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Beautiful Delusions [McKibben’s Divestment Tour – Brought to You by Wall Street [Part XVI of an Investigative Report]

June 27, 2017

By Cory Morningstar with Forrest Palmer

Part sixteen of an investigative series

 

Breakthrough Capitalism and Volans

Breakthrough Capitalism – where business is referred to as an ecosystem:

“The first thing to say is that this website is one of several that are part of our close business ecosystem. These include: Volans, Breakthrough Capitalism, The Zeronauts, SustainAbility” — John Elkington Website

“A revolution of capitalism”:

“We need a revolution of capitalism,” said Peter Bakker, former CFOI and CEO at TNT and now President Of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.” – Volans Press Release, Breakthrough: How Business Leaders Can Create Market Revolutions, March 7, 2013

In the 2012 David Blood lecture (video),”Breakthrough Capitalism Forum – David Blood”, one notices the sponsorship in the background. At the top of the screen we can identify speakers/sponsors Jeremy Leggitt of Solar Century & Carbon Tracker, and Jennifer Morgan of WWF, to name two. [See full list of partners.]

Breakthrough Capitalism  is a key project of Volans, a driver of market-based solutions. On the growing list of Volans partnerships, one finds Shell Foundation, Dow, Generation, GRI (Global Reporting Initiative) (Ceres, UN), Tellus Mater, The B Team (A Richard Branson NGO now being operated/managed by public relations firm Purpose, sister org. of Avaaz) and many others. On the Volans Board of advisors we find none other than Robert Massie, former President and CEO of New Economics Institute. [“Our early relationships with partners and clients have critically informed our evolution; the Skoll Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, Allianz and HP, Atkins, Bayer, F&C, Nestlé, PPR and Recyclebank.”] [Source] [Note: Jeff Skoll co-founded EBay with Pierre Omidyar.]

“As public money gets pulled out of health care and education and all of this, NGOs funded by these major financial corporations and other kinds of financial instruments move in, doing the work that missionaries used to do during colonialism—giving the impression of being charitable organizations, but actually preparing the world for the free markets of corporate capital.” — Arundhati Roy, REVEALED: The head of Omidyar Network in India had a secret second job… Helping elect Narendra Modi, May 26, 2014

Showmanship over Science and Facts

Of interest regarding the influence these men have on the environmental movement is that both Skoll (Participant Media) and his EBay co-founder/partner, Omidyar financed the film, “Merchants of Doubt” (acquired by Sony Pictures) [2]

To illustrate how these institutional relationships develop and explain the mainstream media representations we need to look no further than Omidyar. Omidyar’s ties to the previous Obama administration run deep [Source] as does his vast network within the humanitarian industry complex. Humanity United is one such example. Consider that the Omidyar Network has made more investments in India than in any other country since 2009, according to its portfolio. [Source] More recently, Omidyar was a key player in the 2014 coup d’état carried out against Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych having co-funded Ukraine “revolution” groups with USAID and National Endowment for Democracy. [Source] [Source]

The Skoll-Omdiyar film, Merchants of Doubt, which is a condensed cinematic representation of the book it is based upon (published in 2010), focuses on the web of highly financed climate change deniers. The press release states: “Filmmaker Robert Kenner lifts the curtain on a secretive group of highly charismatic, silver-tongued pundits-for-hire who present themselves in the media as scientific authorities – yet have the contrary aim of spreading maximum confusion about well-studied public threats ranging from toxic chemicals to pharmaceuticals to climate change.” Note that this same description also aptly describes those at the helm of the non-profit industrial complex (NPIC). It is of interest that at this late juncture in anthropogenic climate disruption, billionaire “philanthropists” decided to highlight the players who reap the profits by burning carbon, rather than the players who stand to make trillions under the guise of an illusory “new economy.” The same new economy both Skoll and Omdiyar stand to reap further profits and market share from. A main prerequisite of the liberal left is that an “other” must always exist. For the divestment campaign the “other” is the fossil fuel industry – the said enemy. For Western imperial states, the “other” is the “terrorist”. For this particular film, the “others” (plural) are the deniers who can shoulder all the blame. For the NPIC as a whole, it matters little, who the “other” at this moment may be, just as long as it means not looking at our own reflections in the mirror.

“Omidyar Network is a philanthropic investment firm dedicated to harnessing the power of markets to create opportunity for people to improve their lives.”– Omidyar Network, “A World of Positive Returns”, website

In the Variety September 4, 2014 film review, the author observes that “Kenner is particularly fascinated by the phenomenon of self-described “grassroots” organizations that are actually shilling for specific corporate and political interests (the Koch Brothers-funded Americans for Prosperity, the Exxon Mobile-financed Heartland Institute, etc.).” This blatantly obvious (and accurate) observation, “the phenomenon of self-described ‘grassroots’ organizations that are actually shilling for specific corporate and political interests…” is one that could easily apply to the movements manufactured by and belonging to the NPIC. The shilling in this instance for The Rockefeller Foundation, The Clinton Global Initiative, etc. In the same review, the author writes that by “[P]roviding an accessible, somewhat facile framing device, professional magician Jamy Ian Swiss describes how all sleight-of-hand (including the card trick he performs and demystifies onscreen) is predicated on the audience’s willingness to be deceived.” This same predication fits America’s self-described environmental activists like a velvet glove.

The authors of Merchants of Doubt  found that “one way to effectively remove public fear around a particular issue is to create fear elsewhere — something the tobacco industry managed by aligning itself with the flame-retardant industry, as if unprotected furniture, not cigarettes, were to blame for house fires.” This same tactic is utilized in the building of acquiescence for the “new economy”. It is not the industrialized capitalist economic system causing our environmental crisis, ecological collapse and the Sixth Great Extinction. Rather, it is the lack of technology via “clean energy” infrastructures global in scope (which in reality would/will only further industrialization, thus accelerating both greenhouse gas emissions and planetary environmental degradation).

In a final observation, the reviewer concludes that “There’s perhaps a necessary element of hypocrisy in this approach, given the film’s point that too many Americans, by and large, prefer showmanship over science.”

Above: “Showmanship over science.”

Today’s ever-devolving Western society continues to demonstrate its preference for showmanship over science, celebrity over substance, technology over nature, liberal ideology over radical ideology, human life over all other life, white skin over non-white.

Volans

 

“It’s all very well for me to say the future is environmental excellence, green consumerism, the triple bottom line or breakthrough capitalism, but the many movements and communities of which we are part deserve a deeper explanation of the thinking and experiences that brought us to these conclusions.” — John Elkington, Co-Founder of Environmental Data Services, SustainAbility and Volans

 

“We see signs of breakthrough in … Generation Investment Management CEO David Blood’s spotlighting a five key steps to sustainable capitalism, and in the alliance between Richard Branson of Virgin and former PUMA CEO Jochen Zeitz—who are building The BTeam.” — Volans Press Release, Breakthrough: How Business Leaders Can Create Market Revolutions, March 7, 2013

Partners publicly disclosed upon announcement of “The Breakthrough Capitalism” Program are listed as follows: Generation, Tellus Mater Foundation, Autodesk, HewlettPackard, The Value Web and Innovationarts.

The first “follows” chosen upon the set-up of twitter accounts are always revealing and Breakthrough’s twitter account is no exception. The first four follows are founders, co-founders, directors and the social media outreach of Volans. The fifth person chosen to follow is a partner at Generation Investment. Number six is John B Elkington? (founder and Executive Chairman of Volans and author/creator of zeronauts; a project of Volans). Seventh is Jeroen van Lawick, international consultancy for “transformative CSR” (“corporate social responsibility”) and organization development, as well as founder of Zijn Werkt!. Eighth is David Willans, marketing director at Futerra. Number nine is none other than 350.org’s Naomi Klein who was chosen ahead of number ten: Jeremy Leggett (Solarcentury, SolarAid, and Carbon tracker).

“Breakthrough Capitalism” asks the question as to how to engage the “1,100 or so companies that now control half of the world’s market capitalization.”

Whereas Volans and Generation would have us believe we should give these corporations even more power, the truth is that these very 1,100 corporations more than likely represent the first ones that should be targeted for dismantlement.

“Volans is part think-tank, part consultancy, part broker and part incubator. Based in London and Singapore, Volans works globally with entrepreneurs, businesses, investors and governments to develop and scale innovative solutions to financial, social and environmental challenges. Our Pathways to Scale program aims to identify, map and remove barriers that slow the scaling of innovative solutions to governance, economic, social and environmental challenges.” [Source]

John Elkington is the founding partner and Executive Chairman of Volans, as well as the co-founder of SustainAbility (1987) and Environmental Data Services (ENDS, 1978). He is recognized as a world authority on “corporate responsibility” and “sustainable development.” In 2004, Businessweek described him as “a dean of the corporate responsibility movement for three decades.” In 2008, The Evening Standard named Elkington “a true green business guru,” and “an evangelist for corporate social and environmental responsibility long before it was fashionable.” Of course, only those who serve to benefit from such false narratives bestow these titles and accreditations. For example, “corporate responsibility” is the strategic means to increase corporate domination via marketing.

In addition to the aforementioned credentials, Elkington is identified as a B Team “expert” on The B Team website. [Full bio.]

Elkington’s latest book utilizes/promotes Branson’s The B Team organization. The book titled Tomorrow’s Bottom Line: The B Team Playbook for Market Gamechangers, co-authored with B Team co-founder and former PUMA CEO Jochen Zeitz, was released in 2014.

Elkington has served as a juror for the first Gigaton Awards, developed by Richard Branson’s non-profit Carbon War Room – dubbed the ‘Oscars of sustainability.’ As well, he has completed a Fellowship at the Bellagio Centre awarded to him by The Rockefeller Foundation.

Elkington serves/has served on 70 boards and advisory boards. He co-chairs the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) Breakthrough Innovation Advisory Council, chairs the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Technology Consortium, and is a member of the Advisory Board of the Global Commission on Business & Sustainable Development (GCBSD). He is a member of the Board of the Social Stock Exchange (SSX), and chairs its Admissions Panel. He is also a member of the Boards of organizations such as the Biomimicry Institute and The Ecological Sequestration Trust (TEST), and a member of Advisory Boards for organizations such as 2degrees Network, Aviva, The B Team, Nestlé, Tesco, Guardian Sustainable Business, and Zouk Capital (cleantech fund). [Source]  Elkington has also served as strategic advisor to Bayer Material Science, Gaia Energy, Instituto Ethos, One Earth Innovation, Polecat UK; senior Advisor to the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre; board member of EcoVadis, Recyclebank Sustainability Advisory Council; the Evian Group Brain Trust and the Newsweek Green Rankings Advisory Board.

