conservative) had any meaningful environmental agenda, and both their parties remain totally committed to a growth economy. Diverse nation states are similarly united in promotion of environmental crises as growth opportunities. For example, the European Union and China are pushing the rhetoric of ‘Green Growth’. This combines increasing domestic greenhouse gas emissions through the extension of market based mechanisms and offsets with the promise of new future technologies as the ultimate ‘solution’ to address those same emissions. Faith in markets and technology remains core to international climate policy and unaffected by whether the USA is in or out of the Paris Agreement. Similarly, faith in markets and technology as environmental saviour would have remained the same regardless of having Trump or Clinton in the White House.

In actual fact, the USA has never been a leader in greenhouse gas emissions reduction or climate policy, and both Democrat and Republican administrations have contributed to weakening international treaties. The Paris Agreement was watered down at the behest of the Obama administration compared to a more rigorous treaty, with common base year and targets, recommended by the European Commission (Spash, 2016a). Obama made clear his commitment to protect American jobs over the environment and specifically over any need to address human induced climate change. In this logic, environmental policy is justified if it creates jobs and growth, which always come first despite the inevitable contradictions. Obama’s administration massively expanded domestic oil and gas exploration to make the USA the worlds largest oil exporter (Spash, 2016a: 70). Non-conventional oil has been part of this strategy, despite the world already having over 6 times the reserves it could possibly burn and still have a ‘likely chance’ of the 2°C target (Spash, 2016b). Obama boasted that under his administration enough oil and gas pipelines had been built to ‘encircle the Earth and then some’ (see full quotation in Spash, 2016a). He ignored the associated ecological and social harm, not least that to indigenous communities. In 2016, Native American protestors at Standing Rock opposing construction work on the Dakota Pipeline that, now operational, transports fracked oil, were brutally suppressed by the combined efforts of the construction corporation’s security forces, riot police and the national guard. All that was before the election of a climate denialist with personal investments in fossil fuels.

The USA is one amongst many nations putting their own interests before the common good, and with a record of saying one thing and doing another. Modern development is allied to a military-industrial complex that ensures nation states work to secure, maintain and expand their fossil fuel resource supplies at all costs. Current fossil fuel and infrastructure polices totally contradict the supposed  commitment of nations to the Paris Agreement, and its already exceeded, scientifically unhinged, target for a potentially catastrophic 2°C average global temperature increase (Spash, 2016a). Meanwhile, the
United Nations, the European Commission, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and similar international bodies have continuously pushed market approaches that fail to address  biophysical reality, permitting exploration for and exploitation of fossil fuels leading to emissions that should never have been allowed. Thus, there is no surprise that recent moves by the airline industry to justify its plans for 700% expansion by 2050 rely on carbon offsetting, while numerous governments (e.g. Austrian, British, French, Turkish) support airport expansion as an economic necessity to create domestic jobs and growth.

Sadly, over the last two decades, in the midst of our ongoing ecological and associated geo-political crises, a range of environmental non-governmental organisations (ENGOs), rather than opposing such schemes, have formed alliances with some of the worst corporate polluters and resource extractors in the world and now actually promote them (Spash, 2015a). Greenwashing has become a major occupation for ENGOs. Many have become apologists for corporate self-regulation, market mechanisms, carbon pricing/trading and biodiversity offsetting/banking, while themselves commercialising species ‘protection’ as eco-tourism. Foremost amongst the neoliberal ENGOs is The Nature Conservancy (TNC). Its President and CEO is Mark Tercek, previously a managing director at Goldman Sachs. Its Vice President until recently was Peter Kareiva, a key player in the Stanford University flagship ‘natural capital’ project with its mission to convert ecosystems into environmental services that can be traded off. Together Tercek and Kareiva have promoted capitalism as natural and berated conservation biologists for not allying with corporations. In a revival of social Darwinism, Kareiva has even claimed that corporations are a keystone species!

ENGOs have been deliberately targeted by corporate strategists and in several cases they have been captured at management level. For example, Holmes (2011) reports on some of the boards of American ENGOs that include large numbers of current or former directors of major transnational corporations:

TNC 15 out of 26; Conservation International 26 out of 36; WWF-USA 13 out of 21. In addition, ‘these NGOs each have a business council, made exclusively from corporate directors, to advise the board of directors’ (Holmes, 2011: 9). Besides TNC, Conservation International and WWF, Hari (2010) cites the National Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club, and the Natural Resources Defense Council as all suffering from corporate capture and conformity to the basic tenets of neoliberalism. This is the spread of what I have referred to as new environmental pragmatism (Spash, 2009). The inroads into conservation by corporate interests are deep. Recently, Adams (2017) has analysed the pragmatic reasons behind this alliance, terming it ‘sleeping with the enemy’ and a ‘Faustian bargain’, that is sold as promoting the mythical Green and growing economy. There is, then, much to concern environmentalists about the role of environmentalism today and whether it can help or will hinder the achievement of a more just, ethical and equitable future.

In this issue of Environmental Values the state and direction of the environmental movement are at the fore. The extent to which conformity to current institutions and their values is regarded as pragmatic is the topic addressed by D’Amato et al. They contrast such pragmatism with the need for revolutionary change and consider which will achieve social ecological transformation. That ‘business as usual’ might no longer be an option leaves open what that implies for the existing political economy (from high-tech competitive corporate growth to low-tech cooperative community degrowth). However, as mentioned above, the hegemonic approach is techno-market optimism with the promise of preserving and  protecting the current capital accumulating economic system.

Productivist rhetoric is dominant in government circles and provides an imaginary that can fit with liberal, neoliberal, social democratic welfarist, socialist and centrally planned political systems. While some things must change the utopian vision of a ‘sustainable growth economy’ will not be surrendered.

The sustainable development agenda, from Norwegian premier Gro Bruntland onwards, has seen no conflict between achieving social and ecological goals and maintaining the growth economy. The United Nations has spent decades pushing various brands of ‘sustainable development’ as economic growth, with the Green Economy its latest incarnation (Spash, 2012). The basic aim is to make capital accumulation resilient, whether in the West or East, under democracy or despotism, whether state or corporate owned and run. How then should the environmentally concerned address this hegemony?

D’Amato et al. provide a new classification of the debate based upon qualitative interviews and a focus group with twenty young researchers working in the area of social ecological transformation. They  contrast perceptions of the role of research as extending from promoting a simple form of pragmatism through to radical change based on strong value commitments. The mode of social change regarded as necessary is described as extending from a gradual evolution to a radical revolution. The concept of the Green Economy was classified by respondents as falling within the pragmatic and evolutionary. The  majority (60%) of respondents themselves held the pragmatic revolutionary position, followed by those classified as radical revolutionary (25%) and pragmatic evolutionary (15%). Thus, while 85% of these young researchers felt revolutionary social change was necessary, 75% believed research should be  pragmatic. While qualified by this being a small convenience sample, the findings do indicate the   potential prevalence of new environmental pragmatism and supports previous work indicating that this  is a wider phenomenon amongst researchers (Spash and Ryan, 2012). More generally, D’Amato et al.’s work raises some serious questions over the general direction of environmental research and how far researchers are prepared to make their work conform to hegemonic values, norms and practices, including those they in principle oppose.

