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Nature is Being Renamed ‘Natural Capital’ – But is it Really the Planet that Will Profit?

The Conversation

September 13, 2016

by Sian Sullivan

 

China’s Jiangxi mountains: now just an asset? Shutterstock

The four-yearly World Conservation Congress of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature has just taken place in Hawai’i. The congress is the largest global meeting on nature’s conservation. This year a controversial motion was debated regarding incorporating the language and mechanisms of “natural capital” into IUCN policy.

But what is “natural capital”? And why use it to refer to “nature”?

Motion 63 on “Natural Capital”, adopted at the congress, proposes the development of a “natural capital charter” as a framework “for the application of natural capital approaches and mechanisms”. In “noting that concepts and language of natural capital are becoming widespread within conservation circles and IUCN”, the motion reflects IUCN’s adoption of “a substantial policy position” on natural capital. Eleven programmed sessions scheduled for the congress included “natural capital” in the title. Many are associated with the recent launch of the global Natural Capital Protocol, which brings together business leaders to create a world where business both enhances and conserves nature.

At least one congress session discussed possible “unforeseen impacts of natural capital on broader issues of equitability, ethics, values, rights and social justice”. This draws on widespreadconcerns around the metaphor that nature-is-as-capital-is. Critics worry about the emphasis on economic, as opposed to ecological, language and models, and a corresponding marginalisation of non-economic values that elicit care for the natural world.

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Naming nature … but at what cost? Shutterstock

Naturalising ‘natural capital’

The use of “natural capital” as a noun is becoming increasingly normalised in environmental governance. Recent natural capital initiatives include the World Forum on Natural Capital, described as “the world’s leading natural capital event”, the Natural Capital Declaration, which commits the financial sector to mainstreaming “natural capital considerations” into all financial products and services, and the Natural Capital Financing Facility, a financial instrument of the European Investment Bank and the European Commission that aims “to prove to the market and to potential investors the attractiveness of biodiversity and climate adaptation operations in order to promote sustainable investments from the private sector”.

All these initiatives share the UK Natural Capital Committee’s view that “natural capital” consists of “our natural assets including forests, rivers, land, minerals and oceans”. People used to talk about “nature” or “the natural environment” – now they speak of “natural capital”.

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Growing profits. Shutterstock

So what does the word “capital” do to “nature” when they are linked? And should nature be seen in terms of capital at all? One controversial aspect, backed by IUCN’s Business and Biodiversity Programme, is receiving particular attention. This is the possibility of securing debt-based conservation finance from major institutions and the super-super-rich based on the value of income generated from so-called natural capital assets conserved in situ.

Capitalising natures

At the IUCN’s conservation congress a Coalition for Private Investment in Conservation was launched. Led by financial services company Credit Suisse, and backed by the IUCN and the World Wide Fund for Nature, the coalition builds on a series of recent reports proposing capitalising conservation in exactly this way.

In 2016, and following a 2014 report, Credit Suisse and collaborators published two documents outlining proposals for debt-based, return-seeking conservation finance. The most recent is called Levering Ecosystems: A Business-focused Perspective on how Debt Supports Investment in Ecosystem Services. In this, the CEO of Credit Suisse states that not only is saving ecosystems affordable, but it is also profitable, if turned “into an asset treasured by the mainstream investment market”.

The report proposes a number of mechanisms whereby “businesses can utilise debt as a tool to restore, rehabilitate, and conserve the environment while creating financial value”. The idea is that as “environmental footprints move closer to being recognised as assets and liabilities by companies, debt can be used to fund specific investments in ecosystems that lead to net-positive financial outcomes”. Debt-based financing – for example, through tradeable securities such as bonds – is framed as attractive in part because interest received by investors is “usually tax-deductible”.

The Levering Ecosystems report followed quickly from Conservation Finance: From Niche to Mainstream, steered by a small group including the director of IUCN’s Global Business and Biodiversity Programme. This report estimated the investment potential for conservation finance to be roughly US$200-400 billion by 2020.

Of course, investors loaning finance to projects associated with conservation also expect market-rate returns to compensate for investments considered to conserve, restore or rehabilitate ecosystems.

In the documents above, financial returns are projected as coming in part from new markets in payments for ecosystem services and sales of carbon credits. These new markets will supply the potentially monetisable “dividends” of conserved and restored habitats as “standing natural capitals”. Investor risk is proposed to be reduced through mobilising these assets, as well as the “land or usage rights” from which they derive, as underlying collateral.

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Two redrawn graphs representing the design of debt-based conservation finance, as per Credit Suisse reports in 2014 and 2016.

The graphs above present two schematic diagrams redrawn from the Credit Suisse texts to indicate how these flows of financial value may be leveraged from areas capitalised as investable natural capital. The models are based in part on expectations that recent United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change support for international carbon compensation mechanisms will release new long-term sources of public funding to “balance anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases”, thereby boosting possibilities for financial flows from forest carbon.

Such financialising moves, nascent and clunky as they are, may yet have significant implications if applied to countries in the global south with remaining high levels of “standing natural capital”. Caution is needed regarding the possibility that forest-rich but least developed countries may become indebted to ultra high-net-worth investors who access returns on their investments from new income streams arising from conserved tropical natures in these countries.

What’s in a name?

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Pandas: sending a powerful message. Shutterstock

In 1986, the central secretariat of the WWF decided to change the name of the organisation from the World Wildlife Fund to the World Wide Fund for Nature. The thinking was that an emphasis on “wildlife”, borne of a concern for endangered species, no longer reflected the organisation’s scope of work for the conservation of the diversity of life on earth. It was considered that overall the organisation would be better served by the term “nature”. In other words, it seems that naming and framing “nature” matters.

Given the conversations and debates at IUCN’s World Conservation Congress, it seems important to ask: how exactly does the conservation of natural capital equate with the conservation of nature? Do these terms in fact invoke different things? If they do, then it is worth clarifying whether the conservation of natural capital is always good for the conservation of nature. If they don’t, then it remains worth querying why exactly “nature” needs to be renamed as “natural capital”.

 

 

[Sian Sullivan is Professor of Environment and Culture, Bath Spa University.]

WATCH: Salmonopoly [Marine Harvest & WWF, Chile]

marine-harvest-john-fredriksen-wwf

A film by Wilfried Huismann and Arno Schumann.

“Long-term investment in sustainability and the environment is the only way forward. With this commitment Marine Harvest is showing how environmental sustainability is a precondition for economic sustainability, and that they take global leadership to minimise their impact on the environment.” — Nina Jensen, CEO of WWF Norway

The risks and catastrophic results of aquaculture. The dirty tricks of powerful billionaires like John Fredriksen, who controls one third of the global salmon production. The WWF who greenwashes the ecological devastation and horrific plunder.

Marine Harvest is the largest salmon company in the world. It is headed by John Fredriksen (Marine Harvest’s biggest shareholder), a billionaire who has developed salmon farms in Norway and Chile. But in Chile, with weaker environmental legislation, a fatal disease for salmon has developed. Working conditions are also catastrophic for employees and sometimes fatal for local divers. To improve its image, Marine Harvest negotiated a contract with WWF for $ 100,000 a year. [Le Festival international de films “Pêcheurs du monde”]

 

 
Further Reading:

WATCH: Salmon Confidential [Marine Harvest & WWF, British Columbia]

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

The Art of Annihilation

April 23, 2014

Part four of an investigative series by Cory Morningstar

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

+++

Marketing a Fallacy

There-is-No-Alternative

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

McKibben’s Divestment Tour – Brought to You by Wall Street [Part II of an Investigative Report] [The “Climate Wealth” Opportunists]

Ceres & the Investor Network on Climate Risk (INCR)

cereslogo1

March 10, 2014

Part two 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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

+++

CERES

INCR_Logo

 “One recent weekday afternoon, three men walked out of the Environmental Defense Fund’s midtown Manhattan office on their way to have lunch together. On the left was EDF’s senior economist. On the right was an environmental expert in the Soviet government. Between them was a businessman, a trader in the nascent enterprise of buying and selling pollution rights. Together that trio forms a picture of how the new environmentalism is shaping up: global, more cooperative than confrontational – and with business at the center.” — ENVIRONMENTALISM: THE NEW CRUSADE, CNNMoney Fortune, February 12, 1990

The present can only be fully understood if one understands the past. Therefore, in order to understand the present day 350.org divestment campaign, we must look at the inception/creation of 350.org’s partner: The Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies (Ceres).

Who is Ceres? Ceres is the 21st century puppeteers of Wall Street who, most recently, are pulling the strings behind the 350.org divestment campaign. Ceres represents the very heart of the nexus: millionaire liberals, their foundations, the “activists” they manage, and most importantly, where the plutocrats invest their personal wealth and that of their foundations. [“As a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, Ceres relies on support from foundations, individuals and other funders to achieve our mission to integrate sustainability into day-to-day business practices for the health of the planet and its people.” (Source: Ceres 2010 Annual Report)

On the Ceres Board of Directors we find key NGO affiliations: Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Sierra Club, World Resources Institute, Ecological Solutions Inc. and Green America, to name a few. (The history of the Ceres board of directors is discussed at length, further in this report.)