Elkington’s first involvement in the corporate environmental sector was raising funds at the age of 11 for the newly formed World Wildlife Fund (WWF), where he has for many years served on the Council of Ambassadors. He has written or co-authored 17 books, including The Gene Factory: Inside the Genetic and Biotechnology Business Revolution (1985), Double Dividends? US Biotechnology and Third World Development (1986), The Green Capitalists: Industry’s Search for Environmental Excellence (with Tom Burke , 1987), and The Power of Unreasonable People: How Social Entrepreneurs Create Markets That Change the World, co-authored with Volans co-founder Pamela Hartigan (2008).

In 2005 Elkington received the “Social Capitalist of the Year” award from Fast Company, later to be awarded a 3-year, $1 million field-building grant from the Skoll Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, at SustainAbility and Volans.

In September of 2016 Elkington launched “The Breakthrough Innovation Platform” to advance the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in partnership with UN Global Compact. “The ultimate target of the SDGs is the privatization of Indigenous and public resources worldwide.” [Source]

“Aligned with the UN Global Compact’s priority of translating the new SDGs into business action, the aim of the Breakthrough Innovation Platform is to challenge and stretch prevailing business mindsets into the opportunity spaces offered by the SDGs.” — UN Global Compact and Volans Announce Strategic Partnership on Breakthrough Innovation for the Sustainable Development Goals, May 31, 2016

Beautiful Delusions | Zeronaut

Illustration by Stephanie McMillan for Wrong Kind of Green

“Zero offers a powerful key to unlocking tomorrow’s growth markets.” – Zeronaut

Zeronaut was launched in April, 2008. It was founded by John Elkington.

Sophisticated and seductive marketing which appeals to an audience comprised of privilege is of critical importance. The marketing strategist executive, set with the task of selling an illusory “new economy”, employs both market-centric and human-centric terminology, which is alluring when paired with an underlying white saviour pretext – a prerequisite to successfully gloss over and elude the true extent of capitalism’s inherent violence and destructiveness. Market-centric language is strategically enticing as it invokes a “new’ economy” avec with new profit centres, inclusive of carbon emissions credits,  carbon capture storage, and most critically, today, the financialization of nature.

It is important to note that the Zeronaut mission/philosophy/marketing scheme is beguiling: “a new breed of innovator, determined to drive problems such as carbon, waste, toxics, and poverty to zero.” Yet, such beautiful delusions can only be afforded by the privileged. Not those who are oppressed under the capitalist economic system. Not the earth herself whose natural resources are destroyed in the creation of commodities for capital. Not for those now referred to as “human capital”. Not for those murdered by empire in the race for what’s left of our planet’s rapidly declining rare Earth minerals and resources.

Those praising the Zeronaut book include (in the order that they appear) Paul Hawken, David Blood (Goldman Sachs, Generation Investment), Jochen Zeit ( The B Team co-founder/Chairman of PUMA), David Grayson, Chair and Director of the Doughty Centre for Corporate Responsibility and Peter Bakker, the President of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.

The Zeronaut 2012 Roll of Honor list includes Bill and Melinda Gates (GMO seeds), Al Gore and David Blood (Generation Investment, environmental markets), Ban-Ki Moon (environmental markets, carbon markets, methane extraction, REDD+), James Hansen (nuclear), Paul Hawken (“natural” capitalism), Pavan Sukhdev of TEEB (The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity – commodification of the commons) and many more of those in elite positions of power and influence. [Full list.]

An example of the ideology espoused by Zeronaut, is highlighted in the sample chapter formerly found on its website. The author tells the reader that the Kraft Corporation has achieved “zero waste” at 36 food plants, thus “it’s happening.”

In the Kraft Beaver Dam plant in Wisconsin (that manufactures Philadelphia Cream Cheese) Kraft built an anaerobic digester – the digester processed waste into energy that was fed into the local grid. Yet, this is hardly a solution for Kraft’s toxic waste. Rather, it is a mechanism that serves to perpetuate the production of excess waste, because the excess waste has become profitable.

Kraft plants in Cikarang and Karawang, Indonesia, where plastic packaging film creates most of the waste, found a recycler that turns the material into bags and buckets. Yet another market was found. Yet, what about the oil required to produce the film in the first place? The planet continues to be drilled and decimated. The bags and buckets which need infinite growth, to consume the infinite waste, also require infinite consumptive patterns.

Kraft plants in Fresno and San Leandro, California that make a variety of Kraft products including Cornnuts, Capri Sun and Kool-Aid (toxins in, toxins out), have collected more than 100 tons of food waste like corn skins to be used as animal feed since 2009. Yet this food, not fit for human consumption, is therefore certainly not fit for animal consumption either. Further, one can be almost certain that these corn skins are derived from genetically engineered corn, as will be the soy, sugar beet and canola. In addition, we must take into account other hazardous, chemical intensive, biodiversity destroying industrialized crops.

The deluge of half truths and misinformation propagated by the NPIC is the reason why it is necessary to analyse and define what the term “zero waste” truly means. In that regard, what is not mentioned is the mandatory mass-consumption of the product leaving the manufacturing plants and warehouses. Of no mention or consideration is the waste of energy to produce this “food” and transport this “food” that very likely has little to no true nutritional value. In fact, one could quite easily make the argument such processed foods and “edible” oils, key products/ingredients of Kraft, actually poison whole societies, inducing cancers, sickness/disease, and obesity. (In essence, products under the guise of “food” that amount to no more than toxic sludge.)

Of course reducing waste may add to Kraft’s bottom line, but even more so if they can achieve this by finding markets for their waste – which they have. In 2012, at a Kraft coffee plant in Vienna, Austria, the facility sent 250 tons of used coffee bean husks to a local biomass plant that generates heat and electricity. Yet biomass is a false solution with the waste externalized onto our health. “Biomass incineration is one of the most expensive, inefficient and polluting ways to make energy — even dirtier than coal in some ways. Forests are destroyed, the climate is cooked, crop lands are wasted, resources are destroyed and low-income communities and communities of color suffer increased health problems from this unnecessary dirty energy source that poses as renewable energy.” [Source]

Kraft’s direct and/or indirect support of the corporations that push monoculture and/or genetically engineered crops, is complicity to the immense social and environmental impacts destroying both communities and life of every form.

In 2012 a Kraft coffee plant in St. Petersburg cut waste sent to landfills by 90 percent by reusing coffee bean shipping bags and pallets and by sending off 15,000 tons of coffee grounds to be turned into fertilizer for farms in the area. The reusing of the bags and pellets is common sense and good practise. Yet, one must also remember this same 15,000 tons of coffee contained pesticides and chemicals which would have leached into the earth’s soil, underground aquifers, water systems, our air and inevitably, our bodies and the bodies on non-human life. This is not to mention Kraft, like all multinational food corporations, make billions on the backs of farmers. Starbucks five dollar lattes are full to the brim with the blood and sweat of the farmers that barely survive under the industrialized capitalist system. Support of corporate power dominating agriculture ensures the continuance of exploitation while furthering negative social and community impacts.

Therefore, beneath the layers of Kraft’s zero waste “feat” is little more than green washing with highly evolved and a most sophisticated marketing.

http://killercoke.org/

According to the excerpt, Coca-Cola has also achieved “zero waste”. Yet corporate media fails to report Coca-Cola distributing free “fertilizer” in India, later analyzed to be nothing more than toxic waste. Does the BPA (a known carcinogen) that lines the Coca-Cola cans not qualify as waste? How much one-time use, disposable (including recycled) packaging by Kraft and Coca-Cola alone, ends up in landfills and oceans once it leaves the processing plants? Recycling, a billion dollar energy intensive industry which also creates massive volumes of waste, is not a true solution to the real problem: that of producing items that are simply not necessities in any way shape or form. As a further concern to the environmental issue which is the human rights violations committed by this corporation, do the union leaders assassinated under Coca-Cola’s reign of terror in Columbia constitute waste – or is “human capital” nothing more than a tax write-off under the “third industrial revolution”, that being the “new economy”?

The idea that the same corporations that have brought the apocalypse to or doorstep are the same corporations who will now usher in a new green utopia is just that – a utopian fantasy.

Under an industrialized capitalist economic system, zero waste cannot and will not ever be achieved. To varying degrees, every one of these corporate entities, and the junk they produce (which are things we do not need to survive), have to go. Bare essentials in the most radical sense must be our collective goal.

Next up: Part 17

 

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

[Forrest Palmer is an electrical engineer residing in Texas.  He is a part-time blogger and writer and can be found on Facebook. You may reach him at forrest_palmer@yahoo.com.]

The Green Economy as a Continuation of War by Other Means

CNS Web

February 2, 2016

by Alexander Dunlap

 

NO MEANS NO TO GREEN IMPERIALISM

 

The following essay has been modified from a speech given at the 10th Conference of Critical Justice in Latin America (X Conferencia Latinoamericana de Crítica Jurídica) on April 23, 2015 on a panel titled: “Rights, Dependency and Capitalist Accumulation in Latin America” (Mesa Derecho, dependencia y acumulación capitalista en América Latina). This speech was based on the paper, “The Militarisation and Marketisation of Nature: An Alternative Lens to ‘Climate-Conflict,’” (Geopolitics, 2014) while also building from it, discussing some examples from wind turbine development in the coastal area of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec region in Oaxaca Mexico, known as the Istmo.

When we speak about “anthropogenic climate change,” we speak about climate change that is intimately linked to our modern or industrial lifestyles, ones that feel like a routine of jumping through and between boxes: The box shape of the house to the rolling rectangle of the bus, which leads us to work, back to the car, then to the bar, back home, to the computer before bed, and finally, to the rest that anticipates repeating this routine all over again, with hopes of something different for the weekend. In its most simple and basic form, this is the process of anthropogenic climate change. It reeks of the depressing problem of everyday social control and daily confinement within this box system.

What these lifestyles are dependent on are a series of systemic processes: those of industrial waste that result from mining, oil extraction, electricity generation, cars, concrete, asphalt, electronics, and the list goes on. And climate change is really just the result of needing to make this list of resource extraction and technologies grow for the last two hundred years, while intertwining this need with our daily lives.

So when we understand climate change as an issue that is bigger than us, it prevents reflection, inhibits agency, and sends the message that only governments, corporations and NGOs can stop this phenomenon. Yet these institutions’ mitigation and security practices only serve to reinforce global environmental degradation, for the mainstream framework of climate change, while acknowledging a cumulative problem, also projects submission to authority and governing structures that have created new “dystopian markets” with ideas of geo-engineering (see Simon Dalby’s “Geoengineering: The Next Era of Geopolitics?” Geography Compass, 2015).

As I hope to show in the lines that follow, we must acknowledge that climate change has been wielded as a neoliberal weapon to create the idea of the “green economy” in the hopes of maintaining the state and growing economies. These are processes that continue land conflict and pacification through climate change mitigation initiatives and an environmental ethic with various notions of sustainability.

