Archives

Tagged ‘neoliberalism‘

WATCH: Philanthropy is a Scam

TeleSUR

February 7, 2018

 

 

Bolivia’s TIPNIS Dispute: Example of How Liberal-Left Alternative Media Becomes a Conveyor Belt for US Regime Change Propaganda

Counterpunch

December 4, 2017

By Stansfield Smith

 

Pro-road CONISUR march

As has become a standard operating procedure, an array of Western environmental NGOs, advocates of indigenous rights and liberal-left alternative media cover up the US role in attempts to overturn the anti-imperialist and anti-neoliberal governments of Rafael Correa in Ecuador and Evo Morales in Bolivia.

This NACLA article is a recent excellent example of many. Bolivia’s TIPNIS (Territorio Indígena y Parque Nacional Isiboro Secure) dispute arose over the Evo Morales government’s project to complete a road through the park, opposed by some indigenous and environmental groups.

As is NACLA modus operandi, the article says not one word about US and rightwing funding and coordination with the indigenous and environmental groups behind the TIPNIS anti-highway protests. (This does not delegitimize the protests, but it does deliberately mislead people about the issues involved).

In doing so, these kinds of articles cover up US interventionist regime change plans, be that their intention or not.

NACLA is not alone in what is in fact apologetics for US interventionism. Include the Guardian, UpsideDownWorld, Amazon Watch, so-called “Marxist” Jeffery Webber (and here), Jacobin, ROAR,  Intercontinentalcry,  Avaaz, In These Times, in a short list of examples. We can add to this simply by picking up any articles about the protests in Bolivia’s TIPNIS (or oil drilling in Ecuador’s Yasuni during Rafael Correa’s presidency) and see what they say about US funding of protests, if they even mention it.

This is not simply an oversight, it is a cover-up.

What this Liberal Left Media Covers Up

On the issue of the TIPNIS highway, we find on numerous liberal-left alternative media and environmental websites claiming to defend the indigenous concealing that:

The leading indigenous group of the TIPNIS 2011-2012 protests was being funded by USAID. The Confederation of Indigenous Peoples of the Bolivian East (CIDOB) had no qualms about working with USAID — it boasted on its website that it received training programs from USAID. CIDOB president Adolfo Chavez, thanked the “information and training acquired via different programs financed by external collaborators, in this case USAID”.

 

The 2011 TIPNIS march was coordinated with the US Embassy, specifically Eliseo Abelo. His phone conversations with the march leaders – some even made right before the march set out — were intercepted by the Bolivian counter-espionage agency and made public.

 

“The TIPNIS marchers were openly supported by right wing Santa Cruz agrobusiness interests and their main political representatives, the Santa Cruz governorship and Santa Cruz Civic Committee.” In June 2011 indigenous deputies and right wing parties in the Santa Cruz departmental council formed an alliance against the MAS (Movement for Socialism, Evo Morales’s party). CIDOB then received a $3.5 million grant by the governorship for development projects in its communities.

 

Over a year after the TIPNIS protests, one of the protest leaders announced he was joining a rightwing anti-Evo Morales political party.

 

The protest leaders of the TIPNIS march supported REDD (Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation). The Avaaz petition (below) criticizing Evo Morales for his claimed anti-environmental actions also covered this up. As far back as 2009 “CIDOB leaders were participating there in a USAID-promoted workshop to talk up the imperialist-sponsored REDD project they were pursuing together with USAID-funded NGOs.”

REDD was a Western “environmental” program seeking to privatize forests by converting them into “carbon offsets” that allow Western corporations to continue polluting. That REDD would give Western NGOs and these indigenous groups funds for monitoring forests in their areas.

These liberal-left alternative media and environmental NGOs falsely presented the TIPNIS conflict as one between indigenous/environmentalist groups against the Evo Morales government. (e.g. the TIPNIS highway was “a project universally[!] condemned by local indigenous tribes and urban populations alike”) Fred Fuentes pointed out that more than 350 Bolivian organizations, including indigenous organizations and communities, even within TIPNIS, supported the proposed highway.

