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Reclaim Conservation: Activists & Communities Vs. Mainstream Conservation Myths

Reclaim Conservation

December 9, 2017

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

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

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

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

Conservation is activism

Conservation is against corruption

Conservation is against all kinds of discriminations

Conservation is against right wing, capitalist exploitation

Conservation is compassion

If not, conservation will just not work!

 

www.reclaimconservation.org

Questions about #DefundDAPL, Standing Rock or #NODAPL? – #askwarren

The Radiant Labyrinth

 

ask warren cnbc

CNBC is running the twitter hashtag #askwarren so that the general public can submit questions for Warren Buffett’s interview with them on Monday, February 27th, 2017. I’ve created this page to document and supply real questions with accompanying documented explanations for why they ought to be asked, in order to tweet all of them using the hashtag. The reason for this is to out Mr. Buffett for being a major DAPL investor to the tune of over $6.8 billion, a fact that has been obsequiously omitted by the press. This is in all likelihood because Buffett’s philanthropy protects him since he is responsible for giving Gates Foundation 58% of its stock portfolio. Since Gates Foundation manages the mainstream press via funding, Buffett is avoided in the press. FYI, CNBC, the outfit doing this interview of Buffett is on that funding list of media partners.

Thanks to Buffett’s bankrolling of Gates Foundation in Berkshire Hathaway shares exclusively (Buffett’s holding company) -Gates Foundation is in fact invested in the DAPL’s completion to the tune of nearly $1.7 billlion. This is because over 15% of Berkshire Hathaway’s stock portfolio is invested in majority control of Phillips 66, who has a 25% stake in the pipeline. It is Berkshire Hathaway’s 5th largest holding at over $6.8 billion.

Since the likelihood is that all of these documented, reasoned questions will be ignored, the exercise is intended as a demonstration of how the mainstream media is in fact incapable of negotiating reality to the extent of being nigh completely disassociated from matters of pertinence and relevance.

The main point of reference for questions will be my published article which substantiates all of these financials:

HOW BONO’S RED BECAME THE COLOR OF PHILANTHROWASHING DONE RIGHT FOR THE DAKOTA ACCESS PIPELINE

However the third column will be dedicated to the other spectrum and indeed sordid realm of Buffett’s extreme wealth capitalization, a property he shares with Bill Gates and four other men. Nonetheless, the goal will remain to generate awareness as to why Buffett’s 90 wholly owned Berkshire Hathaway subsidiaries should be subject to a general boycott (you can start with Geico) due to Buffett’s DAPL investment, which is more than twelve times larger than any of the banks maximally financing the Dakota Access Pipeline, the largest of whom rank between $500 and $600 million. Incidentally, Gates Foundation’s investment is three times as large, yet you’ve never heard of this in the (Gates Foundation financed) mainstream media. You never hear about Buffett because, philanthropy. Susan Sarandon called it, but she won’t name the DAPL investor-mainstream media funding connection. I have. It’s the Gates Foundation.

Every piece of substantiation of the Question is hyperlinked under the Question. -Learn something.

#askwarren Why are you & by your largesse @gatesfoundation unconcerned about being major DAPL investors?

#askwarren Were you & @gatesfoundation aware @POTUS’s Memorandum causing the USACE to revoke the EIS probably makes the raid initiated on 2/22/17 to enforce your investment illegal?

#askwarren Are you, @POTUS and co-DAPL investor @gatesfoundation aware that the present DAPL route being enforced by state violence violates the Treaty of Fort Laramie?

#askwarren Are you and co-DAPL @Phillips66Co investor @gatesfoundation aware of their conduct in ND and elsewhere?

#askwarren Are you and co-DAPL @Phillips66Co investor @gatesfoundation aware of DAPL design flaws and inherent risk to drinking water?

#askwarren Has @gatesfoundation’s funding of media partners succeeded in concealing his & your DAPL investment from the boycott?

#askwarren Does the #NoDAPL #boycottbanks campaign know they are being helmed by an organization that receives funding from you, 350.org?

#askwarren Are @RED and @ONECampaign aware your funding of @gatesfoundation means they are DAPL beneficiaries?

#askwarren Are you, @gatesfoundation, @U2, @RED, @ONECampaign aware of the state violence enforcing your DAPL investment?

#askwarren Given enforcement of your DAPL investment is questionably illegal & violates Constitution, why are US taxpayers to foot the bill?

#askwarren Are your beneficiaries (@gatesfoundation, @RED, @ONECampaign) aware going against NA tribes over a Treaty issue isn’t a first for you?

The Resolution Copper Land Grab: How Environmental NGOs Expand Green Capitalism

Desert Water Grab

January 28, 2017

 

kareiva_pes_small

People were outraged at the way the Resolution Copper Mining (RCM) finally achieved their land exchange in Arizona. It was the underhanded way Senator John McCain got the legislation passed that fueled the anger, but what many are not aware of is that the swap may not have been possible without the efforts of certain environmental groups. Conservation efforts functioned as currency for Resolution’s access to land, so the land grab could also be called a green grab. Green grabs are taking place in Arizona and beyond, especially around water. The Resolution Copper land exchange provides us with a way to understand the utility of the partnerships corporations forge to gain access to coveted resources.

The land swap is not yet a done deal. An appraisal to determine the equivalence of the parcels to be exchanged is due to be completed this year, according to the Arizona Daily Sun.

“It’s a big ripoff,” Sandy Bahr, director of the Grand Canyon Chapter of the Sierra Club said in an interview last year. “The American public is getting chump change in return for this ecological treasure. The lands that are offered aren’t comparable.”

McCain’s website tells a different story:

Under the bill, the Resolution Copper company would give the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management about 5,500 acres of land identified by the Department of the Interior as ‘important’ for conservation, including property near the San Pedro River, an important migratory bird corridor and wetland habitat for endangered species. In exchange for these lands, Resolution Copper would receive about 2,400 acres of Forest Service land for the exploration and development of our nation’s top copper asset.

While the Sierra Club does not back up the claims about how important the lands are for conservation, a few other organizations did. Arguably, the land exchange may not have been possible without the help of some of these big, more corporate-friendly environmental organizations like The Nature Conservancy and Audubon Arizona, who were involved in affirming, and even contributing to the value of the land to be exchanged for Resolution’s intended mine site. This is something Rio Tinto (majority owner of RCM) had learned from in partnering with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Utah and Madagascar to arrange access to land a few years before. Multinational mining companies, Rio Tinto in particular, in partnership with NGOs, have been networking to improve the reputation and legitimacy of global mining activities since the ‘90s.

It’s clear that the quantity of land is disproportionate in the exchange. The acreage offered up to the feds for the trade (see map) is more than double Resolution’s desired area. However, McCain needed to sneak the exchange through in the National Defense Authorization Act to get it passed because the status and importance of the Chi’chil Bildagoteel/Oak Flat area resulted in nearly a decade of failed attempts to get the land exchange accepted prior to December 2014. Clearly, the conservation claims never swayed those with strong opposition to the mine, but they do count for something.

The appraiser is required to use nationally recognized standards to come up with the value of the parcels. But not only does Resolution actually have a voice in who gets the job to appraise the properties, the Uniform Appraisal Standards for Federal Land Acquisitions’ directive is that the appraiser determine only a market value (defined within the document) for the land. This does not seem to take into consideration the cultural, spiritual, historical, and environmental values such as those attributed by opponents of the mining in the Oak Flat/Apache Leap area.

Monetarily, while Rio Tinto spent “more than $18 million buying up” the parcels to exchange, the land to which Resolution Copper gained access could be worth around 7,000 times more – over $130 billion based on copper prices as of early 2015, as a former Florida Representative pointed out in The Nation. Copper prices had fallen, but the current price is back up to near where it was then. There are many other factors to enter into the equation, however. One is that Resolution Copper has directed hundreds of thousands of dollars towards the conservation activities that may have increased the value, even if not the market value, of the exchange lands.

While the promise of jobs seems to play a bigger role in Resolution Copper’s narrative, the exchange may have been unacceptable without the purportedly valuable conservation land tracts. And now that the legislation passed, whether it is truly an equitable exchange or not is irrelevant in some ways because if the appraisal sees those lands as insufficiently valuable, RCM will just have to add more land or cash to the deal.

Yet, the conservation values of the parcels offered up by RCM were necessary, and thusly emphasized, for public and federal acceptance. In addition to meeting the equal value requirement, land exchanges are required to serve the public interest, which includes “protection of fish and wildlife habitats, cultural resources, watersheds, and wilderness and aesthetic values,” and the Forest Service gets the final say.

Some of these NGOs have consulted with Rio Tinto to contribute to an accounting method to rate the quality of land, using something they call “quality hectares” as a metric based on various values such as biodiversity to frame as offsets the land parcels they intended to “donate“.

resolution-copper-offset-chart

Although the factors, which some refer to as “ecosystem services,” used for this type of valuation, are currently considered nonmarket values not likely to be used in the appraisal, they clearly were important to RCM in determining the value of their land parcels. “Ecosystem services” is an increasingly popular economic construct used to refer to the benefits ecosystems provide to humans.

It doesn’t seem coincidental that law firm Perkins Coie, who has worked for Resolution Copper, wrote a paper in which they made the following argument:

Over the longer term—and to the extent that appropriate methodology is developed and adopted—the BLM could also use the requirement that it obtain fair market value for use of public lands to ensure consideration of ecosystem services in determining land values and rentals.

Both the Forest Service and the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) have attributed legitimacy to recognizing ecosystem services within policy. Multinational mining companies (especially Rio Tinto) and the involved NGOs have been major players on a global scale in market valuation of ecosystem services as well as ways to profit from them.

Valuation of ecosystem services, even if incorporated into the appraisal process, would likely benefit RCM. Even while “cultural,” and more rarely, “spiritual” ecosystem services can be incorporated into the value of land tracts, the fact that the Oak Flat area is not part of a reservation and is not officially recognized as sacred or culturally important works against those who have a connection with the land such as the San Carlos Apache and others.

RCM and certain NGOs’ preferred approach to environmental problems is through market-based “solutions”, which result in transferring resources into private hands. While this is a land grab, the conservation aspect is significant. RCM will gain ownership of the Oak Flat area (unless stopped) by using as currency the parcels obtained and cultivated as conservation projects. The land swap could therefore be considered a green grab. The book (and article) entitled Green Grabbing defines the process as “the appropriation of land and resources for environmental ends” where “‘Appropriation’ implies the transfer of ownership, use rights and control over resources that were once publicly or privately owned – or not even the subject of ownership – from the poor (or everyone including the poor) into the hands of the powerful.”

Why does all this matter? Aside from having more understanding about why this land exchange is not justified, we can learn from how some NGOs partner with private interests to engage in more green grabbing. The Nature Conservancy facilitates the sale of water offsets to companies such as Coca Cola, for example, based on conservation projects in Arizona. They are also supporting the efforts of big housing developments to legitimize construction where aquifers and the rivers like the San Pedro are at risk. Since Rio Tinto has been so central to the development of payments for ecosystem services programs such as offsets, the early stages of this Resolution Copper land exchange effort may have been the foray of the concept of ecosystem services into Arizona.

San Pedro River and Conflicts of Interest

Although the land exchange involved properties in various areas of Arizona, the one in the San Pedro River basin, the 7B Ranch, is the most relevant here, partly because early legislative support for the exchange related to this river. It is also the largest parcel offered by RCM.

Water conservation at the San Pedro River was made central to the land exchange idea when Rick Renzi, US Congressman from Arizona at the time, drew Resolution Copper into a scandal. Renzi was convicted in 2013 of conspiring with the owner of a piece of land in the San Pedro River basin, “to extort and bribe individuals seeking a federal land exchange…” A combination of his connections with Fort Huachuca, an army installation  near the San Pedro, and his desire to have Resolution Copper purchase his friend’s property in the area caused Renzi to assert in 2005, according to Wall Street Journal, that his support of the land exchange

…would hinge in part on whether it helped fulfill a goal to cut water consumption along the San Pedro River… participants in the deal say. Fort Huachuca, a big U.S. Army base nearby, was under court order to cut water consumption, and it had been seeking help to retire farmland near the river. Mr. Renzi has longstanding ties to the base, the economic engine of the area… Resolution proposed buying and handing over to the government thousands of acres of bird and wildlife habitat along the banks of the San Pedro, which would further the water-conservation goal.

Due to the high price, Resolution Copper did not buy this property, but the land was sold to someone else. A different parcel in the San Pedro River basin became part of the exchange, a choice likely influenced by the water conservation needs of Ft. Huachuca, as emphasized by Renzi.

Renzi’s father was a retired army general who had served at Ft. Huachuca and his company (one of the congressman’s top campaign donors) has had major contracts with Ft. Huachuca. In 2003, Renzi had proposed “an amendment to the defense authorization bill, [that] would exempt Ft. Huachuca from responsibility for maintaining water levels in the San Pedro River as called for in an agreement made last year with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.” Backed by McCain, it passed in November that year, despite media pointing to the conflict of interest.

Dropping groundwater levels have directly impacted the San Pedro base flow. Ft. Huachuca has faced multiple lawsuits for their impact on the riparian environment due to their groundwater pumping.

McCain has shown that he has invested as well in the fate of Ft. Huachuca in relation to the river. His relationship with Renzi likely had a lot to do with it, but he’s continued his support of the fort in recent years. The state of the San Pedro River makes at least an image of water conservation important to the land exchange even with Renzi’s interests out of the picture.

Various partnerships have developed to address, or more likely greenwash the fort’s impact on the environment. The Department of Defense and Ft. Huachuca had already been working with The Nature Conservancy since at least 1998. Significantly, one of the more recent projects is the Upper San Pedro Partnership (USPP) also involving Audubon Arizona. This came out Renzi’s legislative amendment in 2003 which shifted responsibility for water use away from the fort and onto this broader coalition of the USPP.

Shaping the land swap was a combination of these NGOs’ relationships with Ft. Huachuca specifically around the San Pedro River Basin, and Rio Tinto’s relationships with these NGOs through Rio Tinto’s Kennecott Copper mine in Utah where they partnered with NGOs like The Nature Conservancy and the Audubon Society in the late ‘90s on a wetland offset program required due to the pollution of mining tailings.

Partnerships and Payments

Of course it makes sense that environmental groups be consulted about ecologically important issues. There’s a difference, however, between consultation and granting green credentials to mining companies for dubious conservation efforts when they’ll do more damage in the long run. Taken into consideration, additionally, should be the NGOs’ actions and the financial relationship between NGOs and corporations.

One role NGOs play is in acquiescing to the claim that there is no alternative to a particular mine or other development. Then somehow their pragmatism produces “win-win solutions” to supposedly mitigate mines’ damage (this is giving them the undeserved benefit of the doubt about their own financial interests in partnering with corporations). The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and Arizona Audubon, even while denying that they took a position on the land exchange, played integral roles in confirming and even generating some of the value of the various parcels RCM obtained and worked to glorify.

An International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) report described one way NGOs supported RCM (see chart above):

In consultation with conservation specialists, especially the Arizona Audubon Society, RCM rated the conservation value of the parcels in terms of ecosystem condition and priority for conservation in Arizona. In doing so, RCM was able to take a semi-quantitative approach using Rio Tinto’s quality hectares method, to determine whether the parcels represented equivalent or better conservation benefits than the government land.

According to Rio Tinto,

Quality Hectares are Rio Tinto’s current metric for tracking progress towards the [Net Positive Impact (NPI)] target at the global and site levels. A wide range of biodiversity values, including threatened species, rare habitats or non-timber forest products, may be expressed in terms of their quantity and quality.

It could be argued that RCM bought access to the copper ore in Oak Flat by funding NGOs’ conservation attribution of value to the land that RCM had accumulated. NGOs acted as consultants in choosing land parcels and quantifying their value, managed some of those parcels, wrote letters confirming their value, and thereby contributed to legitimizing the exchange.

Rio Tinto/Resolution Copper started funding Arizona Audubon Society in 2003. The mining subsidiary began lobbying for a land exchange in 2005 and in the same year contracted with TNC to manage the land parcel owned by BHP Billiton called the 7B Ranch.

The 7B Ranch was the piece of land in the San Pedro River basin that ultimately became part of the land exchange. Copper companies in Arizona have purchased land not only for mining, but BHP Billiton already owned some land near the San Pedro River prior to the idea for the land exchange, likely for the water rights.

The Superior Sun reported,

Resolution purchased 7B from BHP in 2007 with the intention of including it in an eventual land exchange… David Salisbury, Resolution Copper CEO, said that the company spoke to organizations such as Arizona Audubon and The Nature Conservancy to determine conservation targets that a number of agencies might be interested in…

Although Audubon hasn’t taken a position on the proposed land exchange, they have been on record since 2005 saying that 7B is an ecologically important piece of property…

With the plan in place, Resolution and its conservation partners hope to make 7B a ready-to-use asset for the [Department of the Interior] and the public.

The Tucson Sentinel reported in 2011, “7B Ranch, which contains one of oldest mesquite forests in Arizona, lies near the fragile San Pedro River. In 2007, Resolution Copper agreed to pay The Nature Conservancy $45,000 a year to manage the property.” They also noted the, “$250,000 in grants and donations that Resolution Copper and Rio Tinto have given to the Audubon Arizona since 2003.” Their coverage stated that the Sonoran Institute (SI) was also involved in identifying parcels that would be of value in the exchange.

RCM also supported SI for at least two years (2007 and 2008) and hired SI’s Dave Richins after, as The New Times revealed, he’d been doing work for RCM for a while prior to official employment. Luther Propst of SI authored an opinion column in the Arizona Republic in 2010 in favor of the Resolution Copper mine.

News outlets such as the Tucson Citizen reported in 2005 that, “the Audubon Society, the Nature Conservancy and the Sonoran Institute have all sent [Bruno Hegner, Resolution’s general manager] letters of support.” The Tucson Sentinel wrote that “Leaders of Audubon Arizona and The Nature Conservancy have said they neither support nor oppose the overall plan. But each group has formally attested to the conservation value of the Appleton-Whittell and 7B Ranch parcels, something that Resolution Copper has noted prominently in letters and testimony to Congress.” In 2011, 2012 and 2013, the Arizona chapter of TNC sent letters to legislators reiterating their neutrality on the legislation, but elaborating on the value of the 7B Ranch property. Audubon Arizona had been managing the Appleton-Whittell ranch since the 1980’s. Notably, other Arizona-based Audubon groups (Maricopa and Tucson) have been openly opposed to the mine.

Resolution Copper partnered with Audubon Arizona, TNC, Birdlife International, along with the Salt River Project and others on the Lower San Pedro and Queen Creek Project, described by Birdlife International:

A two-year programme (2006–2007) undertook the development of a bird conservation strategy… It assisted in the provision of detailed biodiversity assessments of the land exchange parcel on the Lower San Pedro River for Resolution Copper Company and with the establishment of baseline data for the mine’s operational biodiversity action planning.

Thanks to the project, the Lower San Pedro River, from “The Narrows” north to the confluence with the Gila River, has been surveyed, nominated and recognised as a state [Important Bird Area (IBA)]. During 2006–2007, existing and newly collected data were compiled and submitted to the Arizona IBA Science Committee, in support of the IBA nomination of the Lower San Pedro River, and the nomination was accepted.

Birdlife International, which Rio Tinto has been working with since 2001 is described as “a global alliance of conservation organisations working together for the world’s birds and people.” One of Birdlife’s main partners is the Audubon Society, a group with which they’ve had overlapping board members.

It is not so difficult to imagine that an “environmental” group, such as Birdlife or TNC would accommodate a mining project considering TNC participated in drilling oil on a property they were supposed to have retired from oil production. Kierán Suckling of the Center for Biological Diversity said that TNC “has shown over and over again its willingness to take corporate money in return for stealing, destroying, or polluting indigenous and poor human communities.” TNC has partnered with many of the most notorious corporations like Exxon, BP, Dow Chemical, and Monsanto along with Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton. Birdlife had also partnered with BP, which may have been a factor in Rio Tinto partnering with the NGO in 2001.

From Greenwashing to Green Markets

Mines have pock-marked the earth, poisoned the land, water, and living beings, displaced communities, and left other destruction in their wake. One of the most notorious mining conflicts forced Rio Tinto to shut down their mine on Bougainville Island of Papua New Guinea in 1989 due to an uprising largely in response to the environmental damage caused by the mine. A lawsuit was filed against Rio Tinto over “racial discrimination and environmental harm, as well as genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity,” arising from the mine and the military response as part of the decade-long civil war instigated by the company. Throughout the 1990’s major tailings containments collapsed each year around the world. Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton have both faced various strikes over working conditions. It’s no wonder they had to fix their reputation in order to do business.

While the Bougainville civil war was still raging, a study that Rio Tinto conducted in 1996 showed that the mining companies could benefit from addressing concern for biodiversity as part of their medium-to long-term business strategy. This may have played a part in the Rio Tinto chairman’s launch of the Global Mining Initiative (GMI) with nine of the largest global mining corporations in 1999. “The drivers for GMI were clear recognition that mining companies had problems of access to land, and access to markets, and cost of capital. The fundamental underlying reason was the reputation of the industry,” said Dr. John Groom, of mining company Anglo American.

Sarah Benabou writes that in 2000,

the GMI started a process of consultation and research known as the Mining, Minerals and Sustainable Development (MMSD) project to determine the fundamental orientations that would shape the future of the industry. This project led to the creation of the [The International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM)] in 2002. A few months later, at the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development, the ICMM and the [International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)] started a joint dialogue on mining and biodiversity ‘to provide a platform for communities, corporations, NGOs and governments to engage in a dialogue to seek the best balance between the protection of important ecosystems and the social and economic importance of mining’ (IUCN 2003: 1).

Benabou’s Making up for lost nature? A critical review of the international development of voluntary biodiversity offsets also describes how mining companies and NGOs at an IUCN/ICMM jointly-organized workshop in 2003 could draw upon each others’ experiences regarding ways to apply a biodiversity offset approach even if it couldn’t be “transposed term-for-term” in other situations. IUCN is one of the oldest and biggest environmental NGOs.

The relationship with Birdlife, initiated by Rio Tinto in 2001 was an early venture into partnerships with such NGOs. According to Rio Tinto, “the partnership has enabled both organisations to deliver outcomes that neither could have achieved as effectively when working alone.”

It would be a mistake to frame this simply as examples of greenwashing in attempt to solve mining companies’ public relations problems and access to land. In the context of the earth’s welfare and diminishing finite resources, the extractive industry and their partners have developed market-based tools like offsets to create new financial strategies. “In this zeitgeist of crisis capitalism, the environmental crisis itself has become a major new frontier of value creation and capitalist accumulation,” writes Sian Sullivan, Professor of Environment and Culture in the UK. The commodification and financialization of so-called natural capital and ecosystem services are central to this process.

19-ecoservices_balancedThe concept of ecosystem services originates with some in the field of Ecological Economics who argued that if destructive practices are unavoidable, then corporations should pay for the damage they have done (or will do) to that which we take for granted but can’t live without: the environment. Yet, if companies compensate for their externalities, a whole host of other problems arise with pricing, quantifying, simplifying and appropriating natural resources.

The introduction to Nature, Inc. spells it out: “Capitalism now endeavors to accumulate not merely in spite of but rather precisely through the negation of its own negative impacts on both physical environments and the people who inhabit them, proposing itself as the solution to the very problems it creates.” Similarly, co-editor of Nature, Inc., Bram Büscher posited elsewhere, “To believe that nature can be conserved by increasing the intensity, reach and depth of capital circulation is arguably one of the biggest contradictions of our times.”

IUCN, along with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), was involved in the early 1990’s in advancing the concept of ecosystem services, aka environmental services, beginning with their Global Biodiversity Strategy. This was a predecessor to the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) completed in 2005, to which IUCN and UNEP also contributed. MA has been considered a game-changer in the way it endeavored to apply a monetary value to ecosystem services; the wide variety of beneficial (to humans) functions deriving from ecosystems, like carbon sequestration and water purification.

One of the biggest payments for ecosystem services (PES) program currently is REDD or Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (the latest version is called REDD+) which Tom B. K. Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network said could lead to “the biggest land grab of all time.” REDD is a project of IUCN, supported by Rio Tinto (including in its early development). Rio Tinto claims that REDD+ allows them to offset their carbon footprint. The Nature Conservancy, and Birdlife International are proponents of REDD+.

REDD and the carbon trade in general have meant further financialization of nature, involving hedge funds, derivatives, and “a new generation of ‘commercial conservation asset managers’ required to broker these exchanges and revenues,” according to Sian Sullivan. “Conservation investing experienced dramatic growth after 2013, as total committed private capital climbed 62% in just two years from $5.1B to $8.2B,” reported Ecosystem Marketplace recently.

NGOs and negotiations have enabled and structured “new green market opportunities and practices as they orchestrate the social and political relations among various state and non-state actors through which the mechanisms, incentives and legitimating conditions for green grabs are established,” as is argued in Enclosing the global commons: the convention on biological diversity and green grabbing.

Experts from the big NGOs are called upon to design, implement, and/or verify such mechanisms as offsets. While carbon offsets are the most notoriously dubious, mining companies are involved in a variety of other offsets, both voluntary and regulatory.

Buying, Banking, Trading Offsets

In Utah, a land tract Kennecott wanted for storage of their tailings (materials left over from processing of mined substance) was designated as wetlands, which are regulated. So according to a case report put out by The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB),

Kennecott was thus required by U.S. law to offset, or mitigate, the loss of wetlands by the creation of an agreed number and value of habitat units… In 1996, Kennecott Utah Copper Company undertook the cleanup and construction of the 1,011 ha Inland Sea Shorebird Reserve (ISSR) in conjunction with a project to expand its tailings storage.

utah-kennecott-mine

Kennecott Utah Copper Mine (Rio Tinto)

In addition to the required wetlands offset, Rio Tinto established a “bank” of restored surplus habitat land which, as TEEB explained, referencing an unpublished study, “could be used to offset future impacts on wetlands (584 ha) adjacent to the mitigation site… Credits from the bank can be used by Kennecott or sold to others for wetlands mitigation in accordance with the terms of the Bank Agreement with the US government.” Banking converts wetland habitat properties into assets. Rio Tinto wrote in 2011 that they have, “successfully developed and then sold wetland credits” as part of the ISSR.

Essentially, companies can profit from ostensibly going above and beyond their responsibilities (or having a “net positive impact”) for mitigating the damage they cause through mining. In many cases, profit-driven wetlands banking has been shown to result in a net loss, however.

TNC and National Audubon Society were involved in developing this wetland mitigation plan. The ISSR also became an IBA in 2004 and is part of BirdLife International’s IBA Program.

BirdLife International also endorsed Rio Tinto’s activities across the world in Madagascar. Rio Tinto owns 80% of the QMM (QIT Madagascar Minerals) ilmenite (titanium dioxide) mine in Southeastern Madagascar which started mining in 2005. The mining activities “will remove more than half of a particular type of unique coastal forest.” BirdLife described the benefits of a project implemented by a BirdLife affiliate and supported by Rio Tinto:

The direct payments [for conservation] project aims to strengthen the conservation of Tsitongambarika’s unique and threatened biodiversity, enhance water security for QMM’s mining operations… and maintain ecosystem services essential for regional development.

Rio Tinto is partnered with this affiliate in a biodiversity offset program. Note that other than biodiversity, the benefits of the project are for the mine and/or “regional development” but are subsumed into conservation as well. The biodiversity offsets involve “the financing of, or provision of land for, biodiversity conservation outside of mining zones,” explains PhD candidate in Anthropology, Caroline Seagle. The idea is that aspects of biodiversity are exchangeable (or fungible) with others, so damage to this particular type of forest can be made up for elsewhere.

