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Greenwashing the Climate Catastrophe

Counterpunch

By Kenn Orphan

 

“With “capitalism in danger of falling apart” (a rare, cryptically honest quote from Al Gore), and years of stagnant global economic growth now in a free fall, the Greta campaign must be understood for what it is. An elaborate distraction that has nothing to do with protecting the natural world, and everything to do with the manufacturing of consent. The required consent of the citizenry that will unlock the treasuries and public monies under the guise of climate protection.” –– Cory Morningstar and Forrest Palmer, from The Manufacturing of Greta Thunberg – For Consent: The House is on Fire & the 90 Trillion Dollar Rescue, 2019

 

“One might think that if someone were conscious enough to recognise that global ecology was compromised and that pollutants were destroying fresh water, and the land, and that global warming was quite possibly going to make huge swatches of land non arable — you might think that person would look for solutions in a political frame. After all it was global capital that had brought mankind to this historic precipice. But instead, many if not nearly all the people I speak with, frame things in terms of personal responsibility. Stop driving big diesel SUVs, stop flying to Cabo for vacation, stop eating meat, etc-. But these same people tend to not criticize capitalism. Or, rather, they ask for a small non crony green capitalism. I guess this would mean green exploitation and green wars? For war is the engine of global capitalism today. Cutting across this are the various threads of the overpopulation theme. A convenient ideological adjustment that shifts blame to the poorest inhabitants of the planet.” –– John Steppling, Trust Nothing, 2019

 

“The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum.” –– Noam Chomsky, The Common Good, 1998

 

“Modern business must have its finger continuously on the public pulse. It must understand the changes in the public mind and be prepared to interpret itself fairly and eloquently to changing opinion.” –– Edward L. Bernays, Propaganda, 1928

It is hard not to notice a stirring of consciousness regarding humanity’s dire ecological predicament beginning to seep into the mainstream these days. How can it not? Year after year records are shattered. Month after month scientists continue to be shocked and demoralized by more and more evidence of rising seas, a climate careening into a chaotic and terrifying unknown, and countless species succumbing in a biosphere perpetually under siege. Even the corporate media which has been designed as a mouthpiece of capitalist interests cannot completely veil our collective crisis. Unsurprisingly, the ruling class has begun to react, not in a way that meaningfully addresses the death cult of the current socioeconomic order, but to ensure its survival albeit with a greener face. Their cynical approach to what is the biggest existential crisis of our age is using youthful optimism and justified outrage and terror to cloud their machinations.

 

 

One such prominent youth these days is Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish girl who delivered a rousing speech at the UN Climate Change Conference and before the world’s wealthiest at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Indeed, her speech was inspiring and I do not doubt her passion or honest devotion to climate activism for a minute, but to ignore the powerful machine looking to co-opt her message would be a grave mistake. For instance, Thunberg has been given interviews in the corporate press, has been endorsed by a tech start-up company (We Don’t Have Time), and has been lauded by industry for promoting “sustainable development.”

Now certainly Thunberg is not the one manipulating any of these actors, and she should not face any kind of criticism for her part in addressing the greatest existential issue of our times. But it should be clear that most people who get interviews in the corporate media are generally not deemed to be a serious challenger to the status quo political/economic order. Corporate approved dissent is a form of censorship that gives the illusion of a lively debate, but essentially establishes a firm line in the sand when if comes to radically questioning or opposing the capitalist framework itself. And if finance companies are behind something we can be pretty sure that they are primarily in it for the money. In addition to this, the term sustainable development is a meaningless on a planet that is literally on the edge of a cliff, but under the dominant economic dictatorship of money the co-opted mainstream environmental movement has pumped out these tropes making them a form of collective social conditioning.