CONISUR (Consejo de Indígenas del Sur), consisting of a number of indigenous and peasant communities within TIPNIS, backed by Bolivia’s three largest national indigenous campesino organizations, organized a march to support of the road. They argued that the highway is essential to integrating Bolivia’s Amazonia with the rest of the country, as well as providing local communities with access to basic services and markets.

The overwhelming majority of people in the West who know about the TIPNIS protests, or the Yasuni protests in Ecuador, where a similar division between indigenous groups took place, never learned either from the liberal-left media or the corporate media, that indigenous groups marched in support of the highway or in support of oil drilling.

Therefore, this liberal-left media is not actually defending “the indigenous.” They are choosing sides within indigenous ranks, choosing the side that is funded and influenced by the US government.

The TIPNIS conflict is falsely presented as Evo Morales wanting to build a highway through the TIPNIS wilderness (“cutting it in half” as they dramatically claim). There are in fact two roads that exist there now, which will be paved and connected to each other. Nor was it wilderness: 20,000 settlers lived there by 2010.[1]

 

Anti- highway march leaders actually defended industrial-scale logging within TIPNIS. Two logging companies operated 70,000 hectares within the national park and have signed 20-year contracts with local communities.

 

They often fail to note that the TIPNIS marchers, when they reached La Paz, sought to instigate violence, demanding Evo Morales removal. Their plot was blocked by mobilization of local indigenous supporters of Evo’s government.

If we do not read Fred Fuentes in Green Left Weekly, we don’t find most of this information. Now, it is true that some of the media articles did mention that there were also TIPNIS protests and marches demanding the highway be built. Some do mention USAID, but phrase it as “Evo Morales claimed that those protesting his highway received USAID funding.”

Avaaz Petition Attacking Evo Morales over TIPNIS

The TIPNIS campaign, which became a tool in the US regime change strategy, was taken up in a petition by Avaaz. It included 61 signing groups. Only two from Bolivia! US signers included Amazon Watch, Biofuelwatch, Democracy Center, Food and Water Watch, Global Exchange, NACLA, Rainforest Action Network.  Whether they knew it, whether they wanted to know it, they signed on to a false account of the TIPNIS conflict, placed the blame on the Bolivian government, target of US regime change, and hid the role of the US.

US collaborators in Bolivia and Ecuador are painted as defenders of free expression, defenders of nature, defenders of the indigenous. The US government’s “talking points” against the progressive ALBA bloc countries have worked their way into liberal-left alternative media, which echo the attacks on these governments by organizations there receiving US funds.  That does not mean Amazon Watch, Upside Down World or NACLA are themselves funded by the US government – if it somehow exculpates them that they do this work for free. Even worse, much of this propaganda against Evo and Correa appears only in the liberal-left alternative press, what we consider our press.

The USAID budget for Latin America is said to be $750 million, but estimates show that the funding may total twice that. Maria Augusta Calle of Ecuador’s National Assembly, said in 2015 the US Congress allocated $2 billion to destabilize targeted Latin American countries.

This information, how much money it is, what organizations in the different countries receive it, how it is spent, ought to be a central focus of any liberal-left alternative media purporting to stand up for the oppressed peoples of the Americas.

Yet, as Fuentes points out:  “Overwhelmingly, solidarity activists uncritically supported the anti-highway march. Many argued that only social movements — not governments — can guarantee the success of [Bolivia’s] process of change…. with most articles written by solidarity activists, they] downplay the role of United States imperialism…. Others went further, denying any connection between the protesters and US imperialism.”

Why do they let themselves become conveyer belts for US regime change propaganda?

Why did this liberal-left media and NGOs let themselves become conveyer belts for US propaganda for regime change, legitimizing this US campaign to smear the Evo Morales government?

Some of it lies in the liberalish refusal to admit that all international issues can only be understood in the context of the role and the actions of the US Empire. As if conflicts related to countries the US deems hostile to its interests can be understood without taking the US role into account. Some liberal-left writers and groups do understand this, just as they do understand they may risk their positions and funding by looking to closely into it.