For aspects of ecosystems to be treated as fungible commodities, their uniqueness and complexity needs to be erased for the sake of market exchange. This “offset ideology” is “premised upon the monetization of nature and market rationality,” writes Seagle, in “Inverting the impacts: Mining, conservation and sustainability claims near the Rio Tinto/QMM ilmenite mine in Southeast Madagascar” (for a similar more accessible version, see “The mining-conservation nexus“).

“Through the paradigm of conservation finance and payments for environmental services (PES), the ‘offset ideology’ is less mitigatory and more compensatory – making up for local damage through land allocation or financial support of nature conservation,” criticizes Seagle.

Similar to Rio Tinto’s wetland banking, these mechanisms are not only intended to compensate for damage, but to create revenue. IUCN wrote in 2011 of Rio Tinto’s further steps in Madagascar to gain from conservation:

Rio Tinto is using established relationships with its biodiversity partners and specifically its relationship with IUCN to explore how ecosystem services can be accurately valued and the implications for corporate risks and opportunities.

For companies like Rio Tinto, robust methods of valuing ecosystem services and the development of well functioning markets for ecosystem services could provide an opportunity to use large non-operational land holdings to create new income streams for Rio Tinto and for local stakeholders and communities, through the sale of ecosystem service credits.

Biodiversity offsets became a primary tool to make headway into areas they wanted to mine. An IUCN document reiterated,

[For some] Multinational companies, whose operations have an impact on biodiversity and for whom license to operate – both formal concessions from governments and social license from communities – are key to business success. Their view of biodiversity offsets is that best practice on biodiversity – possibly including offsets, whether mandatory or voluntary – is important to access land, maintain reputation… and the avoidance of interference and disruption from NGOs and local communities.

The wetlands offsets in Utah and the biodiversity offsets in Madagascar are just two experiences the mining companies could learn from leading up to the Arizona land exchange. While Rio Tinto was mandated to buy wetlands offsets for their Kennecott Utah mine, in the Arizona case, RCM had to do a land exchange to access the Forest Service land, and there seem to be no other mandatory mitigatory steps required of RCM. But they did use ecosystem services to attribute value to the conservation lands, which seemed to have some utility for them.

The land exchange was framed in terms of offsets because it of its purported mitigatory function. In his testimony before the U.S. Senate Sub-Committee on Forests and Public Lands, the President of Resolution stated in 2009, “we believe the exceptional quality and quantity of the non-federal lands that will be conveyed into Federal ownership more than off-set any expected surface impacts to the lands acquired by Resolution Copper” (my emphasis).

The ICMM featured the Arizona land exchange in a 2010 Mining and Biodiversity case studies report, framing it as an offset as well:

Given Rio Tinto’s commitment to a net positive impact to biodiversity, the land exchange presents a unique opportunity to exceed the requirements of trading land of equivalent economic value by ensuring that the land parcels offered in the trade are also of equivalent or greater value for the conservation of biodiversity and provision of environmental services – a biodiversity offset (my emphasis).

The chart from this report (see above) shows the various parcels in Arizona Rio Tinto offered up as “offsets,” along with the their quality valuation, based on consultation with Audubon Arizona and other NGOs.

Again, the biodiversity and environmental services would likely not be accounted for in the official appraisal. However, Resolution’s claim of these voluntary offsets may have contributed to an attempt to prove that the swap is in the public interest.

Conservation Value

“The American public is getting ripped off,” Silver said. “The only land that is of value is the research center’s because it hasn’t been overgrazed, but it’s of no value to the general public because it wouldn’t be open to them, unlike Oak Flat that offers recreational opportunities to the public and is of cultural value to Native Americans,” Silver said.

Many, like Robin Silver, co-founder of the Center of Biological Diversity, as quoted by the Arizona Daily Sun disagree with TNC and Audubon Arizona’s opinions of the exchange parcels. Several environmental groups opposed to the mine detailed the damage the RCM would cause, as well as the poor quality of the exchange sites in their Scoping Comments for the Resolution Copper Mine DEIS.

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“The San Pedro is not free-flowing at the 7B Ranch,” Witzeman wrote.

Bob Witzeman, an environmentalist who spent several of his final years fighting against the Resolution Copper mine, commented that the 7B Ranch owned by BHP Billiton was likely purchased for its water rights and “is under no duress for need of protection… There is no danger of mining here, or developing homes here, because it is in a flood plain.”

In earning credit for offsets, protecting a site only counts for something if the site is under threat. This is called additionality. Some states and institutions require additionality as part of offset programs. The “counterfactual,” or what otherwise would have happened without a conservation project such as an offset program, is often difficult to ascertain. As far as the land exchange in Arizona goes, not only do many of the parcels seem of poor quality, especially compared to Oak Flat, it’s likely that there was no imminent threat to the largest parcel, 7B Ranch, nor the Appleton-Whittell parcel which was converted into a research facility in 1968.

This is not to say that conservation efforts are for naught (though there’s evidence that many of the projects, especially when profit-driven are not even effective), or that there is any legal weight to this point, but this needs to be considered. For example, regarding the 7B Ranch, Witzeman wrote, “BHP does own another riverside parcel with riparian habitat. BHP does plan to develop homes in that area, some 35,000 units. As of this time, they have made no commitment to protect this riparian habitat.” The land was still being preserved in 2013 (I was unable to find anything more recent) but the reason given that the real estate development plan didn’t come to fruition was the economic downturn in 2007.

This brings up another problem with offset programs called leakage. “Leakage occurs when environmentally destructive activities… are shifted from the places targeted for conservation to other sites,” explains Kathleen McAfee in Green economy and carbon markets for conservation and development: A critical view. Just one relevant example of leakage is when TNC purchased 500 acres along the San Pedro to retire it from agricultural irrigation only to have the seller begin irrigating a nearby 500 acre plot soon after.

Resolution’s protection of the 7B Ranch at the expense of nearby land can be shown in the case when the Sunzia transmission line project was in the planning stages, and two of the potential routes could have impacted the conservation value of the 7B Ranch. Resolution Copper sent a letter opposing those routes. The Final Environmental Impact Statement shows a somewhat different but nearby route as the BLM preferred alternative. RCM did not comment on other routes that would also affect the region. This not only shows that conservation is only important when it benefits the company, but it also points to another issue that comes up when profit factors into conservation. Scarcity, caused by development, increases the value of conservation products (such as offsets), thereby incentivizing conservation, but also more development.

Sian Sullivan argues that conservation banking is development-dependent. “Indeed, development that produces transformation of habitats is required for conservation credits to attain the prices that will encourage establishment of conservation banks and bankers, thereby generating trade in conservation credits as a funding strategy for conservation management.”

Seagle pointed out that as part of a strategy of sustainability in Madagascar – though applicable in other cases – Rio Tinto is paradoxically creating scarcity of biodiversity while claiming to save it.

Here and Now

The Nature Conservancy’s legitimization of development is not isolated to Resolution Copper, even in Arizona. Water is particularly vulnerable to green grabbing, as water is integral to ecosystem services as well as a necessary resource for industry. Aside from the partnerships with Ft. Huachuca noted above, TNC is also working with Castle & Cooke’s housing development called Tribute in Sierra Vista, as well as El Dorado Holdings’ Vigneto Villages housing development in Bensen, the latter involving a “mitigation parcel” as an offset. Both could be serious threats to the San Pedro and nearby aquifers, and require proof of assured water supplies.

A major threat to aquifers and other surface water in Arizona relates to what’s happening with the Central Arizona Project (CAP) water Arizona has come to depend on (though destructive). Arizona is taking voluntary Colorado River water reductions to delay an official shortage declaration triggered by Lake Mead’s water level. Water officials have been meeting with various leaders in different sectors to arrange voluntary cuts, with a plan to compensate water users (this may involve more market-based “solutions”) for 400,000 AF per year. Resolution Copper has secured a portion of Arizona’s stored water in the form of storage credits, which brings up more issues regarding recovery. RCM expects to also be able to access large quantities of CAP water, but this allocation is in a low priority category, and therefore is subject to cuts. Farmers, tribes, and others are subject to having to forego their share of CAP water, essentially to secure water for the mine (and other mining operations and water bottling, etc). As CAP reductions go into effect, stress on other sources of surface and ground water will increase.

What may be most troubling to readers is that an NGO has been selling water offsets based on watershed restoration projects, to companies like Coca Cola and Intel Corp. While they continue to use massive amounts of water, companies’ “water footprints” are allegedly reduced by voluntarily buying Water Restoration Certificates (WRC) from Bonneville Environmental Foundation (BEF). WRCs supposedly help restore a watershed in partnership with local landowners and big environmental groups like TNC. BEF also sells carbon offsets.

One such project involving TNC and BEF (supported by Walmart heirs’ Walton Family Foundation) is the relatively new Verde River Exchange Water Offset Program. Reading media coverage on this project, you wouldn’t gather that this is part of TNC’s efforts in developing water markets across the globe. Their 2016 report called Water Share: Using water markets and impact investment to drive sustainability says a lot more, revealing that their hypothetical model involves reallocating (selling or leasing) the majority of the “conserved” water from farming (that would otherwise contribute to the aquifer or river but is considered “lost”) to another sector in order to raise revenue to compensate farmers and to profit investors. These small-scale pilot projects may have much bigger implications in the future.

A few recently published papers (funded by the Walton Family Foundation) apply monetary value to and promote payments for ecosystem services of the Colorado River Basin, and suggest unbundling water rights to create a water market in the Western US. Water-marketing may be central to addressing the main obstacle to finalizing a Lower Colorado River basin Drought Contingency Plan – California’s Salton Sea. Arizona aims to resolve remaining tribal water rights claims on the state’s terms and facilitate water marketing. A major US/Mexico water agreement makes water marketing central to multiple aspects of the current and future versions. The Bureau of Reclamation has become involved in water marketing, and things may become even worse under Trump’s administration.

It is concerning that seemingly necessary feel-good projects in water conservation will actually serve capitalism. But there is no denying that there are many examples of this across the world. NGO/corporate partnerships have served to contribute to learning experiences, provide green credentials for mining companies and other development to influence media and decision-makers, and create new mechanisms for access to resources and financial gain.

Standing Rock water protectors’ efforts were evoked in an article on the Ecosystem Marketplace website in which the author declared that 2016 was a year for learning the value of water. The article promoted market-based mechanisms like those developed by TNC. The real lesson to be learned is not that the value of water should be translated into market terms, but instead many have learned that resource appropriation (when not invisible) is backed up by state violence or the threat of it. Those who physically obstruct the Resolution Copper mine, or in any other case, in protest may be treated similarly to the water protectors fighting against DAPL.

 

See an accompanying page on the San Pedro River for more on that.

Don’t Put a Price Tag on Nature

Take Part

March 11, 2016

by Richard Conniff 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

Fundación Pachamama is Dead – Long Live ALBA Part VIII [Final Segment]

February 1, 2016

Part eight of an investigative report by Cory Morningstar with Forrest Palmer.

Fundación Pachamama Investigative Report Series [Further Reading]: Part IPart IIPart IIIPart IVPart VPart VIPart VII  • Part VIII [Final Segment] 

 

guayasamin

“Maternidad” by Oswaldo Guayasamin

Cultural Imperialism, Trends & Expanding Markets

“Cultural imperialism is defined as the cultural aspects of imperialism. Imperialism, here, is referring to the creation and maintenance of unequal relationships between civilizations favoring the more powerful civilization. Therefore, it can be defined as the practice of promoting and imposing a culture, usually of politically powerful nations over less potent societies. It is the cultural hegemony [1] of those industrialized or economically influential countries, which determine general cultural values and standardize civilizations throughout the world.” [Source] In this way, Eurocentric NGOs serve as the faux social constructs avec philosophic roots as key instruments of social-class domination.

Cultural imperialism can take various forms, so long as it reinforces cultural hegemony. Ecotourism easily fills the role of an opaque vellum that attempts to cover cultural imperialism.

[C]ultural imperialism promotes the interests of certain circles within the imperial powers, often to the detriment of the target societies … or forms of social action contributing to the continuation of Western hegemony…. Cultural imperialism can refer to either the forced acculturation of a subject population, or to the voluntary embracing of a foreign culture by individuals who do so of their own free will…. According to one argument, the “receiving” culture does not necessarily perceive this link, but instead absorbs the foreign culture passively through the use of the foreign goods and services. Due to its somewhat concealed, but very potent nature, this hypothetical idea is described by some experts as “banal imperialism.” For example, it is argued that while “American companies are accused of wanting to control 95 percent of the world’s consumers,” “cultural imperialism involves much more than simple consumer goods; it involves the dissemination of American principles such as freedom and democracy,” a process which “may sound appealing” but which “masks a frightening truth: many cultures around the world are disappearing due to the overwhelming influence of corporate and cultural America. [Source]

One could quite easily make the argument that Pachamama Alliance is a specialized, elite tourist agency that employs brilliant, emotive marketing strategy targeting today’s wealthy spiritual capitalists – all under the guise of a tax-exempt NGO – in essence, what amounts to a bourgeois front and agreed upon alibi for the shared white guilt espoused by the white saviours.

Kaypocoke

We convince the Indigenous to participate in their own demise by encouraging and teaching them to replicate our models and become consumers. For, as we consumers (formerly known as citizens) lose what little remains (if anything) of our own culture, we seek to not just taste, but devour other cultures … because we, collectively as consumers, have become insatiable in an unprecedentedly ugly way. We long to devour what we have collectively destroyed.

In the book Ecotourism and Conservation in the Americas, Arnaldo Rodriguez remarks that the difference in principles between the community and private enterprise can be so conflicting that, at times, the community prefers to destroy the enterprise, even if it belongs, in part, to them, noting that communities in the Amazonian region are very hesitant to create enterprises where benefits are not distributed immediately and equally, making it very difficult for them to partner with private enterprise.

Rodriguez concluded that community?based ecotourism in the Amazon was subject to an overdose of enthusiasm and that the time and cost involved in partnering with communities is substantial.

One can imagine the difficulty a healthy capitalist would have in appreciating the concept of the sharing of all wealth equally. Private economic “solutions” (which protect the capitalist system at all costs) always protect the Eurocentric, white-privileged mode of life: market-based, deregulated, with ever-expanding commodification.

It is said that today, after a slow and difficult process, 70-86% (reports are conflicting) of the Kapawi Ecolodge (cooks, cleaners, waiters, boatmen and guides, i.e., service industry positions) are Achuar (“32 staff at the reserve and two at the urban offices,” Source). One must ask who holds the remainder of positions (30%). It is likely that the more prestigious, decision-making positions are held by foreigners (espousing and upholding Western ideologies) who are likely paid high wages, in stark contrast to what the Achuar are paid.

As an example, personnel who were contracted outside of the Achuar, such as Kapawi Ecolodge general manager Andres Ordoñez, still maintain their positions today. [Source]

Andres Ordoñez

Ronald Sanabria, Vice President of Sustainable Tourism, Rainforest Alliance (left), and Andrés Ordóñez, General Manager, Kapawi Ecolodge & Reserve Source: The Rainforest Alliance 2013 Annual Gala

One “cultural management challenge” for Canodros was that of time, an imaginary concept that keeps the West in a stranglehold of productivity: “In the first six months after the lodge first opened, the Achuar did not appreciate the importance of the concept of time to the guest of the lodge. When guests at the lodge book a tour, the tour guide is expected to be at the designated place at the agreed upon time. When the tour guide is not there, guest satisfaction declines precipitously. This problem was resolved through lots of meetings, and lots of explanation. Canodros provided watches to the employees, but ultimately time is a philosophical concept, and the Achuar could not understand why the outsiders were always in a hurry. Now the Achuar accept the outsiders’ philosophy of time and work within the philosophy….”

Here it is critical to note that the Achuar are/were a dream-based culture. That is, every aspect of their daily lives is lived through the interpretation of their dreams – meaning there is no sense of time, destiny, or fate in their beliefs. [Source] [emphasis added]

Many of the Achuar employed by the Kapawi development must travel several days by foot to get to the lodge. They then work for approximately one month before returning to their community. In a 1999 study it was reported that “[A]t Kapawi, employees work on a 22 day cycle, and off for eight days to help with families and community needs.” If one considers the travel to the lodge takes up to 3 days (one way), the eight days off to help with families and communities is in reality, tantamount to a mere 2 days per month.

Because of the long excursion (4 full days of travel to and from the lodge), it is reasonable to assume that eventually Kapawi employees may decide to purchase a canoe similar to the Kapawi’s motorized canoes (diesel engines and at least one solar: “our canoes are equipped with four-stroke outboard motors“) used for the tourists. Perhaps this is already occurring. It must be acknowledged that prior to the Kapawi development, there was no development whatsoever: no motorized canoes, no generators, no diesel. Upon opening the development, diesel (pollution) to transport, entertain (canoes) and serve (generators) the wealthy was introduced to the communities. The Canodros Tours website boasts that “in addition, the update and improvement of the photovoltaic system was made, which will allow a saving of 1,500 gallons of diesel consumption per year.” The actual consumption of diesel per year is not publicly disclosed. Solar provides 60% of the electricity as of December 2012.

Further to the introduction of diesel into an area formerly free of pollution, airplane flights were also introduced as each and every guest must fly in. The private flight (about one hour each way) over the rainforest is part of the exclusive allure. One blog writer comments that 5 planes were employed to transport her and her group to the Kapawi development.

Does anyone recognize the irony in the development of an “eco” resort that created and perpetuates a new dependency upon fossil fuels among the Achuar? In a development where 1800 visitors are required each year just to break even, the more “successful” the development, the more fossil fuels required to fly in the international tourists. Although the foundation for these developments is said to be “eco-tourism as an alternative economic model to the exploitation of oil,” the eco-tourist developments are in fact absolutely dependent on the further expansion of oil. These developments do not replace the market – rather, they participate in expanding the market.

The number of tourists to visit Kapawi is approximately 550-1000 per annum (the highest reported number found being 1500). The goal of the Achuar, now fully responsible for the corporation, is to increase the number of tourists to 2,000 per year. Perhaps they will achieve this. Perhaps they will achieve 3,000 per year. Yet does this constitute success? More oil, more diesel, more flights, more canoes, more lodges, more dependence on the purchase of outside supplies to accommodate the Euro-American tourist. This represents an unintentional, yet very real, strengthening of the very system annihilating our planet and her most vulnerable peoples; a strengthening of the very system that demands ever-expanding exploitation of pristine living ecosystems and locations such as Achuar territory.

Rainforest Alliance is just one NGO that openly works with capital in “reaching new markets.” In this conference (Innovations in Sustainability and Certification, sponsored by Citibank, May 15, 2013) on the discussion: “Innovations in Travel: Reaching New Markets – Panelists discuss consumer trends towards experiential tourism,” the stage is shared by Andrés Ordóñez, General Manager, Kapawi Ecolodge & Reserve, and a consultant for Rainforest Alliance.

Yet another new market (aside from environment markets, certification, REDD – Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, etc.) is the Ecuadorean Amazon’s “vast network of slow-moving, interconnected river ways.” Recognizing this market, a group is currently designing and constructing a system of solar-powered boats and recharge stations on the rivers of Achuar Territory. [“Our project will not only sustain the welfare of a nation and protect a biodiverse ecosystem, but will also provide an innovative model that can be replicated around the globe.”] To make this venture possible, the group is working with the Pachamama Foundation with a grant from the Foreign Ministry of Finland. Further development in formerly untouched and pristine territories (“new markets”) – as the world burns.

Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) is identified as one of the national and international funders that provided the Kapawi Corporation with the bulk of the finance capital for the development of this project, which resulted in the first solar engine canoe announced on June 14, 2012. GIZ is a federally owned organisation. It works worldwide in the field of international cooperation for sustainable development and its mandate is to support the German Government in achieving its development objectives. The GIZ has been criticized on various occasions for being engaged in funding projects and programmes that are violating the human rights of the people actually living in the countries being “developed.” In March 2013, it was criticized by human rights groups for its engagement with Namibia’s Land Reform programmes and policies, that are violating the rights of indigenous peoples as outlined in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, by dispossessing Himba people and Zemba off their traditional lands and territories. [Source]

Experiential tourism is a new product of the tourism industry. “Catering to the imaginations of experience-seekers, personalized, customizable or theme innovations that stimulate imagination or cater to fantasies are enticing consumers looking for uncommon experiences. The addition of an unconventional ‘experience’ piques interests and raises the perceived value of a good or service.” This new trend fits well with the 21st century trend of spiritual capitalism.

Recently, the Kapawi development has expanded with a secondary location in the village of Ti’inkias. In the Pachamama Journeys itinerary for June 7-19th, 2014,it states the following: “Head to the nearby town of Shell where we’ll take a 45-minute flight deep into the Amazon rainforest to the Achuar village of Chichirat. After a traditional Achuar greeting with their traditional beverage, nijaamanch (known as chicha) and visit with the local elder and his family, we’ll walk to the Bobanaza river for a beautiful motorized canoe ride down to the village of Ti’inkias.” The cost of this trip, per person, is $3,475.00 not including your flight to Ecuador. An additional charge of $10.00 (per guest) will go directly to the Achuar community.

Such ventures quench incessant desires not unlike heroin or any other self-indulgent drug: a self-absorbed search for the affirmation of one’s superiority. In the age of a starved and toxic Western commodity culture, induced by an acquiescent, pathological, collective insanity, even a taste will suffice.

In the US states of North and South Dakota, the land of the Lakota Indians is under siege due to the intense fracking boom in the Bakkens. And yet US Big Greens do not assist these communities. Why the need to travel thousands of miles to the jungles of the Amazon located in a sovereign state when the natives on the soil we walk upon are under siege? It’s simple: the Lakota are not “exotic,” they are not easily co-opted by the non-profit industrial complex. When Americans collectively acquiesce to the development of Bakken oil to continue rampant consumptive patterns, corporations/foundations/oligarchs need not destabilize their own governments whom they fully control and run.

While in theory (marketing/branding is perhaps more precise) Pachamama voices the necessity for the modern world to heed the vision of the Achuar, in reality they have transferred and continue to transfer Western ideologies, standardization, and values onto the Achuar – slowly altering the Achuar to reflect us. There are no signs whatsoever of the Achuar culture and knowledge influencing the Western mindset or culture in any meaningful way. At the end of the day, the white saviours – the foundations, NGOs and academia – believe that we understand how the world must work better than the Achuar, better than anyone.

If you want to help the Amazon rainforest and her peoples, then help. To name just a few tangible actions, get off the grid, use public transit, transition to a plant-based diet, plant a garden, and stop consuming – separating what is essential to a healthy life from mere wants that are not necessities whatsoever. One thing is certain. Flying to any luxury resort (in the name of ecology no less) will only escalate our accelerating planetary collapse. It is also certain that this kind of consumption guarantees and expands the exploration for and drilling of oil – the very fossil fuel we claim to wish to keep in the ground. Above all, say no to imperialism.

And finally, in an age of Western peak consumption/commodification, let us also share one of the most disturbing displays of our commodity culture, waste and decadence… yet which must be considered correct and beneficial from our perspective and pedestal of whiteness and superiority:

“The children of the Amazon according to their culture and beliefs did not celebrate Christmas, after the entrance of the Catholic Church, this has been changing but with a low impact, and as a company each year we organize a celebration for the children not focused in the Christmas celebration but dedicated to them, in the year of 2010 I had the opportunity to participate in the organization of the event with donations of friendly companies to give the Achuar children a small present. [Source] Dec 11, 2010

 

“On December 15th of 2012 we did at Kapawi Ecolodge & Reserve the Christmas party for all the communities, we had more than 250 people that belong to different communities which surround the hotel. It was a day full of emotion and joy, because we did many games not only for children but for adults too.” [Source]

One must wonder if the introduction of Christmas is to “give” to the Achuar or appease the wishes of the tourists.

ChristmasGifts

Photo: “With our co workers in Quito, we organized the program with many games, surprises and the distribution of gifts for the kids that went to Kapawi. After a formal invitation that is transmitted by radio to the communities, around 250 children came with their representatives. We were lucky to have with ourselves a television program cast called Vele Vele Vele helping us with the animation of this main event.” [Source]

Like a Greek tragedy, concerned and well-intentioned citizens (including the majority of self-proclaimed environmentalists and activists) seek the solutions for an unprecedented ecological crisis from the very institutions that have contributed the most to unparalleled ecological devastation, running hand in hand with the ongoing genocide of indigenous peoples on a global scale. The non-profit industrial complex makes palatable the unpalatable on behalf of the establishment, whom they answer to and depend upon for their existence.

Rather than break away from the unprecedented destructiveness of industrialized capital or Western culture, tragically and willingly, we in the North collectively contribute to its re-articulation.

Wealth for the Chosen (Predominantly White) Few

 

tourism

Ecotourism was and continues to be big business. Lead authors in this field have gone on to consult for influential organizations (such as the UN, the Nature Conservancy, USAID, state governments), lecture, found prosperous organizations and opened tourism-related businesses, and become senior fellows of prestigious institutes, professors, directors, and authors of best-selling textbooks and guidebooks. The International Ecotourism Society (TIES), founded in 1990, is the oldest and largest non-profit organization in the world “dedicated to making ecotourism a tool for sustainable tourism development worldwide.” [TIES was founded by Megan Epler Wood who founded the firm EplerWood International in 2003.]

In the mid-1990s, the TIES organization launched a national review of community benefits of ecotourism in Ecuador. Dr. David Western, TIES founding president/chairman, recently appointed as the new Director of the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), would insist on bringing his “international expertise” on ecotourism in Kenya to improve community ecotourism development methodologies in Ecuador. The conference that followed (Ecotourism at the Crossroads) was then both funded and managed by KWS in partnership with TIES. [Source] KWS is somewhat notorious for corruption and scandals as well as complicity in “conservation” deals, more recently, one in which Kenya’s Samburu peoples were violently evicted from their land.

Kenya Wildlife Services has become one of the more parasitic NGOs working in partnership with USAID and Nature Conservancy. (“The court has turned a blind eye to the pleas of the Samburu community and allowed these illegalities to subsist. The transfer [of the land to the KWS] is totally unlawful and it’s in flagrant violation of the interests of the Samburu community.” | Source)

“We decided that a national conference could galvanize interest from industry in more community involvement in development on community managed lands. This conference came to be known as Ecotourism at the Crossroads. It was funded by KWS and managed by KWS and TIES…. By the end of 1998, TIES had galvanized national forums on community benefits from ecotourism in two landmark countries, Ecuador and Kenya.” — Community Ecotourism on the Frontiers of Global Development Part 1, part of our special series Ecotourism Then and Now, commemorating the 20th anniversary of The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) |Source

Daniel Koupermann (Amazon guide at EcoTrek, later to be an executive at Canodros and Pachamama co-founder, see Part I ) has established Andean Paths, an Ecuadorian travel company. According to Ecuador Travel Vacations website, Koupermann was “one of the first developers of ecotourism in Ecuador. The designer and builder of Kapawi Eco-Lodge…” This statement is misleading to some extent considering that 140-150 men (the majority Achuar) devoted two years of their lives in building Kapawi. (“He has developed strong relationships with most of the leaders and the powerful shamans in Achuar territory. In addition, he has been involved with yacht operations in the Galapagos Islands, the development of a community-based tourism program on Isabela Island and the implementation of a condor-viewing program in Cajas National Park. He is President of Fundación Pachamama (www.pachamama.org.ec), the Ecuadorian arm of The Pachamama Alliance, (www.pachamama.org) which is a well-known non-profit organization that supports the indigenous groups in the Amazonian Region of Ecuador.”)