“Green grabbing”

Mainstream notions that seek to address climate change are deeply intertwined with ideas of sustainable development that emerged in the 1970s with the Club of Rome and the 1987 United Nations’ (UN) report Our Common Future, where it was recognized that industrial development had to soften and change its course otherwise it would destroy itself and many of the people dependent on it.

The 1992 Rio+20 Earth Summit recognized climate change and biodiversity loss as critical issues, which would lead to the creation of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It would then give way to the 1997 Kyoto protocol that decided market mechanisms would be the principle way forward to mitigate the problem of climate change and biodiversity loss.

Now enters the notion of Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) that has sought to integrate market processes into the natural environment to dissect and quantify it, so that corporations and philanthropists can pay to keep forests standing and “natural resources” intact.

For businessmen and stupid environmentalists alike, these proposals have been called a “win-win” solution. These areas have been cordoned off on the false and historically genocidal premise of “pristine” or “wild nature,” which claims that humans but specifically indigenous peoples cannot live in forests if they are to be “saved”, conserved, and maintained as “pristine.” As I hope many know, this is contrary to the historical record as many indigenous people made the pristine forests of the Amazon and the world (see my previous work with James Fairhead: “The Militarisation and Marketisation of Nature,” Geopolitics, 2014.)

These are the same areas that are now the new frontiers of capital investment; these new measures and market mechanisms have now made new markets out of trees, plants, and animal life with notions of “carbon sequestration” and “biodiversity.” These novel and strange terms are used to measure and quantify the natural environment and support the commodification and transformation of larger and “exotic” wildlife into a spectacle for office workers and the wealthy with the rise of ecotourism.

Most recently we have the “green market” as the latest pretext to take over land, displace native groups, and create new sustainable development initiatives while powering the cities and factories with renewable energy, often in the name of slowing anthropogenic climate change. Journalist John Vidal has dubbed this capture of land through sustainable development using an environmental rational as “green grabbing,” gesturing to a shared logic of “land grabbing” Marx once termed to describe the systematic theft of communal property from the 15th to 19th centuries.

It is no surprise that these friendly and environmentally conscious ideas have continued the trajectory of the industrial economy, for there was never once a reflection about slowing this industrial cancer that has become so common.

The green economy as counterinsurgency

We should also remember that the history of state craft, development, and the market has been firmly rooted in waging a war for the submission and acquiescence of people and the natural environment into its organizational structure and growth. Nancy Peluso and Peter Vandergeest have shown how geographical landscapes and towns are built on campaigns of widespread terror against both people and the natural environment, whether in colonial, post-colonial or democratic countries (“Political Ecologies of War and Forests: Counterinsurgencies and the Making of National Natures,” Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 2011).

Terrorizing unruly people into submission has always been a perquisite for all states to establish a territory and gain a grasp on, and make legible the people, forest, minerals and animals of “the nation”—after all, the kings, empires and states claimed it as their own and because we were their “subjects” this was never a problem, right? This means that if people are not revolting, they are submitting to a claim brought upon them, and this claim was always met with resistance.

The people and the forest worked together to wage every type of insurgency against the colonial, post-colonial and democratic regimes in different times and places in Asia, Africa, and the Americas. In general, one can see a pattern that required all states to terrorize and traumatize people through campaigns of counterinsurgency warfare, resettlement campaigns into suburban style villages, cities, and factories with an overall goal to corral and integrate people into “modern” work, national culture and the demands of the economy. Indeed, all states have been at war to subjugate and colonize the people of their “territory” to the imperatives of its organization, which demarcated “Jungles” wild, from “forests” controlled, and forests from agriculture, regimenting every aspect of life and environment to the principle of separations inherent in scientific method. It is under this history of war that the economy and now the green economy stands.

Placing the green economy within the framework of counterinsurgency, the leading theory of state sanctioned pacification, is insightful in this regard. For example, David Kilcullen, Lieutenant Colonel in the Australian Army and a leading counterinsurgency strategist, defines counterinsurgency as “a competition with the insurgent for the right and ability to win the hearts, minds and acquiescence of the population” (“Twenty-Eight Articles: Fundamentals of Company-Level Counterinsurgency,” 2006 [PDF]). Here, the term “hearts” is described as “persuading people their best interests are served by your success,” and the term “minds,” as “convincing them that you can protect them, and that resisting you is pointless.” The green economy is thus an advancement in capturing people to rally for the survival of the economy and business imperatives of the state and its corporate partners—and this in both the city and countryside.

Inclusionary control as pre-emptive pacification

By now, most people have formed their identities and habits around this industrial system, and are attracted to ideas about carbon and biodiversity offsetting, participatory conservation, and renewable energy that provide us with illusions that life and the economy can co-exist. But in many ways this is not true.

Taking the Barra de Santa Teresa near where I live as an example, Mareña Renovables/Eólica del Sur wants to build upwards of hundred industrial wind turbines (aerogeneradore), on a scared and rare ecological zone that took 10,000 years to form, but guess what? The Barra is made of sand and vegetation, which means they will have to pour around a kilometer or possibly more of concrete for their foundations—individually for around one-hundred industrial wind turbines. This is an insane amount of concrete that will no doubt destroy the water table, and create an excess of sand, which as I was told by coastal ecologist, Patricia Mora, “will be total ecological devastation.”

The green economy is advancing techniques of “inclusionary control,” which is a way to include more humans and non-human lives into state and market structures. However, the mid-to-long-term interest of people is to not take the money or questionable promises of jobs, but to get rid of these structures and rehabilitate the land with healthy soil, fruit trees, and animals so they can secure food, shelter, and work to build healthy environments.

Inclusionary control is counterinsurgency and the art of preemptive pacification, which is the art of including people to exclude and neglect their structural grievances—no/crap jobs, no/crap education, drinking toxic waste, police violence, and the standardization of life (the box system) and so on— that is inherent in states, economies and capitalism of every brand. It is why the importance of transforming one’s task into improving the environment is multiplied tenfold if people also value their cultures, land, and lifestyles not being entirely dependent on the economy.

Free, Prior and Informed Consent as Inclusionary Control

An interesting mechanism that is being deployed in the Istmo right now, in the struggle over the invasion of thousands of wind turbines, is the UN’s Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) procedure, which is mandatory for signatory nations to conduct when constructing development projects on indigenous lands and communities. This mechanism, a success after years of struggle for indigenous recognition, could be important for stalling and fighting megaprojects.

Nevertheless, if people are not conscious, if they are divided and fighting each other—the goal of all governments, corporations and drug dealers alike—then this mechanism can be used by corporate-state alliances to pacify people with the feeling that they are being heard, included, and consulted. It will then reaffirm the strong mythology of democracy that everyone wants to desperately believe in.

But for some reason, whether democracy or dictatorship, people are never really permitted the simple answer: No, we do not want these projects here. No we do not want a form of development that is our submission to factories, migration, and mechanized labor. Rights create constructs of illusion that will always mediate the power of people through states and as I am watching now, FPIC is in a way similar to a ceasefire that allows the deception and fragmentation of people in resistance, while the state, companies and unions can re-strategize and regroup their forces.

Likewise, as I have argued in another paper about UN-REDD+, FPIC is equivalent to an indigenous Miranda Rights (“The Expanding Techniques of Progress: Agricultural Biotechnology and UN-REDD+,”Crossmark, 2014). Miranda rights in the United States are your rights once you have been arrested—“you have the right to remain silent, seek legal counsel,” and so on. In the case with the FPIC in the Istmo, it tells people that you have the right to be consulted by experts, to voice your grievances, and fight for jobs, but while we talk 18 parks are being constructed, with more planned on top of Ejidos and communal land [Silvia Chavela Rivas, “Eólicas: ocaso o resplandor?” 2015 [PDF, Spanish]).

In short, people are being arrested to the imperatives of economic growth and industrial expansion that will destroy life, make alternatives more difficult and create the collective fate of shuffling papers, pimping plastic and flipping burgers—a fate that is already a reality for many, many who often do not care about wind turbines and whose desires and projectuality tend to mimic what is televised in soap operas and music videos.

FPIC is a way to implicate people and hang them with their own participation and rights, when really people have their best interest in rejecting all mediation by state and corporate structures and coming together to create alternative projects, perspectives and even ‘jobs’—since this is a selling point for wind turbines in the region—to improve their lives, but in the end, the hierarches supported by the state and the powers that they bear will not let them without a brutal fight.

War is complex and the green economy is advancing land acquisition and displacement, claiming to fight environmental degradation, while simultaneously advancing it. It is nothing short than crazy, and it is a type of psychosis built in the fantasies of the American or development dream that either are not true for many, hollow for those who achieve it, or maybe it is the answer to everything. Either way, regardless of the different trajectories everyone will still be working to propel the modern industrial system. Probably in an office or some type of building, losing your vision and breath to a computer, trapped in a toxic environments, when really humans should probably be working for healthy, happier and freer lives and we must acknowledge that freedom is disingenuous when it is capturing and killing the people around you, both human and non-human alike.

 

[Alexander Dunlap is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. His current research focuses on the social impact of wind energy projects in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, Mexico. He can be contacted at a.d.dunlap@vu.nl]

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.]

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

January 26, 2017

by Michael Swifte

 

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

 

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Wreckreation Oligarchs

Counterpunch

December 16, 2016

by Chris Zinda

 

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“We believe that stopping the global extinction crisis and achieving true ecological sustainability will require rethinking our values as a society. Present assumptions about economics, development, and the place of human beings in the natural order must be reevaluated. Nature can no longer be viewed merely as a commodity—a storehouse of “resources” for human use and profit. It must be seen as a partner and model in all human enterprise.”

— Our Mission; Foundation for Deep Ecology

Big Green spent $100 million of funds donated to them supporting the Democratic Party and their establishment candidate Hillary Clinton. With smug displeasure on their 1% faces at a D.C. National Press Club event, I watched with my own smug glee as the Sierra Club, NRDC, and League of Conservation Voters among others doubled down on both their fund raising pitches and need for more failed collaboration within the current political system, an indication that nothing will change and that none of us should waste our money financially supporting any of them.

Like George Soros and the Democracy Alliance oligarchs with the Democratic Party, let their Wreckreation industry and Foundation for Deep Ecology oligarchs continue to pour their money down that rat hole.

Deep Ecology as an organized spiritual endeavor has become immoral bastardized horseshit, run by guilty oligarchs with spiritual rot complaining about motorized wreckreation or cattle, never calling for carrying capacities for the consumptive recreational uses their businesses and shared elite pursuits promote. They instead delude their moral dilemma through the use of their cash to, in part, solve the consumptive problems the Thompkins clan and their ilk have created with their North Face, Patagucci and Esprit derived financial empire to begin. Arne Naess should be rolling in his grave but, maybe, he was co-opted, too.