 “Building climate change risks and opportunities into Wall Street research and analysis is a top Ceres priority.” — Ceres Annual Report 2006

Exxon Valdez: Opportunity Knocks

 “… sceptics of the effectiveness of a voluntary environmental ethics question whether or not the Valdez principles contain more smoke than substance.” — The Valdez Principles. Is it Time to Put Bambi in the Boardroom? California Journal, November 1990

On March 24, 1989, one of the most devastating man-made environmental disasters in Earth’s history, the Exxon Valdez oil spill, shook public confidence in corporate America to the core. This catastrophic event, 5 years after the atrocious man-made disaster in Bhopal, brought corporate misconduct to the forefront. Corporate America found itself in the midst of an unprecedented public relations disaster.

 “…not long after the Exxon Valdez spill, 41% of Americans were angry enough to say they’d consider boycotting the company.” — The Valdez Principles. Is it Time to Put Bambi in the Boardroom? California Journal, November 1990

Within six months of the Exxon disaster, the late Joan Bavaria, then-president of Trillium Asset Management, had formed a coalition that included high profile environmentalists. The Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies (CERES) was formed with its 10-point code of conduct in hopes of reigning in corporate power. [Note that in 2003, the organization dropped the CERES acronym and rebranded itself as “Ceres”.] Presented to the public as The Valdez Principles [1] on September 7, 1989, the strategic name brilliantly exploited the Valdez crisis (the Principles are said to have actually been written before the Valdez spill, in 1988) to build its own brand recognition and value. Ceres would be the watchdog and savior, reigning in corporate power and making it behave. Although corporate America was reluctant, due to the growing hostility and resentment from the public it also recognized that this coalition offered a strategy (“a voluntary mechanism of corporate self-governance”) as a means of re-establishing public trust, securing brand reputation and most importantly, protecting profits and power. Its influence was enhanced by the fact that member institutional investors controlled over $150 billion in assets. Yet, the risks did not go unrecognized:

“A new basis for environmentally-related derivative suits may now be emerging. Various social-activist groups are successfully sponsoring shareholder resolutions at many major corporations to mandate greater environmental accountability by the corporations. These resolutions require the implementation of ‘Valdez Principles,’ which call for the corporations to curtail air and water pollution, conserve energy, market safe products, pay for damage caused to the environment, and make regular reports on environmental matters to the shareholders. If directors and officers of corporations which have adopted these Valdez-type resolutions fail to comply with their mandate, derivative suits against the directors and officers are likely to follow.” — ACE Bermuda News, July 1991

Corporate America held out. Ceres eventually buckled. The Valdez Principles became the CERES Principles (a 10-point code of environmental conduct) [2], with the most powerful language watered down and abolished. This was fully understood by Bavaria, who recognized that without the annual public audits in particular (principle #10), the principles would be meaningless. November 1990:

“Joan Bavaria, co-chairperson of CERES, believes that the first 8 principles are meaningless without the tenth principle allowing public accountability. The difference between having the company develop their own principles, then monitoring them internally is like putting a fox in the chicken house.” — The Valdez Principles. Is it Time to Put Bambi in the Boardroom? California Journal, November 1990

In the meantime, environmentalism was changing and becoming big business. The world had embraced Neoliberalism (or had it shoved down their throats by the IMF and World Bank) with a statement of neoliberal aims being codified in the Washington Consensus in 1989. This was to be the means of liberating the market from state intrusion, which would instead serve to shield the expanding corporatocracy. Neoliberalism would prove to be the instrumental tool of choice in what would serve, protect and expand the power of the oligarchy.

From the CNNMoney Fortune article: ENVIRONMENTALISM: THE NEW CRUSADE, February 12, 1990:

“Far fewer activists of the 1990s will be embittered, scruffy, antibusiness street fighters. AS AN EXAMPLE of the new breed, consider Allen Hershkowitz, who freely drops the names of his CEO acquaintances. As a solid-waste-disposal expert at the litigious Natural Resources Defense Council, Hershkowitz has won many legal battles with business. Now high-ranking executives of major companies regularly make the pilgrimage to his office in the elegant, airy, and amply funded New York City headquarters of NRDC, coming to him lest he go after them. As he explains, ‘They come in here to see what they’ve got to cover their asses on. ‘The cocky 34-year-old Ph.D., who serves as an adviser to banks and Shearson Lehman Hutton, among others, elaborates, ‘My primary motivation is environmental protection. And if it costs more, so be it. If Procter & Gamble can’t live with that, somebody else will. But I’ll tell you, Procter & Gamble is trying hard to live with it. ‘Still, for all his militancy, Hershkowitz is no fanatic or utopian. He understands that a perfect world can’t be achieved and doesn’t hesitate to talk of trade-offs: ‘Hey, civilization has its costs. We’re trying to reduce them, but we can’t eliminate them.’

 

Environmentalists of this stripe will increasingly show up even within companies. William Bishop, Procter & Gamble’s top environmental scientist, was an organizer of Earth Day in 1970 and is a member of the Sierra Club. One of his chief deputies belongs to Greenpeace. Eager to work with business, many environmentalists are moving from confrontation to the best kind of collaboration. In September an ad hoc combination of institutional investors controlling $150 billion of assets (including representatives of public pension funds) and environmental groups promulgated the Valdez Principles, named for the year’s most catalytic environmental accident. The principles ask companies to reduce waste, use resources prudently, market safe products, and take responsibility for past harm. They also call for an environmentalist on each corporate board and an annual public audit of a company’s environmental progress. The group asked corporations to subscribe to the principles, with the implicit suggestion that investments could eventually be contingent on compliance. Companies already engaged in friendly discussions included DuPont, specialty-chemical maker H.B. Fuller, and Polaroid, among others.

 

Earth Day 1990, scheduled for April 22, the 20th anniversary of the first such event, is becoming a veritable biz-fest. ‘We’re really interested in working with companies that have a good record,’ says Earth Day Chairman Denis Hayes, who predicts that 100 million people will take part one way or another. Apple Computer and Hewlett-Packard have donated equipment. Shaklee, the personal and household products company, paid $50,000 to be the first official corporate sponsor. Even the Chemical Manufacturers Association is getting in on the act, preparing a list of 101 ways its members can participate. The more than 1,000 Earth Day affiliate groups in 120 countries propose to shake up politicians worldwide and launch a decade of activism. THE MESSAGE that leading environmentalists are sending, and progressive companies are receiving, is that eco-responsibility will be good for business. Says Gray Davis, California’s state controller, who helped draft the Valdez Principles and who sits on the boards of two public pension funds with total assets of $90 billion: ‘Given the increasing regulation and public concern, there’s no question that companies will eventually have to change their ways. The first kid on the block to embrace these principles will increase market share and profit substantially.'”

The primary NGOs involved in the Valdez Principles from inception were the Sierra Club, The National Audubon Society and the National Wildlife Federation. The necessity of the “environmental movement” as the face and foundation of Ceres cannot be understated. In 1989 it was well understood by all players that NGOs were very much perceived as legitimate in the eyes of the public. The non-profit industrial complex was perhaps the only entity in the position of lending the much needed legitimacy and credibility that could mollify the public and allow the corporate world to continue their raping and pillaging, unregulated, under voluntary compliance. And while there is little doubt that well-intentioned individuals with sincere intentions were present in the formation of Ceres (as the corporate watchdog), many such “activists” will never admit to themselves that they are enablers of the very systems collectively destroying us. There is no acceptable excuse for such lack of judgement and foresight – for if it is ignorance, it is willful. Privilege has a convenient way of convincing one’s self to be blind.

“The New York Times/CBS News poll regularly asks the public if ‘protecting the environment is so important that requirements and standards cannot be too high, and continuing environmental improvements must be made regardless of cost.’ In September 1981, 45% agreed and 42% disagreed with that plainly intemperate statement. Last June, 79% agreed and only 18% disagreed. For the first time, liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, profess concern for the environment in roughly equal numbers.” ENVIRONMENTALISM: THE NEW CRUSADE, CNNMoney Fortune, February 12, 1990

The Valdez Principles, which morphed into the completely watered down Ceres Principles, became the perfect antidote to appease an outraged populace. Corporations could breathe a sigh of relief for a continued voluntary system of corporate self governance – freshly laundered in a light green wash. At a time when public support for environmental protection was unprecedented, restrictive federal regulation power would be avoided. Corporate supremacy would continue apace.

CERES: Clearing House for the Institutionalization of Private Governance

 “It is high time that myths were called what they are. They are stories which may help explain our feelings but they are stories nonetheless and they do us no good.” — Margaret Kimberley

The CERES “Sustainable Governance Project” (SGP) was officially announced to the public in Washington, DC, 2002. The non-profit industrial complex was and continues to be an instrumental tool in building public acceptance for expansion of neoliberal policies. Hence a key focus of SGP in 2001 (prior to the official launch) was “expanding collaboration with climate change experts at groups such as The National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council, Redefining Progress, Sierra Club, Union of Concerned Scientists, World Wildlife Fund, and many others.” (Source: 2001 Annual Report) Jump forward to 2013 and the Ceres network includes over 130 NGOs.