Soft Power: Eco-Colonial Tourism

“The historical legacy of colonialism frames tourism in a way that is based on an economy in which the host culture continues to be extracted. Culture tourism is a new form of extractive resource colonialism.” — Devon Peña

 

“The hardest part of the transition process is to change their way of thinking, their culture.” – Miguel Carrera, Kapawi Lodge [Source]

 

“The tremendous lack of communication and trust between indigenous groups and the private sector has been the foremost hurdle for development in Latin American countries. Indigenous organizations have seen private enterprises as abusive institutions eager to exploit indigenous culture and resources. The private sector, on the other hand, tends to consider indigenous people untruthful and indolent. If these misunderstandings are resolved, a new niche for socially responsible development will evolve….” — Arnaldo Rodriguez, Pachamama Founder, 1999

Tourism has always been culturally destructive and exploitative by nature. In most cases, if not all, this seems inevitable. The reality is that when a tourist meets the Achuar, the encounter is a commercial transaction. This cannot be disputed. As the commodity (and main selling feature) within the exclusive “package” being sold is the Achuar people themselves, it would be difficult to argue that the Achuar identity is being commodified, appropriated, and sold for consumption to the bourgeoisie classes.

The production and consumption that ecotourism embodies could only be considered sane in a world of planetary crisis where risk of total annihilation now appears a blasé certainty. The spectacle is of an unbridled privileged class for whom care and regard for future generations is secondary to fulfilling one’s own material desires and ego.

The global economic context of ecotourism is created on a foundation upholding centuries of colonialism, imposed slavery, misery, violence and ethnocentrism. While on the surface the rhetoric ratifies the claim that eco-tourism ensures local participation, autonomy, and global democracy, below the surface, critical social and environmental crises are not only simply and brilliantly re-articulated, they are also being perpetuated.

“It took time but now we are about to select the best [of the Achuar employed by Kapawi] and send them away to learn English and management skills” [Source]

“Equally, the Himba in Namibia survived everything that a hostile arid environment could throw at them for centuries until they became a tourist attraction in the 1970s. Their communities were overrun and many Himba are now beggars and alcoholics. These days, tribes are regularly diminished in the name of economic advancement. The refugee Burmese Kayan women in Thailand, who wear brass coils round their necks, each year attract thousands of tourists, who pay to visit them in their camps. Their communities are disintegrating as alcoholic dependency grows.” [Source]

Could such cultural degradation and disintegration happen to the Achuar?

coke1

2010: Amazon indigenous leaders in Quito to see “Avatar” on the big screen in 3D.

Indeed, signs of disintegration showed themselves almost from inception. In 2004, disintegration was shared by Chalalan, Posada Amazonas, Kapawi (Achuar) representatives. Dire warning signs were documented in a 2003 study group paper titled Lessons in Community-based Ecotourism, funded by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF). CEPF is a joint program of l’Agence française de développementConservation International, the European Union, the Global Environment Facility, the Government of Japan, the MacArthur Foundation and the World Bank. [The role of WWF: In a 2 year study, WWF coordinated the preparation of an Ecosystem Profile for the Caucasus ecoregion with the help of 130 “international and regional experts”.] Private sector partners included De Beers Namaqualand Mines in South Africa, Kuapa Kokoo Farmers Union in Ghana and Unilever in the Philippines.

In the paper, the troubling signs (which aptly mirror a deteriorating Western society) were minimized by using the terminology “*perceived threats.” The very real threats/warnings, shared by the Indigenous participants, were documented as follows:

  • Less time with family
  • Distance from family, saving money and they go to the city to have fun instead of returning home to family
  • Less time for family work: in the chacra and house and so now there’s a need to contract labor
  • Customs about family gifts, such as food have disappeared. Family solidarity is missing.
  • The mingas before were more common in the community of Kapawi; now they want money for community work
  • Abandoned children
  • Tourism has taken time away from the Community Council to address other community matters
  • More drunkenness
  • There is a greater number of decisions to make but the process remains slow
  • Greater separation between parents and children
  • Because they work in the lodge, people believe they are richer and so they get charged more for things
  • Now we change money for communal work, with individual contracts, or, alternatively, we pay to get out of communal work obligations.
  • Greater neglect of families
  • Some engage in fewer everyday activities, such as hunting, fishing, farming and extraction because they are waiting for profits from tourism and other opportunities for work.
  • Some have misunderstood how much they were going to benefit from ecotourism, and so they do nothing.
  • Instead of tending to their chacra, etc., there are just waiting for tourism money.
  • Personal interests for developing ecotourism apart from the community enterprise

Aside from the Indigenous peoples in such “experiments” adopting aspects of neoliberalism (erosion of cooperation, rise of competition), we can safely assume that the manifestations of Western culture since this publication of this paper in 2005 have only further amplified.

“One of the main challenges of our work is finding a balance between respecting the Achuar culture and way of living, while at the same time having them respect the needs of the business. You have to be patient and have limits. Often things come up. Someone comes from community, misses his family, or needs to go hunting. They tell me, ‘You white people need money, but I don’t need it.’ Then they take a machete and just go in the forest. I’ve had cases when I have to go and do a job for them.” — Gabriel Jaramillo, longtime administrator at Kapawi

 

“No-one yet knows whether today’s children, armed with 21st century skills, will still want to preserve their traditional way of life.” [Source]

The socially appeasing terminology “monitoring impacts” has given licence to implement and study the further expansion of globalized markets under industrialized capitalism, Western influence and its effects on Indigenous populations and cultures – via NGOs.

“Eco-tourism is a transformative policy of inclusion and democratization, as well as a product of racialized justification for modernization, in which marginalized peoples are subject to a new dependency and a new colonialism.” – The PostColonial Exotic, Marketing the Margins

Competition to gain access to Western commodities (guns, etc.) has created tension, disputes and violence between neighbouring Indigenous tribes for many decades. It is telling that for almost two years after Canodros signed the contract with the Achuar, tensions and dissatisfaction arose due to a key misunderstanding. The Achuar were under the impression that Canodros was an NGO. (“The company assumed the role of an NGO, and people from the communities went for books and medicines.” “One of the first areas for disagreement was that the Achuar thought Canodros was a NGO and should provide health care and other services.”) Thus, the Achuar (in thanks to conditioning of the missionaries and non-profits) were expecting that “gifts” would commence after signing the contract. It took at least two years of dialogue before this misconception was resolved. This perhaps shows that it is merely healthcare and very basic services (education, agricultural support, etc.) that the Achuar/Indigenous desire. Indeed, one researcher estimated that the said need for monetary income was probably less than $300 per family, per annum (Rodríguez, 1996).

Perhaps the greatest threat to the oligarchs is that with left-leaning governments gaining power, these governments will be (and increasingly are) finally able to provide these basic needs – thereby making the acceptance and embracing of imperial non-profits and missionaries obsolete. No imperial NGOs/missionaries on the ground effectively means no access. Thus, ensuring people’s basic needs are met (which is only possible when states are sovereign and free from foreign interference) must be considered an invaluable and key tool against destabilization efforts by imperial forces.

If neocolonialism is defined as the practice of using capitalism, globalization, and cultural forces to control a country (usually former European colonies in Africa or Asia) in lieu of direct military or political control, then surely REDD and carbon market mechanisms fall under this definition. Further, if such control can be economic, cultural, or linguistic, by promoting their own culture, language or media in the colony, corporations embedded in that culture can make greater headway in opening the markets in those countries, so surely ecotourism can also fall under this term.

Going yet further, if neocolonialism can be considered the end result of relatively benign business interests leading to deleterious cultural effects, then surely this applies to Indigenous populations all over the planet that have, via good intentions and misplaced trust, tragically been manipulated, thus succumbing to the jaws of predatory institutions such as USAID, Conservation International, the World Bank, etc., and now live with the consequences slowly taking hold.

In the spirit of role-playing, once again, imagine this same scenario where it is the Arabs “helping” the Achuar. Imagine the Muslims were teaching the Achuar adults and children Arabic. It is safe to conclude that such a scenario would unleash an angry outcry from the Western world, where the falsehood of Euro-American superiority and racism are invisibly woven into the very fabric of society. This begs the question (or perhaps it answers the question) as to why these concepts/developments, initiated and guided by Euro-Americans, are embraced and applauded by the global community, with no objections to be found.

Let it be noted: we object.

The Irony

“So it is clear to us that imperialism is not a product of capitalism; it is not capitalism developed to its highest stage. Instead, capitalism is a product of imperialism. Capitalism is imperialism developed to its highest stage, not the other way around…. Finance capital, the export of capital, monopoly, etc., are all articulations of a political economy rooted in parasitism and based on the historically brutal subjugation of most of humanity…. This is not something that only happened a long time ago. The world’s peoples are suffering the consequences of capitalist emergence even now…. Today’s white left is also locked into a worldview that places the location of Europeans in the world as the center of the universe. It always has.” — Omali Yeshitela

The left does not wish to acknowledge that under an industrialized capitalist system, everything depends on infinite expansion of capital – capital with far higher value than the interests of the people. The supremacy of capital ensures alternative political processes (as we witness in ALBA states: Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Venezuela and several Caribbean countries) are counteracted on both the national and international level by international / corporate media, international capital, and the oligarchy that seeks to subdue sovereign states and lock them within the confines of imperialism.

Until there is a global conversation as to how we are going to achieve a true virtual zero carbon existence in the near-term future, judging Venezuela, Ecuador, or any other petro-state is nothing but denial, ignorance or bravado. All roads lead to the Global North and to the US specifically, with the entire infrastructure entirely dependent on oil, gas and coal. Vulnerable states can give up their resources with their own conditions, or by force. Citizens of the Global North are not about to give up their Western lifestyles, which is tantamount to giving up one’s privilege.

Consider that “America’s debt-to-GDP ratio is 105 percent. Ecuador’s debt-to-GDP ratio is 23 percent. The real problem lies in those who run the economy, who run the society, because they protect the interests of the financial capitalists. It’s the capital, financial capital in particular, that runs the economy. The real problem is that the capital owns the society, it owns the people.” [Source]

And as the US administration continues to demonize Venezuela, millions of US citizens have to choose between paying the heating of their homes or covering other basic needs. The irony is that in order to help, the government of Venezuela implemented a programme, in collaboration with state-owned oil company PDVSA’s largest subsidiary CITGO, which provides heat to 500,000 US citizens annually. The program was initiated in 2005. [Published on Dec 13, 2013 teleSUR] Video (running time: 1:28)

 

 

Coming full circle back to Pachamama Alliance’s co-founder John Perkins, the message from Perkin’s link on his Dream Change website to “buycott” is most profound:

“Have you ever wondered whether the money you spend ends up funding causes you oppose?”

For once we agree.

We consider the closure of the U.S. Fundación Pachamama by the Ecuadorian government a small victory against imperialism and a victory for all Ecuadorians. We applaud all governments taking measures to do the same. Anyone who is against imperialism / colonialism should support such efforts.

The future of capitalism (strengthened or dismantled?) will be determined by the collective resolve bound with struggle against parasitism and imperialism. Yet perhaps the best determining factor of whether or not we succeed in dismantling and obliterating capitalism will be our smashing of the pedestal within the ivory tower, upon which capitalism depends for its survival.

One could argue that the authors of this paper demonstrate paternalism in rejecting the notion that the Achuar were/are free in all decision-making capacity and have embraced Western values of their own free will. There is no doubt that these dynamic men, women and communities embody an ethical intelligence far exceeding any intellect claimed by the Euro-American. That being said, an ethical intelligence is no match for the pathology espoused by defenders of and believers in a predatory capitalist system dependent upon infinite growth, where white “values” embodied in the global economy are forever sacrosanct and must/will always dominate and prevail.

The colonization of Latin America has never ended. Like a chameleon, it simply changes its colours. Like a parasite, it simply changes its hosts.

One may argue that Western writers/thinkers/activists/citizens have no right to make judgments on whether or not such cultural influences and shifts, brought on by projects teeming with ethical and philosophical conflicts, are to be tolerated or accepted. Yet this line of debate effectively shuts down the urgent need to look at these interactions under a much needed critical light, thereby effectively securing and protecting the very hegemonic power structures that slowly erode and deteriorate autonomous nations via soft-power manipulation.

In real life, we call this well-orchestrated genocide.

+++

I hear you cry, “Save the Amazon!!!”

Yet if I tell you that capitalism must be defeated, you smirk and walk away.

I hear you cry, “Save the Amazon!!!”

Yet you acquiesce to the voice of the colonizer while you dismiss the Indigenous voice with an unspoken superiority.

I hear you cry, “Save the Amazon!!!”

Yet you accept that the words and thoughts of Indigenous Peoples must be conveyed by way of white mouths.

I hear you cry, “Save the Amazon!!!”

Yet I witness your acceptance of blatant, highly financed, white paternalism.

I hear you cry, “Save the Amazon!!!”

And I know you are a liar.

 

END

 

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

[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.]

Fundacion Pachamama is Dead – Long Live ALBA [Part IV of an Investigative Report]

The Art of Annihilation

January 26, 2015

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

Fundación Pachamama Investigative Report Series [Further Reading]: Part IPart IIPart IIIPart IVPart VPart VIPart VII  • Part VIII [Final Segment] 

 

+++Note from the authors: The bulk of research for this investigative report was conducted from December 2013 to April of 2014. New alliances/affiliations/stats that have since materialized may or may not be reflected at this time.

 

Social Panorama of Latin America

The United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) has highlighted a slowing of progress in poverty reduction in Latin America, citing “rising food costs and weaker economic growth” as contributing factors. UN economists based in Santiago reported that 164 million people, or 28% of the region’s population, are still considered poor. That is nearly unchanged from 2012. Of those, 68 million of them are in extreme poverty – a poverty that most Americans cannot even begin to fathom.

Yet there are bright spots. ECLAC’s “Social Panorama of Latin America” report (March 2014) notes that Venezuela and Ecuador led the region in decreasing poverty in 2012. The largest drop was in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, where poverty fell by 5.6% (from 29.5% to 23.9%) and extreme poverty by 2.0% (from 11.7% to 9.7%). In Ecuador, poverty was down by 3.1% (from 35.3% to 32.2%).

This 5.6% decrease in Venezuela translates into a 19% decline in poverty overall, which Mark Weisbrot, co-director of Center for Economic and Policy Research, “noted is almost certainly the largest decline in poverty in the Americas for 2012, and one of the largest – if not the largest – in the world.”

Yes – they are extracting oil. (Ecuador relies on oil for a third of its national budget.) Just like the Harper Government, the Obama Government and most all other states that are able.

The main difference is that the US spends it on bombing other countries and killing innocent people – for profit and plunder – while Bolivia, Venezuela and Ecuador are spending it to lift their people (and others oppressed by imperial states) out of poverty. [Ecuador will increase by more than 50% the budget for Health, the executive will allocate more than 5.6 billion dollars by the year 2017 and also plans to hire about 19,000 doctors. Source]

Of course, the words militarism, imperialism and colonialism are not in the NGO dictionary. Nor is the word capitalism.

We need to keep reminding ourselves that it is the wealthy that created the climate crisis. It is the wealthy that perpetuate and propel the fossil fuel production/extraction economy.

As an example, the entire state of Venezuela accounts for only .057% of global emissions while 50% of emissions come from 1% of the world’s population. (If you can afford to get on a plane and fly anywhere at all, this places you in the 1% category.)

Per capita (per person) emissions: Ecuador: 2.2 tonnes CO2 emissions per capita | Bolivia: 1.15 tonnes CO2 of emissions per capita | Venezuela: 6.30 tonnes CO2 emissions per capita | United States: 19.22 tonnes CO2 emissions per capita | Canada 16.60 tonnes CO2 emissions per capita | Congo: 0.3 tonnes CO2 emissions per capita.

As a further example, ALBA delivered relief aid for Syrian refugees in Lebanon (video below published on September 19, 2013), while Imperial states continue to destabilize the Middle East.

http://youtu.be/TPkzOtpu5dg

The left would like to believe that anti-imperialist states can change the existing world order on their own; that without dismantling the industrialized, capitalist economic system, states such as Ecuador and Venezuela can and must simply shut down their oil production. (Of course, we have no such fantasies for our own voracious nations.) But, such a feat would achieve nothing more than food shortages for their citizens, many of whom are already starving. And on an international level, this will change nothing. Rather, imperial forces would ramp up efforts to destabilize, invade and occupy. Further, leaders of ALBA states do not claim they are capable of such a task:

“Ecuador is not trying to change the situation as it has come to be; yet we will try and protect our people from this unfair world order. This is what the integration of the Latin American nations is meant to help accomplish. United, we will become stronger and gain more weight on the international arena. I insist that even if we can’t change the current world order – as this is something too challenging for Latin America to tackle, we do not have enough influence – we nonetheless have a duty to protect our nations from this unfair and immoral world order driven by the interests of the capital alone.” — Interview with Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa, Oct 30, 2013 

How to Co-opt Revolutionary Ideas

cochabamba06

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

On April 19-22, 2010, following the failure of COP15 (where vulnerable states were grossly undermined), the State of Bolivia hosted The World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth. A global gathering of civil society and governments gathered in Tiquipaya, just outside the city of Cochabamba. “Particularly notable was the large number of Indigenous people from throughout South and North America, who played leading roles in defining the meeting’s environmental philosophy and drawing up a program for action. Morales urged the delegates to commit to learn and benefit from the wisdom of the world’s indigenous peoples.” [Source] Working Groups included a Universal Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth, a World People’s Referendum on Climate Change, and the establishment of a Climate Justice Tribunal.

Two primary revolutionary declarations were achieved: The Peoples Agreement and the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth.

The People’s Agreement was and remains the only democratically written climate agreement that actually could have addressed the magnitude and scale of our multiple ecological crises. Further, it came to be recognized by the United Nations, due in large part to the tenacity of a single person on behalf of a single state, Ambassador of the Plurinational State of Bolivia to the United Nations, Pablo Solón (from February 2009 to July 2011.) Today, somewhat ironically, Solón is the Executive Director of the NGO Focus on the Global South.

October 10, 2010 – Tianjin, China: “The proposals of the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth have been maintained and expanded upon in the new negotiating text on climate change that emerged from the last round of negotiations in Tianjin, China. Throughout the process in Tianjin, attempts were made to substitute the negotiating text, which contains the positions of all countries, with a text that would be limited to recognizing the principal elements of consensus for Cancun.

The negotiating text that will be taken up in Cancun includes, among other elements, the following proposals from Cochabamba:

 

  • Reduce emissions by more than 50% for 2017.
  • Rights of Mother Earth.
  • Full respect for human rights and the rights of indigenous peoples and climate migrants.
  • Formation of an International Climate Justice Tribunal.
  • No new carbon markets.
  • 6% of GDP in developed countries to finance climate change actions in developing countries.
  • Lifting of barriers to intellectual property that facilitates technology transfer.
  • No commodification of forests.”

 

[Source: Communiqué by the Plurinational State of Bolivia]

By the following year, although key issues of the People’s Agreement were presented in the Durban negotiation text, (again due only to the work by the Ambassador of the Plurinational State of Bolivia to the United Nations), [Dec 7, 2011] the People’s Agreement, more and more was quietly being marginalized and buried by even the more legitimate climate justice groups. After Durban, the People’s Agreement was displaced, in its entirety, by a gentle call for the Universal Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth.

The call for a “Universal Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth” was then replaced with the call for “Rights of Nature.”

Global Alliance Rights of Nature

On April 12, 2012, in response to a Rights of Nature event, a NYC activist inquired on an International Climate Justice listserv: “The rights of mother earth enshrined in the Cochabamba Declaration. Is there a reason why Global Exchange isn’t promoting CD here? Seems like an ideal and key document to promote our fight against greed and for science-based climate policy, respecting indigenous rights and Mother Earth both inside the U.N. system and beyond.”

There was no response.

Almost immediately following the success of the 2010 World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth of, a new alliance was created named the Global Alliance for Rights of Nature, which created/assigned an executive committee. “Their intention was to explore ways to expand the concept of Rights of Nature as an idea whose time has come.” [Source] This campaign is also referred to at times as The Rights of Mother Earth campaign.

A key founding partner was the heavily funded U.S. NGO, the Pachamama Alliance.

Thus, the ground-breaking declarations (The World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth of April 2010) were lifted out of the hands of the people – back into the hands of U.S. foundation management/ control.

The website for the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature (created on September 6, 2010) is registered to Thomas Linzey, founder of CELDF and advisor to the New Earth Foundation. On the CELDF website, one finds the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and Mother Earth Rights – CELDF Draft Rights of Nature Ordinance, dated April 15, 2010.

A few months later, on October 13, 2010, CELDF publishes the article Global Alliance for Rights of Nature Formed from Historic International Gathering in Ecuador: “A groundbreaking International Gathering for Rights of Nature was organized by The Pachamama Alliance and Fundación Pachamama in September, where conscious individuals and organizations who have worked to promote the recognition of Rights of Nature, met to expand this concept around the world. Out of this four-day meeting in Patate, Ecuador, the Global Alliance for Rights of Nature was formed…. Fundación Pachamama and The Pachamama Alliance were active participants at the Conference and behind the scenes.”

In the December 2010 publication of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, it is reported, “In August of this year, the Legal Defense Fund co-convened an event hosted by Fundación Pachamama in rural Ecuador. Its purpose was to formalize an international organization which will advocate for legal frameworks that recognize legally enforceable rights for natural communities. The Legal Defense Fund was then selected as the organization which would provide drafting and campaign assistance to communities and nations following the lead of the over two dozen communities in the United States which have recognized rights for Nature, and the country of Ecuador, which has become the first country in the world to recognize natural rights within its constitution.

It is of interest to note that the Pachamama Alliance and its “sister organization,” Fundación Pachamama, supported the inclusion of Rights of Nature in Ecuador’s Constitution, and also endorsed the call for a World Conference of the Peoples regarding Climate Change and Mother Earth Rights. Further, despite the REDD partnerships on behalf of Pachamama Alliance and Foundation, as referenced in documents, the Global Alliance for Rights of Nature (with Pachamama Alliance as founder) appears, on the surface, to be against any commodification of the commons. As an example: Tweet: “July 25, 2012: Rights of Nature – The Road to Rio+20 – http://t.co/vjyiVn7n.

It is of further interest that prior to both the formation of the Global Alliance for Rights of Nature (August 2010) and the World People’s Conference (April 2010), the website Rights of Mother Earth was created on February 16, 2010. It is registered to Robin Milam, Administrative Director for the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature and a Pachamama Alliance Journey Leader.

Therefore, it is difficult to ascertain for what other reason Pachamama Alliance would co-found Global Alliance for Rights of Nature, other than to do what foundations do best: control, manage, shape and contain movements with revolutionary potential. Perhaps CELDF, in this case, is successfully contained for the most part, in a carefully supervised box – wondering why there is so little focus/awareness on this “movement.” One thing is certain – there is very little interest in promoting this campaign.

In the real world, “likes” and “shares” offer no reprieve whatsoever to our ongoing and accelerating ecological devastation/collapse. However, what is significant in Twitter/social media is who/what organizations are chosen by NGOs and paid “activists” to “follow.” This is especially significant in respect to the first Twitter accounts chosen (to follow) as these principal choices demonstrate clearly who and what ideologies they NGO/individual align themselves with. And although it is true that social media, despite the endless attention it receives, offers no stay of execution whatsoever to our ecological/climate crisis, in the world of the non-profit industrial complex, social media is of paramount importance – precisely because it has no true impact beyond 1) collecting intelligence (in all forms) for the world’s most powerful advertising moguls, corporations and the establishment, providing an unprecedented wealth of information that previously was difficult and costly to obtain, and 2) building brand recognition (thereby increasing foundation funding). Thus, to demonstrate how there is no serious effort to promote Rights of Nature, the following information speaks a thousand words.

The Rights of Nature Twitter account is essentially dead with a total of 46 tweets and 44 followers since its inception on Earth Day, April 22, 2011. The Facebook group fares slightly better with 664 members. Compare this with the Pachamama Alliance FB page with almost 40,000 “likes” and a very active Twitter account. (Accounts accessed December 13, 2013 under the twitter name RightsOfNature. The Twitter name/link has since been changed to Rights4Nature.) [1]

The Rights of Nature Twitter account follows 16 individuals/orgs including Nature Conservancy (#1), RSPB (UK’s largest “nature conservation” charity), founding members of the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature, the founders of Pachamama Alliance, Al Gore’s Climate Reality, Hawken’s Wiser.org, 350.org and Bill McKibben. As of December 13, 2013, no Indigenous groups whatsoever were followed by this account. (Accounts accessed December 13, 2013 under the twitter name RightsOfNature. [2]

During 2013, this account was used for little more than one purpose: to promote “ecological tourism” via Pachamama “Journeys. [Rights of Nature – Amazon Rainforest Wisdom Immersion Journey Leader: Robin Milam… Cost: $3,475] As of December 19, 2013, one more tweet has been issued – a request for organizations to join Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature in requesting the re-opening of Fundación Pachamama.

The address provided for the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature is 2036 Nevada City Hwy #193 Grass Valley, California 95945. [3] Researching this address also leads one to The Greater Grass Valley Chamber of Commerce (128 East Main Street, Grass Valley CA 95945). Robin Milam is listed as the webmaster. Her business is listed as One World Awake, which shares the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature address.

Ecological Tourism – More Hypocrisy

“Eco-tourism, as defined by the World Tourism Organisation, represents only 2 to 4 per cent of international travel spending. Suppose it grew to the point where it dominated the tourist industry. Could such a large-scale industry be managed in a small-scale way? Can anyone who has flown half way around the world in a jet powered by subsidized fossil fuel and puffing out greenhouse gases qualify as an eco-tourist?” — David Nicholson-Lord, 2002

The hypocrisy is rich (literally). Pachamama Alliance chides the Ecuadorian Government for drilling oil in the Yasuni, all while their ecotourism boutique/niche – catering to the lifestyles of the rich – is absolutely dependent upon the expansion of fossil fuels. Travel expenses as reported on Pachamama’s Alliance’s 990 form accounted for over a cool half million in 2011 ($592,557). Here, the irreconcilability of preserving capitalism with preserving the planet cannot be overstated.

“Success” Stories

Success Story One: Runa

Robin Fink is the Program Director at Fundación Pachamama (since November 2009) and Board Member at the Runa Foundation (Fundación Runa) (May 2012 to present). In her role at Pachamama Alliance, Fink works closely with the Indigenous Achuar of the Ecuadorian Amazon. [4]

Runa Corporation is a privately held company in the food and beverages industry. It’s also an excellent case study of what the new “green economy” looks and feels (as in marketing/branding) like. [“Runa LLC is a privately held organic Amazonian beverage company that processes and sells guayusa. The company is based in Brooklyn, New York with offices in Quito and Archidona, Ecuador.”][SOURCE]

In the 21st century, most every corporation has a foundation. The benefits (for oligarchs and corporate entities alike) of establishing a foundation are formidable. Securing/protecting interests under the guise of philanthropy and tax evasion represent a mere two of many benefits. [“Fundación Runa” provides tools and resources to indigenous communities and farmers’ associations working towards their vision of sustainable development in the Ecuadorian Amazon. We focus on two core areas; community development and environmental management. We provide technical assistance and financing to farmers associations and cooperatives to build capacity and inspire entrepreneurship. We work with local stakeholders to conduct participatory research and strategic planning for conservation and sustainable land management in the Ecuadorian Amazon.”]