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Supreme x The North Face® “By Any Means Necessary” | Highsnobiety website: “Supreme’s ever-popular collaboration with The North Face rolls on into FW15, with a set of heavy-duty outerwear decked out in a “By Any Means Necessary” slogan, a phrase invented by French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre and brought into pop culture lexicon via Civil Rights icon Malcolm X.” [“La capsule Supreme x The North Face® “By Any Means Necessary” sera disponible à partir du jeudi 19 novembre à 12H00 (heure de Paris) sur www.supremenewyork.com ainsi que dans les boutiques de New York, Los Angles et Londres. Disponible au Japon à compter du 21 novembre prochain.” Nupste Jacket: $368, Mountain Pullover: $298, Base Camp Crimp Backpack: $148, Base Camp Travel Canister: $32, Winter Runners Gloves: $58

Their conservation is like any other, the biblical Garden to be cultivated and managed, one that seldom defers to natural processes unless those processes are deemed beneficial for our extractive use. A sheen of secular humanism means they create and selectively use science to justify their conservation positions, with forest practices and wildland fire being some of the best examples. Cult of the Red Pine-like forests are being fully realized officially, cooperatively, placatingly crisscrossed with heads and trails for wheels, hooves, and feet, having seemingly either sprung up or been hardened everywhere that is neither first mined or grazed. Very few places, even in our wildlife refuges, are off limits to all humans.  In this sense, they are rationally no better than the working class manifest destiny, prosperity doctrine evangelicals they scorn and, soon, all of the lower-48 will look and feel like the tamed European continent.

The wreckreation industry instead talks of the Tragedy of the Commons, of the loss of biologic habitat and diversity, that we need to protect places round the nation and world from overuse, to sustainable use, while screaming like stuck pigs when agencies actually institute what biological and social science tells them to do, which is to stop freeloaders, set quotas, and shut the gates, measures that would reduce their access to profits and pursuits and better protect the flora and fauna that need their own solitude to flourish.

Secretary of the Department of the Interior Sally Jewell is indicative of the incest, the revolving door wreckreation industry insider having been the CEO of outdoor retailer Recreational Equipment Inc. Given past Secretaries usually came from fuels, mining or agriculture, Jewell can be seen as the apex of wreckreation industry political influence.  And, you could see it on the ground during her tenure, as there was never talk of carrying capacities or appropriate uses, always talk and action of compromise for the sake of multiple abuse everywhere, never meaningful or direct action for environmental preservation or to address climate change.

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Like the land management and environmental regulatory agencies no matter where they lie in our levels of government, Big Green and the outdoor wreckreation industry work for and with the faces of those who regulate them: largely white, upper middle class, and come from urban areas.  These are people who are economically and socially insulated from the majority of the citizens of the planet, scorned by the American working class as elite.

You could see it in both her and Big Green’s response to the armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, as both were conspicuously absent on the ground, not wanting to upset the delicate apple cart they built collaborating across the west with the ranchers and their corporations whose locusts do more damage to public lands than any but humans themselves.

Conservation vs. Preservation. An old argument that always favors human use. And, Big Greens and their Deep Ecology 1%, by definition of their social class and financial empires, are not preservationists, as preservation provides a conflict between indoctrinated spiritual and economic positions. Progressive oligarchs and meritarchs, like their Garden of Eden prosperity doctrine counterparts, prefer a comfortable delusion to an uncomfortable truth in regard to their impacts on both the continuance of paradigms that destroy our planet and the aims to protect it. Irrational.

They believe in “sustainable“, implying to conserve a finite resource. Tell me, how do we conserve the climate of the planet and the ripple effect to our food supply with the reality of an ever increasing population based on an ever increasing market?

I’d like to ask these fake Greens who make their money helping to wreck the planet: Do you ever think of the ethics/morals of the results of your corporate (non-profit can also be corporate) endeavors? Do you think of the opportunity costs of money spent on the meritocratic establishment? Instead of collaborating with the enemy and pontificating, how about spending that money fighting without compromise?

*  *  *

These faces of failure – 350, Sierra Club, NRDC, League of Conservation Voters, the Wilderness Society – are people who are not acting like they are on the front lines of survival like their working class brothers and sisters. Wreckreating on high, they protect their bureaucracies, incomes, and self righteous, indignant, compromise with the extractive enemies that have always included Hillary and the Neo-liberal Machine.

Working class Dakota Access Pipeline activists are acting on the front lines, some recreating by crawling into pipes bored under the Des Moines River to serve the Bakken crude.  Mississippi Stand’s Alex Cohen sums it up, “I firmly believe that we’ve tried every other political process, from protesting to petitioning, and that stuff hasn’t worked, and our mother doesn’t have time. The only thing, I truly believe, that’s gonna stop this pipeline is direct action and civil disobedience.”

These are poor indigenous people and their working class cohorts, mostly millennials, who understand the plight of their past and future.

While I can’t imagine a Big Green crawling into a pipe to shut the line down, I can imagine the opportunity cost of $100 million spent engaging in electoral politics rather than with people on the front lines of the Climate Change movement, including a few hundred, maybe soon thousands, who need the money of the progressive oligarchs this every moment for legal fees and survival expenses as they engage in battle.

These are the “grassroots activists” who are largely working class Not In My BackYard people from everywhere who need your financial and legal support more so than a non-profit Big Green bureaucrat with a six figure income and an eight figure campaign run from Washington, New York or San Francisco. NIMBYs are not rat holes nor can they afford insider luncheons and donations to a corrupt two party system. They are largely apolitical people effectively acting locally and thinking globally, usually with everything they have. They are the people who carry the weight of #NoDAPL while Big Green comes in to muck with them, claim credit and fundraise on their backs.

In short, myopic Big Green and their progressive (lower case “p”) oligarchs should not only be reevaluating their failed $100 million 2016 electoral investment but their ethical core, as their collaborative political and financial institutional relationships at this crossroads for climate change and humanity are incongruent, devoid of moral leadership.

*  *  *

Big Green and their 1% should not be so bummed out with people asking for a carrying capacity on their ethics, morals and profits. Cynically, perhaps the sadness on their faces at the D.C. presser was all for the funding show alone.

No doubt Industrial Wreckreation still ranks high on a Trump’s list regardless of political persuasion, as business is business and all will still make money as they collaborate to extract their profits from you with joint, slick, marketing campaigns in Outside Magazine.

Only in small part funded by your working class donations (as there aren’t many working class members) the Sierra Club will still have their High Sierra Camp cities serviced and traversed by their shit carrying mules that are cherry stemmed in the Yosemite wilderness.

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Jose Manuel Martinez Gutierrez, chief executive of Esprit, speaks during the company’s first-half earnings briefing in Hong Kong in China in 2014.

In large part, REI will still sell the latest lightweight tech gear to those shitting on the glaciers at Mount Rainier and slacklining like monkeys flinging across red rock canyons.

Of course, Patagucci will take the high road and continue to sell vile capitalist apologist environmental doublespeak in its award winning catalogues while promoting its form of Deep Ecology.

And, the grey haired heirs at the NRDC and League of Conservation Voters will continue work with Democracy Alliance and donate money to placate their class and moral guilt, now combating the “anti-environmental” policies of a Trump nouveau riche government.

Indications are they will again later lament the loss of $100 million of their incestuous wealth spent on 2018/20 candidates, their parties and candidates will be as ineffectual as their elite selves in speaking out against climate change and actually acting to save the planet for our working class children.

*  *  *

When you shop at REI and buy North Face or Patagucci, contribute to the Sierra Club, NRDC or other Big Green, you are supporting industries that makes money off of the continued unlimited development and use federal lands. The Wreckreation Industry shares a social class with those who regulate our public lands, has captured the govt organizations and use them to their own benefit, akin to the traditional mining, mineral, timber extractive industries of the past and probable Trump future. It is an industry that unethically claims credit for solving a problem they created – and we sustain this symbiotic for them, parasitic for the planet, paradigm.

You guilty conscience 1% oligarchs interested in environmental causes: now is the time to put your $100+ million in places motivating and enabling people without compromise. The Empire is in ashes and the time is ripe for a new paradigm to be forged during a most critical time of great consequence.

 

[Chris Zinda is an activist and writer living in Oregon.]

A Clear Agenda

Center for World Indigenous Studies

December 9, 2016

by Jay Taber

 

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Unilever’s Fair & Lovely website: “Through unceasing rigorous research and development, we seek to deliver fairness treatments with superior efficacy, to reach more and more women around the world.

As Cory Morningstar and Forrest Palmer report, the corporations that fund the non-profit industrial complex through tax-exempt foundations have a clear agenda, even though that agenda is obscured by the much-hyped show business of the so-called ‘activists’ on their payroll. For corporations like Unilever–owner of Ben & Jerry’s, as well as the “Fair and Lovely” line of products for people of color to whiten their skin–funding foundations run by sellout NGO elites in service to Wall Street is just part of doing business.

ben-jerrys-unilever-pretending-to-care

1,000 gallons of water are required to produce 1 gallon of milk. [Source]

When these co-opted NGOs, i.e. Greenpeace USA and Earth Economics, partner with Wall Street fronts such as 350, Avaaz and Ceres, they function as well-heeled pied pipers that distract concerned people from more serious and effective political engagement. To call this aspect of the thoroughly-corrupted, non-profit industry serious fraud is an understatement. When this complex exploits indigenous peoples fighting for their lives against Wall Street, it becomes an exercise in Orwellian doublespeak.

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Above: Earth Economics banner

As a result, caring but naive followers of these pied pipers are led into “consumer activism” and other infantile civic roles, where they are easily manipulated by public relations firms such as Agit-Pop Communications (formerly Ruckus Productions). These PR firms, in turn, promote fascist enterprises such as The New Economy.

 

[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.]

Standing Rock: Profusion, Collusion & Big Money Profits [Part 3]

Wrong Kind of Green

December 9, 2016

Part three of an investigative report by Cory Morningstar with Forrest Palmer

Standing Rock Investigative Report Series [Further Reading]:  Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6Addendum

 

In Part 3 of this series, Cory Morningstar and Forrest Palmer break down the funding and high-profile players and corporations behind the non-profit industrial complex who have been the soft power behind the climate change agenda and actions in recent years. From ice cream tycoons to liberal author darlings, there are deep connections to resources that have strategically co-opted the climate justice movement in its entirety. The spread of activist fervor is being harvested as a potential source new “consumer-activism.”  The consumer-activism is guided by bestselling playbooks for nonviolent revolution and a global network of trainers with a common “indigenous led” pedagogy.

Indigenous Ally: Unilever

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“Never Waste a Good Crisis” – Paul Polman, Chief Executive Officer of Unilever

“Standing with Standing Rock” is racist Unilever’s Ben & Jerry’s.