Today, Ceres serves as the underwriter and clearinghouse for the institutionalization of private governance. Such transformation is now well under way and evolving as witnessed under the guise of the “green economy.” Such strategy is calculated and requires tactical execution. For such transformation to be successful, key critical elements must coalesce: the real or perceived (manufactured/purposeful) decline of public regulatory power; the appearance of “civil society” (self-appointed NGOs) to emanate a patina of legitimacy, credibility and trust; the perception of “caring” corporations (see “Who Cares Wins“); and lastly, media to disseminate the compiled elements in endless waves. When these elements coalesce seamlessly, fertile ground is laid for private regulatory institutions to emerge. By stressing the “risks” (i.e. water scarcity, crumbling infrastructure, etc.) Ceres successfully lays the groundwork for corporate takeover of goods, services and now ecosystems.

The Ceres Network Companies (the first pillar) make up the crème de le crème (approx. 70 corporations) of the corporate world. Examples include Citi, Bloomberg, Coca-Cola, Ford Motor Company, General Motors, Suncor and Virgin. The Ceres Coalition (the second pillar) is comprised of more than 130 institutional investors, environmental and “social advocacy” groups, and public interest organizations. Examples of coalition members are Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, Rockefeller Financial Asset Management, NRDC, World Wildlife Fund, Rainforest Action Network, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) (a founder of Avaaz) and The Carbon Neutral Company.

 

SupportingSponsors2008

Leadership Circle

Image above: Just a few of the 2009 and 2013 Ceres Conference Sponsors.

The Ceres Coalition represents: the Ceres Network Companies, Investor Network on Climate Risk (INCR) (publicly launched in November 2003 at the first Institutional Investor Summit on Climate Risk held at the United Nations) and Business for Innovative Climate & Energy Policy (BICEP: a coalition of more than 20 leading consumer brand corporations.) [Ceres Membership Requirements] [3]

“Ceres is a national network of over [130*] investors, environmental organizations and other public interest groups working with companies and the capital markets to address sustainability challenges such as global climate change. Coalition members serve on our board of directors, participate on company stakeholder teams and engage with the Wall Street community to incorporate social and environmental costs into their research practices. More than [100*] companies worldwide, many of them Fortune 500 firms, make up the Ceres Network of Companies.” [4] [*Updated to reflect current status]

The network of Ceres companies represents a broad range of corporate interests, including oil and gas, electric utilities, and financial services. More than one-third of the company members are in the Fortune 500. Members include McDonalds Corporations, Bank of America Corporation, PG&E Corporation, Citi Bank, Ford Motor Company, General Motors, Nike, PepsiCo, Suncor, Sunoco, Coca-Cola, Walt Disney, Virgin America, and Time Warner, to name just a few. Ceres has close ties with high-level leaders at the New York Stock Exchange, United Nations, World Economic Forum, Clinton Global Initiative, American Accounting Association, the American Bar Association and many of the world’s most powerful corporations. The forté of Ceres is briefing/advising powerful corporate boards, from Nike to American Electric Power, on risk and opportunity.

In addition to working with investors in the Ceres Coalition, Ceres directs the Investor Network on Climate Risk (INCR):

“INCR members, whose collective assets total about $[11*] trillion, include many of the world’s largest pension funds and asset managers.” [*Updated to reflect current status]

INCR has grown from 10 institutional investors managing $600 billion (2003) to 100 institutional investors managing more than $11 trillion in assets (2012).

In 1997 CERES launched the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), now the de facto international standard for corporate voluntary sustainability reporting implemented by more than 1,800 corporations worldwide.

Benefits for corporations adopting GRI “standards” included/include guideline tools for “brand and reputation enhancement, differentiation in the marketplace and protection from brand erosion resulting from the actions of suppliers or competitors, networking and communications.” [Source] Since releasing its first Reporting Guidelines in 2000, its global network has grown to more than 600 organizational stakeholders and over 30,000 people representing different sectors and constituencies. GRI has also developed key strategic partnerships with the United Nations Environment Programme, the UN Global Compact, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and the International Organization for Standardization. [Source]

Mindy Lubber is the president of Ceres (2012) and a founding board member of the organization. She also directs Ceres’ INCR. Mindy Lubber’s blog “Sustainable Capitalism” is integrated with Forbes. Lubber is a contributing blogger for Huffington Post (acquired by Time Warner in 2011) and Forbes. Lubber has been honored by the United Nations as one of the “World’s Top Leaders of Change.” (Other award winners were the corporations Coca-Cola, Nike, Walmart and Reebok). Lubber was named one of “The 100 Most Influential People in Corporate Governance” by Directorship magazine and is a recipient of the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship.

Skeletons (and Skolls) in the Ceres/1Sky Closet

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Photo [Source: Skoll Foundation]: Green capitalist Al Gore with (left to right) Chris Fox of Ceres, Gillian Caldwell of 1Sky (350.org officially merged with 1Sky in 2011), Sally Osberg of the Skoll Foundation and Alessandro Galli of Global Footprint Network.

In 2009, 1Sky’s campaign director, Gillian Caldwell, a lawyer by training, was paid $203,620 (US) through the Rockefeller Family Fund. Although McKibben often refers to 350.org/1Sky as a “scruffy little outfit” – a salary of more than $200,000 is hardly typical of a legitimate grassroots organization.

In the Dec 3, 2009 article Prepping for Copenhagen as found on the Skoll Foundation website, the author reports, “The Skoll Foundation, along with a number of Skoll social entrepreneurs and partners, will be participating in the Copenhagen meetings on climate change later this month. Reflecting the high caliber of environmental leaders in the Skoll portfolio, some 10 Skoll social entrepreneurs and/or their organizations will be at Copenhagen: ACORE, Amazon Conservation Team, BioRegional Development Group, Ceres, EcoPeace/Friends of the Earth Middle East, Fundacion Gaia, Global Footprint Network, Health Care Without Harm, IDE-India, and Gillian Caldwell (formerly of Witness), representing 1Sky.” [Emphasis added.]

In the December 15, 2009 article More from the Ground in Copenhagen, also featured on the Skoll Foundation website, Skoll CEO Sally Osberg reports:

 Just a couple of highlights from the Climate Leaders’ Summit: Leadership on climate change – both moral and real – is coming from the sub-nation state levels and small countries.

What Osberg neglects to report is the fact that these very states were deliberately and grossly undermined by the non-profit industrial complex, with corporate TckTckTck, 350.org(1Sky) and Avaaz at the helm of the elitist fifth column. [Further reading: The Most Important COP Briefing That No One Ever Heard | Truth, Lies, Racism & Omnicide | Who Really Leads on the Environment? The “Movement” Versus Evo Morales]

 Who Cares Wins

havas_media_meningful_brands_main

 “To address the tough environmental and social issues facing global corporations today, we need to hear from a diverse group of stakeholders who challenge us to innovate and operate in a sustainable manner. No one has access to such a vast network of valuable, independent input as Ceres.” — Indra Nooyi, Chairman and CEO, PepsiCo

It is clear why branded agencies such as 350.org, SumofUs, Avaaz et al, who dominate social media, are heavily financed (and in many cases were created by) the oligarchs. Who Cares Wins – The Rise of the Caring Corporation, by David Jones, founder of One Young World, (recently a featured speaker at the 2013 World Form on Natural Capital), makes the case that “social media and corporate social responsibility are not two separate subjects; rather, they are intrinsically interlinked. Businesses that embrace the new rules are set to both make more money and become forces for good in the world.”

“Grow Through Karma Off-Setting: Consumers will actively buy from companies who are good, so they feel that they themselves don’t have to personally undertake social projects, as they have done good by making their purchase with you. Good brands provide a moral alibi for buying.” — Who Cares Wins – The Rise of the Caring Corporation, by David Jones, Global Chief Executive, Havas Worldwide, Creator of the “TckTckTck” campaign and Co-founder of One Young World.

Those born into today’s “young world” are indiscriminately lusted after and seduced by predatory marketing agencies bankrolled by the world’s most powerful corporations and oligarchs, via their foundations. Thus, in stealth synchronicity, the brilliant (albeit pathological) sycophants have created a world where corporate pedophilia runs rampant and indoctrination of youth is perfected and normalized. One cannot deny such a virtuoso performance. Nor can one deny the profound repercussions of such vulturesque exploitation. For adults who willingly offer up their children as sacrificial lambs to appease the corporate gods, denial must be considered the preferred opium of the 21st century.

global-youth-summit-one-young-world-600-50845

The name of the game is this: Corporations present themselves as humble and caring elements integral to society with a fierce determination to “do better.” Rather than refusing to comply with ethical environmental and social conduct, which only serves to tarnish brand image, the corporations embrace and welcome all criticisms. This stratagem is made even more effective when CEOs unabashedly take the first opportunity in any given situation to point out the harmful impacts of their industry, articulated with deep concern, followed by a laundry list of all the magnificent things the corporation is looking at for the future that they believe will alleviate environmental degradation and unbridled exploitation.