It seems easier to not see the role the Empire plays and simply present a liberal-left “critique” of the pluses and minuses of some progressive government targeted by the US. That is how these alternative media sources end up actually advocating for indigenous groups and environmental NGOs which are US and corporate funded. They even criticize countries for defending national sovereignty by shutting down these non-governmental organizations, what Bolivian Vice-President Linera exposes as “foreign government financed organizations” operating in their countries.

Some of it lies in the widely held anti-authoritarian feeling in the US that social movements “from below” are inherently good and that the government/the state is inherently bad. The reporting can be informative on social movements in Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Colombia where the people struggle against state repression. But when these social movements in Ecuador or Bolivia were able to win elections and gain hold of some real state power, reporting soon becomes hostile and misleading. “Support social movements when they struggle against governmental power; oppose them once they win government power,” they seem to say. Their reporting slides into disinformation, undermining our solidarity with other struggles, and covering up US regime change efforts. UpsideDownWorld is an excellent example of this.

Some of it lies in what many who call themselves “left” still have not come to terms with: their own arrogant white attitude they share with Western colonizers and present day ruling elites: we know better than you what is good for you, we are the best interpreters and defenders of your socialism, your democracy, your human rights. They repeatedly critique real or imagined failures of progressive Third World governments – targets of the US.

Genuine solidarity with the peoples of the Third World means basing yourself in opposition to the Empire’s interference and exposing how it attempts to undermine movements seeking to break free from the Western domination.

Some of it lies in deep-rooted white racist paternalism in their romanticizing the indigenous as some “noble savage” living at one with nature in some Garden of Eden. Providing these people with schools, health clinics, modern conveniences we have, is somehow felt not to be in their best interests.

A serious analysis of a Third World country must begin with the role the West has played.  To not point out imperialism’s historic and continuing exploitive role is simply dishonest, it is apologetics, it shows a basic lack of human feeling for the peoples of the Third World.

A function of corporate media is to conceal Western pillaging of Third World countries, to cheerlead efforts to restore neocolonial-neoliberal governments to power. However, for liberal-left media and organizations to do likewise, even if halfway, is nothing other than supporting imperialist interference.

Notes.

[1] Linda C.  Farthing, Benjamin H. Kohl Evo’s Bolivia: Continuity and Change (2014: 52)

 

[Stansfield Smith, Chicago ALBA Solidarity Committee, recently returned from a SOA Watch, Task Force on the Americas delegation to Venezuela.]

Reclaim Conservation: Activists & Communities Vs. Mainstream Conservation Myths

Reclaim Conservation

December 9, 2017

There are myriad definitions of the term “environmental conservation” and hundreds of ideologies and methods being utilised worldwide in an attempt to conserve habitats and biodiversity. At present, what is clear is that conservation efforts as a whole are failing. While there is increasing, large-scale financial investment in conservation efforts worldwide, positive results from this investment remains to be seen. Indeed, the species extinction crisis, destruction of habitat and climate change continue unabated and pose increasingly severe threats to the natural world.

Mainstream conservation institutions are increasingly modelling themselves on, and indeed directly reliant upon, commercial businesses. Being part of the dominant economic establishment positions these NGOs as conflicted in their ability (and desire) to take effective action against the root cause of environmental degradation which unarguably stems from uncontrolled capitalist exploitation, accompanied by corruption, broken nation states and a burgeoning world leadership crisis. These large NGOs cannot challenge these overarching systems of oppression because they have become part of them. By ignoring the “bigger picture” and the real cause of the problems that they claim to be concerned with tackling and offering superficial, insincere solutions, the big NGOs cause severe damage to our world in that they control the vast majority of resources and funding to ostensibly support conservation efforts, but fail to use it where it is most needed and thus fail to create any meaningful change or positive results.