When one observes the heavy hitters on the Runa Foundation Board of Advisors, it is certain that many are betting on this company being acquired by Pepsi or Coca-Cola in the not-so-distant future for the tune of hundreds of millions. Most recently Coca-Cola swallowed up the majority of “Innocent” Drinks for an estimated £100m. [“The three Cambridge graduates who launched Innocent Smoothies have sold the bulk of their remaining shares to Coca-Cola for an estimated £100m – 15 years after dreaming up the idea for the healthy drinks company on a snowboarding holiday.” Financial Times, February 22, 2013] The Runa Foundation Advisors include Yolanda Kakabadse, president of World Wildlife Fund (WWF) since 2010, Trustee of the Ford Foundation, President of International Union for Conservation of Nature (1996-2004); Ann Veneman, Executive Director of UNICEF (2005-2010, US Secretary of Agriculture (2001-2005), named 46th most powerful woman by Forbes in 2009; Doug Hattaway, president of Hattaway Communication since 2001, Senior Communications Adviser for Hilary Clinton (2008); Michael Conroy, Board Chair of Forest Stewardship Council since 2010, Board Chair of Fair Trade USA (2003-2010; Jacob Olander, Director of Forest Trends’ Incubator since 2008, Co-founder of EcoDecisión since 1995, Expert in conservation finance and payments for ecosystem services; Florencia Montagnini, professor of Tropical Forestry at Yale University since 2001, research advisor to the Smithsonian Institute’s PRORENA program since 2001, expert in tropical forestry and agroforesty systems.

On the Runa blog, under the post At Runa, We Don’t Actually Farm Guayusa, the company states:

“In this way, we foster the local entrepreneurial spirit, build sustainable and transparent partnerships with the farmers, and proactively work together to break a long history of paternalism and exploitation that has negatively impacted these communities.”

Yet this is not true. In reality, drawing more people into a suicidal system based on perpetual infinite growth is anything but sustainable. [“Never has failure been so ardently defended as success.” — Voltaire’s Bastards] Further, as this corporation grows (the sole purpose of the venture), the introduction of Western identities ensures the introduction of Western values into the Ecuadorian Amazon – ensuring the erosion of culture and identity. The erosion may be slow and subtle, yet it is inevitable, as Western culture has always ensured.

To seek out Earth’s last remaining peoples who are the pure epitome of true sustainability, and then introduce them to capitalism and build a dependence upon the capitalist economic system under the guise of “local entrepreneurial spirit” is paternalism and exploitation at its best. Any venture that cannot sustain itself in a local economy, sustained by local resources, contributes to further annihilation of the planet, regardless of the sophisticated language/marketing that delivers nothing more than what we wish were true.

Runa founders Tyler Gage and Dan MacCombie met in an entrepreneurship class at Brown University. Together, they put together a business plan that would “turn Ecuador’s cultural heritage into an income generating opportunity for farming families.” They launched the business in December of 2009.

RUNA BRANDING

Runa Corporation is a business built on an Amazonian tree leaf called guayusa, native in the Upper Amazon regions of Ecuador, Peru, and Colombia. Traditionally, indigenous families (Achuar) wake up together at dawn to drink guayusa. They sit around the communal fire drinking gourds full of guayusa until sunrise. During this time, the village elders teach the youth about ancestral myths, hunting techniques, social values, and about what it means to be “Runa” in the Indigenous cosmovision. The guayusa ritual continues to be a cornerstone of Kichwa culture, a practice that brings the family and community together around the simple experience of drinking tea. Community shamans, known as yachaks or rukus in Kichwa, will also play a traditional bamboo flute (known as kena) and a two-sided weasel-skin drum, and sing soft rhythmic songs during these early morning hours. The shamans also interpret dreams from the previous night, and make recommendations to guide the community and help them live in harmony with the rainforest. After drinking the first gourds of guayusa, children are often sent to go bathe in the river and receive its strength and cleansing for the day to come. [Source]

Every day, Runa pays three different indigenous farmers $35 each for fresh guayusa leaves to make guayusa tea products sold through their online store to the US and Whole Foods stores in the Mid-Atlantic region. Runa states that they have raised the income of 300 farmers by 25% each, whose family income averages $30-70 per month. Runa sales are expected to surpass $1 million for 2012. [August 27, 2012 | Source]

According to Runa, every day the corporation pays three different indigenous farmers $35 each. As they have compensated 300 farmers, let us assume the three different indigenous farmers are representatives of 3 co-operatives: 3 x $35 = $105 | $105 x 365 (days) = $38,325 | $38,325/$1,000,000 *100 = 3.83% of the revenue. $38,325 of a $1 million revenue stream (2012) represents a 3.83% of revenue “shared” with the famers without whose land and labour, harvest and generosity there would be no product at all. (Note that the 3.83% of revenue received from Runa has been divided up amongst the 300 farmers. This equals $127.75 for each farmer per year. This equals $10.65 per month per farmer – which verifies Runa’s statistic of increasing the average farmer’s annual income of $30-$70 per month by approximately 25% if one uses $30 as the benchmark.) [5]

Bear the farmers’ earnings (above) in mind when, in a nod to history continuing to repeat itself, Coca-Cola buys up the majority of Runa for a cool £100m or so in the not too distant future. Runa foundation advisor Yolanda Kakabadse, of WWF, just happens to also be a member of the Environmental Advisory Board of CocaCola.

“… we also receive about $500,000 from USAID, from the US government, the Andean Development bank, the German government, a couple other NGOs who were very impressed by our model.” [Source]

Runa has received grants totalling $500,000, from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) (approximately $250,000) and Corporación Andina de Fomento (a Latin American development bank). Funds have also been given by the German government/GTZ. In November of 2011 the company closed a $1.6 million round of angel investments. In January of 2012 the founder sought $2 million in a Series A equity round. [Source]

One NGO that was “very impressed” by the Runa model was Fundación Natura. As a result, an alliance was formed between them to develop an “agroforestry” project to “domesticate” the guayusa plant – a crop which has never been technically managed.

 “Furthermore, we are moving along on a number of other fronts, including fleshing out our alliance with Fundación Natura (the largest conservation NGO in Ecuador) to develop our project to plant guayusa and other agroforestry trees in Ecuador….” — Founder Tyler Gage, May 6, 2009 [Emphasis added]

 

“Additionally, we are pioneering the sustainable cultivation of a crop that has never been technically managed, so it has taken lots of trial and error to refine our agroforestry model and planting techniques.” — Founder Tyler Gage, July 15, 2010 [Emphasis added]

Developing the Rainforests

Fundación Natura (Nature Foundation) is Ecuador’s first environmental NGO. Founded in 1978, Fundación Natura grew rapidly due to large USAID grants and money derived from debt-for-nature swaps engineered by WWF (Meyer 1993; Echavarria 2010). [Source] These swaps had an important effect: they contributed to shifting responsibility away from the government to private organizations by channelling funding via domestic (though foreign funded/controlled) NGOs rather than through the government agency in charge of managing protected areas. [Source: Globalization and Resistance: Transnational Dimensions of Social Movements, 2002] This strategy of foreign interests bypassing government is compelling considering the fact that USAID would like to see NGOs given legal recognition (further discussed in the final three paragraphs).

Fundación Natura is associated with the World Wide Fund for Nature – WWF, is a member of the World Conservation Union (IUCN), a member of The Nature Conservancy (TNC), and a member of international environmental networks such as the Latin American Network of Forests (RLB), Conservation International (CI) and Climate Change Network. [Source]

When USAID, WWF et al are expanding/promoting a new “agroforestry” agenda, it means one thing – that this method serves to benefit the elites. Carbon offsets, biomass and biodiesel are just a few of the false solutions that hold promise for the agroforestry projects in developing countries. [6] In developed countries, such as Canada, the single enticement is the carbon market. [7]

 “The potential of using carbon offset credits from agroforestry projects for farmers in developing areas has become more prevalent in both Clean Development Mechanism and voluntary carbon markets.” — Carbon Credit Payment Options for Agroforestry Projects in Africa, 2011

The traditional Kichwa [8] farm in Ecuador is called a chakra. The chakra farming technique involves integrating food crops (or animals) into the trees of the forest. As an example, cacao trees are grown among other fruit trees and crops under the shade of a forest – simultaneously tending to the land for more than one purpose. Chakras have been farmed sustainably for centuries.

The term “agroforestry” was coined in the mid-1970s as part of a research study led by John Bene of Canada’s International Development Research Centre.

Agroforestry could be described as the West “modifying” / emulating the traditional chakra to accommodate their own worldview via a Euro-American lens. Agroforestry systems often involve clearing vital underbrush to plant new crops as well as the cutting of trees. Selected trees are then replanted to provide firewood, food, medicine, and other non-timber forest products (that will benefit the West) – such as Runa’s guayusa. We can also safely assume genetically engineered trees are part of many agroforestry projects. Indeed, the paper “Genetic Improvement of Agroforestry Trees” was presented at the 2014 IUFRO Forest Tree Breeding Conference in Prague, Czech Republic in August 2014. In 1991 it was noted that “the initial euphoria about agroforestry has died down…” but just two decades later with “climate wealth opportunities” abounding, the push for agroforestry is making a comeback.

“…the potential applications of biotechnology in agroforestry research are unlimited.” — The Literature of Forestry and Agroforesty, 1996

Agricultural schemes (with development programs/training provided by those in the West) are intended to “consolidate and replicate the production system of ancestral chakras, fish farming, sustainable tourism, safety and food sovereignty-oriented marketing.” [Source] But behind closed doors, it is without doubt the promise of the lucrative carbon market that has industry and the non-profit industrial complex salivating.

Not surprising, the agroforestry model is anything but a perfect reproduction of the forest in its natural state. A study by Matthias De Beenhouwer, Raf Aerts and Olivier Honnay discloses that when a natural forest is converted into an agroforest, the total species richness declines by eleven percent. For forest species, the differences were larger, with a decline of 35% (natural forest to agroforest). Faring worse are the ecosystem services* (water filtration, nutrient rich soil, and other services that the forest ecosystems naturally provide). Management intensification decreased provision of ecosystem services by a strong decline of 37%. (*Note that the research of quantitative carbon sequestration was not included in this study under ecosystem services).

“Forest species richness and total species richness were significantly lower in the more intensively managed than in the more natural land use categories. Response ratios showed that the decline in total species richness was higher when comparing agroforest with plantation (?46%), than when comparing forest with agroforest (?11%)…. Response ratios showed that management intensification decreased provision of ecosystem services with 37% when comparing forest with agroforest and with 27% when comparing agroforest with plantation. Our data suggest that species richness decline follows a concave yield function whereas ecosystem service decline follows a more convex yield function.”

The study is clear: anthropogenic disturbance jeopardizes the ability of tropical forests to sustain ecosystem services.

The loss of species, in tandem with the decline of species richness and ecosystem services in a world of accelerating ecological collapse must be considered critical losses. It is reckless to market agroforests as intelligent/progressive substitutes for rainforests in their natural state.

“Whereas the non-forest species show no significant decline, species confined to forests were the first species to be affected by management intensification, demonstrating that even in an agroforest matrix, natural forest is irreplaceable for their conservation.” (Gardner et al., 2009; Gibson et al., 2011; Muñoz et al., 2013)

However, the NPIC, working hand-in-hand with foreign corporations such as Runa, use the above study to argue that even though agroforests incur critical and significant losses, and there is no replacement for a rainforest in its natural state, agroforestry is less damaging than plantation/monoculture agriculture.

How kind of the empire, its banks and its tentacles (the non-profit industrial complex) to develop systems that are moderately less damaging than a full conversion to monoculture. Let us be clear: just as “less cancer” is still cancer, “less species loss” is still species loss, “less ecosystem damage” is still ecosystem damage. In less than one year during their first year of operations, Runa planted over 75,000 trees in more than 120 hectares of agroforesty plots.

“Runa provides direct market access, agroforestry training, and holistic development services to Amazonian farming families.” One must seriously question what the white Euro-American could possibly offer to the Amazonians in regard to holistic development and growing food in their forests.

To be clear, this leaf (the guayusa), rich in ethnic mystique, “packaged” with deep culture by the Indigenous people (to be branded/marketed to those in a commodity culture – devoid of meaning) IS the product. Yet, as sales increase (exponentially, which is the goal), the actual percentage of revenue to the farmers will decline.

USAID has “given” Runa a grant to reforest 1200 acres of degraded lands with guayusa. When one looks at this simple “gift” along with the dossiers of the advisors to Runa, there is little doubt that carbon markets and REDD – to be sought and implemented – are a goal behind the scenes in the boardrooms. There is also little doubt that Indigenous communities in many instances will not be made aware of the revenue stream that will take place under the guise of the “new economy.”

Of interest is Eliot Logan-Hines, listed as Co-Founder and Executive Director of Runa Foundation. Logan-Hines attended Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. He went on to co-author Chapter 18 (REDD policy options: Including forests in an international climate change agreement) of the 2009 publication Forests and Carbon: A Synthesis of Science, Management, and Policy for Carbon Sequestration in Forests.

Of course the future Guayusa plantations will be made to sound brimming with biodiversity with a focus on environmental stewardship. In some instances, perhaps they will be. Both credibility and legitimacy are always essential elements for all such altruistic business ventures. And in many instances, where the growth is not dependent upon the actual and visible destruction of the forest (such as logging), the preservation of biodiversity costs the investors nothing while increasing their legitimacy.

One can argue that there must be increased farmer income, and with such “green” politically correct ventures as Runa’s, this can happen alongside the restoration of the Amazon. Yet, drunk on the idea of a “green economy,” there appears to be a collective amnesia in acknowledging that the sole reason the Amazon is being obliterated in the first place is due to the industrialized capitalist economy. We ignore Einstein’s common sense observation on what constitutes insanity: “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Capitalism dictates that whatever must be done to ensure green – as in dollars, not planet – must be done. It is essential that poverty (created by the industrialized capitalist system) be alleviated and eradicated throughout Latin America. Unfortunately, Western industrial capitalists believe this massive undertaking can only be realized within the confines of an industrialized capitalist system, which depends on exploitation of the World’s most vulnerable, essentially making this daunting task impossible.

True “philanthropy” would be an anonymous gift to communities to develop/create their own localized gift economies and co-operatives – entirely free of outside influence and “partnerships” – with absolutely nothing in return to the “philanthropist” nor his/her associated interests. This would be a true demonstration of sincerity in the long-awaited task “to break a long history of paternalism and exploitation that has negatively impacted these communities.” Of course, true autonomy for non-whites is of no interest to today’s “green” and “social” capitalists.

Adopting/stealing progressive language of social movements is nothing new for the elites. Note the word “participatory” (as in participatory democracy in socialist countries) below:

“It’s more fulfilling, more sustainable, more exciting, and more participatory,” said the founders in regards to the company operating a triple bottom line.

Note the rarely spoken fact that business trumps all social needs:

“Wain Collen, Education Director of Fundación Pachamama, emphasizes that ‘NGOs who aim to help indigenous communities most often end up causing more problems than they solve, ‘Our advisors and industry experts continue to remind us that above all, we need to run a successful business, regardless of how social it is. Without a strong, successful business we can’t generate any benefits for anyone.”

When asked about some challenges of running the “social enterprise” (formerly known as a corporation), the founders mentioned the process of acquiring “knowledge” as a big obstacle: “As university students we were accustomed to the ready availability of any and all knowledge any time all the time. However, in Ecuador concepts like ’email’ and ‘the Internet’ are still very, very new….”

Yet, if there is any silver lining to be found in this latest version of “white saviours empowering Ecuadorean farmers,” it is this: Runa received a $500,000 (USD) equity investment from the CreEcuador Fund – an initiative of the current Ecuador government. “The Build Ecuador Fund (CreEcuador) plans to cash out its investments in Runa in roughly 6 years, in order to use its earnings to make additional investments in sustainable businesses. However, rather than selling shares to a private investor, the fund’s vision is to sell shares to Runa employees and the farmers. [Source: Social Enterprise in Emerging Market Countries: No Free Ride, 2013] Yet whether farmers will be able to afford these shares remains to be seen.

[The source of information for Runa founders commentary is from the article The Path to Social Entrepreneurship With The Founders of Runa, August 27, 2012. It is critical to note that even the source of this “news” (“Social Enterprise Buzz”) is of North American origin.]

eColonialism

WesternCharity

Surely whites “teaching” Indigenous populations how to engage in internet “knowledge” as identified and deemed necessary by Western interests (in this image above, note the obvious emphasis on Facebook “education” by an unidentified NGO) is just another example of forcing our suicidal economy, hyper-individualized/commodity culture, and “democratic” “values” on others (who up to that point were fortunate enough to be relatively free of them). As parents, we cannot deny an intense anxiety that questions the psychological impact, effects, conditioning and behavioural change resulting from the consumption/addiction of FaceBook and other social media upon our children. The anxiety weighs heavy, like a rock, as we simultaneously deny and justify our own participation. And yet we raise no objection to those most exploited, most vulnerable, being subjugated as corporate fodder and prey. We close our eyes to the sacrifice – the voracious system must be fed.

This is not to say that the protection of Indigenous rights in the Information Age and the right of Indigenous Peoples to access information and communication technology services and connectivity are not to be respected, Rather it is to challenge the fact that the dominant world view is deliberately constructed by Western ideology, which then is propagated via corporate mass-media echo chambers (internet, print, radio, television, film) – thereby framing, shaping and normalizing predetermined social and cultural concepts that constitute the status quo. Not only is the ingestion of controlled doctrine unhealthy, these ideologies/formal doctrines, conceptualized by the elites, serve to protect the interests of hegemony. [9] And although we like to convince ourselves that internet technology has been a massive success, as we stand on the precipice of planetary collapse, one could quite easily argue that this “success” is illusory, and perhaps the truth is in stark contrast to what we would like to believe in more ways than one. In the lecture “The Limits of the Web in an Age of Communicative Capitalism,” Jodi Dean makes the sound argument that the web has formed part of a profoundly depoliticizing shift in capitalism, which has enabled the marriage of neoliberalism to the democratic values of participation and the reduction of politics to the registration of opinions and the transmission of feelings.

Moreover, upon any formerly isolated person’s introduction to the web, having no prior scope or alternate influence outside of the non-profit trainee/volunteer from the West, how can one not be overwhelmed and ultimately absorbed by the elites’ dominant cultural hegemony? Aside from paternalism and colonialism, this also constitutes a rabid academic imperialism.

“It is an electronic mass media driven phenomena [sic] which over time will not only expand the frontiers of the multi-national communication firms but will far exceed even the vast reach of the once powerful and hegemonic British Empire. eColonialism outlines the hegemony of the USA as global American media and communication conglomerates seek out and view the global economy as their market to dominate.” — Tom McPhail, eColonialism Theory: Hegemony and the Role of American Media

Video: Academic Imperialism – Claude Alvares (Running time: 12:40)

 

On March 22, 2012 Pachamama highlighted the Alliance’s latest “success” in introducing/providing Apple iPads to build communications in the Achuar communities citing an “unprecedented opportunity for coordinated communications throughout the logistically isolated, far-flung communities with films that are about Achuar, by Achuar and in the Achuar language.” iPad-type devices and hand-held mobile phones play a vital role in furthering eColonialism. [Prospects for e-Advocacy in the Global South, A Res Publica Report for the Gates Foundation | Source]

Achuar_iPad_editing_550

Image: Pachamama website: “iPads Offer a Link for Far-flung Communities” – Westernized education, religion, business values and technology, built upon Western ideologies, globalization and capitalism, continue to penetrate and expand throughout the Achuar communities.

Success Story Two: Fundación Pachamama Projects

“Excluding the role missionaries have had on Achuar culture may serve to satisfy the ecotourists’ imperialist nostalgia by convincing them that the Achuar have what the West has lost: an isolated, pristine ‘indigenous’ culture that has not been tainted by the negative influences of industrialization.” Source: “Take a Picture with a Real Indian”: (Self-) Representation, Ecotourism, and Indigeneity in Amazonia, 2011

Pachamama Alliance highlights CEKSA (Complejo Ecoturistico Kapawi S.A.) and Aerotsentsak as two examples of sustainable development, stating “With the partnership of Fundación Pachamama, the Achuar nationality formed and continues to own and manage two very successful companies… [B]oth companies demonstrate the potential for generating income and leadership capacities to support the autonomous development of the Achuar and other nationalities.”

CEKSA is the corporation that manages the award-winning Kapawi Ecolodge.

Aerotsentsak is the only Achuar-owned airline flying to Achuar territory.

It is critical to question the wisdom (and perhaps also the sincerity) of creating an industry that is completely dependent on fossil fuels – and the capitalist system itself (a system dependent upon infinite growth where violence upon Earth’s most vulnerable peoples and life forms is inherently built into the system) – and then calling it sustainable. Not to mention, it’s an industry that rather than catering to the needs of a localized economy and her people, is dependent upon the 1% percent of the world who created/create 50% of all global greenhouse gas emissions.

In 2007, the partnership between Makusar, Fundación Pachamama, TrekEcuador, and Mentefactura presented a successful project profile to the Interamerican Development Bank (IADB).) In May 2010 the Tiinkias Ecotourism Center (TEC) received its first visitors group: a 16-member tour from The Pachamama Alliance, in what could be considered a scouting trip to an eco camp that was still missing several components and finishing touches. In January 2011 the TEC started welcoming periodic groups, and received about 100 visitors, which more than doubled in 2012 and is slowly and steadily growing. The TEC also started combining its adventures with visits to Kapawi Ecolodge.

“But the benefits of tourism have a corollary, and Mr. Tsamarin [Luis Vargas) lamented them: the loss of communal values and a new market mentality, alcohol abuse, litter, men cutting off their traditional ponytails. The Achuar now want to expand a controlled form of tourism farther into their territory, and have built a camp in the forest near the remote community of Tiinkias to offer visitors a more rustic experience than Kapawi. I would be the first tourist there.” [Source]

There is no doubt that such “success stories” are modern day fairy tales for the progressive left. Real life utopias where the 1%, including the liberal left, can immerse themselves in the lair of absolute opulence: “a haven of ease, good taste, and understated luxury” – both literally and metaphorically. [Source] [1998: “Kapawi is targeting the high-end market, with an all-inclusive price of nearly $300 per person, per day, cost that includes transportation from Quito.”]

What exactly underlies the Pachamama statement that “both companies demonstrate the potential for generating income and leadership capacities to support the autonomous development of the Achuar and other nationalities.”

Here it is critical to recognize that the geographic areas deemed necessary for development by Pachamama and corporate interests are populated by Indigenous people who literally live off (and on) the land. These are Earth’s final remaining lands that have been untouched by industrialized civilization, and are still, in many instances, absolutely abundant where climate change has not yet induced drought and devastation. Lynne Twist, co-founder of Pachamama, confirms this in her book The Soul of Money: “Twist lived for a time with the Achuar people, who for thousands of years have lived a rich life in the rainforest with no need for actual money.” [Soul of Money Book Review]

Yet, vital critique regarding the underlying ethnocentric and capitalist standards for initiating, managing and evaluating such “sustainable” developments appears to be of little to no interest – to anyone. Like the warm golden sun, beautiful and intoxicating as it shines upon our skin, collectively we bask in the lies that allow us to continue insanity without reflection – uninterrupted. The embraced ignorance, like the warmth of the sun, is luxurious.

Nature Tourism Gold Rush

 “The most important factor to remember as a conservation organization is that when you start approaching the tourist market, business is business or you are out.” — Bezaury-Cree, 1991

Responsible travel, sustainable tourism, ecotourism, nature-based tourism, adventure travel, experiential tourism, voluntourism, educational travel, etc. etc. etc. The rhetoric may change (and does), but the facts do not. Consider that in 1950, international tourists numbered approximately 25 million. Further consider that on December 13, 2012 the UN celebrated international tourism surpassing the one billion mark. This asinine celebration followed the failure of yet another United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP18), making the “celebration” of burning carbon for leisure all the more delusional as the Earth continues to pass planetary tipping points. While celebrating tourism increasing from 25 million to over 1 billion in a mere six decades (a clear example of exponential growth), just one glance at the narcissistic Facebook page created to further promote travel demonstrates the predominantly white Euro-American majority – the very ones creating 50% of all GHG emissions. [Another example of ecotourism’s exponential growth is the recognized statistic that tourism to reserves and national parks in Costa Rica grew from 63,500 to 273,400 foreign tourists, exceeding a quadrupling in a mere six years, between 1985 and 1991.]

In the 1980s, with the growing interest in ecotourism worldwide, Galapagos tourism professionals and tourism companies began to look to the mainland for new tourism destinations. Ecuador had been an established nature tourism destination for over two decades as a result of the early popularity of the Galapagos Islands. (2005) [Source]

According to a 1991 USAID study, at that time, the number of foreign tourists visiting the Galapagos Islands was 50,000-60,000. Approximately 24,000 tourists traveled to the Oriente region (Ecuador’s El Oriente occupies the lowlands of the Amazon basin) for an average of 5 days (in 1990), while foreign tourists traveling to the Amazon region were found to be under 3,000. The Oriente stats represented an increase exceeding 50% in a mere 3 years (between 1987 and 1990), with over half of all Oriente tour operators having started their operations within those last five years (1985-1990). In addition, in 1991, a 40% increase in hotel and lodge capacity in the Oriente took place and continued to expand. The rapid development became known as the “Nature Tourism Gold Rush.” With fewer than 3,000 foreign tourists visiting the Amazon region, this would have been considered an incredible untapped market, ripe to be exploited. [Source]

By the early 1990s, ecotourism had exploded, with hundreds of ecotourism ventures being developed within the planet’s most pristine and isolated areas. Dozens of these “ambitious experiments”* were financed by USAID, to the tune of tens of millions of dollars. Investors from Europe lined up to partake. An explosion in investment in CBE (community-based ecotourism) projects was well underway with 161 “donor projects” taking place in Latin America, Africa and Asia. By 1996, Conservation Corporation (South Africa) had designated $60 million to the development of 60-100 luxury lodges in East and Southern Africa. This trend coincided with the emergence of neoliberalism, the corporate greens, and the free-market “environmentalists,” with obfuscation, co-optation and steadfast denial ruling ever since. [*”You wonder whether the fate of the Achuar – the indigenous group that owns the lodge and the land that surrounds it – will be different, whether an ambitious experiment in alternative development could allow the tribe to make its peace with the modern world while preserving a way of life so different from – and alien to – Western sensibilities.” Source]

Of the 40 CBE projects in the Ecuadorian Amazon, more than half of them were owned and managed by foundations “representing” local communities. [Community-Based Ecotourism in Ecuador and Its Contribution to the Alleviation of Poverty, 1990]

Dialogue about the inevitable consequences of neoliberal and capitalist ideologies that are being woven strategically into the fabric of Indigenous communities is, almost without exception, deliberately evaded. Rather, the Indigenous communities are presented to the world as the latest beneficiaries of Western development. The West is viewed as the generous white saviour, which by default, assigns the Indigenous peoples (again) to the role of passive “objects” to be saved. To avoid the label of modern-day, full-blown colonists, foundations (via NGOs) and private institutions created the ultimate altruistic image by offering engagement and even full partnerships to selected communities. This would lend much legitimacy to those who deserved none.

Not of interest is the fact that evaluations of management and “success” would/will be observed through, almost exclusively, the eyes of the Euro-American. Zoning, consulting, advertising, and other constructs of the Western world will be deemed as the “correct” path to success, with “success” defined by Western standards (i.e., profit and Western constructs/ideologies). What is lost in this unabashed bravado, buried just beneath the beloved rhetoric of autonomy, diversity and democracy, is that no foreign outsider possesses the intimate knowledge of both land and culture that is imperative to any so-called success in the competitive field of ecotourism.