And this ties into the notion of personal responsibility. Solutions to our environmental crisis have been reduced to “life style changes” which have also become the en vogue activism of the day. It is a line of thinking that is accepted and even endorsed by corporations, banks and neoliberal governments because it poses no real challenge to their power or their ongoing destructive practices. To the mainstream, tweaking one’s lifestyle is all that is needed. Buy an electric vehicle or use a bicycle. Don’t take a plane on your vacation. Buy reusable bags. Choose organic only. Go vegan. Buy reusable straws. While there is nothing wrong with doing these things in general, they must be understood as individual choices that are based on privilege and that have little impact in addressing urgent crisis our biosphere is facing right now.

What they do manage to do is deliver an added punishment on the poor and working class, people who are struggling to make ends meet. It places an unfair level of guilt on ordinary people whose impact on the environment is relatively negligible compared to the enormous destruction caused by the fossil fuel industry, mining companies, plastic and packaging production, shipping and the military industrial complex. Seldom (if ever) questioned are the basic foundations of the current economic order which is driving the decimation of the biosphere for the benefit of the wealthy Davos jet set.

It has in fact become only about “sustainability” despite the contradiction of sustaining a system that is at its core omnicidal. Corporations have been actively branding themselves with empty greenwashing euphemisms like “green” or “earth friendly” in the decades following the first Earth Day. It is as if our species were somehow alien visitors to this planet and being friendly to it was merely a diplomatic concern. Certainly a handful of corporations did in fact change some of their practices under public pressure and for the sake of image. Some of those changes had beneficial effects for certain species and areas. But the primary engine of capitalism that has led us to the brink of devastation is never questioned. It is sacrosanct.

With this in mind political solutions, like the Green New Deal, are being trotted out by democratic socialist and neoliberal politicians that merely cloak the problem, never identifying the root of it all: Capitalism. In fact, many of these policies are weak on protecting nature and are simply designed to keep capitalism afloat. At its core this is a system that is incapable of even beginning  to address climate change or biospheric degeneration. Its principles are based upon the exploitation of the environment for the material gain of the ruling class, kept alive through institutions of repression and corporate state violence. Under this rubric environmental causes may be soothed for some; but the poor and working class are continually battered and raped by industry and the corrupt governments that house and protect them. Indigenous peoples, who face the worst exploitation, continually see their lands desecrated and denuded by state policing factions at the behest of powerful corporations. And militarism, which is of course wedded to capitalism, ensures that all of this exploitation can continue and expand virtually unopposed by bourgeois society.

It may be a hard pill for many to swallow, but there are simply no viable answers to be found in Washington, or the hills of Hollywood, or the board rooms of Wall Street, or even at the United Nations which generally capitulates to the demands of the ruling class. They have molded each of these institutions, media industries and government bodies to fit their censorious narrative in order to suppress dissent against the current economic order, under which they so handsomely profit. And one would be wise to approach whatever they offer with great caution. After all, they have been labouring for years to dismember the commons, grow their inordinate wealth through plunder, and maintain their dominance through corruption, militarism and distraction. The sacredness of the public sphere has been defiled by the inviolable liturgy of free market dogma. And they have manufactured a culture of cruelty, devoid of character and predicated on colonization and the commodification and exploitation of everything and everyone that exists. In this way neoliberalism, the last and most ruthless stage of capitalism, has become the most elaborate and successful form of brainwashing and social control the world has ever known, convincing hundreds of millions of people of the absolute necessity of its economic tyranny and omnicidal madness.

But despite the machinations of the ruling class to obfuscate, infiltrate and co-opt movements, there remains a genuine longing for connection to the ever besieged living planet and solidarity with one another that transcends the indifferent and sadistic brutality of the capitalist order. This is especially true as capitalism begins to implode and the biosphere continues to degrade. Therefore the most coherent response to what we are witnessing will always come from ordinary people in community, especially the poor and especially indigenous peoples who are on the front lines of a war being waged by governments serving the interests of the wealthy ruling class and global capitalism. But we can be assured that anything that emanates from the halls of power will be merely another ploy to maintain their control and fill the coffers of the uber-rich at the expense of the rest of us and the living earth itself. And they have no problem using the innocent passion of a 16 year old girl to hide all of their crimes.

 

[Kenn Orphan is an artist, sociologist, radical nature lover and weary, but committed activist. He can be reached at kennorphan.com.]