 

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]

 

 

EndNotes:

[1] The Valdez Principles: In September 1989, the Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies set forth the following ten broad principles for evaluating corporate activities that directly or indirectly affect the biosphere.

1. Protection of the Biosphere

We will minimize and strive to eliminate the release of any pollutant that may cause environmental damage to air, water, or earth or its inhabitants. We will safeguard habitats in rivers, lakes, wetlands, coastal zones and oceans and will minimize contributing to global warming, depletion of the ozone layer, acid rain or smog.

2. Sustainable Use of Natural Resources

We will make sustainable use of renewable resources, such as water, soils and forests. We will conserve nonrenewable natural resources through efficient use and careful planning. We will protect wildlife habitat, open spaces and wilderness, while preserving biodiversity.

3. Reduction and Disposal of Waste

We will minimize the creation of waste, especially hazardous waste, and wherever possible recycle materials. We will dispose of all wastes through safe and responsible methods.

4. Wise Use of Energy

We will make every effort to use environmentally safe and sustainable energy sources to meet our needs. We will invest in improved energy efficiency and conservation in our operations. We will maximize the energy efficiency of products we produce or sell.

5. Risk Reduction

We will minimize the environmental, health and safety risks to our employees and the communities in which we operate by employing safe technologies and operating procedures and by being constantly prepared for emergencies.

6. Marketing of Safe Products and Services

We will sell products or services that minimize adverse environmental impacts and that are safe as consumers commonly use them. We will inform consumers of the environmental impacts of our products or services.

7. Damage Compensation

We will take responsibility for any harm we cause to the environment by making every effort to fully restore the environment and to compensate those persons who are adversely affected.

8. Disclosure

We will disclose to our employees and to the public incidents relating to our operations that cause environmental harm or pose health or safety hazards. We will disclose potential environmental, health or safety hazards posed by our operations, and we will not take any action against employees who report any condition that creates a danger to the environment or poses health and safety hazards.

9. Environmental Directors and Managers

At least one member of the Board of Directors will be a person qualified to represent environmental interests. We will commit management resources to implement these Principles, including the funding of an office of vice president for environmental affairs or an equivalent executive position, reporting directly to the CEO, to monitor and report upon our implementation efforts.

10. Assessment and Annual Audit

We will conduct and make public an annual self-evaluation of our progress in implementing these Principles and in complying with all applicable laws and regulations throughout our worldwide operations. We will work toward the timely creation of independent environmental audit procedures which we will complete annually and make available to the public.

[Source: A New Agenda for Managers, The Challenge of Sustainability]

[2] Ceres Principles:

1. PROTECTION OF THE BIOSPHERE: We will reduce and make continual progress toward eliminating the release of any substance that may cause environmental damage to the air, water, or the earth or its inhabitants. We will safeguard all habitats affected by our operations and will protect open spaces and wilderness, while preserving biodiversity.

2. SUSTAINABLE USE OF NATURAL RESOURCES: We will make sustainable use of renewable natural resources, such as water, soils and forests. We will conserve non-renewable natural resources through efficient use and careful planning.

3. REDUCTION AND DISPOSAL OF WASTES: We will reduce and where possible eliminate waste through source reduction and recycling. All waste will be handled and disposed of through safe and responsible methods.

4. ENERGY CONSERVATION: We will conserve energy and improve the energy efficiency of our internal operations and of the goods and services we sell. We will make every effort to use environmentally safe and sustainable energy sources.

5. RISK REDUCTION: We will strive to minimize the environmental, health and safety risks to our employees and the communities in which we operate through safe technologies, facilities and operating procedures, and by being prepared for emergencies.

6. SAFE PRODUCTS AND SERVICES: We will reduce and where possible eliminate the use, manufacture or sale of products and services that cause environmental damage or health or safety hazards. We will inform our customers of the environmental impacts of our products or services and try to correct unsafe use.

7. ENVIRONMENTAL RESTORATION: We will promptly and responsibly correct conditions we have caused that endanger health, safety or the environment. To the extent feasible, we will redress injuries we have caused to persons or damage we have caused to the environment and will restore the environment.

8. INFORMING THE PUBLIC: We will inform in a timely manner everyone who may be affected by conditions caused by our company that might endanger health, safety or the environment. We will regularly seek advice and counsel through dialogue with persons in communities near our facilities. We will not take any action against employees for reporting dangerous incidents or conditions to management or to appropriate authorities.

9. MANAGEMENT COMMITMENT: We will implement these Principles and sustain a process that ensures that the Board of Directors and Chief Executive Officer are fully informed about pertinent environmental issues and are fully responsible for environmental policy. In selecting our Board of Directors, we will consider demonstrated environmental commitment as a factor.

10. AUDITS AND REPORTS: We will support the timely creation of generally accepted environmental audit procedures. We will annually complete the CERES Report, which will be made available to the public.

[3] [Ceres Membership Requirements: All coalition members must be approved by the Ceres Board of Directors. All coalition members pay annual membership dues that are scaled from $50 to $2,000, depending upon the size and type (non-profit, grant making, or investment firm) of the organization. Coalition members are also strongly encouraged to participate in Ceres’ engagement work, including through our multi-stakeholder dialogue processes, investor engagements and other opportunities.] “The primary direct costs of endorsing the CERES Principles are the payment of annual dues and the completion of the annual CERES report form. The dues for a company differ according to the size of the company, but, for a large multinational corporation, are usually in the range of $50,000 dollars a year. The costs associated with dues are not prohibitive considering the size and the budget of the companies.” [Source.]

[4] “Once companies officially join Ceres, they gain access to exclusive benefits, such as a customized stakeholder advisory team that provides advice on sustainability reporting, strategy, policies and specific initiatives.”

Keep Off The Grasslands | Mark Dowie On Conservation Refugees

WKOG Editor: We especially like the fact that Dowie distinguishes between member-funded and corporate-funded  NGOs. We also enjoyed the irony that the person who alerted Dowie to the indigenous peoples predicament was Rebecca Adamson, who, in turn, has capitalized on the indigenous rights paradigm to become a corporate broker.” [Further reading on More on Adams:  The Corporate Buy-In]

Video | These people have names…

Nakuru Lemiruni sends a message to those responsible for evicting the Samburu tribe from their land. The Samburu of Kisargei, in Kenya’s Laikipia district, were brutally evicted from the lands they call home in 2010 after the land was sold to the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF). AWF, using funds from The Nature Conservancy (TNC), says it bought the land on the understanding that no-one lived there. When the Samburu protested and took the matter to the courts the land was hurriedly ‘gifted’ to the government. Police chose a Friday “market day” for their attack, when the men were away and only women, elders, and children were in their homes. Fanning out across the 17,000- acre Eland Downs Ranch, police burned the Samburu families’ homes to the ground, along with all their possessions. Identified in the Kenyan press as “squatters,” the evicted Samburu families 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 African Wildlife Foundation and the former President. They need money and public support to win.

+++

The Sun Magazine

Issue 452 | August 2013

by Joel Whitney

Journalist Mark Dowie was speaking at an environmental conference in Ottawa, Canada, in 2004 when he was approached by Rebecca Adamson, a Cherokee and the founder and president of First Peoples Worldwide. She began telling him how conservationists were mistreating indigenous tribes around the world. Intrigued, Dowie decided to look into the subject and write about it.

He traveled for four years to remote parts of the globe, and what he found troubled him. Everywhere he went, native people were being kicked off their ancestral lands to make way for national parks or protected wilderness areas. Dowie wrote a book and titled it Conservation Refugees: The Hundred-Year Conflict between Global Conservation and Native Peoples. He estimates that over the past one hundred years there have been 20 million such refugees worldwide.

He also discovered that the large conservation organizations were partnering with corporations that wanted to build oil wells or gas pipelines or mine for minerals on these lands. Originally conservationists were opposed to drilling and mining, but, Dowie says, the lines between the conservation giants and the corporate giants are being blurred: “International conservation organizations remain comfortable working in close quarters with some of the most aggressive global resource prospectors.” These extractive projects are far more environmentally destructive than the presence of indigenous people, he says. In fact, it’s indigenous traditions that have protected these biologically rich lands, often for millennia.

Dowie was born in Toronto, Canada, and spent his formative years in Wyoming. He calls himself a “Wyoming cowboy,” and his son and ex-wife still own a ranch on the Crow Indian Reservation in Montana. Dowie worked for Mother Jones magazine from 1975 to 1985, first as general manager, then as publisher, and finally as editor. In addition to Conservation Refugees, he is the author of Losing Ground: American Environmentalism at the Close of the Twentieth Century and American Foundations: An Investigative History. During his nearly forty years in journalism, he has won nineteen awards, been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, and contributed to the Times of London, Harper’s, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Nation. He is currently a contributing editor at Orion and has taught environmental reporting and foreign correspondence at the University of California, Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.