In 2010, Unilever’s brand “Vaseline” launched a Facebook app in India to encourage users to whiten their skin in profile pictures. Further, Unilever owns “Fair and Lovely” — a deeply problematic line of skin bleaching products sold around the globe. [Source: Ben & Jerry’s is supporting Black Lives Matter — but will it make a difference? October 7, 2016 ] The question is: how did Indigenous Nations end up partnering with a corporation that shames people of colour and why does such a partnership continues?

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Unilever’s Kodaikanal mercury poisoning is one of the well chronicled cases of toxic pollution anywhere in the world. Kodaikanal Pollution is a proven case of mercury contamination by (Hindustan Unilever) during the process of manufacturing mercury thermometers for global export. In 2016, following 15 years of legal action, a settlement between Hindustan Unilever and the 591 former workers of the thermometer factory in the southern Indian hill town of Kodaikanal was reached. The amount was not disclosed. [Kodaikanal Won’t Video]

According to the Ben & Jerry’s website, this corporation is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Unilever with an independent Board of Directors. Upon purchase, Unilever agreed to a one-time gift of $5 million to The Ben & Jerry’s Foundation to be administered by the foundation trustees. Board of directors include Annie Leonard (Executive Director of Greenpeace USA.” and co-founder of Earth Economics, a newer NGO that will provide tools for the financialization of nature)[1], and Pier Luigi Sigismondi, Chief Supply Chain Officer for Unilever.

Ben & Jerry’s (owned by Unilever) is in partnership with United Nations, 350.org, Avaaz and BICEP (a coalition of more than 20 leading consumer brand corporations created by 350.org divestment campaign partner Ceres). Campaigns include Save Our Swirled campaign and the recent Pathway to Paris campaign. Unilever  is also a partner to The B Team (the NGO founded by billionaire Richard Branson) as well as partner of the Avaaz sister organization, Purpose Inc., the for-profit marketing firm specializing in behavioural change. Purpose co-founder Jeremy Heimans also serves the B Team. Both Unilever, B Team and Purpose are all united under the NGO “We Mean Business” . [Further reading: PATHWAYS TO SPECTACLE | CONSUMERISM AS “ACTIVISM”]

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As an alternative to the American/colonial “Thanksgiving” dinner, a “Water Protectors Community Appreciation Dinner” was held on November 24, 2016 at the Standing Rock Community School on the reservation. Ben & Jerry’s donated the ice cream for dessert. As David Jones, former Global CEO of Havas Advertising and co-founder of TckTckTck as well as One Young World, foresaw in 2010, “who cares wins.”

“The Ben & Jerry’s Foundation recently awarded a $10,000 grant to the Indigenous Environmental Network to help them bring food and water to the camp and provide medical and legal aid for the protestors.” Ben & Jerrys website

On a similar note, in April, 2013 Upworthy (co-founded by Eli Pariser: Avaaz co-founder, Open Societies Foundations Advisory Board member) announced its initial revenue approach, “and that Unilever will become the first commercial brand to join a new “Upworthy Collaborations” advertising and sponsorship program…. Participation in the Upworthy Collaborations program will extend to brands, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and foundations.” [Source]

“Upworthy attracts a huge community of highly influential, socially conscious citizens — people who share our goal of building a better future for children,” said Marc Mathieu, Unilever Senior Vice President, Global Marketing. “Our partnership will include work for several of our brands, and we are looking forward to seeing how effective story-telling can help us engage with people more meaningfully.”

On the Ben and Jerry’s website (September 22, 2016) under “Here are Four Easy Ways YOU Can Help” the text reads “Please join us right now in supporting this remarkable cause” with the number one recommended action being: “1) Sign this petition to urge President Obama to stop the pipeline.”. The petition does not direct to the Standing Rock website, rather it redirects the reader to the 350.org website petition. Regardless, despite any given amount of energy being expended into online petitions, the reality is that this very “strategy” functions first and foremost as a means of broadening a support base and collecting massive volumes of personal information. The state doesn’t give a fuck about the common man (referred to commonly today as human capital) and never will. For the state, the working class are nothing more than mere consumers and human capital while minority groups are considered disposable/dispensable (and treated as such). One key task of the NPIC is to condition/convince these very citizens to believe otherwise. That oppressors can be made to be caring and good by demonstrating a fine display of moral conduct.

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“Unilever’s chief executive reflects on lessons learned at three major consumer goods companies, including how to manage people in a global context, the obligations corporations have to society, and why you should never waste a good crisis.” — McKinsey conversations with global leaders: Paul Polman of Unilever [Source]

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On the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe website page promoting a *Dave Mathews rock concert sponsored by Unilever’s Ben & Jerry’s, there are three “take action” options. Option 1, sign the petition; Option 2, call the Whitehouse; Option 3, donate. [*Dave Mathews band has been working in partnership with Ben & Jerry’s since 2002.]

Upon clicking option 1 (sign the petition) you are re-directed to the Stand With Standing Rock  (“an official site of standingrock.org”) “take action” page to sign the petition:

As one can see in the screenshot below, the petition is brought to you by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the “Other 98”. The petition cites a target goal of 1 million signatures (in other words, the data of one million people). In tiny text under the two logos it reads “Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and Other98 may send you updates on the fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline via email.” There is no privacy disclosure as to what organizations (if any) Other98 will be sharing vast volume of collected data with.

Who is Other98?

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Other98%

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The Other 98%: “On tax day in 2010, Agit-Pop communications announced a new project called ‘The Other 98%'”. Agit-Pop worked closely with MoveOn (founder of Avaaz) in past campaigns. This campaign would be no exception.  “The pledge [2010:08:10: “Fight Washington Corruption Pledge”] is part of a broader campaign, titled the Other 98%, that will work this fall to elect leaders who will fight for the majority of Americans and not just the top 2%. This will be MoveOn’s major push this election cycle.” [Source: Wikileaks]

“That’s not what The Other 98 Percent would be doing, of course. They’re already closely involved in Occupy Wall Street. In fact, The Other 98 Percent’s Action Director, helped get Occupy Wall Street off the ground, taking part in early planning sessions and facilitating the meeting the night before the protest launched. — Occupy Wall Street Poses Branding Problem for “The Other 98 Percent, November 9, 2010

Andrew Boyd  is  the founder & project director at Beautiful Trouble. Boyd is co-founder of The Other 98% (which has been rebranded to Other98), a founding partner of Agit-Pop Communications.

“Agit-Pop Communications is an award-winning one-stop creative studio delivering strategic messaging, cutting edge New Media and boots-on-the-ground campaigning to the progressive netroots. We’ve won a Webby, two Contagious Festivals, Best Political Prank of 2009, YouTube’s Best Political Video of 2007, and the grudging respect of our enemies.”

His past activities include founding “Billionaires for Bush” (2003-2005), creative consultant for Credo mobile, Campaign Consultant & Campus Presenter for organizations ad NGOs such as UAW, Greenpeace, Sierra Club, Council of Canadians, JWJ, CTWO, RAN, etc.

Beautiful Trouble: A Toolbox for Revolution  seeks to gather together, in one place, as much of this dispersed knowledge as possible. In doing so, editors Andrew Boyd (of Billionaires for Bush) and Dave Oswald Mitchell have produced a true treasure trove of collective wisdom. Authors include activists from a wide array of organizations — including Code Pink, the Yes MenRuckus SocietyJustice for JanitorsRebel Clown Army, and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers — along with journalists, filmmakers, trainers, and researchers.” [Source]

One “problem” with having Andrew Boyd as a key member of the organization behind the Standing Rock NGO campaign is that Standing Rock should never be equated in any form to “beautiful trouble”. “Beautiful Trouble” is liberal soft porn for bored albeit well-intentioned liberals and those with limited exposure to the history of movements and revolutionaries. The resistance at Standing Rock is not “beautiful trouble” – rather, it is life and death in the face of genocide for Indigenous nations. It is worth noting Code Pink (a contributor to “Beautiful Trouble”) an NGO that has recently become active at Standing Rock, has recently issued a media release promoting the Netflix White Helmets propaganda video.

Partners publicly identified by Beautiful Trouble include Sellers and Boyd’s Agit-Pop Communications /The Other 98%, 350.org, The Ruckus Society, Code Pink, The Center for Story-based Strategy (formerly smartMeme) Waging Nonviolence, and others. [2]

Agit-Pop clientele includes MoveOn, Avaaz, Amnesty International, Rainforest Action Network, Credo, Tar Sands Coalition (350.org), and many others. [Client list as accessed by Sourcewatch in 2013]

Prior to the communications studio being called Agit-Pop, it was called “Ruckus Productions”.  May 24, 2007: “Our friends at Ruckus Productions recently did an incisive and graphically charged agit-prop video to help launch the Avaaz.org campaign: Stop The Clash of Civilizations, with music by DJ Spooky. Yesterday it was posted on the home page of YouTube and as of this moment has been viewed over 188,000 times.” [Avaaz was founded in 2007].

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Above: Screen shot of the Other98 “Warriors Wanted” video for Standing Rock identifying the Standing Rock partnerships. The video posted October 18, 2016 on Facebook has garnered 371,000 views  and 14, 103 shares (as of Dec 1, 2016).

The Other 98% twitter account follows their project partners and the usual blasé liberal NGO establishment. MoveOn, Eli Pariser (Avaaz/Upworthy founder), Credo, NRDCc, RAN, New Organizing Institute, 350, SEIU, Tar Sands Action, New Economy Coalition, Next Gen, Rising Tides, Greenpeace, Annie Leonard, CodePink and many more who move through  the interlocking directorate of the NPIC.

John Sellers is co-founder of The Other 98% and Agit-Pop Communications with Boyd. He is the former executive director of the Ruckus Society and current board president. Sellers worked for Greenpeace in the early 90s (office director, Greenpeace,  Washington) prior to joining  Ruckus. (Andy Menconi, who serves as Agit-Pops’s art diector is also co-founder of Agit-Pop Communications with Sellers and Boyd.) [SouceWatch: John Sellers run the liberal public relations and online campaign consulting business Agit-Pop which he co-founded with Andrew Boyd. Their clients include dozens of groups affiliated with Democratic Party politics and liberal causes including MoveOnCREDOFamilies USAAFSCME, etc.”]