It is a rare instance when the capitalist encounters something he must possess, but which cannot be purchased. Although the white saviours could now (and still do) bask in the newly appointed cloth of generosity, the reality was (and remains) that the knowledge required to exploit these pristine lands for tourism (i.e., for profit) could not be obtained without the generosity of the Indigenous Peoples of those lands. By framing the foreigners as the saviours, private enterprise would capture rewards of access to land and forests, resources, knowledge and (essentially) free labour – a free-market capitalist’s paradise. NGOs, par excellence, fulfilled their highly financed role of expanding neoliberalism and Western ideologies.

Neoliberalism, Colonialism and Imperialism and in the Caribbean

The multi-million dollar ecotourism projects (“social experiments”) normalized the hierarchies established under colonialism by obscuring the capitalist agenda behind the rhetoric of “community-based tourism” projects. Concealed was the role of economic processes that shape and mold the boundaries between Nature, the market, corporate power and state. Facilitated by the non-profit industrial complex was the task of privatization and marketing of state-society relations behind the concept of the (neoliberal) conservation mode of production. All roads lead to the commodification of Nature, culture, spirituality, and even fantasy. Even symbolism must be considered symbolic capital.

As an example of the imperial and colonial mindset in regards to states of the Caribbean, in a 2006 USAID document (USAID Sustainable Tourism Training), it is noted that “modernization of the public sector is therefore necessary and has been influenced by the growth of the middle class, the diversification of the private sector, and pressure from non-governmental organizations (NGOs).” This document explains that “the continued impetus for public sector modernization requires public education and bi-partisan support for reforms. One major aspect of public sector modernization in the Caribbean concerns the need for transfer of several activities, in part or in full, from the public sector to the private sector. The move towards heavier reliance on the private sector as the engine for change and development …. The transfer of appropriate activities from the public sector to the private sector and NGO’s will release governmental financial and managerial resources…. Caribbean governments are a long way from satisfactorily fulfilling all of these functions.” [Emphasis added.]

The same USAID document goes one step further, suggesting that NGOs should be given legal recognition “as an important element in the development of sustainable community development as associated with ecotourism.” 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 for the further expansion of neoliberalism and US foreign policy.

 

Next: Part V

 

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

[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.]

 

Endnotes:

[1] Update January 9, 2015: The Rights of Nature FB group now has 1,205 members. The Pachamama Alliance FB page now has 112,460 “likes.” The Rights of Nature Twitter account now has a total of 126 tweets and 118 followers.

[2] Update January 9, 2015: The Rights of Nature Twitter account now follows 41 individuals/orgs.

[3] More recently an alternate address has been added: Rights of Mother Earth, PO Box 88, 6317 Oberwil b. Zug,
Switzerland ” [Source]

[4] Prior to this position Fink was a Project Coordinator and Grants Writer for Ayuda Directa USA (July 2006 – Sept 2009) where she “worked directly with indigenous communities of the Ecuadorian Highlands in identifying local needs and then advocating for them in project descriptions, grant proposals, and community service projects.”

[5] Update, May 13, 2014: “Runa currently works with over 2,000 indigenous farmers in the region and has generated over $125,000 in income for them.” [Source]

[6] “The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of the UNFCCC creates new oppor­tunities for developing-country farmers to benefit from their contributions to carbon sequestration and renewable energy. Inter­est in agroforestry has increased since a report by the Inter-Centre Panel on Climate Change (IPCC 2001) indicated that changes in land use from annual crops to agro­forestry is one of the most promising ap­proaches for sequestering carbon through CDM-approved afforestation. Although the carbon sequestration value of agroforestry has received greater attention to date, there is also evidence that agroforestry has good potential to generate renewable energy in the form of biomass and biodiesel that could qualify for the CDM if it can be shown to replace non-renewable sources (Venema and Cisse 2004). ” – World Agroforestry Into the Future, 2006

[7] “Once an offset system is in place, agricultural producers could implement carbon sequestration projects and sell their reduction credits to large industrial emitters. Emitters would be willing to buy credits from the agriculture sector when the price of those credits is lower than the cost of implementing measures to reduce their own emissions.” – Carbon sequestration potential of agroforestry practices in the L’Ormière River watershed in Quebec, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, November 2008

[8] The largest of the many indigenous populations who have resided in the Amazon for centuries.

[9] “Moreover, because the working class own no mass communications media, they are overwhelmed by the bourgeoisie’s cultural hegemony, and, because they have no intellectuals of their own, they adopt the imposed bourgeois worldview (Weltanschauung), which thus constitutes a false consciousness about their own economic exploitation by the strata of the upper classes; with that false awareness the working class lose their social and political, economic and cultural independence as a social class.” [Source]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fundacion Pachamama is Dead – Long Live ALBA [Part II of an Investigative Report]

The Art of Annihilation

May 7, 2014

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

Fundación Pachamama Investigative Report Series [Further Reading]: Part IPart IIPart IIIPart IVPart VPart VIPart VII  • Part VIII [Final Segment]

[This report references both REDD[1] and the REDD+[2] mechanism. REDD refers to Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation while REDD+ was updated to reflect: “Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries; and the role of Conservation, Sustainable Management of Forests and Enhancement of Forest Carbon Stocks.”] For the sake of continuity, the authors of this investigative series will use the original acronym REDD in this series unless REDD+ appears in references or quotes.]

 

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Image: No REDD in Rio

REDDy for Hypocrisy

“[REDD is] a policy that grabs land, clear-cuts forests, destroys biodiversity, abuses Mother Earth, pimps Father Sky and threatens the cultural survival of Indigenous Peoples. This policy privatizes the air we breathe. Commodifies the clouds. Buy and sells the atmosphere. Corrupts the Sacred…. It is time to defend Mother Earth and Father Sky. Your future depends on it.” — Tom Goldtooth, Executive Director, Indigenous Environmental Network, October 22, 2013

Industrial capitalists, employing those in the non-profit industrial complex as their personal soft-power sycophants, have every intention of controlling what remain of Indigenous People’s natural resources. Adding to centuries of colonialism, slavery, and genocide, native peoples now face a 21st century corporatocracy that seeks full privatization and commodification of the Earth’s remaining commons. As an example, the creation of ecological reserves on Indigenous land is rampant yet proceeds relatively unnoticed. The theft of biological wealth under the guise of conservation is stealth and must be acknowledged as such – nothing less than a brilliant coup.

In the final frontier of Earth’s last remaining natural resources, with capitalism on its knees with nowhere else to go, a silent war has begun that few yet notice. It can be summarized in two words: environmental markets.

REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) is one such key market. [“REDD+ is a climate change mitigation solution that many initiatives, including the UN-REDD Programme, are currently developing and supporting. Other multilateral REDD+ initiatives include the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) and Forest Investment Program (FIP), hosted by The World Bank. Source] This scheme (creating / obtaining permits to pollute via corporate capture of Earth’s last remaining forests) will not mitigate the escalating climate and ecological crises in any way. Rather, it simply allows polluters to continue polluting. REDD allows, and even encourages, our multiple ecological crises to further accelerate while ensuring the seizure / commodification and further exploitation of Earth’s remaining natural resources. Tina Vahenen, from the UN REDD Secretariat, addressed an auditorium of timber executives and foresters at the World Forestry Congress in 2009 and stated, “REDD would be very beneficial for forestry.” Not forests – forestry. Ms Vahenen explained to the room that REDD would be worth $45 billion for the timber industry and insisted that “the forestry sector cannot afford to lose this opportunity.” [Key Arguments Against REDD, 2011- Source]

At first glance it appears that Pachamama Alliance (and Pachamama Foundation by extension) are “more legitimate” than most big greens – and they may very well be, to some extent. Their progressive language is demonstrated in the positions put forward on REDD by Pachamama Foundation that appear on their website and in the mainstream.

August 8, 2011: Pachamama Foundation Website (translated from the Spanish by Google Translate):

“Aware of the urgent need to reduce deforestation in the country, Fundación Pachamama’s participation at international level in the Accra Caucus and national level in the monitoring group UN-REDD and the National Standards Committee Socio-environmental REDD +, aims to participate in advocacy spaces to ensure the inclusion of human and collective rights, self-determination, land rights, and full and effective participation of the subjects of law, and monitoring the construction of political national government for the conservation and the importance of forests. In domestic spaces acts as delegate CEDENMA, representing a sector of environmental civil society organizations to advocate for getting the highest standards of conservation and the guarantee of human and collective rights and the rights of nature. Pachamama Foundation disagrees with any attempt of the Government of Ecuador to participate in carbon markets, is in a stage of preparation and implementation stages. Markets do not do more than consider nature as a commodity and encourage perverse and inequitable business that promotes a model of capitalist development and unsustainable. Pachamama Foundation does not promote any REDD mechanism. Rather, it maintains a very critical position, this being insufficient and incomplete to combat climate change mechanism, whose origin is in a biased account of the forest that does not include the Indigenous world, does not recognize rights for nature and the commodification and intended to be inserted into the woods in the perverse world market.”

This sounds like an honourable, even radical, position. And it is. But consider the following text exactly three months later on November 8, 2011, also from the Pachamama Foundation website:

María Belén Páez, director of Pachamama Foundation, spoke about the REDD mechanism during the plenary of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA). In her speech, she addressed the following topics [translated from the Spanish]:

Financing: The REDD finance mechanism should be transparent, reliable, and accessible.

Additionality: The reductions under the REDD mechanism must be in addition to emission reductions required under the Kyoto Protocol for developed countries, ie, [REDD credits providing carbon offsets] should not replace these reductions.

Integrity: It is important that the parties agree that funding for REDD ensures social and environmental integrity, in addition to sustainable development and good governance.

Innovation: Funding for REDD should focus on a variety of innovative sources.

Carbon markets: Carbon trading has been declared as merchandise with the worst performance in the world. Its growth has stagnated and declined. Forests are not within this market due to concerns about leakage and impermanence of the forest.

Offset credits: It has been shown that these loans are prone to fraud and market manipulation. They should not be part of any package of funding for REDD.

Multi-functionality: It is important to recognize that forests have multiple functions in addition to their ability to store carbon. Payments resulting from REDD have to compensate more than the amount of reduced tonnes of carbon, for example, their spiritual and other environmental services. [Emphasis added to the word spiritual.]

Effectiveness: To improve the effectiveness of REDD and the ultimate goal of reducing pressures on deforestation and forest degradation, countries should be compensated not only for reducing emissions, but also for the implementation of measures to improve governance, respect for human and collective rights, and conservation of biodiversity.

Although Páez, executive director of Pachamama Foundation, publicly voices opposition to both carbon markets and offsets, she speaks as though financing/payments for REDD, from sources outside of environmental markets, are a realistic option. The intent of REDD by capitalists is to turn the services provided by Earth’s forests into globally tradable commodities. Sources of REDD finance are intentionally presented as hazy and vague while simultaneously espousing half promises that non-market finance will miraculously materialize from nowhere. The simplistic notion that altruistic REDD finance funds from “innovative sources” will come raining down from the sky is a sugar-coated Venus flytrap that easily lures those that are greedy, extraordinarily naïve or cloaked in denial,particularly those dependent upon the non-profit industrial complex.

Note the phrase “spiritual services” as cited by Páez. One must ask how “payments results in REDD” would/could compensate for the loss of spiritual services. Can an exemplary amount of money compensate for spiritual services? If you are a spiritual capitalist, the answer appears to be yes.

At COP17, Páez “represented civil society” (even though unelected to do so) and Accra Caucus (of which Pachamama Foundation is a member). [1] Accra Caucus on Forests and Climate Change is a network of southern and northern NGOs representing around 100 civil society and Indigenous Peoples organizations from 38 countries, formed at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meeting in Accra, Ghana in 2008. The Caucus works to place the rights of Indigenous and forest communities at the centre of negotiations on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD), and to ensure that efforts to reduce deforestation promote good governance and are not a substitute for emission reductions in industrialized countries. [“A full list of members of the Accra Caucus is available on request.” Source. Note that requests were made to acquire this full list, with no success.] Incidentally, Accra Caucus is also partner to the UN REDD Desk. [2] For further information it provides a link to the partner, Rainforest Foundation. At this link we find that Pachamama Alliance is also an “actor” within the UN for implementing REDD, as is Fundación Pachamama. [3]

As mentioned prior, Pachamama Foundation is also partner with the Coordinadora Ecuatoriana de Defensa de la Naturaleza y el Ambiente (CEDENMA) (Ecuadorian Coordinator of Organizations for the Defense of Nature and the Environment). At COP17, Natalia Greene, program coordinator of “Political Plurinationality and Rights of Nature” at Pachamama Foundation was also responsible for chairing CEDENMA, of which she is president.

“Nationally we have participated as a representative of the Ecuadorian Coordinator of Organizations for the Defense of Nature and the Environment (CEDENMA) in building REDD spaces and policies with a MAE (Ministerio del Ambiente) mechanism to guarantee the rights of Indigenous peoples. — Pachamama Foundation [Source]

The Spanish website of CEDENMA (an “Agency Partnership and political representation of Ecuadorian civil nonprofit organizations”), which represents the Global Alliance for Rights of Nature, “a network of organizations and individuals committed to the adoption and implementation of legal systems that recognize, respect and enforce the rights of nature individuals” (to be discussed further in this report) is registered to an address in West Jacksonville, Florida, US. Under the link “I am Nature,” the website redirects you to Pachamama Foundation’s YouTube channel. The vast majority of the members are of US/foreign origin with masses of tentacles to hegemony. In one instance, the “collaborators” cited are World Bank, USAID, US Fish and Wildlife Service, WWF, Nature Conservancy, Conservation International and many other hegemonic institutions.

Theatre

 “Political rhetoric and sophistries do not exist, after all, in order that they be believed; rather, they have to serve as a common and agreed upon alibi.” Milan Kundera

The matrix of alliances and the repertoire of concerned/attentive language as briefly touched upon above is a brief overview and screenplay of exquisite theatre – theatre also performed for the benefit of the actors and extras themselves, carefully ensuring that all involved can bear to face themselves each morning when they must wake and look in the mirror. As defined by Kundera, it’s an “agreed upon alibi” to alleviate the conscience.

It is a spectacular feat to continually walk the fence wearing Prada heels. The script dictates that corporations, foundations, governments, organizations/NGOs (hierarchal/top down) must unequivocally demonstrate that “civil” society and Indigenous peoples, in particular, have been absolutely involved in the entire process of decision-making. Again, language is instrumental: safeguards; Free, Prior and Informed Consent; transparency; social and environmental integrity; self-determination; sustainable development; cultural integrity; good governance; respect for human and collective rights; rights-based forestry;and conservation of biodiversity, etc. etc. The list of ethical, beautiful and soothing turns of phrase that both ease and suppress well-founded anxieties flows like the River Nile. The i’s will be dotted and the t’s must be crossed. There will be nothing left undone that allows for litigation, that allows for any groups to claim they were not consulted. The capitalists will claim that civil society was not only consulted, they were invited to come to the table, with a heavy emphasis on outreach to Indigenous peoples. It’s all theatre, ladies and gentleman. And everyone in the production knows how the show ends. The ending was written long before anyone was assigned to their roles or studied their lines.

This is not activism. This is corporatized environmentalism – the ultimate oxymoron. A thriving industry for hegemony cloaked under the thin guise of ethics and human rights.

No big greens intend to actually stop REDD. In fact, many NGOs are planning to profit from the scheme just as they have from forestry, for example, Forest Stewardship Council, founded by WWF: “Probus is retained by the Forest Stewardship Council, founded by WWF, to advise on non-conflict of interest global funding mechanisms for environmental stewardship councils and NGO development of global sustainable timber and aquaculture standards. In tandem with the financial aspects of environmental stewardship, Probus develops corporate structuring to enable large NGOs to gain independent revenues via ‘for-profit’ sister companies without impinging upon the impartiality and not-for-profit or charitable status of the NGO.” In the end, “important concessions” will have been made to “protect the Indigenous” and these special considerations will be celebrated as “win win!” victories. Yet, the considerations for concessions were also written into the script with many undoubtedly pre-determined from inception. The predacious capitalist gives nothing he does not wish to give. [Further reading on WWF’s certificationschemes and green washing can be found here, here, and here.]

Via the financial institutions, the media and the non-profit industrial complex, the capitalists perform the most malevolent activities that inflict further pain and destruction onto Earth’s most vulnerable societies, sentient beings and living ecosystems. Yet as long as they appear to be polite, conciliatory, and attentively listening to grievances, feigning concern for the associated plight and risks, alongside the pie in the sky “benefits,” of course, the majority of people will acquiesce to the predetermined, “politically feasible” reformist “solution.” Behind closed doors, the ménage of human drones defending capital do not waver. Tenacious as hell, they quietly shuffle forward – impassive, undeterred, absolutely focused on their strategic objectives. This may take years. It may take decades. It matters little. Time is of no essence. The end justifies the means. Call it Machiavellian. Or call it what it is: steady state pathology.

One simply has to look at The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child to see how such conventions are essentially worthless. Our children today are unlikely to live to old age due to cataclysmic ecological collapse, yet each waking day, the global economic system that ensures our annihilation continues unabated. Which begs the question: Why would anyone in sound mind believe that Indigenous Rights will be respected in the final scramble for the Earth’s last remaining natural resources?

Tragedy is, then, an enactment of a deed that is important and complete, and of [a certain] magnitude, by means of language enriched [with ornaments], each used separately in the different parts [of the play]: it is enacted, not [merely] recited, and through pity and fear it effects relief (catharsis) to such [and similar] emotions. — Aristotle, Poetics, VI 1449b 2–3

“[A]nd through pity and fear it effects relief to such [and similar] emotions.”

The embracing of deception (deception that must be swallowed whole, and willingly, if one is to protect their privilege) is warm and consoling. Not unlike a tightly spun cocoon. A metamorphosis into the same pathology we claimed to oppose.

Lying to oneself is easy for those within the non-profit industrial complex. They profess to oppose it – knowing full well that their funding (meaning their privilege and very identities) is fully dependent on what they claim to contest coming to fruition. In many cases, concern and voiced opposition are sincere. It makes no difference. Everyone understands the rules of the game. They understand from the onset that what they object to (at least publicly), which almost always falls under the expansion of capital, is going to be realized. They will voice their distrust and unease and demonstrate just how incredibly noble and ethical they are (with great concern for the natives, of course – natives in faraway exotic places, that is) prior to the proposed policy/scheme being realized. It’s theatre for the audience. Theatre for our conscience. Theatre for the absurd.

Feeding at the REDD Trough

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Image: Accomplices Not Allies: Abolishing the Ally Industrial Complex

It’s easy to talk smack against REDD when one (in this case, Pachamama Foundation) is partnered with UN REDD Desk and funded by Norway Rainforest Foundation (RFN), et al. All it takes is a heightened level of hypocrisy and superiority.[“RFN’s finances are to a significant degree based on multiyear contracts with Norwegian public authorities regarding long-term financial assistance. The organization derives additional funding from individuals and bequests (including from regular private donors designated ‘Rainforest Guardians’); contributions from members of the business community such as Nordic Choice Hotels; and international funds and foundations such as the Ford Foundation and the Rainforest Foundation Fund…. In Indonesia, RFN and its partners have made use of the opportunity presented by the international attention which followed the country becoming a target of many REDD initiatives, including a USD 1 billion bilateral agreement between Norway and Indonesia, in order to provide advice, criticism and input in dialogue with the government and in the media…. As stated by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad), ‘the Rainforest Foundation Norway support to the Civil Society National Climate and REDD working group in DRC has brought full Congolese civil society participation and involvement in developing the national REDD+ strategy and all of its components.'”] Norad is a key funder promoting REDD. [4]

“Norway continues to be UN-REDD’s first and largest donor, committing US$52.2million for 2008-2009, US$31 million for 2010, and at least US$40 million for 2011-2012.” [Source: June, 2011]

aftenposten-rufiji-delta

Image: The WWF, REDD and Tanzania

The current/previous Board of Directors on the Rainforest Foundation (US division) include representatives of Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, AMG Wealth Partners, George Soros Open Society Foundations, Kingdon Capital Managementamong others. After the billion dollar deal was announced between Norway and Indonesia, it was revealed that Norway’s Government Pension Fund – Global had millions invested in many of the predatory corporations circling in on vulnerable Indigenous land owners in Papua and West Papua. This included a corporation that forced a four year old boy to sign land release contracts (PT Henrison Inti Persada, a subsidiary of the Noble Group, which it purchased from Kayu Lapis Indonesia Group, and Medco International and LG International – which sought 1 million hectares of Papua for industrial timber plantations).

Pachamama Alliance and Foundation may (and do) go far further in their criticisms against REDD and other market mechanisms, but at the end of the day they will fulfill the needs/interests of the foundations (fed by corporate profits). Just like every other NGO whose entire existence is dependent upon those profits.

The necessity for healthy dissent is critical. No one understands this more than the foundation. The oligarchy acknowledges there must be space for dissent and venting. To not ensure these needs are met is to invite elements that could lead to economic sabotage and revolutionary revolt. To have a handful of groups publicly objecting to the implementation of policies/schemes when one funds hundreds/thousands of groups to ensure their success is not threatening to the oligarchy whatsoever – rather, it ensures the populace will continue to believe (the falsehood) that they remain part of a true and healthy democracy. Who cares if a handful of groups highlight dangers of REDD – when the cat is already in the bag and the so-called “opposition” is addicted to and reliant on the foundation dole?

If the UN had a program called UN Climate Colonialism Desk (and that is what the UN REDD Desk essentially is), would we all join as “partners” to ensure we had “our say”? It is common knowledge that partners are sought after to 1) increase credibility, legitimacy and brand, and 2) accelerate the original intent/purpose. [5] Some organizations may attempt to justify such partnerships, but at the end of the day, they have lent much needed credibility and legitimacy to yet another instrument of colonialism that should have been isolated, exposed and scorned.

One can be absolutely certain that a key goal of the oligarchy, which has finally overcome most all obstacles in the indefatigable goal to implement REDD (two decades in the making, sought by Rockefeller, Ford, etc. [6], is to now expand REDD throughout Ecuador, Latin America and the rest of the world now that REDD+ framework has been achieved at COP19/Warsaw. [December 13, 2013: “WWF has worked towards realizing REDD+ for many years, engaging both on the ground in the key tropical forest nations of Indonesia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Peru, Colombia, the Guyanas and Brazil, as well as at the global policy and finance levels.”]

It is essential to note that none of the NGOs (over 100 at this point) participating in the Pachamama “solidarity” campaign disclose the fact that the Pachamama Foundation is financed by US interests. As an example, on December 5, 2013, The REDD-Monitor, demonstrating solidarity with Pachamama Foundation, voices its criticisms of the Ecuador Government, writing:

“As in other countries, REDD in Ecuador takes place in parallel to business as usual, including the suppression of the right to dissent. On its website, the UN-REDD programme reports that, ‘In order to reverse forest loss, Ecuador is implementing a series of initiatives to reduce deforestation in the country as part of good governance of forest resources and to simultaneously contribute to climate change mitigation by reducing GHG emissions related to this activity.'”

The REDD Monitor goes further, correctly spelling out why REDD is a false solution to climate change. Yet the REDD Monitor never mentions that both Pachamama Alliance and Pachamama Foundation are UN REDD “actors,” and financed by the very oligarchs (via foundations) that are heavily invested in REDD. For a poverty stricken state such as Ecuador, the support and pursuance of REDD is, without doubt, misguided and regrettable. For multi-million dollar NGOs (which, although unelected, claim to represent civil society) to support and pursue REDD is without doubt inexcusable. Yet, as far as support for REDD is concerned, the government of Ecuador alone will be the egregious villain while Pachamama Alliance and Foundation will be the virtuous victims. (It must be noted that the REDD Monitor is also a beneficiary of funding from Rainforest Foundation Norway.)

At this juncture it is critical to note two items of great significance.

“According to a recent policy brief from the Overseas Development Institute, $2.72 billion has been pledged for REDD+ since 2007.” — Rich Nations Agree to Fund Forest Protection for Climate, November 20, 2013 [7] [“Since 2007, USD 2.72 billion has been pledged to five multilateral climate funds and two bilateral initiatives that support efforts to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation plus conservation (REDD+).”]

The $2.72 billion that has been pledged for REDD+ since 2007 is approximately the same monetary amount (with a similar timeline) that Ecuador required for the Yasuni-ITT Initiative. The Yasuni-ITT Initiative was the proposal by the government of Ecuador to refrain indefinitely from exploiting the oil reserves of the Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini (ITT) oil field within the Yasuni National Park, in exchange for 50% of the value of the reserves, or $3.6 billion over 13 years from the international community. During the six-year history of the initiative, only $336 million had been pledged, and of that only $13.3 million had actually been delivered. [Source] Hence, the project, however flawed, has failed, opening President Correa up to yet another attack by “the left.” [“It is worth remembering that the first trust set up to receive donations was designed, among others, by Yolanda Kakabadse, president of the World Wide Fund for Nature and trustee of the Ford Foundation, and businessman-environmentalist Roque Sevilla, both well connected in the NGO conservation world.” [Source]

This represents the greatest case of victim blaming, which has been the hallmark identifier of the Western response to the non-Anglo plight the world over. Correa and the state have little choice but to exploit these resources (in the case of Yasuni-ITT, 200 hectares (the actual size to be affected contested by some) directly impacted within the million-hectare National Park). This is due to the fact that the global economic system dictates that Ecuador MUST provide these raw materials for financial capital and everyday goods and services – or face the consequences of the West taking what Ecuador will not give willingly. The weak-willed left will point the finger at the leaders in the Global South who must acquiesce for the lives of their people rather than point the finger at the torturers of the Global North, who turn the screws while continuing to inflict the centuries-long pain of this parasitic relationship. Reparations be damned.

Yet a sister campaign, the international outcry regarding the projected tar sands mining/strip-mining designated to destroy 300,000 hectares of the Canadian Boreal Forest, is nowhere to be heard. [“The projected strip-mining of 740,000 acres (300,000 hectares) of forests and wetlands in the tar sands will result in the loss of breeding habitat for between 480,000 and 3.6 million adult birds. The corresponding impact on breeding will mean a loss of 4.8 million to 36 million young birds over a 20-year period, and 9.6 million to 72 million birds over a 40-year period.” [Source] Rather, we hear only cries against a single pipeline (the Keystone or KXL) – a campaign in large part funded by Buffett moneythat has allowed oil, gas and a 21st century oil-by-rail industrial revolution to expand and flourish. Production stopped at the source (on American soil) is of no focus. International cries for production to be crushed prior to drilling are only directed/applied to resource-rich states and their “dictators” (a phrase only applied to the uncooperative) who refuse to get down on all fours and lick the feet of imperialism. Once imperial states take control of foreign soil and natural resource wealth (via occupation, coercion or puppet presidencies), we never hear of campaigns to “keep the oil in the soil” again. A case in point would be the oil-rich state of Nigeria or recently illegally invaded and now occupied Libya where foreign interests pump and steal the oil as fast as modern day technology allows.

There is valid point to be made that defending the rights of nature cannot be based on the promise of compensation, yet the reality is that we, civil society, have a “movement” that refuses to make anti-capitalism the very foundation of all dialogue. A movement financed in full by the very interests we claim to oppose.