I visited Dowie at his home on Tomales Bay in Inverness, California, to discuss the fate of the conservation refugees. Inverness sits on the eastern shore of Point Reyes Peninsula, a protected national seashore. Dowie lives there with his wife — the artist Wendy Schwartz — and their yellow lab, Gracie, who welcomed me with a volley of barks as I crossed the yard on my first visit.

Dowie invited me to follow him through the reeds to his shore-side observatory, a small structure on stilts in the inlet. Six foot three and bowlegged, he stooped a little as he guided me past the poison oak. At seventy-four Dowie is silver haired, broad shouldered, and quietly assertive. When questioned, he answers quickly and without meandering. When challenged, he smiles as if appreciative of the chance to clarify his meaning. He emphasizes that the conflict between native peoples and conservationists is not a story of good guys versus bad guys but “good guys versus good guys.”

 

Whitney: Your book starts close to home with the story of Yosemite National Park.

Dowie: The creation of Yosemite was a long process that began with its “discovery” by white European Americans. Native Americans, of course, were already there. John Muir, forefather of the American conservation movement, is often cited as the park’s founder. He wrote and spoke lyrically about the spiritual renewal urbanites experienced when they entered places like Yosemite Valley — which he defined as a “wilderness” despite its long-standing human population.

FLASHBACK | Communique from COP

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December 12, 2011
by Quincy Saul

This pockmarked daybreak
Dawn gripped by night,
This is not that much-awaited light
For which friends set out filled with hope

– Faiz Ahmed Faiz

Many arrived in Durban with high hopes. They hoped that the sheer urgency of climate change, especially in Africa, would persuade world leaders and their representatives to take the necessary action to avert global catastrophe. They hoped that dissent inside the meetings would pressure the big polluters to atone for their sins. And they hoped that civil society on the outside would mobilize to change the course of history. Such hopes will haunt us all in the years to come, as we come to grips with the collective atrocity that was COP17.

Corporate NGOs Work Hand in Hand With Walmart to Privatize Earth’s Oceans & Fisheries

illustration: zeeninginlaos

Walton Family Foundation Sunk $71.4 Million into Greenwashing Schemes

 

Over $36 million alone was handed over to “Marine Conservation” grantees including the Ocean Conservancy, Conservation International Foundation, Marine Stewardship Council, World Wildlife Fund and EDF. All of these organizations are notorious for their role in corporate greenwashing efforts across the globe.

 

“The Walton Family Foundation is funding the Environmental Defense Fund, which wants to commodify water through water marketing and privatize our fish through catch shares program,” said Grader. “These are tools used by corporations to further the growing disparity between 1 percent and rest of us.”

 

California Progress Report

November 19th, 2012

By Dan Bacher

 

Much recent media attention has focused on Walmart’s announcement that it is canceling Thanksgiving plans for many of its employees. These workers will now have to work on the holiday as the retail giant kicks off its holiday sale at 8 PM on Thanksgiving Day, rather than waiting until midnight on “Black Friday.”

“The result is troubling for advocates for workers’ rights, as Walmart has encroached repeatedly on a holiday that traditionally involves plenty of time spent with family and away from work,” according to a statement from the Corporate Action Network. “The decision to move up the start of Black Friday sales to Thursday could be an attempt to thwart the workers’ organization efforts scheduled for Black Friday.

Labor, social justice and human rights groups are supporting a nationwide boycott of Walmart on Black Friday to back the strike of Walmart workers that day.

However, less well known to the public is Walmart’s ambitious campaign of corporate greenwashing in recent years.

The Walton Family Foundation proudly reported “investments” totaling more than $71.4 million in “environmental initiatives” in 2011, including contributions to corporate “environmental” NGOs pushing ocean privatization through the “catch shares” programs and so-called “marine protected areas” like those created under Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative.

According to a press release from the Walmart Headquarters in Bentonville Arkansas, the foundation made grants to more than 160 organizations in the U.S. and other countries “that work to protect natural resources while strengthening the local economies that depend on them.”

The foundation directed an overwhelming majority of the grants toward its two core environmental initiatives – “Freshwater Conservation and Marine Conservation.”

“Our work is rooted in our belief that the conservation solutions that last are the ones that make economic sense,” claimed Scott Burns, director of the foundation’s Environment Focus Area. “The foundation and our grantees embrace ‘conservationomics’ – the idea that conservation efforts can and should bring economic prosperity to local communities.”

The foundation donated $30.5 million to Marine Conservation, $26,842,289 to Freshwater Conservation and $14,022,907 for “Other Environment Grants.”

The Top Five Grantees were Conservation International, $16,208,278; Environmental Defense Fund, $13,683,709; the Marine Stewardship Council $3,122,500; Nature Conservancy $3,024,539, and the National Audubon Society, $2,739,859.

Conservation International, the top recipient with $16,208,278, is an organization noted for its top-down approach to conservation and involvement with corporate greenwashing.

The Walton Foundation press release claimed that, “Conservation International continued to implement a three-year program to empower local communities to manage and conserve fishing resources on Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast.”

However, the group’s board features controversial corporate leaders such as Rob Walton and Stewart Resnick.

Rob Walton, Walmart Chairman, serves as the Chairman of the Executive Committee of Conservation International. Serving with him on Conservation International’s Board of Directors is Stewart Resnick, the owner of Paramount Farms.

Resnick has been instrumental in campaigns to build the peripheral canal to increase water exports to agribusiness and Southern California, to eviscerate Endangered Species Act protections for Central Valley Chinook salmon and Delta smelt and to eradicate striped bass in California. The Center for Investigative Reporting describes Resnick as a “Corporate Farming Billionaire and One-Man Environmental Wrecking Crew.”

Resnick is notorious for buying subsidized Delta water and then selling it back to the public for a big profit, as revealed in an article by Mike Taugher in the Contra Costa Times on May 23, 2009.

“As the West Coast’s largest estuary plunged to the brink of collapse from 2000 to 2007, state water officials pumped unprecedented amounts of water out of the Delta only to effectively buy some of it back at taxpayer expense for a failed environmental protection plan, a MediaNews investigation has found,” said Taugher.

Taugher said the “environmental water account” set up in 2000 to “improve” the Delta ecosystem spent nearly $200 million mostly to benefit water users while also creating a “cash stream for private landowners and water agencies in the Bakersfield area.”

“No one appears to have benefitted more than companies owned or controlled by Stewart Resnick, a Beverly Hills billionaire, philanthropist and major political donor whose companies, including Paramount Farms, own more than 115,000 acres in Kern County,” Taugher stated. “Resnick’s water and farm companies collected about 20 cents of every dollar spent by the program.”

Likewise, the Nature Conservancy, a group that received $3,024,539 from the Walton Family Foundation, in 2011, is also known for its strong support of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan to build the peripheral tunnels that Resnick and other corporate agribusiness interests so avidly support. A broad coalition of fishermen, Indian Tribes, environmentalists, family farmers and elected officials opposes the construction of the tunnels because they would hasten the extinction of Central Valley salmon, Delta smelt, longfin smelt and other species.

Drive to Privatize Fisheries

illustration: zeeninginlaos

Environmental Defense Fund, with the second highest donation at $13,683,709, is known for its market-based approach to conservation and its push for “catch shares” that essentially privatize the oceans. The relationship between the group and the retail giant is so close that it operates an office in Bentonville, Arkansas, where Walmart is headquartered.

“Environmental Defense Fund released its ‘Catch Shares Design Manual: A Guide for Fishermen and Managers’ to provide a roadmap to catch share design, which is a focus of our Marine Conservation initiative,” according to the Walton Family Foundation.

A catch share, also known as an individual fishing quota, is a transferable voucher that gives individuals or businesses the ability to access a fixed percentage of the total authorized catch of a particular species.

“Fishery management systems based on catch shares turn a public resource into private property and have lead to socioeconomic and environmental problems. Contrary to arguments by catch share proponents – namely large commercial fishing interests – this management system has exacerbated unsustainable fishing practices,” according to the consumer advocacy group Food & Water Watch.

True to form, Sam Rawlings Walton, the grandson of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton, serves on the Board of Trustees of EDF.

Times Articles Put Spotlight on Walmart, Highlight Media Failures

Two New York Times articles in April 2012 put Walmart and the Walton family’s “dirty laundry” in the international spotlight, leading to a renewed call by the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) for the public to support their boycott of Walmart.

The Times articles covered Walton family support for anti-fishing, pro-privatization efforts in North America, followed by the publication’s exposure of alleged $24 million worth of bribes in Central America to speed up the chain’s expansion into Mexico.