Yet, those who stick to their principles are often described as fundamentalists or uncompromising radicals who deny democratic process. Amongst environmentalists, animal activists have typically been painted as such extremists with their claims based on contentious rights based arguments. In some (supposed) democracies they are even regarded and treated as terrorists. Parry raises the issue of how animal activists should operate within an idealised deliberative democracy and what they could then legitimately justify doing to further their cause. The arguments for and against the use of different campaigning tactics are raised with specific attention given to the example of using video footage showing animal suffering. Such tactics are described in terms of creating a moral shock. Can this be legitimate in a democracy?

Parry makes the case that deliberative democracy offers a justification for representing animals in decision making, but that this does not require appeals to claims about moral worth. Instead existing democratic political principles and institutions are invoked. Three principles are then given, namely that deliberative democracy should be inclusive, authentic and consequential. Parry’s article evaluates animal activism on these grounds.

Inclusion refers to the right of representation in a decision on the basis of having interests that are subject to being affected by that decision. Political theorists have criticised animal rights activists for using undemocractic/deliberative approaches, which they claim are unjustified because these activists are just another group of humans seeking to promote their own interests. Such theorists believe animal activism should be undertaken through ‘normal’ democratic processes. However, as Parry points out, this is a conversion of human to non-human relations into a human to human relationship. Central to the politics of non-human Nature is the representation of silent voices (O’Neill, 2001). How the non-human get a voice in the human world is the central question here.

One aspect of the problem is the tension between attribution of value on the basis of possessing human-like qualities and possessing value despite clearly being non-human like (see for example Coyne, 2017; Vetlesen, 2015). The value basis of interests is then a core concern. Contra Parry, the application of deliberative democratic principles does not then seem to avoid the need for adopting a value basis, nor the need for moral reasoning. Notions of value are employed both in arguments for moral standing and rights of political representation.

A common approach in determining such attributions is to appeal to sentience and the ability for non- humans to suffer pain like humans. One reason is the search for generalisable and common interests, which are regarded as constituting authentic deliberation. Here there is an implicit appeal to Kantian moral criteria for establishing a valid moral argument, so once again contention over moral positions appear unavoidable.

Parry’s second concept, authentic deliberation, aims to encapsulate the desired qualities of democratic deliberation, namely: truthfulness, mutual respect, non-coercive persuasion, constructively seeking acceptable outcomes, reflexivity and prioritisation of generalisable interests. Parry then explores how far different tactics of animal activists match such qualities, and the same is undertaken for the third concept, that requires deliberative democratic criteria be consequential. The latter entails identification of discernible impacts of tactics on decisions, where the consequences are evaluated at a systemic level (i.e. taking into account various aspects of repercussions). Put more crudely this is an assessment of ends justifying means.

The question Parry debates is the extent to which the tactics of animal activists are non-democratic and yet still might be justified. Two tactics classified as non-democratic are imposing costs on others and the rhetorical exaggeration of moral disagreement. The former covers the making of an action (unwanted by activists) financially more costly for the actor, but is also extended by Parry to include imposing psychological costs on such actors. The latter concerns highlighting moral differences to emphasise what is deemed unethical. Such tactics are problematic for deliberative democrats – being termed exaggeration’ and ‘rhetoric’ – because of their commitment to political process as a consensus-seeking compromise. As Parry notes, in passing, there are those arguing that the worth of democracy lies in allowing for contestation over values, and that would involve the recognition of differences held as moral principles rather than seeking compromise and reasons to justify why everyone make trade-offs. A possibly related issue (not addressed) is the apparent contradiction involved in evaluating a social movement that emphasises deontology, community responsibility and duties on the basis of consequences and individual action.

Parry concludes that some of the non-democratic tactics of animal activists may have a role, but should be employed with reflection and moderation. In reaching this conclusion some aspects are only briefly mentioned, but seem central to any justification for radical action within the social reality in which we live today. Perhaps most important are the inequity in power relationships in society and the undemocratic state of the institutions empowered by the idea of a neoliberal economy. Such things as corporate power, greed and the capital accumulating economy lie behind the prevalence of threats to the nonhuman world. The associated institutions perpetuate and legitimise a range of practices against the interests of both non-human and human animals. In the struggles of indigenous communities, who are on the frontline of the extractivist economy and its accumulation by dispossession and land grabbing, there are few signs of legitimate democracy let alone the deliberative democratic ideal. How to live up to the ideals of deliberative democracy, in seeking to right some wrongs, seems of lesser relevance than asking how and by what means can the transformation of such an undemocratic system be achieved? Related to this is the question: what are the legitimate grounds for the institutionally powerless to fight institutionalised power?

Quist and Rinne are concerned with the challenges that disenfranchised groups face in building shared agendas and expressing themselves in their struggles to protect the environment and their ways of life. Their particular context is the conflict between different forms of resource exploitation and specifically fisheries versus oil extraction. They present a case study from Mexico that investigates media (two regional newspapers) representation of the conflict over access to the sea after Pemex, the eleventh largest oil corporation in the world, was empowered by the Mexican State to create marine exclusion zones. They reveal how the media operates with implicit rules of newsworthiness that play to the dominant moral discourses promoted by political and economic elites. In addition, they expose how this has played up divisions within the fisher community (e.g., between licence holders and other fishers working for them or independently).

The central concept in their case study is ‘patrimony’, or regarding natural resources as an intergenerational heritage that creates a community understanding and sense of common purpose. Under patrimony the community is typically the nation state, with patrimony operating as national heritage, but the study identifies how the concept is also applied at the fisher community level by its leaders. However, rather than being empowered, the fishers appear to be captured by the discourse of patrimony, while their own discourse, expressing ecological values that include their way of life, is excluded. Fisher leaders are shown to adopt the patrimony discourse against the interests of the wider fisher community, even to the extent that the prospect of fishers becoming oil workers is considered. Oil is judged superior in patrimonial value and for the national collective compared to the value of fishing for the local community. In this discourse, there is no questioning of the oil industries right to exploit the resource. There is a clear underlying productivist logic that excludes environmental concerns and narrowly frames the social as national.

How natural resource extraction issues are framed by the media is also the concern of Davies et al. Their particular case study is Greenland, where the population of 57,000 live in the twelfth largest country by land area. That 90 per cent of the people claim Inuit ethnicity adds to the distinct character of the society, as does having 80 per cent of the country under ice. In this last respect, climate change has been presented by some as an opportunity for opening-up territory for resource extraction. Indeed, this forms one of the major discourses revealed by Davies et al. in their analysis of 1000 English language media articles about Greenland. The potential for extracting oil, gas and rare Earth metals to supply the fossil fuel economy and its high-tech industries means climate change is not denied but accepted as an actual phenomenon by corporate fossil fuel and resource extracting interests. Rather than being a problem, climate change is seen as an opportunity. The media being reported here seems clearly focused on serving the speculations of corporations, bankers and financiers over where to make money. Such media coverage regards risk purely in financial terms of returns on investment (not strong uncertainty over climate change), and on the same basis the potential for oil spills due to new extraction is addressed as a risk to corporate investors’ returns, not the environment.