The fact of the matter is, if NGOs had campaigned for Yasuni (with no allowances for carbon offsetting / markets), rather than working behind the scenes with corporate interests and leading greenhouse gas (GHG) emitting Annex 1 statesto sanction / advance REDD, perhaps our situation today would be far different. But of course, this is not why the non-profit industrial complex exists. Instead, these NGOs and their foot soldiers, financed by the oligarchs, attacked the Ecuadorian Government, framing the failure as Correa’s alone, strategically pardoning the leading GHG-obstructionist states from their failed obligation and reparations while simultaneously ignoring the nature of the capitalist beast. [Opinion: Yasuní: Entre el eco-fundamentalismo y el Socialismo del Buen Vivir]

“It is becoming more apparent every day that there is no radical Left in this period, just a bunch of middle class intellectuals, politicians, preachers, businesspeople, and academics, many of whom are seeking or receiving government jobs, grants, contracts, or elevation to high political office from the very corporations or the capitalist state they claim to be fighting. They just want us to replace one group of masters for another, while the system itself keeps humming along.” Lorenzo Kom’boa Ervin

And while NGOs such as Pachamama Alliance/Foundation, Avaaz (partner of Rockefellers Pro-REDD Climate Group), Greenpeace, Nature Conservancy, Conservation International, etc. assist in the corporate capture of our commons, consider this:

“The work of environmental scientists supporting the UN’s GEP [green economy program] will give scientific authority to the project, but the important decisions will have already been made…. The project is a deepening commitment to neoliberal free markets…. Meanwhile, scientific institutions, environmental NGOs and government agencies are working to build institutional infrastructure to give scientific authority to the UN’s GEP.… The historical critique of capitalism presented by John Bellamy Foster (2002) and others describes that the appropriation of the commons is an integral aspect of capitalism. Capitalism is always looking for new means of producing profit from activities that were otherwise not managed through commodity relationships.” Dr. Joanna Boehnert, Re-imaging the Commons as “The Green Economy”

The second item of significance is the State of Bolivia’s “Proposal for the Development of the Joint Mitigation and Adaptation Mechanism for the Integral and Sustainable Management of Forests,” which was presented to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)in August of 2012. Although in appearances many organizations have voiced opposition to REDD and carbon markets, it appears that absolutely none have seized the opportunity to campaign on the alternative proposal presented by the State of Bolivia.

Consider this: As the Bolivia delegation stood alone (and continues to stand alone) on the world stage opposing carbon markets (which include REDD) while also developing and presenting alternatives, behind the marketing and branding veneer of the non-profit industrial complex, some realities are crystal clear. “In September 2011, the 64th Annual UN DPI/NGO Conference took place in Bonn, Germany. About 1,500 people from 70 countries turned up. On the third day of the meeting, a remarkable thing happened. Not a single participant at the conference put up their hand to disagree with a declaration which promotes REDD as a carbon trading mechanism.”

“No one raised their hand to object to a single word in the declaration text. In an email distributing the document, Dodd states that, ‘The Declaration was accepted unanimously by the 1500 NGOs and other stakeholders present.'” Manufacturing Consent on Carbon Trading, Chris Lang

The declaration ended with “the call for governments to support forest certification. The ‘gold standard’ of forest certification is the Forest Stewardship Council. Yet FSC has certified vast areas of monoculture tree plantations. FSC also certifies industrial logging in primary forests. But none of the 1,500 people in the meeting objected to any of this – or any of the other statements in the more than 9,000-word declaration.” [Source]

So-called “progressive” media (also financed by and dependent upon foundation funding) apparently have no interest in alternatives to carbon markets either. Bolivia continued to fight for Mother Earth during the 18th Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC in Doha, Qatar. The Bolivian delegation reaffirmed its rejection of the use and expansion of the carbon market as a tool to reduce emissions that cause climate change in the world and presented a proposal with alternative tools in carbon markets. But what use are such alternative tools in the growth of global capitalism? In the mind of the Western world, this is akin to a child handing a bow and arrow to a warrior who is accustomed to using an Uzi, when in fact the “civilized” is now dependent upon the “savage” for help in solving the problem of Earthly destruction. But it appears we would rather die a thousand deaths than actually take this under consideration. As the world hangs in the balance, there is no more time left for the Western world to hold such ideologies. Yet, this will more than likely be the mindset that the West, as a collective, takes to the grave – taking all of the world with it.

Like Bolivia’s alternative proposal for carbon markets, the essential People’s Agreement (April 2010, Cochabamba), has been also been vigilantly marginalized and buried by the non-profit industrial complex. There has been almost zero support for any of these ground-breaking proposals/declarations. When climate justice groups on an international climate justice listserv were asked openly if there were flaws in these alternative proposals, the response was silence. Rather, the environmental “movement,” dominated by the privileged left while residing in the leading GHG-obstructionist NATO states, prefers to condemn leaders of ALBA states as phony “extractivists.”

“I deeply respect American sentimentality, the way one respects a wounded hippo. You must keep an eye on it, for you know it is deadly.” Teju Cole

Imperialism and enslavement is a narrative as old as time. The transformation of Western influence over sovereign states of the world can be traced back to what transpired after the overthrow of French colonizers by Haitian slaves in 1804.

As a result of their audacious desire to be free – a basic human right co-opted mainly by global white male supremacy – the Haitian slaves traded physical oppression, which had been the norm to that juncture, for an economic domination that they were unable to resist. Since then, this has been the blueprint imposed by the West over all the nation states that have attempted to overthrow physical domination.The forms of subjugation have changed over these past 200 years, yet subjugation remains.

Reddy to Manipulate

Consider the following:

In the February 21, 2013 article (Growing Coalition Joins Indigenous Leaders in Houston) featured on the Pachamama Alliance website, the following information is reported, demonstrating the close relationship between Pachamama Alliance and The Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon (CONFENIAE). [8]

 

… [O]ther citizen groups also turned out and spoke up to show their solidarity and support Vargas and Narcisa Mashienta, a Shuar leader and coordinator of Fundación Pachamama’s Jungle Mamas program who also traveled to Houston.

 

The leaders brought with them an open letter from the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador’s Amazon (CONFENIAE), which called for solidarity from the national and international community to resist oil exploitation in Ecuador’s remaining Amazon rainforest, among the most biodiverse in the world….

The petition has also garnered positive media coverage in Ecuador and internationally, ensuring that the issue of oil exploitation in what’s left of Ecuador’s Amazon would become part of the popular discourse and debate around Ecuador’s recent presidential election. (That election was held on February 17th and Rafael Correa was re-elected for a third term as President.)

Fundación Pachamama, Amazon Watch, and other allied NGOs have joined forces with Avaaz.org …. [Further Reading: AVAAZ: IMPERIALIST PIMPS OF MILITARISM, PROTECTORS OF THE OLIGARCHY, TRUSTED FACILITATORS OF WAR]

It is clear and reasonable that the Indigenous populations would oppose the drilling of oil on their ancestral land and that they have every right to defend it. Yet, there is another grave threat to the forests and their ancestral lands. And this very real threat is REDD. Pachamama Foundation is certainly “lending a hand” in ensuring that the devastating impacts of drilling oil are understood in the Indigenous populations, yet when it comes to REDD, the market incentive is discussed as though it can somehow be “made to behave” and evolve into an ethical, non-threatening market mechanism. This is a clear example of how foundation dollars and Western interests come into play. Drilling for oil is an obvious threat to forests. However, REDD, although equally threatening, does not “look” like oil. Workers don’t show up in coveralls, work boots and dirty rigs. REDD arrives in a shiny new Land Rover, full of designer suits, new Italian shoes and shiny white faces. Like CO2, the commodification of the forests is invisible.

Video (Running time: 9:26). Chief Aritana Yawalapiti explains how his people and his region are aggressively targeted by NGOs (ISA) to agree on REDD+ projects. [Published August 22, 2010 by documentary filmmaker Rebecca Sommer.]

On August 3, 2009, CONFENIAE (the logo and letterhead list of members includes organizations of the Shuar, Kichwa, Achuar, Waorani, Siona, Secoya, Cofan, Zapara, Shiwiar and Andoa Peoples) demonstrated that they were vehemently opposed to REDD:

 “We reject the negotiations on our forests, such as REDD projects, because they try to take away our freedom to manage our resources and also because they are not a real solution to the climate change problem, on the contrary, they only make it worse.

“We inform COICA, of which we are a part, that, as Ecuadorian Amazonian representatives with the right to voice and vote, that no person, entity, NGO, etc., is authorized to speak on our behalf in favor or against any issue without our knowledge and participation.”

Yet, in a paper titled “Making REDD a Success – Readiness and Beyond” by Woods Hole Research Center published about a year later (December 2009), both CONFENIAE and COICA (Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon River Basin (Amazon region) are now identified as REDD partners with Pachamama Foundation, the World Bank, WWF, etc. on page 5. The Woods Hole Research Center’s work on REDD is financed by USAID, The World Bank, Goldman Sachs, WWF and many others (page 2).

[“The WWF, The Nature Conservancy, Conservation International, Environmental Defense Fund, Woods Hole Research Center, CIFOR, Wildlife Conservation Society and other ‘conservationist’ NGOs are among those who stand to make billions of dollars from REDD+.” Source]

“In recognition of the vital role of Indigenous Peoples in the REDD process, the Forum, in collaboration with COICA and the national Indigenous network in each country, convened three national-level workshops on REDD for Indigenous Peoples in Ecuador, Colombia and Bolivia. Partners in these workshops include EDF, IPAM and the Pachamama Foundation.” — “Making REDD a Success – Readiness and Beyond” by Woods Hole Research Center [Source]

The “forum” referred to in the above quote is the Forum on Readiness for REDD. EDF refers to Environmental Defence Fund USA and IPAM refers to the Instituto de Pesquisa Ambiental da Amazonia (Brazil).

Demonstrating further disrespect for the State of Bolivia, which has been ardently opposed to REDD and carbon markets, “The Forum” conducted REDD workshops with Indigenous communities in Bolivia via FAN-Bolívia (Fundacion Amigos de la Natureza) [Funders and Donors] with REDD partner CIDOB (The Confederation of Indigenous Peoples of Bolivia). [“… various social sectors have been infiltrated by USAID, which openly funded CIDOB, by the NED, and by the army of NGOs, which unfortunately has become another mechanism for hegemony to evade responsibilities.” Source]

[CONAIE was formed out of the union of two already existing organizations, ECUARUNARI and CONFENIAIE. ECUARUNARI, the regional organization of the Sierra that has been functioning for over 20 years, and the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon (CONFENIAE), formed in 1980, created that same year the National Coordinating Council of the Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONACNIE).]

As mentioned prior, documents demonstrate that Pachamama Foundation has also partnered with USAID-WCS.

Attorney and writer, Eva Golinger(winner of the International Award for Journalism in Mexico, 2009), speaking in reference to USAID/NED:

“This type of funding/aid/advice is very complex and effective because it enables US agencies to infiltrate groups of all spectrums. I am not alleging all of these groups and their members are US agents or receive US funding, but the evidence is quite clear that certain factions within them have close relations w/ US agencies and receive their funding. And, they share a common agenda, against President Rafael Correa. That is undeniable.

“I have never said all of CONAIE or Pachakutik receives funding from US agencies, I have always said sectors, individuals and elements connected to them do receive such funding and training.

“Anyone who dismisses receiving funding or training from NED/USAID and related agencies as having no impact on politics has no understanding of the complex workings of these US agencies. They attempt to recruit, infiltrate and capture influential groups, parties and people who then promote US agenda. This is fact. Unfortunately, they are quite successful.”

The emphasis on local participation, encouraged and even mandated by the foundations and financiers, laid the pivotal groundwork for Indigenous participation regarding REDD. In the 2007 report led by Ricken Patel, founder of Avaaz, for the Gates foundation (“Prospects for e-Advocacy in the Global South”), this is referred to as “cultivating the fringe”: “If possible, fund the fringe, but if this is perceived as too high a risk then invite them to the table by including them in conferences and convenings.” [Prospects for e-Advocacy in the Global South: A Res Publica Report for the Gates Foundation | Source]

It is difficult to place any blame on the Indigenous communities/groups who have entered (or been coerced) into REDD partnerships. The manipulation by the elite foot soldiers within the complex is as smooth as fresh-churned butter. It is important to note that although many Indigenous Peoples are traditional, there are also those “selected” by the World Bank et al that have been completely assimilated by the Western culture and do fully understand that REDD, along with every organization and institution advancing/implementing it, is compromised or fraudulent, or both.

On December 14, 2013, it was reported that “At odds with Ecuador, USAID moves to leave. USAID expects to close its doors in Ecuador by September 2014 due to an increasingly acrimonious relationship with President Rafael Correa. This comes six months after it was kicked out of Bolivia.” The article quoted Steve Striffler, a professor of Latin American studies at the University of New Orleans who studies Ecuador, who stated “[T]hese countries are able to carve out independence from the US in a way they weren’t in the past. The idea they would have kicked out USAID 10 or 15 years ago is unimaginable…. In some ways these actions, and the [USAID decision] can be put in there too, are intended to say that we are an independent sovereign nation…. In the perspective of many in Latin America, and with good reason, USAID is seen as an agent of US imperialism.”

 

Next: Part III

 

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

[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.]

 

EndNotes:

[1] “Since 2008, we are a member of Accra Caucus, a coalition of civil society in countries with tropical forests, seeking recognition and respect for the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities to their lands, territories and resources, and traditional uses of forest policies in fighting climate change.” [Source]

[2] “The UN-REDD Programme was launched in September 2008 to prepare and implement national REDD+ strategies in developing countries and was formed by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). UN-REDD currently has 29 partner countries in Africa, Asia-Pacific and Latin America, of which 13 are receiving support for national programme activities, worth US$55.4 million.” [Source, June, 2011]

[3] The Pachamama Foundation is listed as an “actor” on the UN REDD Desk website, which states: “The Pachamama Foundation was created in 1997 in Ecuador as the sister organization of the Pachamama Alliance that was itself born in Ecuador following the visit of a group of tourists from California, USA, to the Achuar territory, home of an indigenous group that maintains its traditional lifestyle within the tropical rainforest in a remote region of the Ecuadorian Amazon.” [Source: http://theredddesk.org/countries/actors/pachamama-foundation]

[4] “Furthermore, through its ongoing REDD project, which got under way in May 2009, RFN and its local partners have sought to influence the REDD process in the DRC by disseminating information at the grassroots level on the opportunities and challenges of REDD – to local communities, small NGOs, and members of government and research institutions. RFN has also strengthened the capacity of a large number of Congolese civil society organisations to influence the REDD agenda of the DRC, both at the national and at the international level and has, alongside its partners, succeeded in securing civil society participation in the DRC’s National Steering Committee for REDD.” [Source] “There are many more layers that are pushing for legitimizing and expanding REDD+. For example, key funders that are promoting REDD+ are the Climate and Land Use Alliance (Ford Foundation, Packard Foundation, Climate Works, Betty and Gordon Moore Foundation), the Clinton Foundation, the Norwegian Agency for Development and Cooperation (NORAD), the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ, Germany), the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA) to name a few.” [Source: Some Key REDD+ Players]

[5] “This multi-donor trust fund states that “the final phase of REDD+ involves developed countries paying developing countries carbon offsets for their standing forests,” making it clear that they see REDD+ as a carbon trading scheme. [Source: June 2011]

[6] The following text appears March 8, 2010 in an article titled Getting REDDy to Cross the Finish Line, Two Decades in the Making: “It’s hard to imagine with all the progress REDD has achieved, that it all started less than 20 years ago with the Rio Summit in ’92, when the makings of a global sustainability architecture in the form of a climate treaty began to take shape. But a forestry treaty had yet to happen …. With over 20 years of experience in the forestry sector, Michael Northrup, Program Director of Sustainable Development at the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, was invited by the Pinchot Institute for Conservation to give a Distinguished Lecture, ‘After Copenhagen: Implications for U.S. Climate, Energy, and Forest Policy’ at the high brow, exclusive Cosmos Club. Northrup casually described to the 30 or so people in the room where we are with REDD today and how we got here. Plus he played the ‘name game’ as he knew most of the people in the room.”

[7] “Rich Nations Agree to Fund Forest Protection for Climate: Promises turn into ‘definite’ dollars. REDD+ finance, the money needed to set up and implement a system that pays countries to leave forests standing, has followed a long road since the 2007 U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change meeting in Bali, Indonesia, where nations pledged to take meaningful action to reduce emissions from deforestation. A 2008 study found it would cost between $17.2 billion and $28 billion per year to cut the global rate of deforestation in half. According to a recent policy brief from the Overseas Development Institute, $2.72 billion has been pledged for REDD+ since 2007 through five multilateral funds and two bilateral funds, more than half of it to Indonesia and Brazil. About one-tenth of the pledges have been disbursed to projects on the ground.” http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=rich-nations-agree-to-fund-forest-protection-for-climate&WT.mc_id=SA_DD_20131120

[8] The Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon (Spanish: La Confederación de las Nacionalidades Indígenas de la Amazonia Ecuatoriana) or CONFENIAE is the regional organization of indigenous peoples in the Ecuadorian Amazon or Oriente region. Nine indigenous peoples present in the region – Quichua, Shuar, Achuar, Huaorani, Siona, Secoya, Shiwiar, Záparo and Cofán – are represented politicalily by the Confederation. CONFENIAE is one of three major regional groupings that constitute the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE). It is also part of the Amazon Basin indigenous organization, COICA. [Source: Wikipedia]

 

Divest-Invest Shell Game

A Culture of Imbeciles

Sept 22, 2014

lucy-tricks-charlie-brown

 

One of the recurring scenes in the iconic comic strip Charlie Brown is the one where his sister Lucy holds the ball for Charlie to kick, promising not to move the ball at the last second, thereby causing Charlie to tumble backward when she always does. Humiliated time after time by Lucy’s sadistic antics, Charlie — trusting soul that he is — never fails to fall for Lucy’s promise, that this time she won’t pull the same trick as before.

I thought of Charlie Brown and Lucy reading the announcement of “major commitments” on the eve of the UN Summit on Climate Change. Having moved the ball at Poznan, Copenhagen, Cancun and Durban — thus causing progressive greens to take a tumble — the UN, Wall Street, and big international NGOs (BINGOs) are now asking recently enraptured climateers to give them another chance to prove themselves trustworthy.

After successfully bewitching the greens into falling for college campus fossil fuel divestment in the US — which helped Wall Street consolidate its fossil fuel control — Wall Street, et al are now cooking up an international carbon copy of this hoax to capitalize on the euphoria of climate week. Aiding such nefarious groups as Avaaz, Purpose and 350 in this blissful deception are some good people (like Desmond Tutu) — recruited for his celebrity and credibility — as well as frauds like Bill Clinton.

The Divest-Invest shell game — like the COP meetings, REDD carbon market fiasco, and the Keystone XL charade — requires suspenion of disbelief (once again), and determined engagement in wishful thinking. When they begin swooning over oil tycoon heirs as their new heroes, the greens demonstrate their boundless capacity for self-delusion.

As we saw with the enchanting Charms of Naomi, the mystique of mass hypnosis is a simple matter of the prescribed art of social engineering. Having captivated a gullible audience, in a state of ecstasy after their euphoric march in blue, makes beguiling the credulous child’s play. Like they say, ignorance is bliss.

McKibben’s Divestment Tour – Brought to You by Wall Street [Part V of an Investigative Report] [A Thinking Person’s Nightmare]

The Art of Annihilation

September 4, 2014

Part five of an investigative series by Cory Morningstar

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

+++

Land Grabs, Green Illusions, and Privatization of Forests

As one example (of hundreds) of land grabs under the guise of conservation carried out by NGOs within the non-profit industrial complex, in December of 2011 Kenya’s Samburu people were violently evicted. The eviction occurred following the”purchase” of the land by two American-based charities, the Nature Conservancy and the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF). The two US “conservation” NGOs “gifted” the Samburu’s 17,100 acres of ancestral lands to Kenya’s government (November 2011) in order to create a national park to be run by the Kenya Wildlife Service.

In the above video (1:58) Nakuru Lemiruni sends a message to those responsible for evicting the Samburu tribe from their land. AWF, using funds from The Nature Conservancy (TNC), claimed they purchased the land with the understanding that no one resided on it. When the Samburu protested and took legal action, the land was swiftly “gifted” to the government. Police officers carried out the vicious eviction/attack on a Friday market day, when the men were away, leaving women, elders and children alone in their homes. Fanning out across the 17,000-acre Eland Downs Ranch, the police burned the Samburu families’ homes to the ground, along with all their possessions. Identified in the Kenyan media as “squatters,” the evicted Samburu families then petitioned a regional court to recognize their ancestral claims to the land where they lived and grazed their cattle. The suit has been filed by the Samburu against the AWF and the former President. [Source]

Pension funds began investing in commodities (including food and farmland) only recently.Capital allocated to agriculture investment grew from approximately $6 billion in 2001 to $320 billion in 2011, with hedge funds accounting for a further $100 billion. In 2011, investors expected these numbers to double within a few years. By the end of 2012, this figure rose from $320 to $428 billion. [Source]

“Farmland values across the globe between 2002 and 2010 have risen up to 1,800%, according to the Global Farmland Index compiled by U.K.-based real estate firm Savil. The biggest upswings have been in emerging markets, such as Romania and Hungary.” Global farmland offers potential for asset deals, Sept 26, 2013

The broad gains in commodity markets seen during recent years – dubbed the commodity “super cycle” – have taken a hit in 2013. It was Calpers (California Public Employees’ Retirement System, Ceres Board Member, partner) that helped pioneer pension funds’ foray into indexes that track wheat, energy, metal and other commodities. The money flooded in from big institutions (pension funds and college endowments), turning the market on its head. Economists blamed these new “index speculators,” who had no stake in the underlying commodities, for creating a volatile market. [Source] As of August 2013, the funds decreased from $428 million (2012) to $363 million (Barclays).

Yet not all “commodities” are created equal.

“Timber has attracted $60 billion of institutional money, or almost double that of agriculture, as governments and mills sold “sizable” assets, he said. The lumber market is valued at $425 billion…” Bloomberg, Dec 5, 2012

 

“Farmland has become the darling of alternative investing, sending hedge funds and wealthy investors into bidding wars for plots of land once deemed ordinary. And it is not just big money getting in on the game. From Stockholm to Chicago to Vancouver, ordinary investor money is pouring into fields around the world.” – BBC Capital, June 6, 2013

 

“According to numerous surveys within the industry, pension fund managers are seeking to invest in farmland – a new asset class offering annual returns of 10–20% – as never before.” June 20, 2011, Grain, Pension funds: key players in the global farmland grab

Included in such “green” portfolios will be massive land grabs and the appropriation of natural resources under the guise of conservation. “Sustainable” plantations (biomass/biofuels/agrofuels; feed for industrialized livestock), REDD+, Carbon Development Mechanisms (CDM) and so-called carbon sink projects comprise a green façade to justify the long-term objective of acquiring control of communally owned territory in the global South. In the long term, the goal is unbridled corporate capture of fertile land with access to cheap and plentiful water and labour, for producing export food crops that will deliver guaranteed high profits. Geo-engineering will place a further emphasis on food gentrification and large-scale monoculture industrial plantations – undoubtedly playing a pivotal and leading role in the accelerating obliteration of Earth’s natural biodiversity. Sovereign nations, peasants, farmers, campesinos, Indigenous Peoples and whole cultures will be annihilated in the process – a feat of 21st century corporate colonialism.

 “Farmland investments are particularly attractive as prices are supported by solid long-term fundamentals that have little to do with the performance of traditional assets such as equities. In the long-term, farmland values rise as demand for food weighs against a limited supply of good quality land, with farmland prices having been shown to rise in line with population growth and economic expansion in developing nations. This effectively generates a return on investment in the long term, regardless of the performance of the wider economy.” — DGC Asset Management, 2011

 

“They see in farmland what they call good ‘fundamentals’: a clear economic pattern of supply and demand, which in this case hinges on a rising world population needing to be fed, and the resources to feed these people being finite.” — Pension funds: key players in the global farmland grab, June 20, 2011

 

“Of a total $23 trillion of asset under management within the pension fund space, around $100 billion is believed to be invested in commodities, of which between $5 billion and $15 billion is invested directly into farmland investments. A majority of analysts project that institutional investments in farmland and commodities are expected to double by 2015.” — DGC Asset Management, 2011

 

“The Global AgInvesting Conference hosted at the Waldorf Astoria in Manhattan in June attracted some 600 institutional investors representing agriculture investment assets under management of almost $11 billion, and with plans to expand those holdings to almost $20 billion by 2014, a rise of almost 70%. Over 200 attendees were from the pension fund sector, and the majority intend to invest in farmland as the mainstay of their agricultural investment strategy.” — DGC Asset Management, 2011

According to Macquarie Agricultural Funds Management, agricultural land represents an $8.4 trillion market, of which institutional investors currently own approximately $30-$40 billion. This represents a fragment of the (monetary) value of farmland globally, estimated at about $8.4 trillion. Key regions targeted include Brazil and Argentina. Thus far, only 6 percent of institutional investment in primary agriculture has been in Africa due to geopolitical barriers. Yet, it is critical to note that investors perceive Africa as “having the most scope to open new areas of arable farmland.” [Institutions are blazing a trail in CIS farming, December 2, 2013, Source]

An industrialized economic system that voraciously consumes Earth’s natural resources, with zero regard toEarth’s replenishing cycles/laws of nature, ensures that agriculture is one clear and unmistakable source of pay-off for institutional investors. The new surge in money will push up global food prices (as we have already witnessed), hitting hardest those most vulnerable. As an example of investment driving up the market, food costs in 2012 came within 10 percent of the record set in February 2011 (United Nations Food Price Index). According to the World Bank, it is estimated that global food production will need to rise 70 percent to feed an additional 2 billion people on the planet. This will be a most miraculous attainment considering that as global temperatures increase beyond any temperature witnessed during the Holocene, agricultural yields will only further decline. Translation: food will be afforded, more and more, only by the wealthy.

“I see a massive change in agriculture coming … the returns on land over the long term equate to those received over the last 500 years by royal families… as food scarcity issues are likely to arise in the future, such land will rise in value too.” — Laguna Bay Pastoral chief executive Tim McGavin, Nov 18, 2013

Farmer loses farm. Investor or corporation now leases out farm (as well as related farming and irrigation infrastructure). Farmer now rents farm, etc. from investor or corporation while “the returns on land over the long term equate to those received over the last 500 years by royal families”.

Welcome to 21st century agro-colonialism.

And although Friends of the Earth knows full well that divestment does not address the finance of land-grabs (view Friends of the Earth endorsement in the civil society statementon the finance of land grabs, June 2012: Land grabbing by pension funds and other financial institutions must be stopped),they make no mention of it when promoting (one example) the divestment campaign led by 350.org.

 “Pension funds are, at present, reported to be the largest institutional ‘investors’ in farmland worldwide. Yet the money used here is workers’ retirement savings. This means that wage earners and citizens may be implicated in massive violations of the human rights of local farming communities, including their rights to food, land, water, an adequate standard of living, their cultural rights and their right to self-determination – in breach of international law.” — Friends of The Earth Press Release, June 2012

More and more tragedies involve land grabbing, which is happening at an unprecedented rate all over the planet under the guise of “conservation” and “green economy.” For example, Hundreds Left Homeless in Olkaria Eviction in Kenya due to a large-scale geothermal project that has attracted both multinational and bilateral donors, with the World Bank being the main financier of the project. (Another video of the July 26, 2013 attack on the Maasai village in Olkaria is here). The short documentary film, Seeds of Discontent, exposes how a Swedish investment firm, Dutch pension fund and Norwegian church endowment actively engaged in land grabbing in Mozambique.

In Canada, the Algonquin people are fighting threats to land and water from an open-pit mining project for hybrid car batteries. Toyotsu Rare Earth Canada (TRECan), a Canadian subsidiary of Japan-based Toyota Tsusho Corporation, plans to build an open-pit Heavy Rare Earth Elements (HREE) mine directly next to Kipawa Lake, the geographical, ecological, and cultural centre of the Kipawa First Nation. Rare earths are a group of 17 elements found in the Earth’s crust. They are used to produce electronics for cell phones, wind turbines, and car batteries. Rare earths are notorious for their environmentally costly extraction process, with over 90 per cent of the mined raw materials classified as waste. [Source: Toyota Prius Not So Green After All]

Welcome to the “green economy”: classist, racist and utterly disgusting.