The Other98 & AVAAZ

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Image: U.S. President Barack Obama with Avaaz co-founder and former U.S. Representative Tom Perriello. Perriello served as President and CEO of the Center for American Progress Action Fund and as a Counselor for Policy at Center for American Progress until July of 2015 when he was appointed Special Envoy for the African Great Lakes and the Congo-Kinshasa by the White House.[Source]

“The Ivy League bourgeoisie who sit at the helm of the non-profit industrial complex will one day be known simply as charismatic architects of death. Funded by the ruling class oligarchy, the role they serve for their funders is not unlike that of corporate media. Yet, it appears that global society is paralyzed in a collective hypnosis – rejecting universal social interests, thus rejecting reason, to instead fall in line with the position of the powerful minority that has seized control, a minority that systematically favours corporate interests. — Avaaz: Imperialist Pimps of Militarism, Protectors of the Oligarchy, Trusted Facilitators of War

Avaaz was founded by Res Publica, which is described as a global civic advocacy group, and Democratic front party, Moveon.org. The silent voice behind Avaaz, Res Publica, is, in the public realm, essentially comprised of three key individuals: Tom Perriello, a pro-war (former) U.S. Representative who describes himself as a social entrepreneur; Ricken Patel, consultant to many of the most powerful entities on Earth and the long-time associate of Perriello; and Tom Pravda, a member of the UK Diplomatic Service who serves as a consultant to the U.S. State Department. [Source: WELCOME TO THE BRAVE NEW WORLD – BROUGHT TO YOU BY AVAAZ]

Boyd shares an affiliation with both MoveOn (co-founder of Avaaz) and Avaaz itself.

On the “team” section located on the Billionaires for Bush website, the disclosed Board of Advisors (identified as a “partial listing”) includes Avaaz co-founder Ricken Patel. [Description: “A fellow of Res Publica and co-founder of Faithful America. Graduated first in a class of 350 from Balliol College, Oxford and was a Silliman Scholar at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard. He has consulted widely including for the Rockefeller Foundation, Harvard University, and CARE International.”] [Further background on Patel]

Boyd shares office space with the Avaaz Foundation headquarters in New York. He uses Avaaz address for Agit-Pop communications even referencing those who wish to contact him to ring to the “Avaaz” buzzer.

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Above screenshot: The Avaaz Foundation (also known as Avvaz.org) address as listed on the Guidestar website: 857 Broadway, 3rd Floor, New York, NY 10003

Below screenshot: Contact information as found on Boyd’s personal website: “me at the office: Agit-Pop East, 857 Broadway, New York, NY 10003 (at corner of B’ & 17th., “Avaaz” buzzer, 3rd floor)

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Much of the Beautiful Trouble book project took place in the Avaaz office:

“Writing Beautiful Trouble has been a novel process…The book was assembled in the cloud, with much of the heavy lifting done during four ‘book sprints’ that took place in Avaaz’s lovely New York City office, which they were generous enough to let us use.” [Source]

One thing is certain. Imperial-liberal left “activists” have no issues in maintain close relationships with NGO co-founders who share much responsibility for deaths of hundreds of thousands of Libyan and Syrian citizens. This begs the question on why they would feel any differently toward the ongoing genocide of Indigenous nations on American soil.

Ironically, part two of Beautiful Trouble shares a section titled “No one wants to watch a drum circle.” [Source]

Climate Ribbon

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Andrew Boyd, Gan Golan, and Naomi Klein at the Climate Ribbon art-ritual after the People’s Climate March, NYC, September 21, 2014.

Another project of The Other 98 is the direct action project “Climate Ribbon” created to coincide with the September 2014 “People’s Climate March (PCM) organized by GCCA/TckTckTck. [“In the Climate Ribbon ritual, participants are invited to find a stranger’s ribbon, read it aloud, have the group answer ‘We are with you,’ or ‘We’ve got your back!’ Then they tie the ribbon onto their wrists and take it home with them.”] The launch of the Climate Ribbon was the culminating art installation at the 2014 People’s Climate March. The project’s Advisory Circle includes AVAAZ, 350.org, Greenpeace, Beautiful Trouble, Rainforest Action Network, Movement Generation, The Other 98%, CODEPINK, and many others.  [Source] 1563 organizations participated.

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Notables featured for their ribbons include Al Gore, Naomi Klein and Bill McKibben.

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Our pied pipers fly to faraway places. The masses follow. The crude oil must flow to feed the collective appetite of the 1-2% who create 50% of all global greenhouse gas emissions. That is, anyone who can afford to fly on a plane. We write messages of love on spools of red synthetic ribbons imported from Chinese sweatshops, to adorn our egos and self-gratification. Simultaneously, our brothers and sisters throughout the global south are paying the price for our carbon intensive, consumptive lifestyles that continue to expand unabated. ” By way of our collective actions, “the other 98%” does not matter. Actions speak louder than words. Our appetites cannot be quelled. We look away. As the grotesque Madeline Albright once said: “we think the price is worth it.”

The ribbon theme would be utilized the following year (2015) for COP21 in Paris.

Beautiful Trouble

“Beautiful Trouble is a crash course in the emerging field of carnivalesque realpolitik, both elegant and incendiary.”— Naomi Klein

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“Based in New York City. Project spans the globe…. The leadership of Beautiful Solutions first published Beautiful Trouble, a book that has sold 10,000 copies, been translated into seven languages, and used by campaigns and classrooms across North America and Europe.” [Source: Rauschenberg Foundation]

As previously discussed, partner organizations publicly disclosed by Beautiful Trouble include Sellers and Boyd’s Agit-Pop Communications /The Other 98%, The Ruckus Society, and others. More recent partnerships include 350.org, This Changes Everything and Avaaz.

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Collectively these NGOs (identified above) serve as the hub of organizations that provide non-violent direct action (NVDA) training, shaping  and developing the ideologies and aspirations of whole societies via expertise in behavioural change.

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Following in the footsteps of Avaaz and 350.org, both global in scale, Beautiful Trouble outlines its own “expanding beautiful universe”, “beautiful happenings” and “share the love”:

“We launched (and are hard at work on) Beautiful Solutions: In partnership with Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything, we’re building an interactive online gallery for sharing the stories, solutions and big ideas from the new economy and social justice movements that are critical to address the challenges we all face from climate change.”

A recent paid/part-time internship opportunity for Beautiful Trouble can be found on The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center at Dartmouth College, an Ivy League institution that “fosters a commitment to the ideals of public service and informed public debate exemplified by Nelson A. Rockefeller, former governor of New York State and Vice President of the United States.” [Source] This posting, as uneventful as it seems, exemplifies the target market/demographic of potential leadership sought and developed by NGOs that comprise the NPIC: that of ivy league status and class. There are no Indigenous trainers identified on the Beautiful Trouble website.

The Beautiful Trouble network “is an alliance of artists, trainers, and creative campaigners who continue to support creative activism. It seeks creative approaches to social change.” [Source] Beautiful trouble is not about revolution. It about the development for the expansion of American driven ideologies and social constructs imparted by those who benefit from such institutions. The Beautiful Trouble network is an exercise of the development and expansion of networked hegemony driven by the belief of American exceptionalism. It reframes the necessity regarding the required dismantling of  the capitalism system in its entirety by creating a false illusion that the system can instead be made better by the “new economy”, otherwise known as transformative capitalism, generative capitalism and natural capitalism.

To do so, it targets and appeals not to those who wish to overthrow the system, but to those who wish to further benefit from the system – by developing a strong base and ideology with more than willing converts. This creates a cultural ambience, where improving the economic system is the only acceptable recourse. It further drives these manufactured societal norms via social engineering. Revolution is no longer the overthrowing of a system to save what little remains of life on this Earth, but a pathway for electric cars, fair trade Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and solar panels.

“We also began work on Beautiful Rising: Starting in 2015, Beautiful Trouble and ActionAid Denmark are teaming up with activists, movements and organizations across the Global South to assemble a toolkit of creative activism that will showcase the innovative tactics and strategies of southern social movements. If you have activist connections in Burma, Uganda, the Middle East/Jordan, Zimbabwe, and (maybe) El Salvador… let us know, we’d love to reach out to them.” Beautiful Trouble website, January 8, 2015

The Beautiful Trouble network has previously been focused on establishing success domestically and is now targeting global expansion. This is an almost unconscious exercise in psychological conditioning of whole societies which spreads like a contagion. A physical maneuvering that affords 21st century colonization and the expansion of US imperialism a shield against any/all criticisms. In a very real sense this 21st century form of  colonization and the expansion of US imperialism although carried out in broad daylight, remains invisible.

This is imperial soft power in its most gentle form. This is the belief in American exceptionalism to be contemplated, digested and finally dispersed to non-Anglo countries by the white middle class demographic, in periods of boredom and emptiness between shopping and Netflix. A Brave New World virus transmitted via a “hearts and minds” netwar.

In partnership with 350.org, GCCA, and Avaaz, we pulled off BT’s First European Training in Budapest in September, 2014 with youth climate leaders from a dozen countries across Eastern and Central Europe.

 

“Help us supply low-budget activists across the globe with a free copy of Beautiful Trouble (follow the link and click “gift edition”.) We’ll take these copies with us in our global workshops, as well as use them to stock worker centers and prison libraries, to ensure they reach people who can use a little trouble in their life but otherwise couldn’t access the book.” [Source: 2015: More beautiful(s) than ever! – January 8, 2015]

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The Beautifful Trouble Network, a key instrument of empire, has it eyes on the global South: “Beautiful Trouble and ActionAid Denmark are teaming up with activists, movements and organizations across the Global South”.

Par for the course, Beautiful Trouble, like all imperial NGOs, tows the line in framing governments in the global south as repressive, without ever referring to their own government/governments in this manner. All while their own governments (in this instance the US) is carrying out war, occupations ad illegal invasions throughout the entire globe. This sets the tone for destabilization efforts throughout the globe such as the current one in Venezuela, where Canvass/Otpor (promoted by 350, OWS, etc.) is utilizing the work of Gene Sharp and has been working in concert with right-wing forces to overthrow socialist President Nicolas Maduro.