Greenwashing? The Green Marches are Mute on the “War Factor”

Publico

March 17, 2019

By Nazanín Armanian

[*Translated from Spanish to English via Google Translator.]

 

February 23, 2019: “French president Macron received Swedish climate girl Greta Thunberg (right to Macron) and a delegation from Youth for Climate, including Anuna De Wever (second from the right) and Kyra Gantois (first from the left).” [Source]

On March 15, the Day of the Popular March for Climate, tens of thousands of young people from several countries, followers of the Swedish student Greta Thunberg, showed their indignation at the indifference of world leaders towards climate change. Since last August, 16-year-old Greta demonstrates every Friday before the Swedish Parliament calling for greater commitment in the fight against the alarming deterioration of the oceans and glaciers.

Surprising (or not) that while environmental activists of the stature of the Honduran Berta Cáceres or the Iranian professor Kavous Emami who have been killed for their struggle against the powers that benefit from the destruction of the environment, the Swedish teenager is presented as leader of the fight to save the planet.

According to Global Witness, in 2017, at least 207 environmental activists were murdered in 22 countries. A year earlier, there were another 200, eight more than in 2015. It is unknown why she, a native of one of the world’s top arms sellers, and her fans concerned about the CO2 that seeps into her lungs, have not included the “No to war” and the businesses that revolve around the arms industry in its claims to save the battered planet. It is incomprehensible that they are more afraid of breathing contaminated air, but not of the very real threat of a nuclear war that would kill billions of living beings, and cause long and hard suffering for the survivors. A year ago Trump broke the nuclear agreement with Iran , and last month he did the same with the agreement with Russia, while he ordered to invest 1.2 billion dollars to make new atomic bombs in order to “make the world safer “.

In the slogans the “March” did not see any mention of the consequences of the open wars in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, Libya (which have destroyed the lives of nearly 150 million people), nor those that imperialism can start against Venezuela and Iran, or the deadly contamination of the Palestinians’ habitat, which besides being bombed almost daily by Israel, they live an ecological catastrophe: millions of their olive trees have been uprooted by the occupiers, the fields of Fruit trees and farms in Gaza have disappeared; its people breathe the asbestos of demolished houses, and untreated sewage pollutes the Mediterranean because of the destruction of infrastructure.

The same “amnesia” happens with television ads, which invite us to recycle to protect the land, but silence the degree of responsibility of large companies always protected by the states, which commit 80% of the aggressions against the environment .

The lack of policies on the part of the capitalist governments to avoid a greater ecological disaster is simply a policy.

Other false environmental heroes

 

Greenwashing “greenwashing” or pseudoecologism is the term created to denounce makeup on the face of a system that continuously generates and reproduces the foundations of the destruction of nature.

Former US Vice President Al Gore received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017 ” for his efforts to build and disseminate on climate change “, despite the fact that the Clinton-Gore administration bombed Yugoslavia, Albania, Sudan, Afghanistan, Iraq , Haiti, Zaire, and Liberia, using all kinds of destructive munitions including projectiles that contained depleted uranium, causing the death of tens of thousands of civilians and causing irreparable damage to their lands, airs, and waters. He was also one of the promoters of the campaign to expand raw material for biofuel, trying to convert the pancakes of the poorest Mexicans into ethanol from the cars of the well off. It was the fear of the rebellion of millions of hungry people who filed away, in part, this occurrence.

Years later, in September 2014 and on the eve of the UN Climate Summit, Wall Street bankers paid about $ 220,000 to announce the march organized by companies like Avaaz and 300 other organizations against the New York subway. the pollution of the planet. The participation of the World Bank or the Clinton Global Initiative in these initiatives, rather than being due to the “mainstreaming” of the environmental movement, is to take control of it, as well as a marketing operation to “whitewash” the most predatory elites without scruples of the world, the same that presents, for example, to NATO as the sister of charity : if you download tons of bombs on defenseless nations it is because the arms industry goes out of its way for the well-being of the Sudanese lord,the Afghan lady .