Yet another example in Canada, the Alberta Conservation Association is just one of thousands of NGOs working with corporations (in this case Shell, Suncor, the Canadian Government – see partners below) to commodify Earth’s last remaining resources under the guise/greenwash of conservation. The newly acquired and named “Shell Forests” are just a few examples.

As with the Keystone XL oil pipeline campaign, one is wise to watch the stock market in order to gain a sense of where the economic growth is expected to boom. In addition to both Warren Buffett’s and Bill Gates’s fairly recent stock acquisitions (in addition to their newly acquired/built rail empire) of John Deere and GMO crops, amidst the global rush to control the planet’s water, Buffett has been “loading up on the agricultural giant” Archer Daniels Midland (a focus on soybeans and ethanolFebruary 20, 2013) while eyeing farmland in Africa with plans to expandMonsanto’s biotechnology for “drought-tolerant corn” onto the Saharan landscapes.

 “Brazil’s agricultural sector remains one of the most exciting markets around. Don’t take our word for it. George Soros, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, all major investors and farmers in the Bahia region of Brazil, believe Brazil to be the best location for their alternative investments…. The buzz around Brazilian farmland has sparked interest from a wide range of different institutions, from hedge funds to private investors, pension funds and even foreign government entities from China, India, Europe and Africa have been making agricultural land enquiries within Brazil.” — Brazil’s Farmland is Still Ripe for Investment, March 18, 2013

In stark contrast, what lies beyond “modern” industrialized agriculture mirrors what we left behind in our collective past – a simple, nourishing work and respect of the soil, the land, the plant, the crop. In fact, millions of farmers are already advancing agriculture for themselves utilizing the same methods that have worked to feed humans for the past 10,000 years. [Source]

There has been a steady, building backlash against pension funds investing in massive land grabs (that have increased and continue to increase food prices, displace peasant farmers, and increase poverty and hunger). Because of this backlash, pension funds have been “afraid to go into the field alone, and they want to spread their bet or their risk by having partners join them.” In some societies not yet absorbed into the (pathological and insane) industrialized western mindset, land is sacred and the sale of land in some societies is not acceptable. [March 6, 2013, Pension funds join forces to invest in farmland. Source]

A Future of Unprecedented Coups

Ukraine, the most recent state to fall to a US-backed coup, was/is not only coveted for strategic geographic/geopolitical position (aka control of oil/gas), but also for its rich black soil. Soil is the new oil of the 21st century. “Ukraine, formerly the breadbasket of the Soviet Union, is now a major crop producer for the world market. The country has over 32 million hectares (ha) of arable land, which is equivalent to roughly one third of the arable land in the entire European Union (EU). Its location on the Black Sea and its fertile black soil – it possesses 25 percent of the world’s so-called Chernozem – make Ukraine attractive to agricultural producers and investors. Moreover, agriculture is now considered as a main business opportunity in the Black Earth (Invest Ukraine, 2011).”Oligarchs and transnational capital have taken over the land with their share in the GDP at 42.3 percent, against 5 percent for farmers (Ministry of Agriculture, 2012). [Source]

Environmental Colonialism | So-called “Conservation”

“It is no secret that millions of native people around the world have been forced off their homelands to make way for oil, mines, timber, and agriculture. But few people realize that the same thing has happened for a cause which is considered by many as much nobler: land and wildlife conservation. Indigenous peoples evicted from their ancestral homelands, for conservation initiatives, have never been counted; they are not even officially recognised as refugees. The number of people displaced from their traditional homelands is estimated to be close to 20 million – 14 million in Africa alone. These expelled native peoples have been living sustainably for generations on what can only be reasonably regarded as their ancestral land.” [Watch: Conservation Refugees – Expelled from Paradise (24:18)

One NGO at the helm of stealth land grab ventures is Conservation International. Since its inception in 1987, Conservation International has continued to use “its considerable financial resources, political influence and environmental sweet talk to quietly access, administer and buy biodiverse areas throughout the world and put them at the disposal of transnational corporations.” [Conservation International: privatizing nature, plundering biodiversity, October 2003] Not to be lost is the fact that Conservation International has utilized the same soft power strategies in their ecotourism ventures (also dependent on Indigenous knowledge/peoples) as they have in their land/big pharma exploits in partnership with Monsanto and Novartis. [Further reading: Fundacion Pachamama is Dead – Long Live ALBA [Part I of an Investigative Report]

 “REDD+ is driven by profit interests and is structured to allow polluters to continue polluting while increasing profits and enclosing lands.” — A colonial mechanism to enclose lands: A critical review of two REDD+-focused special issues, Joanna Cabello and Tamra Gilbertson, June 12, 2012

21st century market-based climate mitigation strategies are merely business opportunities to further corporate power. By normalizing such opportunistic exploitation, rather than exposing/rejecting it, one is complicit in promoting, thus prolonging, the dominant development model that is unjust, unethical, genocidal and ultimately, suicidal. The WWF certification schemes are but one set of such false solutions and green illusions. At present, WWF et al are waiting for the windfall that is slowly beginning to come into fruition under the much sought-after market mechanism REDD (which stands for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation).

It must be understood that REDD will not mitigate further ecological degradation and collapse (under the guise of so-called conservation). Rather, REDD will only serve to further strengthen corporate power as well as gained access and control of the Earth’s last remaining forests.

“This is an effort to address the varying assumptions from the academic journals – that REDD+ can be fixed with more governance, finance and/or community engagement – through a critique of the wider neoliberal climate regime, issues of ‘governance’ as an unproblematised category, and by exploring, from de-colonialist and environmental justice perspectives, the issues of real participation and sustainability. We conclude that REDD+ is framed within an epistemological understanding of forests and lands which supports the domination of nature by humans for economic profit, regardless of financial input, governance and/or participation from communities, and therefore will not be a successful means of climate mitigation or forest protection.” — A colonial mechanism to enclose lands: A critical review of two REDD+-focused special issues, Joanna Cabello and Tamra Gilbertson, June 12, 2012 [Emphasis added]

[Further reading on REDD: Fundación Pachamama is Dead – Long Live ALBA | Part II]

Millions of hectares of forest in Indonesia and Malaysia have been grossly and violently exploited. Cleared for palm oil (to manufacture processed foods for the wealthy states plagued with obesity), the palm oil plantations have destroyed whole communities, cultures, and thriving living ecosystems along with the flourishing wildlife within them. The degradation and pillage that have resulted are so severe that palm oil investors are now turning to the west coast of Africa as the industry’s next frontier. A recent forest burning in Sumatra resulted in one of Southeast Asia’s worst air-pollution crises in history, blanketing neighbouring Singapore and Malaysia with record levels of smog. As a result, in May 2013 Indonesia extended a moratorium on the issuance of new plantation and timber concessions in primary forests and peatland. Desperate to ensure growth of the vile industry, Norway has agreed to provide the country with up to $1 billion in financing to “help reduce deforestation.” [Source]

Everything Changes. Everything Stays the Same | Green Colonialism and Forest Policies in South India, 1800-1900

“Going green” has become a popular slogan in the discourse of environmental conservation, and one that has been gaining wider popularity as global warming begins to threaten the very existence of the biotic world. The global environmental crisis has created a context in which the protection of forests has become a top priority in environmental conservation strategies. The preservationist and restorationist discourses advocate forest conservation as a means to save the Earth from environmental disaster. However, in spite of this strong emphasis on the preservation of forests, their destruction continues. In most of the present-day developing countries of Asia and Africa, this contradiction between advocated preservation and effective destruction of forests is a legacy of British colonial rule.

In a bid to expand the knowledge frontier on forest conservation, the British government appointed a committee under the chairmanship of Dr. H. Cleghorn in 1851, which produced a report on the condition of Indian forests. It’s the main point was that the process of deforestation was due to the irrational exploitive methods of the natives, most notably the shifting cultivation practised by the tribes. The committee strongly advocated state intervention to restore the forest cover, as the very welfare of the country depended upon its existence. The preservation and expansion of green cover, they argued, was necessary to save India’s climate and irrigation systems.

Dr. Cleghorn, first conservator of forests in the Madras Presidency, brought out his classic book, Forests and Gardens of South India, in 1861. It hardly discussed desiccationist ideas (the notion that cutting down a tree reduced the amount of rainfall on the spot where the tree had stood), but rather concentrated on silviculture and plantations. Nevertheless, again Cleghorn identified the shifting agricultural practices of tribes as mainly responsible for deforestation and the consequent ecological changes. It is important to note that this desiccationist discourse was informed by a presumption of racial superiority, where the colonizers branded the native farmers as destroyers of forests. Thus, desiccationist discourse was used not only as a justification for colonial forest policies, but also as a means to control the access of natives to forests.

The history of desiccationist discourse in South India shows how the British imposed scientific and moral hegemony over forests by blaming deforestation on the forest utilization pattern of the Indians although it was actually the colonial state that was responsible for the severe deforestation of South India. The desiccationist discourses of colonial scientists emanated from a context of anxiety over the wood requirements of the colonial state. Existing studies on desiccationist discourse in India project it as a moral reflection of the colonial scientific community. The history of colonial forest policies, however, indicates that it was rather a means to spread alarm and thereby facilitate the expansion of state control over forests. Desiccationist ideas were articulated not by scientists alone, but also by different sections of the colonial bureaucracy and policy makers. The narrative of the climatic influence of forests was a contested issue within the colonial bureaucracy at one level, and by the local people at another. The desiccationists advocated the protection of forests mainly on mountain slopes, where rivers originate. Their ideas, however, were used as a justification for the expansion of state control over most of the forest landscape in South India. The alarmist narratives were used as a catalyst for the imposition of the state’s administrative and legislative control over forests, but the main guiding force of colonial forest policies was the seeking of revenue and resources.

This legacy has had an explicit influence on the forest policies of independent India. Most policy interventions since independence – including social forestry, joint forest management and community forest management – have been justified with desiccationist discourse. [1] [Source: Green Colonialism and Forest Policies in South India, 1800-1900]

In 2013, the song remains the same.

Just as South India demonstrates how the British imposed scientific and moral hegemony over forests by blaming deforestation on the forest utilization pattern of the Indians (rather than those responsible: corporations and capitalism), today’s industrialized nations impose scientific and moral hegemony over Earth’s forests with the ultimate goals being 1) the implementation of REDD 2) the commodification and corporate capture of the Earth’s last remaining forests, and 3) the continuance of an ongoing genocide of Indigenous Peoples. And just as the British empire was responsible for the degradation they blamed on the Indians, today this transfer of responsibility is undertaken by NGOs. NGOs as key instruments of empire are utilized to manipulate the Indigenous Tribal peoples by convincing them that their ancient methods of burning are the primary drivers of climate change and destroying the planet, thereby guilting (and bribing) Indigenous Peoples into signing away their rights for their ancestral land, thus imposing REDD, thus imposing moral hegemony. In South India, the history of colonial forest policies indicates that it was rather a means to spread alarm and thereby facilitate the expansion of state control over forests. Today, climate change (very real) is grotesquely exploited by the elites as the ultimate catalyst for the commodification of Earth’s remaining resources.

 

 

The colonial scientific community’s discourse on the climatic importance of forests continues to this day, as does the underlying racism that attempts to pardon the colonizers’ greed, self-centeredness and voracious pillage.

It is critical to recognize that the push towards the illusory green economy is not driven by the vital necessity for the privileged to live within their means, rather it is serving as a driver for the infinite expansion of industrial production. This must be achieved by producing more raw materials to supply more sweatshops/factories, hence requiring more energy supplied by so-called “green” biofuels/biomass. The key words being “more”: more, more, more and more. The call of scientist Kevin Anderson (Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research) for a required and planned recession by developed states goes ignored.

Blue Gold

 major investment banks think the number of people served globally by investor-owned water companies is expected to rise 500% over the next 10 years.” — Energy & Capital, A Background and Primer for Water Investments, Source

 

“Water as an asset class will, in my view, become eventually the single most important physical-commodity based asset class, dwarfing oil, copper, agricultural commodities and precious metals.” — Willem Buiter, Citigroup’s top economist, 2011

WaterShutOffsinDetroit

Photo: July 18, 2014.Water shut-offs continue in Detroit

“A major international conference in Edinburgh aimed at conserving wildlife is coming under fierce attack from campaign groups for trying to sell off nature to multinational corporations. The first ‘World Forum on Natural Capital’ later this month is due to attract business and conservation leaders from across the globe to debate how to give natural resources a monetary value in order to try and protect them. ‘The presence of big business, such as RBS, Coca Cola, Rio Tinto and KPMG, at the World Forum on Natural Capital exposes the event’s real purpose – putting a price on nature so that a small minority can profit…. [B]illions of people around the world depend on free access to forests, rivers and fertile soils for their survival. Putting a price on these common resources leaves all of us more exposed to the forces of the global economy.'” — Nick Dearden, Bid to ‘sell off nature’ to companies under fire, Nov 13, 2013 [Emphasis added]

Water investments represent yet another “sustainable”/green fund responsible investment that would be considered a “green” alternative to fossil fuel investment. Such investment funds are also marketed as “clean technologies.”

“They transform water from a resource openly available to all into a private good whose access must be negotiated and is often based on the ability to pay. Water grabbing thus appears in many different forms, ranging from the extraction of water for large-scale food and fuel crop monocultures, to the damming of rivers for hydroelectricity, to the corporate takeover of public water resources. It also inheres in a model of development which is underwritten by a trade in virtual water.” [Source]

The December 21, 2012 article titled The New “Water Barons”: Wall Street Mega-Banks and the Tycoons are Buying Up Water at Unprecedented Pace, published by The Market Oracle, must be considered essential reading. Author Jo-Shing Yang observes:

“A disturbing trend in the water sector is accelerating worldwide. The new ‘water barons’ – the Wall Street banks and elitist multibillionaires – are buying up water all over the world at unprecedented pace. Familiar mega-banks and investing powerhouses such as Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup, UBS, Deutsche Bank, Credit Suisse, Macquarie Bank, Barclays Bank, the Blackstone Group, Allianz, and HSBC Bank, among others, are consolidating their control over water. Wealthy tycoons such as T. Boone Pickens, former President George H.W. Bush and his family, Hong Kong’s Li Ka-shing, Philippines’ Manuel V. Pangilinan and other Filipino billionaires, and others are also buying thousands of acres of land with aquifers, lakes, water rights, water utilities, and shares in water engineering and technology companies all over the world….

 

“Now, in 2012, we are seeing this trend of global consolidation of water by elite banks and tycoons accelerating. In a JP Morgan equity research document, it states clearly that ‘Wall Street appears well aware of the investment opportunities in water supply infrastructure, wastewater treatment, and demand management technologies.’ Indeed, Wall Street is preparing to cash in on the global water grab in the coming decades. For example, Goldman Sachs has amassed more than $10 billion since 2006 for infrastructure investments, which include water. A 2008 New York Times article mentioned Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, and the Carlyle Group, to have ‘amassed an estimated $250 billion war chest – must of it raised in the last two years – to finance a tidal wave of infrastructure projects in the United States and overseas….

 

“In 2008, Goldman Sachs called water ‘the petroleum for the next century’ and those investors who know how to play the infrastructure boom will reap huge rewards, during its annual ‘Top Five Risks’ conference. Water is a U.S. $425 billion industry, and a calamitous water shortage could be a more serious threat to humanity in the 21st century than food and energy shortages, according to Goldman Sachs’s conference panel. Goldman Sachs has convened numerous conferences and also published lengthy, insightful analyses of water and other critical sectors (food, energy).

 

“Goldman Sachs is positioning itself to gobble up water utilities, water engineering companies, and water resources worldwide. Since 2006, Goldman Sachs has become one of the largest infrastructure investment fund managers and has amassed a $10 billion capital for infrastructure, including water.”

 

Many pension funds have forayed into the water investment sector. As an example, Canadian pension funds CDPQ (Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, which manages public pension funds in the province of Québec) and CPPIB (Canada Pension Plan Investment Board) have acquired England’s South East Water and Anglian Water, respectively. [Source] There are also several water indexes, index funds and hedge funds. Credit Suisse partnered with Ceres partner General Electric (GE Infrastructure) in May 2006 to establish a U.S.$1 billion joint venture to profit from privatization and investments in global infrastructure assets. [Source]

The 2011 Ceres report Aqua Gauge is telling. All definitions within the paper are sourced from “Water for Business: Initiatives Guiding Sustainable Water Management in the Private Sector” (WBCSD, IUCN, 2010). The paper also notes thatBloomberg has announced plans to launch a water-focused data service that would provide supply-and-demand models, water data, and news and briefings on water scarcity. [“Our research notes, analyst reactions and market outlooks enable investors to identify upcoming changes and validate opportunities for growth.” [Bloomberg’s once-launched water-focused data service has since been removed: http://about.bnef.com/markets/water/]

The list of corporations that Ceres is strategically aligned with is far more telling. Goldman Sachs (Ceres Financial Services Companies), JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup, UBS (Bruno Bertocci of UBS serves on the Ceres 21CI Advisory Committee, acronym for The 21st Century Investor), Deutsche Bank (Ceres INCR member), Credit Suisse, Macquarie Bank, Barclays (Ceres financial backer), Allianz, HSBC, Bank of America (Ceres Company), Morgan Stanley, the very water barons highlighted by Yang in the above article, are all associated with Ceres funders / associates / partners / members / prominent conference speakers.

It is of interest to note that Ceres highlights many of these same banks, Bank of America, Barclays, BNP Paribas, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Fortis, Merrill Lynch, Mitsubishi UFJ, and Morgan Stanley as the “carbon trading leaders.” [Source: Ceres 2008 Banking Sector Report.] At this point you may wish to remind yourself that many trusted NGOs are partners with Ceres and many have served on the advisory board since its inception.

Note that in 2013, “Morgan Stanley created the Institute for Sustainable Investing with the goal of mobilizing capital to address sustainability challenges at scale, building on the firm’s existing efforts. The Institute focuses on developing sustainable investing products and solutions, thought leadership and cross-sector partnerships. As part of the Institute’s launch, Morgan Stanley announced a five-year goal of $10 billion in total client assets in investments that seek to deliver market-rate returns and positive environmental and social impact. Ceres President Mindy Lubber serves on the Institute’s Advisory Board, which is chaired by Morgan Stanley’s Chairman and CEO James Gorman.” [Emphasis added] [Source]

The Ceres president serving on Morgan Stanley’s Institute for Sustainable Investing advisory board is yet another fine example of the interlocking directorate – a contagion that thrives in the non-profit industrial complex. (The Rebecca Adamson example will follow.)

While water investments continue to skyrocket, Calvert Asset Management Company, Inc., a Ceres coalition member, and Allianz (Ceres associate)represent two of the “best” recognized water-focused mutual funds: The Calvert Global Water Fund [Class A (CFWAX)] has returned a whopping 27.65 percent over the past year; 15.98 percent over the past three years; and 16.06 percent over the past five years. [Source] The same fund (CFWAX), having held $42 million in assets in 2010, now holds assets of $564.86 million as of July 4, 2014. [Source] The Allianz Global Water Fund [Class A (AWTAX)] has had a staggering return of 25.12 percent over the past year; 11.10 percent over the past three years; and 14.34 percent over the past five years. [Source] The same fund (AWTAX) having held assets of $54 million in 2010, now holds assets of $348.3 million as of June 30, 2014. [Source] These two Ceres associates hold positions number two (AllianzGI ) and number five (Calvert) for “Best Mutual Funds” under the fund category of “Natural Resources” by U.S. News.

It is critical to note that Calvert has held a position on the Ceres Board of Directors from 2001*-2006 via Julie Fox Gorte.Gorte’s background is extensive and not limited to the following:

“Gorte serves as Chief Social Investment Strategist and Vice President at Calvert Variable Series, Inc. – Calvert VP Small Cap Growth Portfolio, Calvert Variable Series, Inc.- Calvert Social Small-Cap Growth Portfolio, Calvert Variable Series, Inc. – Ameritas Growth Portfolio, Calvert Variable Series Inc – Calvert VP SRI Equity Portfolio, and Calvert Variable Series, Inc. – Calvert VP SRI Balanced Portfolio. She served as Vice President and Chief Social Investment Strategist at Calvert Group, Ltd., Calvert Variable Series, Inc – Ameritas Small Company Equity Portfolio and Calvert Variable Series, Inc. – Calvert VP Mid Cap Value Portfolio. She served as a Vice President and Chief Social Investment Strategist at Calvert Investment Management, Inc. and Calvert Asset Management Company, Inc. Prior to that, Dr. Gorte served as Director of Calvert Asset Management’s social research department, where she managed its team of social and environmental analysts as well as shareholder advocacy.” [Source] [*Several requests to Ceres for annuals reports prior to 2001 have been unsuccessful.]

Today Gorte serves as the Senior Vice President of Sustainable Investing at Pax World Management Corporation. Under Pax, Gorte has continued her board member status on Ceres from 2006 to present. “Gorte oversees environmental, social, and governance-related research on prospective and current investments as well as the Pax’s shareholder advocacy and work on public policy advocacy. She serves as Portfolio Manager of Pax World Funds Series Trust III – Pax Ellevate Global Women’s Index Fund.” [Source]

Not to be outdone, Rebecca L. Adamson, President, First People’s Worldwide, serves on the Board of Trustees of Calvert. In the March 13, 20123 article, The Corporate Buy-In, the author writes:

“As I wrote in Too Good to be True, Rebecca Adamson’s value to energy extraction corporations is that of broker, helping multi-national corporations to corrupt tribal leadership through corporate buy-ins. By making grants to tribes through investments in Adamson’s international NGO First Peoples Worldwide, Shell Oil and other notorious corporations pave the way for industrial development in the Fourth World.”

At this juncture it must be noted that Calvert has given financial support to Ceres since, at minimum, 2001, and possibly from inception.

One of the world’s largest banks, JPMorgan Chase, has been at the helm of those aggressively pursuing water and infrastructure investment worldwide. JPMorgan’s own analysts estimate that the emerging markets infrastructure is approximately U.S.$21.7 trillion over the next decade. [Source] Ceres works closely with JPMorgan Chase and many other powerful banks and financial institutions in achieving their goals:

“Stakeholder engagement: Ceres, working with our coalition of investors and advocacy groups, engages with a number of financial services firms including Bank of America, State Street, Wells Fargo, JP Morgan [sic] Chase and Citi to help them assess their performance on environmental and social impacts and risks, and identify opportunities for improvement.” [Source]

In the June 16, 2014 article titled Wasted Energy: Fossil Fuel Divestment, author Jay Taber notes that “divestment won’t change a thing environmentally. It will only change ownership of some shares from public institutions to private ones – like the banks we bailed out with our tax dollars. Given the money to be made on the booming fossil fuel industry, I’m sure the banks will be delighted to acquire these shares, and in turn leave the public with no voice at future shareholder meetings.” It is more than likely that Yang (author of the aforementioned Water Barons article) would agree. In the 2008 article, Why Big Banks May Be Buying up Your Public Water System, Yang astutely notes:

“I detailed how both mainstream and alternative media coverage on water has tended to focus on individual corporations and super-investors seeking to control water by buying up water rights and water utilities. But paradoxically the hidden story is a far more complicated one. I argued that the real story of the global water sector is a convoluted one involving ‘interlocking globalized capital’: Wall Street and global investment firms, banks, and other elite private-equity firms – often transcending national boundaries to partner with each other, with banks and hedge funds, with technology corporations and insurance giants, with regional public-sector pension funds, and with sovereign wealth funds – are moving rapidly into the water sector to buy up not only water rights and water-treatment technologies, but also to privatize public water utilities and infrastructure.”

Yang’s words will serve to be prophetic as the divestment campaign unfolds.

Ceres has done a formidable job in serving the corporate interests that fund their work. With skillful precision, Ceres strategically and effectively exploited and continues to exploit the greatest crisis humanity has ever faced in order to secure and further all “climate wealth” opportunities for the oligarchs. In the wave of urgent reports published in November of 2012 [Oligarchy Sends Signal for Green Economy], Ceres promptly seized the moment. On November 20, 2012 the Guardian published the articleInfluential Investors (CERES) Call for Action on ‘Serious Climate Danger’:

“A coalition of the world’s largest investors called on governments on Tuesday to ramp up action on climate change and boost clean-energy investment or risk trillions of dollars in investments and disruption to economies. In an open letter, the alliance of institutional investors, responsible for managing $22.5 trillion in assets, said rapidly growing greenhouse gas emissions and more extreme weather were increasing investment risks globally. The group called for dialogue between investors and governments to overhaul climate and energy policies.”

Author Yang perhaps summarizes Cere’s work best:

“The elite multinational and Wall Street banks and investment banks have been preparing and waiting for this golden moment for years. Over the past few years, they have amassed war chests of infrastructure funds to privatize water, municipal services, and utilities all over the world. It will be extremely difficult to reverse this privatization trend in water.”

The Thinking Person’s Nightmare

TarSandsCoalitionImage5

 

During the last four years, Americans have been coerced into focusing on a single, symbolic campaign to Stop the Keystone XL Pipeline. This campaign was funded in large part by the Tides Foundation, which distributes the funds (from other foundations) to qualifying NGOs and groups. The number one funder of the Tides Foundation leading up to and during this time period was none other than the NoVo Foundation, founded on monies provided by Warren Buffett. [“NoVo was created in 2006 after Warren Buffett pledged to donate 350,000 shares of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. stock to the foundation.”] It is maintained by Warren Buffett’s son, Peter Buffett (co-chair) and partner Jennifer Buffett (president and co-chair).

As it has been clearly and unequivocally demonstrated that the Euro-American Left, collectively, far prefers fiction over reality, perhaps it is futile to explain that the Tides Foundation also channels hundreds of thousands of dollars into Ceres. In 2010, TIDES granted $100,000 to Ceres, specifically earmarking the funds for a “tar sands campaign.” [TIDES 990, 2010] In 2008, Ceres received $50,000 from Wallace Global, also designated for a tar sands campaign. [***Further information on the relationship between the Tides Foundation, the NoVo Foundation, Ceres and NoVo’s stocks in Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway is disclosed in an upcoming segment of this investigative report.]

Tides 990 2010 Donation to Ceres Tar Sands Campaign

And all while, Warren Buffett built an entire 21st century American Rail Empire with absolutely no dissent. “Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corporation is the parent company of the BNSF Railway (formerly the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway). The railroad is now wholly owned by Berkshire Hathaway, which is controlled by investor Warren Buffett.” [Source] As the crude-via-rail industry (ignored by the NGOs) continued to skyrocket, the non-profit industrial complex continued to declare glorious victories while key segments of the KXL pipeline (much of the pipeline having already been built before the campaign even began) quietly went into operation. And while a theatre performance worthy of the Palau de la Música Catalana was playing to a sold-out audience (quite literally), Ceres was expanding its tentacles throughout the globe.

Ceres GICCC

 

Next: Part VI

 

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

 

EndNotes:

[1] http://www.globalenvironment.it/Kumar.pdf

 

 

 

Netwar in the Big Apple: Wall Street versus the Indigenous Peoples Movement

 By Jay Taber

July 29, 2014

 

Architects of the Final Solution

In the run-up to the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples in September at UN headquarters in New York, propaganda will inundate the infosphere, lending an atmosphere of pandemonium, and leaving many hopeless about the prospects for conflict resolution between Indigenous nations and modern states. For a few, though, widespread hopelessness within the Indigenous Peoples Movement, the human rights movement and the environmental movement is good.