Other aspects of the media coverage over extracting Greenland’s resources relate to the geo-politics of a small Inuit led country facing the likes of China and the European Union, and multi-national corporations. The vulnerability of Inuit culture is also raised, including the potential impact on the relatively small existing national population being swamped by incoming labour. Yet, somewhat paralleling the case of Mexico, coverage also regards investment in resource extraction as a necessity for ‘development’ that promises jobs and the eradication of social problems through material wealth.

The idea of wilderness, so antithetical to advocates of the anthropocene (Baskin, 2015), appears in the media in both its positive form as pristine and untouched, as well as its negative form of waste land. The absence of human use is bemoaned by the latter as resources going to waste, while for the former this is where the environmental value lies. However, what is interesting in the reported media coverage presented by Davies et al. is how human–nature interactions are so easily turned into, and exclusively discussed as, human to human value relationships (e.g. human induced climate change having consequences for humans). Nature then has no voice in this media coverage.

Therein lies the failure of the environmental movement in its pragmatic neoliberalism. That the mainstream media is obsessed by framing its reportage in terms of financial and economic consequences is hardly a secret (see Chalmers, 2012). What is less readily admitted is the extent to which ENGOs have done likewise and so lost their connection to the non-human world that environmentalism aimed to represent in the first place. In the appeasement of presumed state and corporate economic interests, the language of environmental values is commonly reformulated to actually deny the existence of value in nature, non-human to non-human value and even the importance of human to non-human relationships. There is only the human-to-human relationship and associated values, and clearly some humans are more equal than others.

Issues of power, inclusion and representation in the environmental movement also concern the paper by Fenney, but from a different perspective. The argument is made that the disabled are subject to both oppression (disablism) and also the assumption of a non-disabled norm as valid and desirable (ableism). Evidence from interviews with disabled people in the UK is presented to illustrate the issues. In particular, Fenney highlights discourses on cycling and self-sufficiency as problematic. The former is criticised as specifically focussed on the able bodied, while the latter is seen as promoting a form of independence that is unavailable to many disabled people. Both are then loosely associated by Fenney with a neoliberal agenda in environmentalism.

The broader concern raised by Fenney is where in the environmental movement’s vision of the future will the disabled find themselves, how will their voice achieve inclusion and their concerns over social justice be met? Implicitly, alternative systems and their conceptualisations of freedom underlie this discussion. The modern (neo)liberal model of ‘freedom’ might be characterised as the individual holding others at a distance with dependency on high technology, machines, biotech and chemicals. The environmental movement has traditionally rejected this in preference for a low technology world based on community and explicitly recognising interdependence, where labour substitutes for capital. There are clearly many questions left unanswered by the environmental movement concerning diverging visions of the future, including the absence of implications for the disabled. However, environmentalism, especially eco-feminism, has strongly advocated a caring society in which issues of dependency and interdependency are made explicit, rather than hidden by production chains, technology and patriarchy.

In addition, the case made by Fenny does not establish any necessary link between environmentalism and abelism/disablism. For example, why does cycling need to be regarded as so exclusionary? Whether two, three, four or more wheeled there are many forms of locomotion that can be powered by humans singly or in numbers and be inclusive of different (dis)abilities as well as passengers. Perhaps the UK remains unfamiliar with the variety of machines available, but the idea that recommending cycling need necessarily be problematic and discriminatory appears to be in part based upon a limited conception of the options. The structural limits in the current infrastructure that favour cars also affects the imagination of what is possible and creates dependencies. That cars are part of our environmental problems is indisputable.

I take Fenny’s point as being that too little thought is given to the implications of getting rid of cars in terms of the implications for disabled people who have lives currently dependent upon cars. Their concerns need to be voiced and addressed when cars are targeted or bikes promoted, but such polices should alsonot simply be equated with discrimination per se.

Fenny notes that there is a growing (physically and mentally) disabled population and states that it is already approximately one-fifth of the UK population. Clearly the able do become the disabled as population ages, and there is an element of denial of this basic fact in Western society with its emphasis on health and beauty as youth. While Fenny presents the case for why transformation to environmental futures is inadequately addressing the issue, there is also a more general problem for the environmental movement here.

Social ecological transformation is discussed as requiring major systemic change, and for many that means changing away from modernist utopias (Spash, 2015b). The scale of change required in removing fossil fuels from the economy is far-reaching and involves major distributive impacts. All those with dependencies on the structures of modernity, its technologies, energy and material intensive devices are vulnerable. The environmental movement needs to seriously consider and address the implications rather than pretending everything can be substituted and energy transition will be straightforward. Environmental policy is no more a win-win than any other policy; different polices change winners and losers. For the environmental movement, some specific groups, practices and ways of life are deliberately the target of change because they are deemed exploitative, unjust and unethical. Societal change is an inherently value laden and political issue.

Currently major societal change occurs through undemocratic imposition of technology and infrastructure at the behest of minority interests, while the majority are just along for the ride, whether they like it or not. The rise of nationalism accompanied by militarisation and securitisation justifies exploitation of others who must be outcompeted in the fight for resources to maintain national and corporate economic growth. The depoliticising pragmatism of the environmental movement means loss of both direction and voice. The central issue, which was the reason for an environmental movement in the first place, is: how can different people live together and find meaning in their lives without engaging in the environmental degradation and mistreatment of others, both human and non-human, that is central to the currently dominant economic system?

Download the paper:

2017 Spash Env_Nationalism_Corporate_Capitalism EV_24_4

References

Adams, B. 2017. ‘Sleeping with the enemy? Biodiversity conservation, corporations
and the green economy. Journal of Political Ecology 24: 243–257.

Baskin, J. 2015. ‘Paradigm dressed as epoch: The ideology of the anthropocene’.
Environmental Values 24(1): 9–29. Crossref

Chalmers, P. 2012. Fraudcast News: How Bad Journalism Supports Our Bogus
Democracies. Milton Keynes: Lightning Source Ltd.

Coyne, L. 2017. ‘Phenomenology and teleology: Hans Jonas’s philosophy of life’.
Environmental Values 26(3): 297–315. Crossref

D’Amato, D., N. Droste, S. Chan and A. Hofer. 2017. ‘The green economy: Pragmatism
or revolution? Perceptions of young researchers on social ecological transformation’.

Environmental Values 24(4): 413–435.

Davies, W., S. Wright and J. Van Alstine. 2017. ‘Framing a “climate
change frontier”: International news media coverage surrounding
natural resource development in Greenland’. Environmental Values 24(4): 481–502.

Fenney, D. 2017. ‘Ableism and disablism in the UK environmental movement’.
Environmental Values 24(4): 503–522.