“Hoaxes or flash mob, protest modes should, according to American activist Andrew Boyd, adapt to changes of capitalism, without neglecting traditional events… Internet has multiplied the interconnections. Movements like 350 or Avaaz , which has 42 million members, weigh heavily internationally. Both organizations working on human rights, environmental justice, corruption, and will probably be very active at the Climate Conference in Paris in December. In a forthcoming book, Beautiful Rising, whose website already allows sharing of experiences, the idea is to provide better tools to the particular circumstances of the South, where the political environment is often more repressive, Internet less accessible. Cultural differences exist due to less economic development. Mounting an action in the favelas in Brazil has nothing to do with the struggle of the middle class in New York.” — The Challenge Must Go Through More Creative and Joyful Actions, March 27, 2015

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Above: Naomi Klein. “Spectacle celebrities like Naomi Klein, while raising valid (albeit hypocritical) criticism of the complex, count on infantile consumers to maintain their activist credentials. Serving as proxies for consumer rage, yet asking nothing serious of them as citizens, makes these capitalist activists popular and profitable PR puppets.” [Further reading: THE INCREASING VOGUE FOR CAPITALIST-FRIENDLY CLIMATE DISCOURSE]

December 10, 2012: “BT invited along on 350.org’s “Do the Math” tour. Andrew Boyd, one of Beautiful Troubles editors, saw the show in New York City where BT author Joshua Kahn Russell MC’d an event that felt more like a mass-workshop cum rock-concert than a lecture tour.” [Source]

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One funder of Beautiful Trouble is the Chorus Foundation is founded by Farhad Ebrahimi. Ebrahimi co-chaired Environmental Grantmakers Association‘s 2015 flagship retreat, which featured Alicia Garza (Black Lives Matter) as a speaker. [Source] (Chorus Foundation is a member of Environmental Grantmakers Association.) The foundation utilizes the language of “new power” (Jeremy Heimans of Purpose) and the “new economy” (the green economy rebranded): “We need to divest from the old economy and invest in the transition to a new economy. To date, we have invested nearly $4 million in solar and other clean energy as well as in a very small number of companies building the new economy.” The Chorus Foundation is a member of New Economy Funders Network (NEFN). This network identifies “applied ecological economics” (“applying these measures of environmental services and values to economic policy and financial realms.”) as its future and paramount purpose.

The Chorus foundation has invested in Seventh Generation, 350.org, New Economy Coalition, Rainforest Action Network, Ruckus Society, Idle No More, Mosaic Solar, among others, contributed $46,900.00 in 2015 towards a Beautiful Trouble ($5,900.00 for a staff retreat), and identified the NGO as follows: “Beautiful Trouble is a collaborative effort by 70 artist-activists-strategists and over 10 leading creative campaign organizations including the YesMen/YesLab, Ruckus Society, Other 98%, and others.” According to the Chorus Foundation website, $25,000 of the funding went to the “initial phase of the Beautiful Solutions project, a partnership with Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis’ This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate.” [Source]

Beautiful Solutions, The Backbone Campaign

Beautiful Solutions is fiscally sponsored by The Backbone Campaign which is also identified as a partner NGO in the Beautiful Trouble network. Executive director Bill Moyer co-founded the Backbone Campaign in 2003. An internet search on the Backbone Campaign address [PO Box 278, Vashon, WA 98070, 206-408-8058] also pulls up the Patagonia corporation (a primary funder of Ruckus).

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Dal LaMagna, Getty Images

In regards to both the address and phone number, The Backbone Campaign is shared with the Progressive Government Institute founded by Dal LaMagna in 2003. The Executive Director of PGI is identified as Bill Moyer, who describes the group in the following way: “The Progressive Government Institute is a non-partisan, educational organization dedicated to ensuring transparency and accountability in the executive branch of the federal government.” Yet, it is glaring that the founder of the group, Dal LaMagna, ran for U.S. Congress twice in the 3rd Congressional District in New York as the Democratic and Green candidate in 1996 and 2000, respectively and ran for President in the 2008 Democratic Primary.

In 2005, LaMagna merged PGI with the Backbone Campaign.

Who is Dal LaMagna?

“Dal is currently working as a responsible capitalist activist. He is an major funder and active Trustee of the Bainbridge Graduate Institute which awards MBA’s in Sustainable Business.” [Source] LaMagna is founder of Tweezerman, a corporation founded in 1980 “that practices responsible capitalism”. LaMagna’sTweezerman, U.S.A. was acquired in 2004 by Solingen, Germany based Zwilling J.A. Henckels for a reported $57 million. The following year LaMagna sold his shares in Tweezerman, India.

LaMagna is a member and former advisory board member of the Social Venture Network (SVN), “a group of responsible capitalists promoting social and economic justice through their businesses.  He is on the board of directors of the Bainbridge Graduate Institute, an MBA program that is “Changing Business for Good.”  Part of the BGI program includes the Dal LaMagna Responsible Capitalism series” LaMaga also serves on the board for The Center For CongressYes MagazineTweezerman Corporation, and Icestone.   He is a founding partner of and a blogger at The Huffington Post and serves on the Dean’s Council for the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.”

LaMagna supports numerous NGOs including: CodePink, The League of Young Voters, the Rainforest Action Network, UFPA United for Peace and Justice, , Business Leaders For Sensible Priorities (BLSP),  the Drug Policy Alliance, the Center for Economic Policy and Research,  The Nation Institute,  Momma’s House, The Rockridge Institute, the Center For Partnership Studies, Gold Star Families For Peace, the Campaign For America’s Future, the Center for Independent Media,  Mount Desert Island Laboratory, and the Washington State Progress Alliance. He currently lives in Poulsbo, Washington and has a second home in Washington, D.C.

LaMagna epitomizes the ultimate ideologies/philosophies and vision of the NGOs and training organizations that comprise the NPIC: a global economy that flourishes under “responsible capitalism”. B Corp corporations, yet another million dollar certification scheme, such as Ben & Jerry’s, set the stage for examples of “evolving capitalism, conscious capitalism and natural capitalism. The CEOs of B Corporations are upheld as the progressive visionaries of our time. The newly appointed stewards of nature. From shareholder capitalism to stakeholder capitalism is the carrot for society meaning, “we are willing to give you a piece of the pie provided we all work together sustain the capitalist economic system”.

“And at least one major corporation is involved. gave a $25,000 grant to the Indigenous Environmental Network, a nongovernmental organization, to support the indigenous community at Standing Rock.” — Fashion Steps Up at Standing Rock, December 2, 2016

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Backbone Campaign: “Rent or borrow this awesome, portable, compact, and lightweight pipeline prop that fully inflates in about a minute. We worked with Rising Tide Seattle to take-over the offices of a top financier of tar sands extraction in a bold and impressive way. Bring this prop to you action, march or protest. It’s fun for participants to help mobilize and grabs the attention of photographers and spectators alike. You can create your own banner to put on the side of it if you like. It’s approximately 30ft long and can be easily help above the heads of the crowd. (check out the exciting video from its debut HERE). Fill out the form below to rent or borrow this prop for your actions.”

Backbone’s said purpose is to “use creative tools and strategies to  educate the public on issues of government transparency, civic participation and democracy. It’s primary focus is imagery and trainings workshops. Highlights of their work include a 2010 flashmob created for MoveOn & Other98 paid for by MoveOn.org Political Action. Other clients/allies include Working Washington & AgitPop, Popular Resistance, and Tzeporah Bermans ForestEthics (now called STAND).

Backbone organized “14+ powerful Kayaktivist actions that earned international headlines”… inspiring “Kayaktivism across country and planet.” [Source]

Global Domination

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Avaaz, “*Our Victories, 2014: Saving the Maasai’s Land” [Source]| Feb 27, 2015: “…another round of evictions is under way: thousands of Maasai have been evicted at gunpoint and their homes burnt to ashes.” [Source]  August 28, 2016: “Thousands of pastoralist Maasai groups in Tanzania have been evicted from a 1,500 sq km area close to the Serengeti, Maasai Mara and Ngorongoro national parks.”[Source]  *Note that there is no update on the Avaaz “Our Victories!” page.

In a 2006 USAID document, the organization suggests that NGOs should be given legal recognition “as an important element in the development of sustainable community development as associated with ecotourism.” Today NGOs are undoubtedly recognized “the most important element in the development of sustainable  community development as associated with the new economy.” The fact that elite interests would like to see NGOs granted legal recognition (this means protection) reveals how critical, and understood, NGO involvement actually is (by the United Stated government) for the further expansion of new markets (payments for ecosystem services), neoliberalism and US foreign policy.

350.org (Rockefeller foundation, Clinton Initiative) has expanded into an international powerhouse. Avaaz, GCCA (TckTckTck) and 350.org are today the most powerful NGOs on the planet. They are perhaps the most vital instrument in empire’s war chest. The goal is the utilization of western ideologies to obtain global domination.

“A five-day Beautiful Trouble training session for 25 young climate activists was organised jointly with 350.org and Avaaz in September with participants from Belarus, Hungary, Montenegro, Poland, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia and Ukraine. GCCA provided expertise, outreach, logistical support and part of the funding for the session, while the group shared an innovative methodology that has proved successful at bringing people out on the street and encouraging them to join the global movement. As a direct result of this session, youth groups organised Peoples’ Climate March actions on 21st September in both Budapest and Warsaw, and successfully used these tactics to take a visible stand against a government squeeze on civil society space in Hungary. GCCA will continue to support the groups involved as they work to mobilise citizens across the region.” — GCCA Annual Report 2014 [Emphasis added][Source]

It is critical to note the gross undermining carried out by TckTckTck/GCCA against Bolivia, the G77 and small island states in 2010 at COP15. Their collective actions, unknown to most, should be considered for what they are: crimes against humanity. [Further reading: The Most Important COP Briefing That No One Ever Heard | Truth, Lies, Racism & Omnicide]

“The objective was to make it become a movement that consumers, advertisers and the media would use and exploit.” — Havas Press Release, EYES WIDE SHUT, TckTckTck expose, January 6, 2010

GCCA/TckTckTck (lead organizer of the 2014 People’s Climate March)  is a “coalition of twenty key international organizations” including Avaaz, 350.org, Greenpeace , Kofi Anna’s Global Humanitarian Forum, OXFAM, WWF, World Council of Churches, Union of Concerned Scientists, Equiterre, Global Call to Action against Poverty (also co-chaired by Kumi Naidoo), and the Pew Environment Group. [Source: TckTckTck: The Bitch is Back]

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350.org in Burundi, Africa:”Hundreds of thousands join the People’s Climate March in New York and in more than 2,000 communities all over the world … Meanwhile, one of the most popular malls in the Philippines has launched the world’s largest solar power on its facility. The SM Supermalls has installed 5,700 solar panels on its North EDSA branch on November 24, 2014. The system is said to generate 1.5 megawatts of solar energy, covering five percent of the store’s average daily electricity consumption.” [For more photos see source] Avaaz is also in Burundi on other business. The business of destabilization: Avaaz Hones In On Burundi as Next U.S. Fait Accompli

Consider that from June 13-15, 2016, 350.org, headlined at “The Global Youth Forum of the World Bank”  (live blog). Those on the first panel included activities from Energy Action CoalitionHere Now (Purpose), 350.org, and Green Brunei. It’s not the mere fact that 350 et al wish to work within the system. What must be understood (and thus far it is not) is that they are part of the system itself.