In order to justify their failure, they have developed discourses blaming local people for being either greedy destroyers of nature or ignorant savages who lack the intelligence or motivation to work to preserve their own environment. Nature is being ascribed economic value and local people are being offered financial “compensation” in order to ensure they do not interfere with the work of the powerful NGOs. Grassroots activism and new, radical approaches to conservation are demonised and accused of “getting in the way” of the “real conservationists” (the large NGOs) in order to distract people from seeing activists’ real potential as capable of creating a new reality. Funds are being blocked from reaching either community conservationists or activists, ensuring that the powerful retain control and those uniquely positioned to dismantle the ineffective and damaging status quo are prevented from accessing the resources and opportunities that are required to make real change.

This situation must change, Reclaim Conservation, through activist work with communities, whistle-blowers and law enforcement, through academia, mass and social medias, will prove and inform the public that:

Conservation is activism

Conservation is against corruption

Conservation is against all kinds of discriminations

Conservation is against right wing, capitalist exploitation

Conservation is compassion

If not, conservation will just not work!

 

www.reclaimconservation.org

Silencing Dissent – From Ronald to Donald

WKOG op-ed

by Jay Taber

November 2, 2017

 

California Gov. Ronald Reagan, flanked by executive secretary Edwin Meese III, left; Alameda County Sheriff Frank I. Madigan, second from right, and California Highway Patrol Commissioner H.W. Sullivan, right, proclaims “a state of extreme emergency” exists at the University of California, Berkeley, on February 6, 1969. Reagan called on legislators to enact measures to deal with militant student and faculty members. (Sacramento Bee/MCT)
(Sacramento Bee Photo, 2/6/69)

 

Neoliberalism is a quaint term, that when applied to its leading lights like Obama and Hillary, seems almost benign. Who could be against the first Black president of the US, and his heir apparent, potentially the first woman president of the US?

Neoliberalism, however, is rooted in the Reagan Revolution of 1980, when this long-time fascist and former Hollywood FBI anti-Communist snitch teamed up with Ed Meese, the former Bay Area anti-free speech prosecutor, to create the most criminal U.S. administration in history. Oddly, when campaigning for president in 2008, Obama publicly announced that his ideological mentor was Ronald Reagan.

While Reagan’s term as Governor of California in the 1960s was replete with FBI collusion against the Free Speech movement, initiated by students at UC Berkeley, his career as an informer during the HUAC witch hunts against Hollywood screenwriters and actors were his formative years.  The fact Obama chose him as his guiding light says something definitive about Neoliberalism.

Silencing dissent isn’t new to the White House; Bush and Obama both had the FBI arrest innocent protesters and journalists in order to keep democracy down.

The difference with Trump is that his Justice Department under U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions–a long-time opponent of civil rights–is out to imprison those it perceives as subversives under conspiracy to riot for merely being in proximity to people who commit vandalism. Like Reagan’s AG Ed Meese, Sessions appears fixated on violating Constitutional guarantees of free speech and lawful dissent.

On August 30, with assistance from the U.S. Department of Justice, the Whatcom County (WA) prosecutor obtained a warrant to access confidential information on the Red Line Salish Sea (NoDAPL) indigenous treaty rights activists’ Facebook page. In its press release, Red Line notes that, “The US Department of Justice used the same method in an attempt to serve a warrant to access the webpage J20 where they sought names of people who attended anti-inauguration events when Trump took office.”

With yesterday’s news that hundreds of J20 defendants face up to 70 years in prison for being present when police arbitrarily arrested large crowds of peaceful people, Trump takes a stride toward institutionalizing American fascism.

 

 

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

 

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

WKOG

August 30, 2017

 

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

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

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

Gretchen Daily

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Links:

Mark Tercek, CEO of The Nature Conservancy interviews Gretchen Daily

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

Mark Tercek on Hank Paulson and Gretchen Daily

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

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

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

Bob Costanza

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

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

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

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

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

Links:

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

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

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

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

Greenwashing Capitalism: Conservation’s Cosy Relationship with Corporations

Conservation Watch

By Chris Lang

March 21, 2017

Since the year 2000, there have been many partnerships between conservation organisations and the industrial corporations responsible for destroying nature. Mining companies are particularly popular.