Hari, J. 2010. ‘The wrong kind of Green’. The Nation. https://www.thenation.com/
article/wrong-kind-green-2/.

Holmes, G. 2011. ‘Conservation’s friends in high places: Neoliberalism, networks, and
the transnational conservation elite’. Global Environmental Politics 11(4): 1–21.

Crossref
Kapp, K.W. 1978. ‘The Social Costs of Business Enterprise. Nottingham: Spokesman.
O’Neill, J.F. 2001. ‘Representing people, representing nature, representing the world’.
Environment & Planning C: Government & Policy 9(4): 483–500. Crossref
Parry, L.J. 2017. ‘Don’t put all your speech-acts in one basket: Situating animal activism
in the deliberative system’. Environmental Values 24(4): 437–455.
Quist, L.-M. and P. Rinne. 2017. ‘The politics of justification: Newspaper representations
of environmental conflict between fishers and the oil industry in Mexico’.
Environmental Values 24(4): 457–479.
Spash, C.L. 2009. ‘The new environmental pragmatists, pluralism and sustainability’.
Environmental Values 18(3): 253–256. Crossref
Spash, C.L. 2012. ‘Green economy, red herring’. Environmental Values 21(2): 95–99.
Crossref
Spash, C.L. 2015a. ‘The dying planet index: Life, death and man’s domination of
Nature’. Environmental Values 24(1): 1–7. Crossref
Spash, C.L. 2015b. ‘Tackling climate change, breaking the frame of modernity’.
Environmental Values 24(4): 437–444. Crossref
Spash, C.L. 2016a. ‘The political economy of the Paris Agreement on human induced
climate change: A brief guide’. Real World Economics Review 75(June): 67–75.
Spash, C.L. 2016b. ‘This changes nothing: The Paris Agreement to ignore reality’.
Globalizations 13(6): 928–933. Crossref
Spash, C.L. and Ryan, A. 2012. ‘Economic schools of thought on the environment:
Investigating unity and division’. Cambridge Journal of Economics 36(5): 1091–
1121. Crossref
Vetlesen, A.J. 2015. The Denial of Nature: Environmental Philosophy in the Era of
Capitalism. Abindgdon and New York: Routledge.

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

A Fixed Mentality

The San Franciscan

December 1, 2015

by Jay Taber

Gates Energy

US President Barack Obama, Microsoft CEO Bill Gates and heads of state attend the ‘Mission Innovation: Accelerating the Clean Energy Revolution’ meeting at COP21. The Breakthrough Energy Coalition includes Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg and Virgin Group head Richard Branson [Photograph: Ian Langsdon/AFP/Getty Images][Source]

In 2014 the Energy Foundation/Fund in San Francisco (assets $100 Million) granted four million to Sierra Club Foundation, a couple million to Natural Resources Defense Council, as well as $665,000 to Earth Justice (Sierra Club), $565,000 to Environmental Defense Fund, and $335,000 to CERES. Smaller grants went to Seattle area groups: $30,000 to Washington Environmental Council, $15,000 to Sightline Institute (a climate think tank that promotes Bill Gates) and $7,500 to Re-Sources.

 

Laying the groundwork for a fixed mentality behind the ‘clean energy’ Ponzi scheme led by Gates, these beneficiaries become its cheerleaders. Spreading money around to media, environmental groups and think tanks that supply them with ideas ensures compliance with the Ponzi agenda.

Compromising celebrities with strong environmental creds ensures they will maintain silence about elite fraud. The hush money Ford, Rockefeller, Gates and Buffett invested in this is augmented by oil companies and financial institutions that benefit from the fraud.

Following the money is challenging, since they routinely launder it through private and public foundations, as well as brokerages that make small grants. This way, no one examines the source of the money or the agenda that controls its use, let alone the overall actual purpose, as opposed to the stated purpose.

The payoff for this financial elite investment is potentially well above the bank bailouts of 2008-2009, that devastated the US economy. The climate bail out funds from public treasuries worldwide could easily eclipse that.

 

 

 

[Jay Thomas Taber (O’Neal) derives from the most prominent tribe in Irish history, nEoghan Ua Niall, the chief family in Northern Ireland between the 4th and the 17th centuries. Jay’s ancestors were some of the last great leaders of Gaelic Ireland. His grandmother’s grandfather’s grandfather emigrated from Belfast to South Carolina in 1768. Jay is an associate scholar of the Center for World Indigenous Studies, a correspondent to Forum for Global Exchange, and a contributing editor of Fourth World Journal. Since 1994, he has served as communications director at Public Good Project, a volunteer network of researchers, analysts and activists engaged in defending democracy. As a consultant, he has assisted indigenous peoples in the European Court of Human Rights and at the United Nations. Email: tbarj [at] yahoo.com Website: www.jaytaber.com]

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

The Art of Annihilation

April 23, 2014

Part four of an investigative series by Cory Morningstar

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

 

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

 

naturebarcode1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

+++

Marketing a Fallacy

There-is-No-Alternative

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

Under Empire, All Life is Imperiled

index6

One Year On

Counterpunch Weekend Edition May 24-26, 2013

by JAVIER SETHNESS CASTRO

“After the catastrophes that have happened, and in view of the catastrophes to come, it would be cynical to say that a plan for a better world is manifested in history and unites it.”

– Theodor W. Adorno, Negative Dialectics

Channeling Adorno, it would I think prove difficult today to characterize the prevailing world-situation as anything other than highly negative.  Such an interpretation is arguably seen most readily in reflection on environmental matters—specifically, the ever-worsening climate emergency, not to mention other worrying signs of the ecological devastation wrought by the capitalist system.

The John Stauber Interview

johnstauber-newleftnow-

New Left Now

April 25, 2013

 

New Left Now: It’s great to talk with you today, John. I came across your Counterpunch article, The Progressive Movement is a PR Front for Rich Democrats recently, and New Left Now is keen to talk to you about it and related fronts. So, if I understand your take on this, the progressive movement is largely ineffectual, and for some fairly obvious reasons. What role does the Congressional Progressive Caucus have to play in the mix here? Why have we not seen more efficacy in what they purport to do or represent?

The Philanthropic Complex

In the aftermath of the British Petroleum disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, no one understands the importance of environmentalism better than the stockholders of BP.  They will be very happy for environmental groups to put pressure on the oil industry to provide more safety for deep sea drilling.  But they are most unlikely to welcome the end of deep sea drilling itself, and putting an end to the reign of corporations is utterly beyond the pale.

In the fall of 2009 I was approached by Hal Clifford, executive editor of Orion Magazine, and asked to write an essay about American philanthropy, especially in relation to environmentalism. From the first I was dubious about the assignment. I said, “Not-for-profit organizations like you cannot afford to attack philanthropy because if you attack one foundation you may as well attack them all. You’ll be cutting your own throat.”

Hal assured me that while all this might be true someone had to take up the issue, and Orion was willing to do so. And I was the right person to write the essay precisely because I was not an insider but simply an honest intelligence. So, with many misgivings I said I’d try.