The movement for “climate justice” is a very profitable capitalist business line that turns the sensible struggle of people worried about the agony of our planet into a commodity, creating the illusion that the manufacturers of cluster bombs or white phosphorus are going to give up their benefits, at the stroke of “signatures” or demonstrations with music and dance.

One of the examples of the trickery of capitalism is, for example, that 1) the stock markets lower the price of carbon in order to sell the largest amount, 2) the banks do not exclude the most polluting companies from their offers of credits, and 3) governments give incentives to this sector to reduce their polluting emissions. The business of “Saving the Earth” is very all-encompassing.

Devastate the environment with war

It is said that the army of ancient Rome, to ensure the present and future capitulation of its enemies, covered the surface of its arable land of salt; Centuries later, we have witnessed how US aviation sprayed the forests and crops of Vietnam with 20 million gallons of Agent Naranja herbicide (produced by Monsanto). Today, 44 years later, there are 500,000 blind children, without limbs and with other serious malformations. A few years before, Harry Truman’s atomic bombs turned Hiroshima, Nagasaki and 240,000 of his neighbors into ashes.

The wars, in addition, produce massive displacements of the population, erode the soil, desert the forests. Among the scant data on the environmental stress caused by the military aggression of the US and its allies to Iraq, started in the Persian Gulf War of 1991 and continues to this day , news like this is showing:

  • In “response” to the fire of 736 Kuwaiti oil wells by Iraqi troops, Anglo-American forces bombed Iraq’s refineries and oil fields that burned for months, producing millions of tons of carbon dioxide, sulfur, mercury, which produced rain Acid on a large surface removed vegetation and animals.
  • The use of 320 tons of depleted uranium by the US, which killed thousands of people, produced strange diseases and malformations in babies born later, in addition to polluting hectares of cultivated land.
  • Tens of thousands of birds died, some by drowning in oil spilled in the waters of the Persian Gulf, and others by falling water temperature, creating a toxic micro-layer on its surface.
  • In 2015, Iraq experienced the highest temperature in the world, because of the destruction in the vegetation cover and the reduction of the water surface. The severe dust storms that are born in this country and spread throughout the area, cause conditions that kill hundreds of people each year.
  • Fishermen and Iraqi kids who bathe in the Tigris River still find bodies in their waters.

 

In Yemen, the “non-televised” bombing of the US-Saudi-led coalition and the planned destruction of crops, farms, and their infrastructure, including wastewater treatment plants and hospitals, has caused the most brutal humanitarian crisis of the world, and an epidemic of cholera that has killed thousands of people, leaving half a million more seriously ill.

In Myanmar, the army uses the “scorched earth” tactic against the Rohinya, burning their homes and crops, in order to make it impossible for the victims to return to their homes.

In Sudan, the war has caused the elimination of thousands of animals, hunted to feed the armed men. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the population of white rhinos, an endangered species, was reduced to 31 in 1996 because of the conflict; 5,000 elephants disappeared, as well as half of the hippos.

With a few open wars in the Middle East, and the US threat to provoke others to seize the natural resources of other peoples, the environmental movement must strengthen the weak movement for peace , and include the reduction of military spending in one of its main demands.

We need you to support critical voices.

 

[Nazanín Armanian: I left half of my life in my Persian lands, and when I landed on this peninsula of welcome, a lovable platform for the reclamation of bread and peace for all, I began to exercise the puzzling office of exile: to know, to learn, to admire, to transmit, to reveal and denounce, the latter taking advantage of the University classes, the media and a dozen books such as ‘Robaiyat de Omar Jayyam’ (DVD editions, 2004), ‘Kurdistan, the nonexistent country’ (Flor del viento, 2005), ‘Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran, 40 responses to the conflict in the Middle East’ (Language of Rag, 2007) and ‘Islam without veil’ (Bronze, 2009).]

 

The Manufacturing of Greta Thunberg – for Consent: The Political Economy of the Non-Profit Industrial Complex [ACT I]

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