A new paper by William M. Adams published in the Journal of Polical Ecology explores the “surprising closeness and apparent warmth of the relations between biodiversity conservation organisations and corporations”.

The paper is titled, “Sleeping with the enemy? Biodiversity conservation, corporations and the green economy”, and can be downloaded here.

Adams traces the partnerships between conservation organisations and the mining industry to a series of initiatives starting in the 1990s:

1997: Conservation International published Reinventing the well, a report on “minimizing the environmental and social impacts of oil development in the tropics”.

1998: a Global Mining Initiative, “to provide sustainable leadership for the mining and minerals industry in the areas of our economic, social and environmental performance”.

1999: The World Business Council for Sustainable Development began a Mining, Minerals and Sustainable Development project.

1999: Rio Tinto started working with Conservation International.

2000: Conservation International published a report on large-scale mining, titled, Lightening the lode.

2001: The International Council on Mining and Metals was formed, “to act as a catalyst for performance improvement in the mining, minerals and metals industry”.

2000–2002:The Mining Minerals and Sustainable Development Project, a research collaboration between the WBCSD and IIED.

Adams argues that,

[C]onservationists are turning a blind eye to their own past and to the working of neoliberal capitalism, showing a remarkable willingness to entertain future risks to biodiversity from the outworking of neoliberalism.

Conservation has been transformed by neoliberalism. Instead of looking at how capitalism uses (and destroys) nature, neoliberal conservation presents capitalism as the way of achieving environmental sustainability.

In their 2012 paper, Bram Büscher, Sian Sullivan, Katja Neves, Jim Igoe and Dan Brockington write that,

[N]eoliberal conservation shifts the focus from how nature is used in and through the expansion of capitalism, to how nature is conserved in and through the expansion of capitalism.

Benefits and consequences

Adams highlights the benefits and the consequences of partnerships between conservation organisations and corporations. There are three benefits:

  1. Power: Conservationists see corporations as having the power to make decisions to either conserve or destroy biodiversity. “Conservationists therefore engage because they want influence.”
  2. Funding: Corporations are key financiers of conservation, from sponsorship of NGO activities, to support for partnership activities, to philanthropic support from individuals in corporations, to linked for-profit enterprises, such as conservation-endorsed commodity chains.
  3. Careers: Corporate executives on NGO Boards allows for career mentoring, and access to networks of corporate contacts. “Corporate support also offers opportunities for career development: all NGOs depend on cash income to develop their programmes, and working in a way that aligns your programme with the interests and activities of corporations is a good way to keep your job and grow your program.”

An obvious problem with conservationists partnering with corporations is what Adams calls the “fundamental nature of capitalism”.

Capitalism is parasitic on nature, in that it “continuously gnaws away at the resources base that sustains it”, as Geographer David Pepper puts it in his 1993 book, Eco-Socialism: From deep ecology to social justice.

Corporations need to make only slight changes to their corporate strategies. But for the conservation organisations working with corporations, the ideological and organisational changes are significant. Biting the hand that feeds, by criticising corporate partners, is out of the question.

And conservation organisations that work closely with corporations start to look more like corporations themselves. Mark Tercek, the President and CEO of , previously worked at Goldman Sachs, rising to Managing Director and Partner.

Adams points out that corporate partnerships “do not in any obvious way ‘work’ for conservation, in terms of systematically addressing the fundamental drivers of biodiversity loss”.

Adams writes that the partnership between conservation organisations and corporations is a Faustian bargain, “a deal with the devil to acquire power in exchange for the soul”. Adams adds,

If conservation is Faust, the power it wins by its bargain with capitalism is inevitably trivial and transient: ultimately, in the face of capitalism’s destruction of nature, conservation will lose.