I interviewed about a dozen people on both sides of the field, both givers and getters, and some in the middle. The people I spoke to were eager to articulate their grievances even if they were just as eager to be anonymous. I also should acknowledge that the development of these grievances was no doubt colored by my own experiences as a board member and president of the board of two not-for-profit organizations in the arts.

After working for several months writing and revising the essay, Hal Clifford announced that he would be leaving Orion. My first thought was “uh-oh.” The editor-in-chief, Chip Blake, took over my essay and at that point things got dicey. Ultimately he explained that he hadn’t been fully aware of my assignment, that he hadn’t known the essay would be an attack on “the oligarchy,” that it didn’t seem to be fully a part of the magazine’s usual interests, and that–fatally–from the magazine’s point of view publishing the essay would be an exercise in “self-mutilation.”

Which was exactly what I said at the beginning! They had come to their senses even if it had taken a long time and cost me a lot of work to get there.

But, secretly, I was pleased. This editorial catastrophe was the best possible confirmation of everything I argue in the essay.

Part One:

What Organizations Experience

In the United States, everyone may enjoy freedom of speech so long as it doesn’t matter.  For those who would like what they say to matter, freedom of speech is very expensive. It is for this reason that organizations with a strong sense of public mission but not much money are dependent on the “blonde child of capitalism,” private philanthropy. This dependence is true for both conservative and progressive causes, but there is an important difference in the philanthropic cultures that they appeal to.

The conservative foundations happily fund “big picture” work.  They are eager to be the means for disseminating free market, anti-government ideology. Hence the steady growth and influence of conservative think-tanks like the Heritage Foundation, Accuracy in Media, the American Majority Institute, the Cato Institute, the Brookings Institute, the Manhattan Institute, the Hoover Institute, and on (and frighteningly) on.

On the other hand, progressive foundations may understand that the organizations they fund have visions, but it’s not the vision that they will give money to. In fact, foundations are so reluctant to fund “public advocacy” of progressive ideas that it is almost as if they were afraid to do so. If there is need for a vision the foundation itself will provide it. Unfortunately, according to one source, the foundation’s vision too often amounts to this: “If we had enough money, and access to enough markets, and enough technological expertise, we could solve all the problems.” The source concludes that such a vision “doesn’t address sociological and spiritual problems.”

Indeed.

The truth is that organizations whose missions foreground the “sociological and spiritual” go mostly without funding. Take for instance the sad tale of the Center for the New American Dream (NAD), created in 1997 by Betsy Taylor (herself a funder with the Merck Family Fund).  NAD’s original mission statement gave a priority to “quality of life” issues.

We envision a society that values more of what matters—not just more…a new emphasis on non-material values like financial security, fairness, community, health, time, nature, and fun.

This is exactly the sort of “big picture” that philanthropy has been mostly unwilling to fund because, it argues, it is so difficult to provide “accountability” data for issues like “work and time” and “fun” (!).  (To which one might reasonably reply, “Why do you fund only those things that are driven by data?”)

In any event, in 2007 NAD ran an enormous deficit, $500,000 in a budget of less than $2,000,000.  In 2008, however, NAD staged a remarkable recovery.  Suddenly, its restricted grants grew from $234,000 in 2007 to $647,000 in 2008.  The cavalry, apparently, had arrived.  NAD’s savior was the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Foundation which had given a restricted grant of $350,000 for 2008.

Good news except that the money did not fund NAD’s vision; it was restricted to a narrow project.  NAD was now in the bottled water business, as in “don’t buy bottled water.”  NAD’s 2008 Take Action! section in its newsletters was devoted to the Goldman Gospel: get local athletic teams off bottled beverages, etc.  In short, a visionary organization had become a money chaser.

One source summarized the general situation in this way, “Progressive funders say all things are connected, but act as if all things are disconnected.  Conservative funders never argue that all things are connected, but then they act—and spend money—as if they were.”

§

 One of the most maddening experiences for those who seek the support of private philanthropy is the lack of transparency, that is, the difficulty of knowing why the foundation makes the decisions it makes. In fact, most foundations treat this “lack” as a kind of privilege: our reasons are our own.  One of the devices employed by philanthropy for maintaining this privilege is what I call the mystique of the foundation’s Secret Wisdom.

So you want to ask, “What do you know that I don’t know?  What do you know that makes your decisions wise?”  The closest thing to an answer you’re likely to hear is something like this: “The staff met with some Board members last night to discuss your proposal, and we’re very interested in it.  But we don’t think that you have the capacity [a useful bit of jargon that means essentially that the organization should give up on what it thought it was going to do] to achieve these goals.  So what we’d suggest is that you define a smaller project that will allow you to test your abilities [read: allow you to do something that you have little interest in but that will suck up valuable staff time like a Hoover].  Meanwhile, we’d like to meet with your Board in six months and see where you are.”

And on you go one year at a time. But cheer up, you’ve made your budget for the year!

The uncertainty and opacity of this reality leave organizations frustrated and bewildered. No matter how many meetings are held, no matter how carefully the questions are posed, the fundamentals remain maddeningly elusive. It is as if grant seekers were Kafka’s K in The Trial searching absurdly for someone to tell him exactly what crime he has committed.

The foundation has money but it has no organic idea (no idea that is native to its being) what to do with it.  Perhaps the foundation really would like to help someone somewhere, but it can’t quite bring itself simply to trust the organizations it funds and set them free to do their work, in part because it fears that once freed this intelligence and competence might produce results not in keeping with the interests of the foundation.

Not wanting to acknowledge that brutal fact, all that the foundation is left with is the chilling satisfaction of its own undiminished and unaccountable authority. None of this, of course, can be said, least of all by the organizations that are still hoping for support.

Like the system of patronage that served the arts and charity from the Renaissance through the 18th century, private foundations have the rarest privilege of all: they do not have to explain themselves. They do not have to justify the origins of their wealth, or how they use that wealth, or what the real benefit of their largesse is.

 §

In the end, what the foundation can be trusted to understand is not forest health, or climate change, or the imperatives of recycling; what it can be trusted to understand is the thing that gives it its privileges: its endowment.  Unfortunately, managing how the endowment is invested often leads to conflicts with the stated social purpose of the foundation.

For example, one of the emerging controversies in the world of private philanthropy is the 95-5 question.  Foundations are required to give away just 5% of their endowment each year.  The other 95% is invested.  But invested where?  Environmentalists are particularly sensitive to this question because if the money is invested in companies that continue to pollute, you have a very disturbing reality.  5% does (theoretical) good while 95% does demonstrable bad: chasing profits in the same old dirty and irresponsible way.

This issue came to a head when the Los Angeles Times concluded a long investigation into the investment practices of foundations by revealing that the Gates Foundation funded a polio vaccination clinic in Ebocha, Nigeria, in the shadow of a giant petroleum processing plant in which the Gates Foundation was invested.