“The headlines prove that Walmart and the Walton Family Foundation are no friends of local communities anywhere, and their ongoing efforts to destroy coastal fishing businesses through support of arbitrary marine reserves and privatization of fish stocks nationwide should not be supported by anglers,” said RFA executive director Jim Donofrio. “We’re asking coastal fishermen who support open access, under the law, to healthy and sustainable fish stocks to send a clear message to this arrogant corporation that we’ve had enough of their greenwashing and grafting efforts.

Donofrio noted that Walmart made world headlines following a New York Times story that charges the Bentonville, Arkansas company and its leaders of squashing an internal investigation into suspected payments of over $24 million in bribes to obtain permits to build in Mexico.

The bribery scandal was exposed on the same day that the Gloucester Times of Massachusetts exposed a reporting lapse in another recent New York Times article about the relationship between Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and Walmart partnering together for “more enlightened and sustainable operations.”

The New York Times had earlier reported that EDF “does not accept contributions from Wal-Mart or other corporations it works for.”

However, when confronted on the fact that the $1.3 billion Walton Family Foundation (started in 1987 by Wal-Mart’s founders, Sam and Helen Walton, and directed presently by the Walton family) has been underwriting EDF’s successful effort to replace the nation’s mostly small-business, owner-operated fishing industry with “a catch shares model designed to cap the number of active fishermen by trading away ownership of the resource to those with the deepest pockets,” the author of the New York Times report conceded by email that in her rush to meet deadlines, she had not considered the relationship between the Walton family and Wal-Mart, according to Donofrio.

“I didn’t think to check the EDF board for Walton family members, or Walton Family Foundation donations,” said reporter Stephanie Clifford, adding “None of the third parties I’d spoken to had mentioned that connection, which isn’t an excuse – I should have thought of it myself, but didn’t.

RFA is hoping that saltwater anglers and fishing business owners help send Walmart stocks tumbling by refusing to shop at the corporate giant any longer.

“The Walton family uses their fortune to buy off friends who’ll cover for their despicable business practices, whether it’s corporate greenwashing with EDF, rebranding efforts through national trade association campaigns, or apparently by way of directed bribes to local officials in other countries,” Donofrio said. “Don’t just stop buying fishing tackle at Wal-Mart – stop supporting this company altogether and let’s quit supporting complete buyouts and takeovers of local communities.”

In August 2011, RFA asked fishermen to publicly boycott Walmart stores following issuance of a news release from Wal-Mart corporate headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas where the Walton family announced investments totaling more than $71.8 million awarded to various environmental initiatives.

Over $36 million alone was handed over to “Marine Conservation” grantees including the Ocean Conservancy, Conservation International Foundation, Marine Stewardship Council, World Wildlife Fund and EDF. All of these organizations are notorious for their role in corporate greenwashing efforts across the globe.

The RFA pointed out that by contributing over $36 million to NGOs promoting alleged “marine protected areas” like those created under Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative and catch share programs in 2010, the Waltons were contributing to the demise of sustainable recreational and commercial fisheries and the privatization of the oceans.

Commercial Fishermen Back Boycott

Zeke Grader, executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, supports RFA’s boycott of Walmart.

“People who are concerned about our environment or labor rights should all be boycotting Walmart,” said Grader. “Their polices are clearly intended to commodify our natural resources and put them under the control of large corporations.”

“The Walton Family Foundation is funding the Environmental Defense Fund, which wants to commodify water through water marketing and privatize our fish through catch shares program,” said Grader. “These are tools used by corporations to further the growing disparity between 1 percent and rest of us.”

“I’ve been boycotting Walmart for decades and it’s absolutely great that recreational and commercial fishermen are together on this,” concluded Grader.

WWF Mines The Green Gold Rush To The Amazon: Making $60 billion From Fear

WWF Mines The Green Gold Rush To The Amazon: Making $60 billion From Fear

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–>Amaazon+tumucumaque WWF Mines The Green Gold Rush To The Amazon:  Making $60 billion From FearAppearing in the Booker column (and on Watts up with that?) is an account of how the “conservation” group WWF hopes to turn Amazonian trees into billions of dollars, all in the name of saving the planet. The background briefing on which Booker relied is posted below, detailing how the rainforests are to become a monstrous cash-making machine, writes Richard North:

The Amazon – a “green gold-rush”

The WWF and other green campaign groups talking up the destruction of the Amazon rainforests are among those who stand to make billions of dollars from the scare. This “green gold-rush” involves taking control of huge tracts of rainforest supposedly to stop them being chopped down, and selling carbon credits gained from carbon dioxide emissions they claim will be “saved”.

Backed by a $30 million grant from the World Bank, the WWF has already partnered in a pilot scheme to manage 20 million acres in Brazil. If their plans get the go-ahead in Mexico at the end of the year, the forests will be worth over $60 billion in “carbon credits”, paid for by consumers in “rich” countries through their electricity bills and in increased prices for goods and services.
The prospect of a billion-dollar windfall explains the sharp reaction to the “Amazongate” scandal, in which the IPCC falsely claimed that up to 40 percent of the rainforest could be at risk from even a slight drop in rainfall.

Here, the IPCC was caught out again making unsubstantiated claims based on a WWF report. But unlike the “Glaciergate” affair where its claim that Himalayan glaciers would melt by 2035 was conceded to be an “error”, the IPCC stood firm on its Amazon claim, stating that the assertion was “correct”. What makes the difference is that there is no serious money locked into melting glaciers. Amazonian trees, however, are potentially worth billions.

In standing its ground, the IPCC was strongly supported by the WWF, and by Daniel Nepstad, a senior scientist from the US Woods Hole Research Centre. Relying on an assiduously fostered reputation as a leading expert on the effects of climate change in the Amazon rainforests, Nepstad – who works closely with the WWF – posted on the Centre’s website a personal statement endorsing “the correctness of the IPCC’s statement”. Bizarrely, his own research failed in any way to substantiate the claim.

The carbon trading agenda

Behind this very public defence lies a network of financial interests, not least on the board of the Woods Hole Research Centre, which counts several former and current equity fund managers responsible for billions of dollars-worth of private investments. The board is chaired by Lawrence Huntington – formerly of Fiduciary Trust International. Members include Joseph Robinson of MidMark Capital and Joshua Goldberg of Altamont Capital Partners, massively wealthy investment funds.

And at the centre of the advocacy for the development of “financial instruments” which it is hoped will generate billions in income is Nepstad himself (pictured below).

Nepstad+01 WWF Mines The Green Gold Rush To The Amazon: Making $60  billion From FearIn 2007, Nepstad, who is the highest-paid Woods Hole staff member (although not the most senior) with a salary package of over $175,000, published a paper asserting that if the droughts of the last decade continued into the future, approximately 55 percent of the forests of the Amazon would be “cleared, logged, damaged by drought or burned over the next 20 years.” Emerging carbon market incentives, he claimed, could help prevent deforestation.

The Woods Hole interest had earlier been declared in March 2006 when Richard Houghton, a senior scientist and deputy director of the centre sent a memorandum to the secretariat of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) on developing a scheme called “Reducing emissions from deforestation in developing countries” (REDD). “Carbon credits represent the largest potential flow of revenue in support of sustainable development in tropical forest regions,” he then stated.

REDD had, in fact, been a long time coming. The basis of a system had been set up by the 1997 Kyoto climate treaty, known as the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), administered by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Through this, third world countries which reduced CO2 emissions could turn their savings into “carbon credits” which could be sold to industries in developed countries.

Crucially, the CDM only applied to energy production and some industrial processes, and did not extend to forests. After intensive lobbying, though – and despite considerable European scepticism – in 2001, the parties to the Kyoto Protocol officially approved the use of plantations for generating carbon credits.

The EU, however, decided not to allow these credits to be swapped in its emissions trading system, drastically reducing their potential value. The concept was further weakened by the considerable difficulty in proving how much carbon biomass projects actually saved over their brief and uncertain lifetimes. Estimates varied ten-fold, which damaged the credibility of the emerging voluntary market in carbon “offsets”, which were being used to test the concept of forest-generated carbon credits.

world bank WWF Mines The Green Gold Rush To The Amazon: Making $60  billion From FearNevertheless, many industrial plantation companies were still hoping for the scheme to be fully developed so that they could sell carbon credits to top up their finances. And in that aspiration they had powerful champions, the World Bank in Washington (pictured), Conservation International, The Nature Conservancy and, especially, WWF.

Their mechanism to bring forests fully into the CDM was REDD, which first appeared as an agenda item in December 2005, at the 11th session of the Conference of Parties to the Climate Change Convention (COP 11) in Montréal. Two years later, at COP 13 in Bali, it had become “the big new idea to save the planet from runaway climate change.”

The scheme was to comprise two parts. First, there is a set-up fund to create “reserves” or “protected areas” (PAs), where deforestation would be prevented (This fund has already been set up and is currently worth $4.5 billion, made up from donations from Norway, France and four other countries). Secondly, the CDM kicks in. Each ton of carbon dioxide “saved” in the protected areas becomes a carbon credit, sold to industrialists in the developed world to allow them to continue emitting CO2. By this means, the funds come rolling in.