“Slogans like “350”, “New Economy”, and “Sustainable Capitalism” are promoted by Mad Men via foundation-funded front groups, and echoed by media, thus generating enough noise to overwhelm critical judgement. Symbols that appeal to progressives’ emotional vulnerabilities, like rising sun logos used to symbolize hope and change, are recycled to mean “This Changes Everything”, thus creating the impression that neoliberal reform is socialist revolution.” — Hijacking the Environmental Movement, April 25, 2016

All good intentions aside, well intentioned and well meaning citizens are being corralled by the world’s foremost experts in social engineering and behavioural change. East Indians struggle to survive poisoning at the hands of Unilever while in the West, liberal left sycophants strive to partner with Unilever, Patagonia, Seventh Generation (recently purchased by Unilever) etc. – all under the banner of “environmentalism” and “social justice”. “Success” is only achieved by economic growth. The more growth, the more environmental destruction, exploitation of those most vulnerable, pollution and carbon emissions – on an already exhausted planet on the brink of ecological collapse. It is the height of insanity.

 

Next: Part 4

 

End Notes:

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

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

[2] Others include The New Organizing Institute, Beyond the Choir, Nonviolence International, Alliance of Community Trainers, The Yes Men/Yes Labs, The Center for Artistic Activism (where Boyd serves on the advisory board), and Escola de Activismo.

 

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

[Forrest Palmer is an electrical engineer residing in Texas.  He is a part-time blogger and writer and can be found on Facebook. You may reach him at forrest_palmer@yahoo.com.]

 

Standing Rock: Profusion, Collusion & Big Money Profits [Part 1]

Standing Rock: Profusion, Collusion & Big Money Profits [Part 2]

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

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

Wrong Kind of Green

October 29, 2016

The “New Economy” is Not Inclusive

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

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

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

 

 

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

The Heinrich Böll Foundation

December 3, 2015

by Clive Spash

 

+++

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

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

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

costanza_meme_pes_small

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

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

kareiva_pes_small

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

tercek_pes_small

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

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

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

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

rebrand 4

 

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

 

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

The Dark Side of Renewable Energy: The Bottleneck of a Low-carbon Future

China Dialogue

August 25, 2016

by Liu Hongqiao

 

Rare earth metals are essential for wind turbines and electric vehicles but potential short supply may become a limiting factor, writes Liu Hongqiao

Main untreated water flow in rain season meitu 1

When it rains untreated residual chemicals from an abandoned leaching pond flow into Ganzhou’s surface water. (Image by Liu Hongqiao)

Main pre treatment pool at a mine site meitu 4

A pre-treatment pool at a mine site. These pools are a requirement of China’s new environment standards. (Image by Liu Hongqiao)

Main leaching pools meitu 6

A leaching pond in an open-air mining site in Ganzhou. (Image by Liu Hongqiao)

Main pipes pools and the hills in distance meitu 7

Weeds growing over abandoned leaching ponds and PVC pipes at the Zudong mine site. (Image by Liu Hongqiao)

Main abandoned factory meitu 8

An abandoned factory in Zudong mine site in Ganzhou. (Image by Liu Hongqiao)

Main abandoned factory 4 meitu 9

An abandoned rare earth factory at the Zudong mine site in Ganzhou. (Image by Liu Hongqiao)

Main a board saying conserve water and soil is to protect human being meitu 10

A board in Ganzhou saying, “to conserve water and soil is to protect human life”. (Image by Liu Hongqiao)

Rare earth metals, hard-to-find materials, with unfamiliar names such as lanthanum, neodymium and europium, are used in wind and solar energy projects, but dwindling supplies could hinder a roll-out of low carbon technologies and slow China’s shift away from coal power.

These compounds, which are highly toxic when mined and processed, also take a heavy environmental toll on soil and water, posing a conundrum for policymakers in China, the world’s biggest producer and consumer of rare earths.

In 2012 the Chinese government named the city of Ganzhou, in the southeastern province of Jiangxi, a “rare earths kingdom”; even though at that time its rare earth reserves were already almost depleted.

According to a rare earths white paper issued by the State Council News Office in 2012, the reserves to extraction ratio for rare earth elements in southern China was 15. In other words, if mining continued at the existing rate, those reserves rich in medium and heavy rare earth elements (MHREEs) would only last for another 15 years.

Three years later and 6,000 miles away in Paris, 190 countries signed the historic Paris Climate Agreement, including plans to introduce a greater share of wind and solar power in a “decarbonised” future. But few of the delegates gathered in Paris seemed to realise how important one small south-central Chinese city would be to achieving this target; as almost all the clean, smart and low-carbon technologies are reliant on rare earths.

This prompts the questions: do we have enough rare earths to build the clean and smart future we’re imagining; can China, supplier of 90% of the global rare earths over the last 20 years, meet expected growth in demand; and what will the environmental consequences be.

Rare earths kingdom

Chinese geologists working in Ganzhou fifty years ago discovered ion-absorbing rare earths; a discovery that restructured the world’s supply of rare earths. China replaced the US as the biggest producer of rare earths and Ganzhou rapidly became the world’s largest producer of MHREEs.

Despite rapidly depleting reserves Ganzhou still accounts for more than half of all MHREEs produced in China.

MHREE: Medium heavy rare earth metald. LREE: Light rare earth metals.

A visit to the mines and industrial parks of Ganzhou gives no sense of a glorious “kingdom”. It’s a scene of devastation: crude open air mines and smelters, and rough muddy attempts at restoring the landscape. It’s a sight hard to associate with the environmental technologies that rare earths are used in.

Water in and around the mining area is severely polluted. According to China Environmental News, the water supply for 30,000 people in the county of Longnan alone has been affected by rare earth mining, with 40,000 mu (6,589 acres) of farmland seeing reduced yields or complete harvest failure.

Over a decade of excessive extraction has left the surface water in the Zudong mining area, China’s biggest source of ion-absorption rare earths, with ammonia and total nitrogen levels far above safe standards; while groundwater is nowhere near up to minimum drinking water standards.

In April 2012 a cross-ministry investigation headed up by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology found 302 abandoned rare earth mining sites in Ganzhou, with 97.34 square kilometres affected. It would take 70 years just to deal with the 190 million tonnes of mining waste left behind.

Industrial profile of Ganzhou

Black market

China’s government says the country “meets 90% of the world’s demand for rare earths, but has only 23% of global reserves.” In the early 1990s China overtook the US to become the world’s biggest producer and exporter of rare earths and since then has virtually become a monopoly supplier, with some rare earth products produced only in China. If you trace them back to the source the vast majority of fluorescent lamps, off-shore wind turbines, electric and hybrid cars, smartphones and personal electronic devices have, thanks to the rare earths used in their components, “Chinese DNA”.

According to the US Geological Survey, at one point China was accounting for 98% of global rare earth output. In 2015 that figure still reached 85%.

China plays an even bigger role in the world’s rare earth trade than is apparent on the surface because of its black market. The main importers who benefit from China’s rare earths production, such as the US, Korea and Japan, as well as the manufacturers and brands who use rare earths in their products, often tap into a substantial black market in rare earths. Every year tens of thousands of tonnes of rare earth ores are illegally mined and traded, leaving China through the black market.

Those higher up the supply chain turn a blind eye to this, and international cooperation on law enforcement is minimal. With no international traceability system, such as that for conflict minerals, companies have no way of monitoring supply chains and we cannot know if the electric cars we drive or the smartphones we use contain illegally mined and smuggled rare earths.

The huge profits to be made means Ganzhou is plagued by illegal mining. The China Rare Earth Industry Association estimates that in 2013 the actual supply of rare earths in southern China was over 50,000 tonnes, and over 40,000 tonnes in 2014. However the Ministry of Land and Resources only permitted output of 17,900 tonnes per year for that period. That means the black market may be two to three times the size of the legitimate market.

And rare earth mining, whether legal or not, entails shocking environmental costs. Research has found that producing one tonne of rare earth ore (in terms of rare earth oxides) produces 200 cubic metres of acidic waste water. The production of the rare earths needed to meet China’s demand for wind turbines up to 2050 (in a scenario of radical wind power expansion) will result in the release of 80 million cubic metres of waste water – enough to fill Hangzhou’s West Lake eight times over. Not to mention the emissions from the rest of the product lifecycle; smelting, separation, processing, transportation.

Business, policy-makers and consumers all need to think again: what actions can we take to ensure we meet our low-carbon goals in a way which is friendlier to both the environment and the climate? It is after all both contradictory and unjust to sacrifice public health and the environment in a resource-producing area for the sake of low-carbon development.

Source: China Water Risk

New challenges in a post-Paris era

In April over 170 countries visited New York to sign up to the Paris Agreement, buttressing attempts at “decarbonisation”.

That means now is the time to look again at the link between China’s rare earth resources and the clean, low-carbon and smart technologies relying on those.

Over the last 20 years the environment has paid the price for China’s economic successes.

The country’s rare earth reserves are much depleted; environmental costs in the trillions of yuan have not been factored into market prices; and a rampant black market in rare earths, both at home and abroad, has exacerbated environmental damage and the loss of resources.

This has left the Chinese government with no option but to cover huge environmental remediation costs, while those living near rare earth mines are directly or indirectly suffering environmental and health problems.

Another issue is that China is no longer simply a supplier and exporter or rare earths as domestic demand for these resources has increased sharply. China is the main driver of global investment in wind power. In a scenario for radical expansion of wind power produced by the National Development and Reform Commission’s Energy Research Institute, China could see installed wind power capacity of 2,000,000 megawatts (2 terawatts) by 2050. A typical 2 megawatt turbine contains 341-363 kilograms of the rare earth neodymium and about 59 kilograms of dysprosium.

The quantities of rare earths needed just to allow for wind power growth are astounding, and this is before the increased rare earth demand arising from the “China Manufacturing 2025” plan, which aims to prioritise development in electric vehicles, marine engineering equipment and astronautic and aeronautic manufacturing, are considered.

China may not even be able to meet domestic demand, never mind increasing demand from other nations. According to UN Conference on Trade and Development estimates, global demand for rare earths will be between 200,000 and 240,000 tonnes annually by 2020, with 70% of that demand coming from China. Even if China makes full use of its entire mining quota, there is still a gap of 35,000 to 63,000 tonnes between new annual output and expected growth in demand. How will that gap be met?

Looking at rare earths throws up other unanswered questions about our low-carbon future. How will all that waste water be handled? Will there be new drinking water safety issues? Will the costs of better technology and management, intended to reduce emissions, be reflected in rare earth prices?

Back in 2014 the Chinese government declared a “war on pollution”, which was followed up by “history’s toughest” environmental protection law and standards for the rare earth industry on emissions and the use of water and energy. This means compliance costs for the industry are bound to rise; low-cost rare earth mining and processing are a thing of the past in China. EU and US research bodies have pointed out that there will be a shortage of light rare earths in the short and mid-term, while the shortage of medium and heavy rare earths will be in the mid and long-term. The combination of increased costs and shortages mean price rises are inevitable.

The world must ask if its low-carbon future may be limited by these “industrial vitamins”.

[Liu Hongqiao is lead author in the China Water Risk report, Rare Earths: Shades Of Grey – Can China continue to fuel our clean and smart future? ]