The Los Angeles Times report states:

But polio is not the only threat Justice [a Nigerian child] faces. Almost since birth, he has had respiratory trouble. His neighbors call it “the cough.” People blame fumes and soot spewing from flames that tower 300 feet into the air over a nearby oil plant. It is owned by the Italian petroleum giant Eni, whose investors include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Say what you like about the need to invest wisely for the future of the foundation, but this is prima facie evidence of a deep moral conflict not just at Gates but in all of private philanthropy.  The simple fact is that most boards actually don’t know if their investments and their missions align.  When pushed on the matter, most foundations respond as Gates did:  investments are the foundation’s private concern and no business of ours.

But the problem remains, when organizations receive funding, what confidence do they have that this happy money is not itself the expression of a distant destruction?  (Perhaps your funder owns stock in British Petroleum.  Of course, for the people of Louisiana, that’s anything but distant.)  When philanthropy proceeds without acknowledging this reality, it proceeds without conscience.  It proceeds pathologically.  It destroys the thing it claims to love.  And it makes the organizations it funds complicit.

§

 Because this culture of unaccountable authority is rarely challenged, especially by the organizations that receive funding, the foundations become little more than, as one source put it, dramas of “self-aggrandizement.”—the lavish year-end celebrations in which many indulge being a particularly noxious demonstration. They like to be thanked for their generosity, and they like the warm feeling of virtue that washes over them when they receive their thanks.

It is as if they could not tell which was the more worthy: the organization for its work or the foundation itself for its generosity.  You can sense this tension in the films that the big  foundations underwrite for PBS.  “Support is provided by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation,” emblazed on the screen with heraldic force, as if it had been struck with a single blow into brass.

Without an understanding of this psychology, it’s difficult to explain the most perplexing question asked of private philanthropy: why do most foundations give away only 5% of their endowment each year, the legal minimum?

Let’s say the funding is going to address the problem of global warming.  If that problem must be successfully addressed within the next two decades, if it’s really the critical moral issue of our time, or any time, why spend only 5%?  For a simple reason: spending 5% annually will allow the foundation to do its work into eternity. Sadly, a world without a livable climate is easier for the philanthropist to imagine than a world without the dear old family foundation.

 §

Most of the sources that I contacted for this essay requested anonymity.  The reasons for this may be obvious and hardly worth mentioning except that what’s hardly worth mentioning is a powerful emotion: fear.  Fear of losing a grant or a job, fear of harming a client, or fear of becoming persona non grata in the field. Everyone has skin in the game, so “discretion is the better part of valor,” as Falstaff put it. One source spoke of being threatened with blackballing by one wealthy donor.  His error? He’d supported Ralph Nader rather than Barack Obama.

Mark Dowie reports in his book Losing Ground that in the early 1990s the Pew Charitable Trust entered the fray over public land forestry.  Josh Reichert, Pew’s environmental program officer, created a foundation coalition, the National Environmental Trust, to address forestry among other issues.  Once the money was held out, large organizations like the Sierra Club fell in line, talked the talk, and took the money.

The downside was that this program was not allowed to consider a “zero cut” position.  The organization would be about moderating policy on behalf of corporate interests.  Smaller, more principled organizations like the Native Forest Council were “left out in the cold.”  But Reichert was unapologetic.  According to Dowie, “Reichert stipulated that no one advocating zero cut, criticizing corporations by name, or producing ads that did so would be eligible for membership in the forest coalition—or for funding.”

All of this leads to the reasonable assumption that to criticize is to invite punishment.  All that’s left is a lot of smiling and bad faith.

Part Two:

Why Organizations Experience What They Experience

In the end, philanthropy wants the wrong thing.  It may think that it ought to want what the lovers-of-nature want, but its actions reveal that, come what may, it loves other things first: the maintenance of its privileges, the survival of its self-identity, and the stability of the social and economic systems that made it possible in the first place.

This is not an inhuman feeling.  As Nietzsche put it, it is “all-too-human.”  The people who live within the culture of wealth can’t do the things that grassroots environmentalists want them to do without feeling that they are dying.  They can’t fund the creation of ideas that are hostile to their very existence; they can’t abandon control over the projects they do fund because they fear freedom in others; and they can’t give away all of their wealth (“spending out”) without feeling like they’ve become the Wicked Witch of the West (“I’m melting!”). Instead, philanthropy clings to the assumption of its virtues. Its very being, it tells itself, is the doing of good. It cannot respond to criticism because to do so might lead it to self-doubt, might lead it to honesty.  And that would be fatal.

The great paradox of environmental philanthropy is this: How do institutions founded on property, wealth, and privilege (in short, plutocrats) seek to address the root source of environmental destruction if that source is essentially the unbridled use of property, wealth, and privilege?   And yet when we ask that foundations abandon their privileges and simply provide funding so that we activists can do our work without hindrance, what the foundation hears is a request that they will their own destruction.  Not unreasonably, they are bewildered by the suggestion and unwilling to do so.

 §

There’s an old saying on the Left that goes something like this: Capitalism accepts the idea that it will have enemies, but if it must have enemies it will create them itself and in its own image.  In fact, it needs them in the same way that it needs the federal government: as a limit on its own natural destructiveness.

The periodic Wall Street meltdown aside, the most dramatic problem facing capitalism for the last thirty years has been its tendency to destroy the very world in which it acts: the environmental crisis in all its manifestations.  The response to this crisis has been the growth of the mainstream environmental movement, especially the Environmental Protection Agency and what we call Big Green (the Sierra Club, et. al.).  But, it should go without saying, Big Green was not the pure consequence of an up-swelling of popular passion; it was also the creation of philanthropic, federal, and corporate “gift giving”.

For instance, the Natural Resources Defense Council was created by the Ford Foundation, just as Pew created the National Environmental Fund.  (Pew itself was first endowed with money from the Sun Oil Company.  At its inception, Pew’s political views were deeply conservative.  It advocated free markets and small government, and funded the John Birch Society.)  These large environmental organizations are more dependent on federal and foundation support, and accordingly tend to take a “soft” line on economic and industrial reform.  As Mark Dowie reports, “They are safe havens for foundation philanthropy, for their directors are sensitive to the economic orthodoxies that lead to the formation of foundations and careful not to do anything that might diminish the benefactor’s endowment.”

As with the Environmental Protection Agency, Big Green is not so much an enemy as a self-regulator within the capitalist state itself.   The Sierra Club is not run by visionary rebels, it is upper management.  It really does have effects that are beneficial to the environment (many!), but in no way are those benefits part of an emerging new world that is hostile to the industries that are the most immediate origin of environmental destruction.

Consequently, a given industry may attack environmentalism when it interferes with its business, but the plutocracy as such is dependent on Big Green and will regularly replenish its coffers so that it may stay in existence, never mind the occasional annoyance for an oil company that wants to spread its rigs and pipelines across delicate tundra.