Thus, REDD had become a vehicle for building a billion-dollar global fund to take control of hundreds of millions of acres of rainforest throughout the world, a giant cash machine.

Amazon Region Protected Areas Project (ARPA)

Amazon+expeditumu WWF Mines The Green Gold Rush To The Amazon:  Making $60 billion From FearLong before REDD had become a formal proposal, WWF had been heavily engaged in Brazil, campaigning to save the rainforests. But a major turning point was reached when, in 1998, Brazilian President Cardoso endorsed a WWF “Forests for Life” programme goal of protecting at least 10 percent of all of the country’s forest types as a national priority.

However, at the same time, the country was in an economic crisis and the government was scaling back environmental funding, even refusing foreign donations of $25 million pledged to support environmental measures. This gave WWF the opportunity for its coup, a chance to set up what was to become a pilot scheme for REDD. With the World Bank, Brazilian government agencies and environmental specialists, it set up a task force to develop its plan.

At that time, there was a loose-knit under-funded network of national parks, poorly administered by federal and state governments. Driven by WWF, the idea was to establish a massive extension to the system, not under the direct control of the Brazilian authorities but of the NGOs themselves. This “take over” was to become the Amazon Region Protected Areas Project (ARPA).

To finance its plan, the WWF then obtained $18 million seed funding from the San Francisco-based Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. This was topped up with $15 million from the German government, paid through the state-owned KfW Entwicklungsbank. Then its Brazilian partner, FUNBIO (The Brazilian Biodiversity Fund) – an NGO which had been started in 1996 with a $20 million grant from the Global Environment Facility – contributed $18 million, donated by the Brazilian government.

Fronting FUNBIO, the WWF then orchestrated a formal application for a grant from its partner, the World Bank. Predictably, in 2002, the Bank donated $30 million from public funds. It also arranged for its small grants division, the GEF to donate $500,000 to a trust fund to help maintain the areas.

Amazon tumucumaque 1 23655 WWF Mines The Green Gold Rush To The  Amazon: Making $60 billion From FearThe funding was sufficient to set up 20 million acres of new protected areas (10 million of “strict protection” PAs and 10 million of sustainable use). ARPA had become a reality. Announced in August 2002, it included what was to become the world’s largest reserve, the Tumucumaque Mountains National Park – consisting of 9,500,000 acres of pristine rainforest.

Situated in the extreme north of the country, bordering French Guiana (see map, right: area in green), this vast park had no roads leading in or out, almost no accessibility by air, rivers that have yet to be navigated and virtually no human inhabitants. Access is by river or helicopter. And so difficult is the terrain that a WWF expedition to the northern boundary took three weeks. At least four people returned with medical problems: two with infected feet and two with malaria.

The very remoteness of this region underlines a central point. There was virtually no risk of deforestation or commercial exploitation. Although there had been some mining in the area, even the WWF was forced to concede that the damage was “smaller than predicted.”

Then, as the WWF itself admits, the bulk of the deforestation is taking place in south and southeast, with some coastal areas and a band in the centre along the main river, where water transport is possible. As to the Tumucumaque park, the WWF assessed the risk of deforestation as “nil”- in common with most of the other ARPA strict protection areas (see maps below – click to enlarge).

Amazon+deforestation+threat WWF Mines The Green Gold Rush To The  Amazon: Making $60 billion From Fear

Amazon+deforest WWF Mines The Green Gold Rush To The Amazon:  Making $60 billion From Fear
The Plan develops

Nevertheless, by the end of 2006, WWF had the bulk of its areas established, which cleared the way for the next stage of its plan. In April 2007, it and the World Bank formalised their already very close association with the launch of a Global Forest Alliance.

By combining forces and “working with partners in government, civil society, and the business sector,” said the WWF, “Alliance partners leverage support and results to reverse the process of forest loss and degradation.” The World Bank, for its part, was to provide a $250 million start-up fund which it called the “avoided deforestation” project.

Apart from the Amazon, a prime target was one million hectares of classified “conservation forest” in West Papua, New Guinea, where tribes were complaining of evictions from their traditional lands. The WWF was already negotiating with the Indonesian government to set up a management scheme.

Woodwell WWF Mines The Green Gold Rush To The Amazon: Making $60  billion From FearMeanwhile, Woods Hole Research Centre had been at work. Representing itself to the world as a scientific institute, it is in fact an advocacy group from the same wellspring as WWF. Its founder, George M Woodwell (pictured), is a former chairman of the board of trustees and currently a member of the National Council of the WWF. He thus shares its values and objectives.

Woodwell is also a founding trustee of the World Resources Institute, another advocacy group. It is currently chaired by James A Harmon, Chairman of the investment group Harmon & Co and a director of Questar Corporation, an integrated natural gas exploration, distribution and pipeline company. He is also senior advisor to the Rothschild Group. Additionally, the Institute counts as a board member Al Gore, chairman of Generation Investment Management, a company with strong interests in carbon trading.

Funded heavily by the Moore foundation, to the tune of over $7 million, and working in partnership with the WWF on the Tumucumaque project, in May 2008 Woods Hole Research Centre, alongside the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Brazil, came up with the “Holy Grail”, a methodology for calculating the carbon “savings” from managing rainforests.

With this, they estimated that areas protected by the ARPA programme would save 5.1 gigatons of CO2 emissions by 2050. Based on the UNFCCC valuation for a ton of CO2 at $12.50, that equated to over $60 billion-worth of carbon credits. This “finding” was presented that month to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, meeting in Bonn and the work was also adopted by the World Bank.

The WWF campaign

WWF+logo WWF Mines The Green Gold Rush To The Amazon: Making $60  billion From FearWith this essential piece in place, the WWF then started an intensive lobbying campaign. Working with the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), it produced a report to argue that: “The new generation of carbon funds must address the need for a sustained reduction in carbon emissions … “.

Crucially, it complained that forest projects were “not yet recognised under the Clean Development Mechanism” The agenda was clear. WWF and its allies wanted a new treaty, to be agreed by the then forthcoming Copenhagen climate summit, to include forests in the CDM.

To that effect, WWF released a detailed policy checklist for delegates, setting out “legal and regulatory requirements to stimulate REDD activities”. Its proposal for carbon credits, tied in with a US “cap and trade” system, could provide revenues of up to $4-$5 billion per year for REDD activities.

Ramping up the publicity, it then argued that: “Aggressive action to reduce (and ultimately halt) emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) must be part of any serious policy to address the climate crisis…”. Without REDD, WWF averred, “keeping global average surface temperature increase below 2°C will likely be impossible.”

To support the case, it mobilised its allies, pulling together a raft of Brazilian NGOs with Greenpeace, Conservation International, and Friends of the Earth to launch “the National Pact to Acknowledge the Value of the Forest and to End Amazon Deforestation.”

It also set up the WWF Forest Carbon Network Initiative again arguing that carbon finance would play a critical role in reducing global greenhouse gas emissions. As such, it declared, the development of carbon finance mechanisms had “emerged” as a major part of WWF’s conservation finance portfolio.

Simultaneously, it launched an Amazon Fund, inviting sponsorship contributions of $50 to preserve one acre of Amazonian rainforest for 20 years, using the opportunity to argue for placing a price on carbon through a cap-and-trade programme. By this means, it said, “keeping forests intact becomes economically valuable. Climate policy can then help realize this value for countries and communities that choose to protect forests.” Halving global emissions from deforestation could produce $3.7 trillion in net benefits to the global economy, it claimed.

Then, to lock in its preferred option, WWF launched a spirited campaign against biofuels, funding a study which argued that preventing deforestation was better for “biodiversity and climate” than clearing virgin forest and planting energy crops such as oil-palm plantations.

In the run-up to the Copenhagen summit, it was now Nepstad’s turn to increase the pressure. As lead author of an article in the prestigious Science journal, he argued for the REDD mechanism, “payments for tropical forest carbon credits under a U.S. cap-and-trade system” and the need to raise $7 to $18 billion to stop forest clearance. One of his co-authors, Frank Merry, gave his address as the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, while another had his as the Environmental Defense Fund in Washington.

Opposition to REDD

Amazon+REDD WWF Mines The Green Gold Rush To The Amazon: Making  $60 billion From FearMeanwhile, the programme was not without its critics. A small, UK-based charity, the Forest Peoples Programme expressed concern that some conservation schemes to establish wilderness reserves also denied forest-dwellers’ rights. Cut off from their ancestral territories, it said, forest peoples face poverty, the erosion of their customary institutions, loss of identity and cultural collapse.

Campaigner Chris Lang, founder of “REDD Monitor“, saw the scheme as a new way of “breathing life into the scam of carbon trading”. REDD could involve the biggest ever transfer of control over forests – to international carbon financiers and polluting companies, he said.

By September 2009, Scientific American was retailing the fears of Marcus Colchester of the Forest Peoples Programme. “We see a risk that the prospect of getting a lot of money for biodiversity could lead to indigenous peoples’ concerns falling by the wayside,” he said. Tom Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network was concerned that increasing the financial value of forests could lead to “the biggest land grab of all time.”