And he concludes that,

The reframing of nature as natural capital and the reinvention of conservation as the management of capital flows through market-based instruments, might make a close engagement between neoliberal conservation and corporations look unproblematic. Such a relationship offers the lure of financial resources and power. But conservationists considering getting into bed with corporations should remember the tale of Faust’s bargain. The story takes many forms, but in none of them does the pact turn out well.

 

[Conservation Watch is run by Chris Lang (conserwatch@gmail.com). The views expressed on Conservation Watch do not necessarily reflect the formal positions of any organisations or individuals, except when this is clearly stated. Conservation Watch is funded by the Rainforest Foundation UK.]

WATCH: Yejide Orunmila – Surviving the White Women’s March on Washington

February 11, 2017

 

angela-peoples-womens-march

Angela Peoples holding sign (Kevin Banatte)

 

“Yejide Orunmila, president of ANWO (African National Women’s Organization) and member of the Uhuru Movement examines the (white) Women’s March on Washington, and explains the political opportunism of feminism and the complicity of white women in the oppression of African women. The Uhuru Movement is led by the African People’s Socialist Party. The Uhuru Solidarity Movement is the organization of white people created by and working under the leadership of APSP, to go into the white community and win reparations for African liberation and self determination. uhurusolidarity.org” [Courtesy of Uhuru Solidarity]

To further demonstrate the whiteness of the Women’s March on Washington, we juxtapose a third video featured by “RISE Travel, LLC”. RISE travel the latest trend in the travel industry. A new agency that markets/brands (corporate) activism as experience (“select your experience”), specializing in connecting clients with organized luxury bus tours, etc.  for NGO marches and events (such as the upcoming People’s Climate March).

 

 

As featured on the Rise Travel website:

 

 

Further Reading:

Imperialist Underpinnings of the Women’s March on Washington

Women’s March in Canada Shuts Out Black Lives Matter:

http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Womens-March-in-Canada-Shuts-out-Black-Lives-Matter–20170122-0014.html

 

 

The Age of Humanism is Ending

Mail Guardian Africa

December 22, 2016

killing-earth

There is no sign that 2017 will be much different from 2016.

Under Israeli occupation for decades, Gaza will still be the biggest open prison on Earth.

In the United States, the killing of black people at the hands of the police will proceed unabated and hundreds of thousands more will join those already housed in the prison-industrial complex that came on the heels of plantation slavery and Jim Crow laws.

Europe will continue its slow descent into liberal authoritarianism or what cultural theorist Stuart Hall called authoritarian populism. Despite complex agreements reached at international forums, the ecological destruction of the Earth will continue and the war on terror will increasingly morph into a war of extermination between various forms of nihilism.

Inequalities will keep growing worldwide. But far from fuelling a renewed cycle of class struggles, social conflicts will increasingly take the form of racism, ultra nationalism, sexism, ethnic and religious rivalries, xenophobia, homophobia and other deadly passions.

The denigration of virtues such as care, compassion and kindness will go hand in hand with the belief, especially among the poor, that winning is all that matters and who wins — by whatever means necessary — is ultimately right.

With the triumph of this neo-Darwinian approach to history-making, apartheid under various guises will be restored as the new old norm. Its restoration will pave the way to new separatist impulses, the erection of more walls, the militarisation of more borders, deadly forms of policing, more asymmetrical wars, splitting alliances and countless internal divisions including in established democracies.

None of the above is accidental. If anything, it is a symptom of structural shifts, which will become ever more apparent as the new century unfolds. The world as we knew it since the end of World War II, the long years of decolonisation, the Cold War and the defeat of communism has ended.

Another long and deadlier game has started. The main clash of the first half of the 21st century will not oppose religions or civilisations. It will oppose liberal democracy and neoliberal capitalism, the rule of finance and the rule of the people, humanism and nihilism.

Capitalism and liberal democracy triumphed over fascism in 1945 and over communism in the early 1990s when the Soviet Union collapsed.  With the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the advent of globalisation, their fates were disentangled. The widening bifurcation of demo-cracy and capital is the new threat to civilisation.