Capitalism has taught environmentalism how to protect it from itself.  Federal and philanthropic funding allows Big Green to play a forceful national role, but it also provides the means for managing and limiting the ambitions of environmentalism: no fundamental change. Sadly left out of negotiations between government, industry and environmental NGOs are the communities of people who must live with whatever decision is reached. As Paula Swearengin of Beckley, West Virginia, commented after House Republicans stripped the EPA of its authority to refuse a permit for yet another project for mountain top coal mining, “The people of Appalachia are treated like we’re just disposable casualties of the coal industry. We live in the land of the lost, because nobody wants to hear us.”

Will environmental philanthropy ever convince the federal government to limit the ability of the coal industry to destroy mountaintops in West Virginia?  Maybe. But will they seek to curb that industry’s constitutional freedom to deploy capital in their ruinous “pursuit of happiness”?  No.  Absolutely not.  In the aftermath of the British Petroleum disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, no one understands the importance of environmentalism better than the stockholders of BP.  They will be very happy for environmental groups to put pressure on the oil industry to provide more safety for deep sea drilling.  But they are most unlikely to welcome the end of deep sea drilling itself, and putting an end to the reign of corporations is utterly beyond the pale.

Philanthropy and the organizations it funds are what they are.  They are not in the revolution business.  They are in risk management.

G

Curtis White is a novelist and social critic. His recent work includes The Barbaric Heart: Money, Faith, and the Crisis of Nature and Requiem, a novel.

ENVIROS CRAFT POLITICAL SUICIDE PACT FOR U.S. DEMSOCRATS ON CLIMATE CHANGE

Note: Any politically sentient being should understand that if the strategy suggested below prevails, Democrats will have given Republicans a sword through which it will be even more possible for Republicans to capture Congress. Such a strategy, as suggested below, would allow Republicans to attack Democrats through the rest of the year and certainly into the elections saying that Democrats are plotting to pass cap and trade in a lame duck Congress. While, in truth, there are not and will not be the votes to do that, it will unecessarily provide Republicans with such powerful ammo, that Republican pollsters will likely consider sending the Democratic leaders, and their politcally inept environmental group enablers, a big thank you card after the elections. One can only hope that sanity will prevail.

Environmentalists are pressing Biden and President Barack Obama to amp up their whip operations to give the legislation a chance of passing Congress this year. But one source from a major advocacy group said Wednesday that another option is for the Senate to pass a pared back energy measure now and then go to conference during a lame-duck session with the House-passed climate bill that includes greenhouse gas limits across multiple sectors of the economy. At that point, the source said, anything is possible.

Leaders from the Environmental Defense Fund, Sierra Club and Natural Resources Defense Council are scheduled to meet later Wednesday to map out strategy with Reid, Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Caucus Vice-Chairman Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).

POLITICO

Dems divided on energy bill
By: Darren Samuelsohn and Coral Davenport
July 21, 2010

Senate Democrats are increasingly divided over whether to move forward on any energy and climate bill in the coming weeks.

On one side are those who say it’s too late to move even a modest energy measure, and are urging colleagues to abandon their efforts and bring up a small package of offshore drilling reforms next week before heading home.

On the other are ardent liberals, who are mounting a last-ditch campaign to push through an ambitious climate bill with a cap on greenhouse gas emissions.

For months, many moderates in the caucus have said that trying to move a climate bill that caps carbon was a bridge too far for this Congress, and they have urged dropping the cap in favor of a modest “energy-only” bill that ramps up renewable energy.

But at a caucus meeting of Senate Democrats on Tuesday, the prevailing feeling was that even that measure doesn’t stand a chance, say people familiar with the meeting. “The meeting mood wasn’t exactly excited about the prospect of doing climate and energy next week,” said one source familiar with it, who also said “not to expect anything but a spill bill.”

West Virginia Democrat Jay Rockefeller said the reason for the mood is a growing expectation that Republicans will block any legislation that’s brought up. “We didn’t discuss [energy and climate] at all at the chairman’s meeting. And that should stun you,” Rockefeller told POLITICO on Wednesday. “We’re trying to figure out, can we do anything? Can we pass anything? Because their idea is they’re going to stop all legislation.”

But advocates of passing a climate bill aren’t backing down – particularly the leading champion for the legislation, Massachusetts Democrat John Kerry, who told POLITICO on Wednesday that he will keep plugging away so long as Congress is in session.

“No, it’s not dead because we’re going to have a lame-duck session and we have weeks ahead of us,” Kerry said. “And the issue is not going away as I’ve said 100,000 times. So it’s not dead at all.”

Kerry got fresh backing Wednesday afternoon from a cohort of twelve liberal Democrats, who wrote to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid demanding that any energy and climate legislation to be considered in the coming weeks include a cap on carbon emissions.

“ The single most important action we can take to reform our energy policy and make the United States a leader in the global clean energy economy is to make polluters pay for the pollution they emit,” the letter said. “President Obama has consistently called for establishing a price on carbon as part of any comprehensive clean energy legislation Congress passes.”

Democrats are expected to caucus again on Thursday to determine a path forward on a bill, which Reid hopes to bring to the floor next Monday. Democratic leadership aides said Wednesday that there may be a White House presence at Thursday’s meeting.

Kerry and his partner, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), expressed concern Tuesday about the bill’s prospects of reaching the floor before the August recess as electric utility companies press for more time to negotiate complicated provisions of a bill that places limits on their emissions before any other major industrial sector.
Reid had been aiming to release the energy and climate legislation ahead of a floor debate next week, but that schedule appears to be in jeopardy now because of difficulty in finding 60 votes on the carbon pricing piece and the utility industry’s pleadings for more time.

Still, Kerry on Wednesday said he wasn’t ready to rule out action next week. “I don’t even think that is out of the question,” he said. “We have to see where we are on utilities and we have to see where Harry wants to land.”

“Obviously, the clock is pressing on it,” Kerry added.

Kerry met Wednesday morning for breakfast with Vice President Joe Biden where the energy and climate issue came up only “marginally,” Kerry said. Instead, the meeting was mostly about foreign policy.

Environmentalists are pressing Biden and President Barack Obama to amp up their whip operations to give the legislation a chance of passing Congress this year. But one source from a major advocacy group said Wednesday that another option is for the Senate to pass a pared back energy measure now and then go to conference during a lame-duck session with the House-passed climate bill that includes greenhouse gas limits across multiple sectors of the economy. At that point, the source said, anything is possible.

Leaders from the Environmental Defense Fund, Sierra Club and Natural Resources Defense Council are scheduled to meet later Wednesday to map out strategy with Reid, Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Caucus Vice-Chairman Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).

Kerry and Lieberman said they will continue to work with the electric utility industry after meeting with several top CEOs on Tuesday. The power plant executives also met Tuesday with White House energy and climate adviser Carol Browner.

For now, prospects for the electric utility provisions remain uncertain in the Senate as both moderate Democrats and Republicans say they’re skeptical an agreement can be reached any time soon.

“There is a way in which you could build consensus,” Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) said on Tuesday. “But whether that can be part of any base energy bill really is highly questionable, I’d expect, because it’d be hard to build consensus on that particular question.”