For ubercapitalists like Bill Gates and their sycophants like William Jefferson Clinton — who promote the false hope of neoliberal globalization — terminating the collective ownership of Indigenous nations, in exchange for totalitarian corporate control of the planet’s resources, is a dream coming true. As architects of the final solution, they — along with the World Bank, Ford and Rockefeller Foundations — view the UN Millenium Development Goals as a blueprint for annihilation of the world’s Indigenous societies.

Crushing the Indigenous Peoples Movement is a crucial step in realizing their dream.

Principles of Psywar

With the advent of the 2007 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Indigenous Peoples Movement required the linking of national, regional, and local movement resources through a process of dialogue and integration. The involvement of moral authorities and civil society organizations helped to assure the proper movement emphasis on moral sanction, central to constructing new relationships between nations and states. But moral sanction alone is insufficient to constrain reactionary political violence and official repression. That will require continuous research, analysis, and investigation — the civil society equivalent of wartime intelligence operations — in order to weather the psychological warfare associated with the disease of dominion.

Psychological warfare, according to Paul Linebarger of the School of Advanced International Studies, is a continuous process not controlled by laws, usages, and customs of war — covert, often disguised as the voice of institutions and media — a non-violent persuasion waged before, during, and after war.

Most countries, notes Linebarger, suffer from ideological confusion—an instability of basic beliefs. “In states anxious to promote a fixed mentality, the entire population lives under conditions approximating the psychological side of war. Allegiance in war,” says Linebarger, “is a matter of ideology, not of opinion.” Coordinated propaganda machines, he observes, include psywar, public relations, general news, and public education. “Psywar,” he warns, “has in private media facilities, in an open society, a constantly refreshed source of new material that, when selectively censored, can prevent non-governmental materials from circulating.”

Mainstream Media and the Corporate Agenda

Mainstream media, when it mentions conflicts between Indigenous nations and modern states, portrays these conflicts as challenges to be resolved by assimilating Indigenous cultures into market systems. Extinguishing tribal sovereignty, annihilating tribal resources, coercing tribal leaders, and implementing the final solution; this is the corporate agenda mainstream media supports.

When these conflicts cannot be ignored, mainstream media looks for compromised NGOs to speak for Indigenous Peoples, thereby marginalizing Indigenous intellectuals, diplomats, and governing authorities—a mass communications tactic examined under the concept of Netwar. While mainstream media informs, it does not make information comprehensible; what it leaves out is essential to knowledge that allows readers to form their own judgment, rather than consume corporate distortions and state propaganda.

A Free Authentic Life

As Kalle Lasn, publisher of Adbusters Magazine said when interviewed in the July 2001 issue of The Sun, “It’s impossible to live a free authentic life in America today …Our emotions, personalities, and core values have become programmed.” Lasn, a former advertising executive for thirty years, understands the power of propaganda as advertising. He also understands the keys to undermining this corrupting influence—persistent ridicule, and appeals to conscience.

Antonio Gramsci, writing in Prison Notebooks, observes that, “Civil society operates without ‘sanctions’ or compulsory ‘obligations’, but nevertheless exerts a collective pressure and obtains objective results in the form of an evolution of customs, ways of thinking and acting, and morality. The eclipse of a way of living and thinking cannot take place without a crisis.” Civil society today, I would argue, exists in a perpetual state of crisis — some fabricated and some real — that, with the advent of alternative media, desktop publishing, and Internet communication, offers an unprecedented opportunity to begin this eclipse.

As Gramsci observed from prison in 1930s Fascist Italy, “If the ruling class has lost its consensus, i.e. is no longer leading but only dominant, exercising coercive force alone, this means the great masses have become detached from their traditional ideologies and no longer believe what they used to [thus] the exercise of force to prevent new ideologies from imposing themselves leads to skepticism and a new arrangement—a new culture.” If the Indigenous Peoples Movement is to succeed in creating a new culture based on mutual respect, the ways of thinking of the old culture must be strategically challenged.

Theater of War

In doing graduate research for the thesis included in my second book, I developed a curricular proposal that incorporated the study of psychological warfare as a key component of effective social activism. The more I observe discussion online about social conflict now taking place on the Internet and public airwaves, the more I realize how widespread and entrenched the misunderstanding of the nature of this conflict is, and in turn how important it is for those engaged in this war of ideas to acquaint themselves with at least the basic principles if not tactics of psywar. For those unable to access the classic texts on this topic — Psychological Warfare by Paul Linebarger, and The Science of Coercion by Christopher Simpson — I’ll try to recall them here.

For starters, there are two things to always keep in mind: the target audience, and the purpose of the message. In a theater of war — physical or psychological — there are combatants and non-combatants and at least two sides, as well as many interests. In communicating social transformation, psywar will be employed at different times and in different ways depending on the audience targeted and what the message transmitter is attempting to affect.

In recruiting the uninvolved or uncommitted, the message might convey an urgent threat, a righteous cause, a juicy opportunity, or a chance for revenge. In retaining the involved, a message would likely include an appeal to pride and expectations of victory. In undermining the resolve of the enemy, messages generally try to create doubts about all the above.

Counter-power in the Network Society

One area often overlooked by novices to psychological warfare, however, is the use of messages crafted and delivered for the purpose of preventing the enemy from effectively mobilizing audiences potentially supportive of its views, goals, and objectives. These strategically-developed messages — sometimes overt, sometimes covert — are those most-commonly associated with gray and black ops, white being forthright, gray misleading, and black counterfeit.

Understanding these techniques of mass communication — deployed in abundance in politics, campaigns, and advertising today — is essential for those who care about where the world is heading, even if in the end they decide to avoid the field of social conflict themselves. Once educated on the topic, they can at least refrain from unwittingly undermining those with whom they agree. Manuel Castells, in his paper Communication, Power and Counter-power in the Network Society, has a lot more to say on this.

The first principle of psywar is never repeat the talking points of your enemy. The second principle is to deny them a platform to misinform. To offer a platform, out of some misguided sense of evenhandedness, is to further the credibility and legitimacy of those who undermine our movements.

Controlling Consciousness

Wall Street’s vertical integration of controlling consciousness is based on five components: ownership of media, fabrication of news, integration of advertising with state propaganda, financing of foundations and brokerages, and co-option of NGOs and grassroots groups. While many well-meaning people are channeled into the latter by the concerted collaboration of all the former, the corporate agenda that determines the policies, practices and projects of these NGOs is anything but benign.

Indeed, the distractions, distortions and deceit promoted by the scoundrels, malefactors and curs — working on behalf of Wall Street villains — to mesmerize the naive in order to lead them astray, pose a lethal threat to Indigenous Peoples and their desperate movement of liberation. Pretending otherwise, in order to coddle the credulous, accomplishes nothing noble. Indeed, it only perpetuates misperceptions that urgently need to be shattered.

September 20-26 2014, in New York City, the Wall Street/NGO convergence around climate change, Indigenous Peoples human rights, and corporate derivative philanthropy, promises to be one of the super spectacles of the decade. Shining a light on that shadowy affair is something that simply has to be done. Unfortunately, there is no painless way of doing that, for it is way past time for an awakening.

Fantasies about Political Power

Fantasies about political power, however, are hard to break. People want to believe that activism led by Wall Street stooges, funded by Wall Street derivatives, and promoted by Wall Street media is revolutionary. Where do they get such ideas?

If you want to stop the environmental destruction from mining Tar Sands bitumen, Powder River Basin coal, and Bakken Shale oil, you stop fossil fuel export. You don’t do XL protests at the White House, organize fossil fuel divestment on college campuses, or hold a climate change march in New York.

These ineffective strategies are great for making Wall Street titans like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates even more obscenely wealthy, but they do nothing for improving the environment. Yet, because activism is based on feeling good — as opposed to doing good — Americans are routinely led by Wall Street’s pied pipers into endless (and meaningless) “movements.”

Making Americans feel good about losing strategies is the main objective of Wall Street-funded NGO pooh-bahs. Keeping Americans distracted with pointless projects dissipates the energies of well-intentioned youth, creating cynicism and hopelessness over time. Meanwhile, Wall Street titans make money from fossil fuel consumption and pollution, hand over fist.

The fact they colonize Indigenous territories by capitalizing on this pollution via REDD & carbon “credits” that accelerate the displacement of Indigenous peoples – seizing the planet’s final remaining rich & diverse rainforests in the process – is lost in the mist.

There are many ways to reduce energy dependence, increase energy conservation, and disconnect energy security from militarism. None of them are supported by Wall Street.

Bedlam in Gotham

Bedlam in Gotham, by all accounts, is going to be a three-ring circus:

  1. September 20-21 People’s Climate Change March
  2. September 22-23 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples
  3. September 24-26 World Summit on Indigenous Philanthropy

All the Ford and Rockefeller PR puppets from the non-profit industrial complex will be swarming for media attention to keep those grants flowing. A players program in advance would be immensely helpful.

When the pandemonium is in full swing, it will be difficult for consumers to sort out the noise from the information, let alone knowledge, intelligence or understanding. Once the spell is broken, though, consciousness could cascade. Since there’s no way to predict or force that, keeping a counter-narrative presence is the only way of giving them a chance of coming out of the consumer coma and becoming citizens again.

Mammon’s Missionaries

Continuing our discussion on co-option, I should note that Naomi Klein – as a board member of the Rockefeller Foundation-funded 350.org — functions as an emissary to co-opt Indigenous activist/intellectuals like Arthur Manuel and Leanne Simpson. Having branded herself as part of the eco-avant-garde, Klein’s diplomacy is part of the mission of Wall Street NGOs to assimilate Indigenous thought leaders into the corporate fold.

Manuel, as a Seventh Generation Fund/Ford Foundation-sponsored activist in 2013 — appointed by the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues to coordinate the North American Indigenous Peoples Caucus — collaborated with UN Global Coordinating Group leader Debra Harry in an attempt to exclude tribal governing authorities from participating in the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, and later joined Harry in a fraudulent attempt to cover up their mischief. Manuel, the son of one of CWIS’s founders (where I am an associate scholar), is an articulate and intelligent Indigenous advocate. He has since apparently parted company with NAIPC, but his betrayal of trust remains a black mark on his record.

Simpson seems to have more integrity than Manuel, and I hope she does not get seduced by the insidious forces of Wall Street. The NGOs corrupted by UN flattery and foundation funds are responsible for much of the turmoil taking place behind the scenes of the media spectacle in which 350.org’s Bill McKibben is a star, and promise to be a problem in the lead up to the WCIP in New York come September.

In many respects, Klein and McKibben are like the church missionaries that initially helped subdue the Indigenous Peoples of Canada and the US. Instead of the religion of Christianity, however, they proselytize on behalf of the faith in corporate philanthropy, all the while posing as pious champions of the environment, colonized and downtrodden. This is psychological warfare at its most repugnant.

A Culture of Imbeciles

Guy Debord, author of The Society of the Spectacle, once remarked, “There are two parallel counterrevolutionary confusionist tactics: the partial cooption of new values, and a deliberately anticultural industrially facilitated production, the latter being a natural continuation of the imbecilization of young people begun in their schools and families. We have arrived at a stage of ideological absence in which advertising has become the only active factor, overriding any preexisting critical judgment or transforming such judgment into a mere conditioned reflex.”

I thought of this remark when reading that 350.org — the pied piper of pious poseurs— are promoters of the upcoming climate change march in New York City. Parade of imbeciles would perhaps be a better description.

Four plus decades later, Debord’s 1967 treatise Society of the Spectacle remains one of the most profound analyses of modern humanity. Oblivious to the deepening separation of industrial civilization from reality, even scholars of ongoing social disintegration rarely mention Debord’s penetrating insights and ideas. As another generation of state-educated children lose the capacity to think for themselves, keeping the intellectual fires burning remains a formidable task.

Producing fantasy in Hollywood and Washington is by now such a prescribed art, that the psychological warfare conducted 24/7 against the minds of all Americans has become child’s play. Few even question their fantasies as such. NGOs like 350.org tap into these fantasies about political power, perpetuate and capitalize on them. Pooh-Bahs of the non-profit industrial complex, like McKibben, become their Messiahs.

Absent coherent analysis based on research, social networks become part of the spectacle. As political researchers know, little of progressive activism is based on research and analysis, and much is based on preconceptions or what is fundable. As any astute observer can see, dependence limits strategies.

Debord’s remarks on the early development of a culture of imbeciles illustrate that revolutions like the one led by 350.org become exercises in silliness. The fact that media brain-damaged Americans are incapable of withdrawing themselves from the spectacle’s spell, is cause for considerable worry.

Allowing oneself to be herded from panicked horror to panicked horror does nothing to end the cycle of destruction; for that one needs to keep one’s cool, and to devise means of disrupting the seamless spectacle that shadows us through our daily lives. Only then, can the awakening begin.

Subverting Spectacle

Perpetuating systematic fraud on a global scale requires active support by academia, media, and commerce. Indoctrination through education, information and advertising thus bolster official propaganda in a circular reinforcement of the distorted world view required for institutionalized fraud to continue unchallenged.

As a closed loop system designed to prevent penetration of independent ideas, perspectives or analysis, this totalitarian cover-up of crimes against humanity — exercised to sustain the system — remains all-encompassing, until some unmediated event or thought breaks through. And when that happens, all sectors of the loop scramble to attack the intruder, rapidly responding to explain away the cognitive dissonance, introduced by the momentary glimpse of reality.

Wasted Energy

In my comment on the 350.org-led college campus fossil fuel divestment campaign, I noted that divestment won’t change a thing environmentally. It will only change ownership of some shares from public institutions to private ones–like the banks we bailed out with our tax dollars. Given the money to be made on the booming fossil fuel industry, I’m sure the banks will be delighted to acquire these shares, and in turn leave the public with no voice at future shareholder meetings.

Moral theatrics like this divestment campaign might make activists and students feel virtuous, but they do nothing for the environment, human rights or democracy. They bring big bucks into the coffers of NGOs like 350.org, but they do not change public policy. Nor do they influence corporate behavior, other than in public relations and marketing. I guess that’s why corporate foundations fund NGOs that promote such nonsense.

As of last summer, students on 300 campuses across the US were organizing fossil fuel divestment campaigns. That’s a lot of wasted energy, especially when we need that energy to change the political and economic system that awards fraud and punishes honesty.

As Cory Morningstar observed in her article on 350.org’s divestment tour, launched by Bill McKibben, “Such sophisticated public relations campaigns as this one are quite genius in a multitude of ways. Cloaked under the guise of tackling the root causes of the global climate crisis, such campaigns change nothing. Rather, they ensure the populace is participating in what it has been convinced is meaningful action – and nothing more.” As noted in her article, all market investing is about exploiting people and dismantling ecosystems. If students want to save the planet, they should start organizing for political power to change the market system, not rally to switch investments from one exploiting portfolio to another.

Given the influence such high profile campaigns have on the naive, one might return to the simple maxim of follow the money for guidance. In the case of McKibben and 350.org, one has to ask why such capitalist titans as Rockefeller would fund an NGO that might threaten the power of the oligarchy they symbolize. As Morningstar illustrates, the answer is they don’t.

Fording the River

The omnipresent Ford Foundation is an ideological supporter of the World Bank (a mega co-developer of dams, mining and plantations in Indigenous territories), and a UN Millenium Development Goals supporter — along with Bill Gates and Bill Clinton — who do the same. Co-opting Indigenous peoples is a key objective of their neoliberal privatization project. Taking money from Ford Foundation is thus equivalent to taking money from Shell Oil, Rio Tinto or Monsanto.

Ford Foundation is known for funding NGOs promoting civil rights, while simultaneously supporting the state and corporate neglect of Indigenous human rights. Civil rights do not conflict with capitalism, while human rights do.

Anti-Indian organizations in the US believe tribal governments should be abolished, and work toward that end. Their main argument is that civil rights guarantee equality under domestic law, ignoring the fact that international law recognizes the human rights of Indigenous nations to make their own laws.

Protecting their territories and properties requires Indigenous nations to invoke international law and treaties that supersede domestic civil law. By undermining the implementation of Indigenous human rights law, Ford Foundation arguably abets racism and religious bigotry against Indigenous peoples.

As Indigenous nations and modern states prepare for the upcoming UN World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, corporations like Shell Oil and foundations like Ford are spreading money around to co-opt Indigenous activists and NGOs. While this bribery ensures Indigenous NGOs will be in attendance at the UN event, these partnerships and dependencies ensure they will not challenge the capitalist system in anything but moral theatrics.

Indeed, some of the recipients of Ford Foundation money have already demonstrated a willingness to attack Indigenous governing authorities in order to protect their state-approved, foundation-funded privileges at the UN. Ford Foundation funded brokerages include International Funders for Indigenous Peoples, and the Seventh Generation Fund.

Because Ford Foundation funds academic institutions or NGOs or conferences does not mean that anyone working at these institutions or NGOs or attending their conferences supports neoliberal philosophy. What Ford tries to do is shape public opinion in favor of neoliberalism; supporting capitalist-oriented humanitarianism is essential to that psychological warfare.

Total War

Competing with systematic deception by following the rules established by and for the high criminals themselves is ridiculous; that is why Debord and Lasn urged subverting spectacle and jamming culture as crucial to free thought. Just offering an alternative point of view is not enough.

Given the total war attitude of those attempting to maintain their unearned privileges obtained by the supreme fraud, we who are not governing authorities can set aside for the time being any notions of diplomacy and concentrate on winning the war. There will be plenty of time to negotiate when we have the strength to make our threat to autocracy real.

Dependence Limits Strategies

George Manuel, chief of the National Indian Brotherhood (known today as the Assembly of First Nations), once remarked, “Assimilation is annihilation.” As president of the World Council of Indigenous Peoples from 1975-1981, Manuel’s work was foundational to the Indigenous Peoples Movement we see today.

Assimilation of indigenous peoples by corporations, church and state is facilitated by creating financial and psychological dependence. As Chief Manuel’s partner in forming the Center for World Indigenous Studies in 1984, Rudolph C. Ryser once noted that “Dependence limits strategies.”

Indeed, dependence on corporations and billionaire philanthropies has corrupted Indigenous leaders, and compromised Indigenous activism. Something Public Good Project has exposed in its coverage of the indigenous non-profit industrial complex.

One of the assimilated Indigenous NGOs exposed by IC Magazine is First Peoples Worldwide, a non-profit funded in part by Shell Oil. A non-profit whose role in this theatre of the absurd is to help corporations assimilate Indigenous leaders, by creating dependence that leads to cultural annihilation.

Featured frequently at Indian Country Today, First Peoples Worldwide propaganda posing as news is meant to psychologically undermine the Indigenous Peoples Movement that Chief Manuel and Dr. Ryser helped create, and to introduce non-sequiturs like Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), as though they are valid concepts. As Wrong Kind of Green reports in the evolution of CSR, corporations have never acted for the benefit of society, and it is the current threat to the legitimacy of the corporation that CSR seeks to counteract.

Degrees of Evil

Mind games of the non-profit industrial complex aren’t hard to decipher; the gullible simply have to decide they no longer want to be coddled by bromides, no longer treated as infantile consumers of spectacle. Once they reach the point of being skeptical, the charades of capitalist activism come clearly into view.

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. (I especially love Ms. No Logo‘s logos.)

When Klein cuddled up to the apparently assimilated Indigenous activist Arthur Manuel on the celebrity panel at the Idle No More conference, she was branding Manuel with the approval of the heavyweight philanthropies behind her. Manuel, already co-opted by Ford Foundation through the Seventh Generation Fund, has wisely chosen not to sell out directly like Rebecca Adamson of First Peoples Worldwide.

Using philanthropic cutouts to maintain plausible deniability of co-optation, while strategically clever, however, is not immune from exposure by those willing to look. Once those masquerading as agents for change are revealed, non-profits like 350 dot org are seen for what they really are—extensions of Wall Street.

While these charades might seem harmless to naive consumers of the non-profit spectacle, they unfortunately interfere with the ability of authentic activists and Indigenous governing authorities to successfully challenge Wall Street and the modern states it has corrupted. When PR puppets — Indigenous or otherwise — dominate social media, the infantile, the skeptical, and the naive albeit well-intentioned youth are all led astray.

Chutzpah personified would be Naomi Klein — board member of 350 dot org — talking about Big Green opportunism. I guess that’s why elites like Rockefeller fund it.

As for scams, it’s hard to imagine a more losing strategy than the 350 dot org fossil fuel divestment campaign. Shifting university shares in oil companies to Wall Street is hardly going to improve corporate behavior.

Theatre of the Absurd

Bankrolling Indigenous cultural events, Truth and Reconciliation Commissions, and Indigenous NGOs might be good business for corporate criminals like Shell Oil, but Indigenous self-determination grants take us into the theatre of the absurd.

While this phenomenon is not surprising, given the idea comes from the preeminent corporate social responsibility darling — Shell Oil partner First Peoples Worldwide — the fact it isn’t rejected outright by anyone with intelligence and integrity shows how far down the road we have gone on the corporate collaboration model.

As corporate brokers like Rebecca Adamson promote this and other methods of assimilating Indigenous peoples into the corporate system, it would be wise to remember the maxim, “Dependence limits strategies.”

While corrupting Indigenous governing authorities and Indigenous NGOs is the raison d’etre of First Peoples Worldwide, similar to the roles played by McKibben and Klein, the role of Indigenous thought leaders like Adamson is more akin to Christian missionaries who played a similar function in converting Indigenous peoples on behalf of corporate states in the 16th Century.

I guess that’s what one might call coming full circle.

Corporate Social Responsibility

As the one-month countdown to the glorious UN World Conference on Indigenous Peoples begins, corporate acolytes like First Peoples Worldwide will be graciously blessed with development derivatives lovingly laundered through philanthropic foundations like Ford, Gates and Soros. Spreading such altruistic largesse around to enlighten ungrateful naysayers and ill-mannered critics of Indigenous helping-hand policies by such selfless entities as FPW benefactor Shell Oil, after all, has to be handled with care.

While First Peoples Worldwide and other special helpers labor overtime to share the gospel with Indigenous NGOs and to convert Indigenous governing authorities, the corporate social responsibility theme needs to be promoted with confidence. As a sign of its devotion as unrivaled CSR evangelical, FPW chumminess on Twitter is especially heartwarming. Last summer, when FPW shared its Proud to be Indigenous campaign bromides on list serves during the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, I felt an uplifting spirit unfulfilled since the I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke TV sing-along ads of my impressionable youth.

As part of this merciful enlightenment, no doubt enjoyed by so many, the CSR theme — brought to us by benevolences like Shell Oil — generously saturates the infosphere, until even the most cynical and hardened souls among us erupt into fits of neoliberal ecstasy. As the World Bank and Wall Street lay loving hands on this righteous revival, Indigenous missionaries like First Peoples Worldwide’s Rebecca Adamson could go into convulsions of holy rapture.

Here Come the COPPs

As I noted in regard to the credibility issue haunting the North American Indigenous Peoples Caucus, these Indigenous lobbyists at the UN have grown so accustomed to the prestige of hobnobbing with UN bureaucrats and diplomats that they have lost sight of what is at stake in the UN process. While Indigenous governing authorities struggle to democratize the UN — which has marginalized them, simultaneously with providing a play pen for Indigenous NGOs at the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues — the UN bureaucracy has been busy creating the illusion of inclusion.

To wit, the secretariat for the Permanent Forum in Spring 2013 announced the UNPFII Twelfth Session, May 20-31 in New York, will include a “dialogue” with the World Bank. As perhaps the most hostile of UN agencies to the Indigenous Peoples Movement and the implementation of Indigenous sovereignty under the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the World Bank generated bags of bromides for the Indigenous patsies to use in press releases to impress their foundation funders. How to posture around this topic and others consumed the Indigenous Global Caucus (a.k.a. COPPs–charlatans, opportunists and pious poseurs) that met May 18 and 19 at UN Plaza.

The only potential bright spot in the secretariat announcement was the May 22 meeting with Indigenous journalists to “strategize” on the 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, also held at UN Headquarters in New York.  Somehow, though, I don’t think the UN staff had journalists at IC Magazine in mind.

Grandstanding by First Peoples Worldwide — in the form of the “Proud to be Indigenous” campaign — reminded us that corporate-financed NGO promises are, as always, Too Good to be True. As I noted in March 2013, the corporate buy-in promoted by FPW’s president, Rebecca Adamson, is valuable brokering to her backers like Shell Oil. While her poverty-pimping brokerage might attract compromised or corrupt tribal leaders, it also undermines the Indigenous Peoples Movement. As the leading exponent of Indigenous assimilation, First Peoples Worldwide might be able to co-opt their NAIPC friends, but the grassroots activists know a COPP when they see one.

Implementing Indigenous Human Rights

There are several aspects of the UN human rights agenda that contribute to the invisibility of Indigenous rights enshrined in the 2007 UN Declaration. First and foremost of the obstacles to implementing the rights of Indigenous peoples, has been the refusal of the UN to recognize Indigenous nations as political entities worthy of participation in UN decision-making. If the governing authorities of Indigenous nations remain excluded from UN diplomatic processes, Indigenous peoples will remain marginalized from discussions on world issues. As noted at IC, this exclusionary obstacle at the UN has been challenged by 72 American Indian tribes, its removal deemed essential to resolving grievances and eliminating violence against indigenous nations.

As I observed in Making it Happen, democratizing the international community cannot be limited to the international institutions created by modern states. As Indigenous nations assert their human rights of self-determination and self-governance, new institutions are required. Something my colleague Rudolph C. Ryser addresses in his 2012 book, Indigenous Nations and Modern States.

As I wrote in Obstacles to Peace, the UN was formed by (and functions to serve the interests of) modern states, not Indigenous nations. Looking at Israel — a state created by the UN — and its ongoing human rights abuses toward the Indigenous peoples of Palestine, we can see how the UN has actually been an obstacle to peaceful political development. By acceding to American demands for crippling economic sanctions against Palestine, the UN has undermined their ability to manage their own affairs, in turn creating the desperation and humanitarian crisis to which cynical NGOs often cater. In another example, the UN — at U.S. urging — approved the Indonesian annexation of West Papua over the protest of Papuan Indigenous peoples, leading to the current human rights abuses there. As Dr. Ryser remarked, by reinforcing the illusion that the UN can or will relieve the pain from the violence of colonialism, “The UN Human Rights Council stands as one of the significant obstacles to dynamic political development in the Fourth World.”

Given the U.S. influence as a permanent UN Security Council member, and as one of four UN member states to oppose the 2007 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, it is fanciful to think the UN will ever be able to deliver on full human rights implementation for Indigenous nations. That can only happen in a neutral setting, where the diplomatic missions of Indigenous nations and modern states come together on an equal footing, to resolve grievances and to negotiate a more democratic, inclusive future.

As I noted in Public Relations Puppets, since the UN General Assembly declaration in 2007, the UN bureaucracy — in order to provide cover for the REDD Ponzi scheme of carbon-market trading by transnational corporations and investment banks — actively excluded Indigenous nations delegates from participating in climate change talks. In Poznan, Copenhagen and Cancun, the UN repeatedly found new ways to silence Indigenous peoples. As I wrote, dispelling the notion of the UN as an honest broker is critical to understanding the need for new institutions that aren’t controlled by states and markets. As Dr. Ryser stated, “The UN promises to permanently lock these nations into a cage of political subjugation.”

With the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples just around the corner, mainstream media will be falling all over itself to help the UN and its member states continue excluding Indigenous nations from meaningful participation in world affairs. Breaking the chains of their subjugation requires ending the silence.

 

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