Abetted by technological and military might, finance capital has achieved its hegemony over the world by annexing the core of human desires and, in the process, by turning itself into the first global secular theology. Fusing the attributes of a technology and a religion, it relied on uncontested dogmas modern forms of capitalism had reluctantly shared with democracy since the post-war period — individual liberty, market competition and the rule of the commodity and of property, the cult of science, technology and reason.

Each of these articles of faith is under threat. At its core, liberal democracy is not compatible with the inner logic of finance capitalism. The clash between these two ideas and principles is likely to be the most signifying event of the first half of a 21st-century political landscape — a landscape shaped less by the rule of reason than by the general release of passions, emotions and affect.

In this new landscape, knowledge will be defined as knowledge for the market. The market itself will be re-imagined as the primary mechanism for the validation of truth.

As markets themselves are increasingly turning into algorithmic structures and technologies, the only useful knowledge will be algorithmic.

Instead of people with body, history and flesh, statistical inferences will be all that count. Statistics and other big data will mostly be derived from computation.

As a result of the conflation of knowledge, technology and markets, contempt will be extended to anyone who has nothing to sell.

The humanistic and Enlightenment notion of the rational subject capable of deliberation and choice will be replaced by the consciously deliberating and choosing consumer.

Already in the making, a new kind of human will triumph.  This will not be the liberal individual who, not so long ago, we believed could be the subject of democracy. The new human being will be constituted through and within digital technologies and computational media.

The computational age — the age of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter — is dominated by the idea that there are clean slates in the unconscious. New media forms have not only lifted the lid previous cultural eras had put on the unconscious. They have become the new infrastructures of the unconscious.

Yesterday, human sociality consisted of keeping tabs on the unconscious. For the social to thrive meant exercising vigilance on ourselves, or delegating to specific authorities the right to enforce such vigilance.

This was called repression.

Repression’s main function was to set the conditions for sublimation. Not all desires could be fulfilled. Not everything could be said or enacted. The capacity to limit oneself was the essence of one’s freedom and the freedom of all.

Partly thanks to new media forms and the post-repressive era it has unleashed, the unconscious can now roam free. Sublimation is no longer necessary.

Language has been dislocated. The content is in the form and the form is beyond, or in excess of, the content.

We are now led to believe that mediation is no longer necessary.

This explains the growing anti-humanist stance that now goes hand in hand with a general contempt for democracy.  Calling this phase of our history fascist might be misleading unless by fascism we mean the normalisation of a social state of warfare.

Such a state would in itself be a paradox because, if anything, warfare leads to the dissolution of the social. And yet under conditions of neoliberal capitalism, politics will become a barely sublimated warfare. This will be a class warfare that denies its very nature — a war against the poor, a race war against minorities, a gender war against women, a religious war against Muslims, a war against the disabled.

Neoliberal capitalism has left in its wake a multitude of destroyed subjects, many of whom are deeply convinced that their immediate future will be one of continuous exposure to violence and existential threat.

They genuinely long for a return to some sense of certainty, the sacred, hierarchy, religion and tradition. They believe that nations have become akin to swamps that need to be drained and the world as it is should be brought to an end. For this to happen, everything should be cleansed off. They are convinced that they can only be saved in a violent struggle to restore their masculinity, the loss of which they attribute to the weaker among them, the weak they do not want to become.

In this context, the most successful political entrepreneurs will be those who convincingly speak to the losers, to the destroyed men and women of globalisation and to their ruined identities.

In the street fight politics will become, reason will not matter. Nor will facts. Politics will revert into brutal survivalism in an ultracompetitive environment.

Under such conditions, the future of progressive and future-oriented mass politics of the left is very uncertain.

In a world set on objectifying everybody and every living thing in the name of profit, the erasure of the political by capital is the real threat. The transformation of the political into business raises the risk of the elimination of the very possibility of politics.

Whether civilisation can give rise at all to any form of political life is the problem of the 21st century.

 

 

[Achille Mbembe is based at the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research. His new book, The Politics of Enmity, will be published by Duke University Press in 2017.]

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.]