Snowe said Democrats should consider offering the power plant-first proposal as an amendment to an energy bill, rather than place it in the underlying legislation. But Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio), who will unveil a bill later Wednesday to promote nuclear power, said there is no shot of a climate bill with carbon limits passing this year.

“This is going through the motions to satisfy your conference,” he said on Tuesday. “Anybody that’s being intellectually honest has got to say there’s no time to get anything done on climate.”

http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0710/40018.html

Why Big Green Must Die

May 17, 2010

Why Big Green Must Die

Salazar Unleashed

By JOHN HALLE

Following the announcement of the right wing rogues’ gallery which would serve as Obama’s cabinet, the appointment of Ken Salazar, a well known shill for the oil and gas industry, elicited comparatively little comment.

Among the few who managed to express their outrage was Kieran Suckling of the Center for Biological Diversity who described Salazar as “a right-of-center Democrat who often favors industry and big agricultural interests in battles over global warming, fuel efficiency and endangered species.” (See also Jeffrey St. Clair’s “Ken Salazar and the Tragedy of the Common Ground” and Obama’s Used Green Team and Phillip Doe’s “The Man in the Hat“.)

Those recalling the narcotized climate of the early Obama administration won’t be surprised that these other warnings were never heard underneath the waving of pom-poms and the mindless chanting of the mantra “It’s not the personnel, it’s the policy.”

That this phrase has now become a sick joke is the essential lesson of last Friday’s New York Times which reports that under Salazar’s stewardship “(t)he federal Minerals Management Service gave permission to BP and dozens of other oil companies to drill in the Gulf of Mexico.”

These were issued “without first getting required permits from another agency that assesses threats to endangered species — and despite strong warnings from that agency about the impact the drilling was likely to have on the gulf.”

In the weeks to come, as the true extent of the catastrophe emerges, more fingers will be pointed at Salazar, possibly even leading to his resignation.

But Salazar shouldn’t take the hit.

Who deserves the blame for Salazar are those who unleashed him on us.

These include Natural Resources Defense Council President Frances Beinecke who “welcome(d) the news” of Salazar’s appointment, noting that “Salazar’s own connection to the land gives me hope.”

No less effusive was Larry Schweiger, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, said, “Senator Ken Salazar as been “a champion for America’s public lands.”

The League of Conservation Voters Gene Karpinsky weighed in, praising Obama for “Filling his cabinet and administration with environmental stewards, dedicated staff, scientists and experts.”

Not to be outdone, Carl Pope of the Sierra Club described President Obama as “the Greenest President in history” specifically singling out Salazar for having “act(ed) on the scientific evidence that a disrupted climate means that federal land managers must take into account the need for connecting ecosystems to preserve their natural values.”

And so rather than turning him back, Salazar was provided with the Green stamp of approval with completely predictable consequences.

Those who deserve the blame are those whose silence mattered and who could have made a difference if they spoke. And whose complicity equalled death for the Gulf of Mexico.

If we didn’t know it by now, the lesson for us is patent:

For the environment to live, the big green groups, the enablers of Salazar, this and other environmental atrocities to come, must die.

John Halle is Director of Studies in Music Theory and Practice at Bard College. He can be reached at: halle

http://counterpunch.org/halle05172010.html

Campaign to Correct NRDC Continues at Bar Association

March 10, 2010

NRDC again was targeted for supporting gas drilling in NYS and beyond

By Kerry

A coordinated campaign to challenge the promotion of gas drilling by the Natural Resources Defense Council, a corporate-friendly environmental organization which has come under fire in recent years for its controversial stances, funding sources, and what-some-perceive as a Board of Directors with many conflicts of interests between their ties to polluting industry and the mission of the organization expanded into Midtown today.

Related: NRDC Blasted For Gas Drilling Support: Activists exposed NRDC’s support for gas drilling at Green Drinks event in West Village

Keywords: News, Bronx, Nature,

A coordinated campaign to challenge the promotion of gas drilling by the Natural Resources Defense Council, a corporate-friendly environmental organization which has come under fire in recent years for its controversial stances, funding sources, and what-some-perceive as a Board of Directors with many conflicts of interests between their ties to polluting industry and the mission of the organization expanded into Midtown today.

Activists crashed the event:

Marcellus Shale: Shall We Drill?

Co-sponsored by the New York City Bar Environmental Law Committee and the Environmental Law Institute

at the New York City Bar Association

the Moderator: Jeff Gracer, Sive, Paget & Riesel, P.C. and the Panelists: Kate Sinding, NRDC Thomas West, Counsel for Chesapeake Energy Corporation Hilary Meltzer, New York City Corporation Counsel’s Office The activity was promoted by the NYC Environmental Meetup Group although all of the panelists support gas drilling.

Fliers distributed stated: Stop Greenwash Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)

The NRDC has been an incredibly destructive force for the environmental movement in the United States. Now Greendrinks is providing legitimacy for this corporate “environmental” group.

But the NRDC supports gas drilling!

They have partnered with the worst polluting industry as part of the United States Climate Action Partnership to greenwash these industries’ role in polluting the local and global environment. USCAP advocates for: • Continued use of coal for decades • New Nuclear power plants • Targets for carbon stabilization of 450-550 ppm (when the entire world knows that 350 ppm is the outer limit of what we need to aim for to avoid catastrophic environmental destruction.

Ask NRDC to explain their betrayal inside. Or ask Greendrinks why NRDC is being allowed to our green party. Greendrinks has a sponsorship program – is NRDC appearing under that guise, and paying to present their greenwash?

See these websites for more information on NRDC polluter greenwash and the threat their support for ‘natural gas poses to the environment of New York State:

http://www.actforclimatejustice.org/tools-resources/mcj-take-on-corportate-polluters-and-corporate-environmental-organizations/ www.un-naturalgas.org

Stop Greenwash by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)

The NRDC has been an incredibly destructive force for the environmental movement in the United States. Now Greendrinks is providing legitimacy for this corporate “environmental” group. • But the NRDC supports gas drilling! • They have partnered with the worst polluting industry as part of the United States Climate Action Partnership to greenwash these industries’ role in polluting the local and global environment. USCAP advocates for: • Continued use of coal for decades • New Nuclear power plants • Targets for carbon stabilization of 450-550 ppm (when the entire world knows that 350 ppm is the outer limit of what we need to aim for to avoid catastrophic environmental destruction.

Ask NRDC to explain their betrayal inside. Or ask Greendrinks why NRDC is being allowed to our green party. Greendrinks has a sponsorship program – is NRDC appearing under that guise, and paying to present their greenwash?

See these websites for more information on NRDC polluter greenwash and the threat their support for ‘natural gas poses to the environment of New York State:

http://www.actforclimatejustice.org/tools-resources/mcj-take-on-corportate-polluters-and-corporate-environmental-organizations/ www.un-naturalgas.org

By Kerry http://www.climatesos.org/

Download Article (PDF) Add to PDF Compilation Download PDF Compilation