Expectations that things would be any different because the schemes are run by conservation groups do not appear to be fulfilled. An account of a scheme run by WWF partner, The Nature Conservancy, on Brazil’s Atlantic Coast at Guaraqueçaba, details massive “injustices”, the NGO trampling over the rights of local people.

Financed with $18 million by General Motors, Chevron and American Electric Power, this organisation – with the familiar mix of financiers on its board – created three reserves covering a total of 20,235 hectares. The commercial tie-up was seen as exposing REDD simply as a means to help polluting corporations to “offset” their emissions, without leading to any overall drop in CO2 emissions. The NGOs were simply the “front” organisations, the acceptable public face.

tribes WWF Mines The Green Gold Rush To The Amazon: Making $60  billion From Fear
Other writers see REDD as “Tribal Peoples Versus Carbon Cowboys”, arguing that the scheme will bring indigenous peoples “massive disruption and little benefit.” Jonathan Mazower, of Survival International, notes that where outsiders place monetary value on land where indigenous people live, they “always almost suffer”. His organisation has produced a report condemning the whole system.

Reinforcing the concern, the International Forum of Indigenous Peoples on Climate Change stated: “REDD will increase the violation of our human rights, our rights to our lands, territories and resources, steal our land, cause forced evictions, prevent access and threaten indigenous agriculture practices, destroy biodiversity and culture diversity and cause social conflicts.”

When it came to the Copenhagen summit, no final agreement was reached on a climate treaty. But, much to the relief of WWF and its allies, elements of REDD – now known as “REDD+” were agreed. And, for the critics of the scheme, it looked as if their worst fears had been realised. In the small print of the proposal, there had been an explicit reference to the need to safeguard indigenous peoples. But, when it came to the actual Copenhagen accord, there was no mention of rights or safeguards at all. Yet this will go forward for final agreement at Mexico at end of the year.

Eco-imperialism

Coke WWF WWF Mines The Green Gold Rush To The Amazon: Making $60  billion From FearAs a “conservation” group, the WWF is seen by many as having an unhealthily close relationship with big business. In 2007, for instance, it entered into a partnership with the drinks giant Coca-Cola, taking a fee of $20 million as part of an agreement to tackle its “water footprint”.

It incurred the ire of The Ecologist and other environmental groups for supporting actions of the Roundtable on Responsible Soy (RTRS), which it co-founded in 2004. This grouping comprises producers, finance, trade & industry representatives, NGOs, certification bodies and universities.

Members range from Monsanto, Syngenta, Cargill, Bunge to Unilever, Shell, BP, Conservation International, The Nature Conservancy, WWF and producers such as Gruppo André Maggi – the world’s largest soybean producer based in Brazil.

Despite its concern for deforestation – in which soya growing is heavily implicated – WWF endorsed an RTRS criterion that could allow “responsible” soy to be grown on land that was deforested as recently as May 2009. And soy can still be labelled “responsible” when harvested from lands deforested after May 2009 if the producer could demonstrate that it was not prime forest or an area of High Conservation Value, or land belonging to local peoples.

On the ground, freelance writer Glenda Freeman, a native of New Zealand/Aotearoa, describes WWF activities as “Green Imperialism“, labelling this giant, corporate organisation a “BINGO” (Big International Non-governmental Organisation). She complains that WWF intervention keeps native populations “idle and dependent” while creating the problem it hoped to solve.

Anonymous authors of a publication entitled, “People Against Foreign NGO Neocolonialism” – a group of dissident environmentalists – state that foreign conservation conglomerates “whitewash effort to please donors so that the big bucks will keep flowing.” They contradict claims that these groups have had any real conservation impact.

Speaking of efforts in Papua New Guinea (PNG), they assert that, “With the help of willing donors such as AUS-AID, UNDP, the MacArthur Foundation, and the Moore Foundation, any possibility of achieving lasting conservation of PNG’s biodiversity is being destroyed in the here and now… The international conservation NGOs in PNG are proving to be a model of how not to do either conservation or development”.

Organisations such as WWF, Conservation International and The Nature Conservancy are accused of having caused “the atrophy of what would have been a natural evolution of a truly indigenous conservation movement.” Corporate, hierarchical models of conservation based upon outside foreign experts – often with little in-country knowledge or concern – threaten the world’s rainforest as surely as logging, agriculture, etc.

And in a commentary that could have been written with the Tumucumaque Mountains National Park in mind, they note that uninhabited forests that are impossible to log or destroy in any other way are pointed out, without the hint of a snicker, as being “forests we have saved” by these neocolonialist NGOs.

Lines are drawn on the map to show the new conservation areas. Yes, the big boys say they’re achieving a lot of conservation in PNG and they’ve got the maps to prove it. It’s all a whitewash effort to please donors so that the big bucks will keep flowing.

Amazon+soya WWF Mines The Green Gold Rush To The Amazon: Making  $60 billion From FearWriters Lim Soomin and Dr. Steven Shirley, of Keimyung International College, Daegu, Republic of Korea, are equally critical. Within Brazil, they say, the WWF’s efforts have created concern from both business and political groups that want to integrate the massive potential of the Amazon into the country’s economy through dam building, mining projects, highways, ports, logging and agricultural exports.

Running counter to these domestic plans, they write, are international efforts promoted by the WWF and other NGOs that seek to restrict Brazil’s business and industry from utilizing the natural resources. Essentially, these groups are seeking to ban Brazilians from using what is Brazil’s unless a foreign government or bureaucracy gives permission.

Meanwhile, the campaigning group Friends of Peoples Close to Nature complained of the World Bank’s “lies and deception with WWF”, noting in particular that “projects to promote new markets in carbon have despoiled landscapes and ruined livelihoods.”

A giant international corporation

eco imperialism WWF Mines The Green Gold Rush To The Amazon:  Making $60 billion From FearIn the introduction to the book Eco-Imperialism: Green power, Black death by Paul Driessen, we read of the “ideological environmental movement.”

This, we are told, imposes the views of mostly wealthy, comfortable Americans and Europeans on mostly poor, desperate Africans, Asians and Latin Americans. It violates these people’s most basic human rights, denying them economic opportunities, the chance for better lives, the right to rid their countries of diseases that were vanquished long ago in Europe and the United States.

Worst of all, in league with the European Union, United Nations and other bureaucracies, the movement stifles vigorous, responsible debate over energy, pesticides and biotechnology. It prevents needy nations from using the very technologies that developed countries employed to become rich, comfortable and free of disease. And it sends millions of infants, children, men and women to early graves every year.

This ideological environmental movement, we are thus informed, is a powerful $4 billion-a-year US industry, an $8 billion-a-year international gorilla. And WWF is one of the major players. Like the profit-making international corporations it so freely criticises – into which it has crawled into bed, taking their money – the WWF itself is a massive international corporation,. Its declared income for 2008 was €447 million, including €107.7 million for its international arm.

This enables it to finance a massive publicity effort, giving it privileged access to the media, and to governments and international agencies – from which it draws much of its funding.

Ranged against this corporate giant is a disparate, ill-funded range of individuals and groups, with only a small fraction of its resources. Inevitably, the voice of WWF is heard loudest, drowning out complaints and concerns.

That much also applies to its field activities. Where, as is so often, it is operating in remote areas, there is rarely an independent voice or observer capable of recording what precisely happens. Much of what we know of WWF’s activities, therefore, comes from WWF itself, inevitably spun in its own favour.

A self-serving industry

carter WWF Mines The Green Gold Rush To The Amazon: Making $60  billion From FearThe greatest criticism, however, is that the organisation is manifestly self-serving. Certainly, no one can argue that WWF is not personally rewarding for some of its officers. The current CEO of the US branch, Carter S Roberts (pictured left), is paid “compensation” of $439,327.

Before joining WWF he spent 15 years at The Nature Conservancy. Earlier in his career, he led marketing and management teams at Gillette, Procter and Gamble and at Dun and Bradstreet, where he advised companies including RJR/Nabisco and Coca-Cola. The associations reinforce the impression of a small clique dominating the environmental charity “industry” and the closeness between that industry and the commercial corporates.

As to the Amazon venture, this perhaps is the clearest example of the self-serving ethos, best illustrated by comparison with what an effective conservation programme might seek to achieve.

In this, it is widely recognised that the greatest pressure on the forests is through clearance to make way for agriculture, including soya, sugar growing for ethanol production, and cattle ranching. In fact, according to Greenpeace, cattle ranching currently accounts for 80 percent of forest clearance (see map below).

Amazon+cattle WWF Mines The Green Gold Rush To The Amazon: Making  $60 billion From FearHowever, as WWF has acknowledged, the bulk of this clearance is in the south and east. And, as Greenpeace reports, the maximum pressure is in the southernmost state of Mato Grosso. On the other hand, there is no cattle ranching in the extreme north and west, where the bulk of the WWF protected areas are situated, and neither is the land suitable for soya or sugar cane growing.

It follows, therefore, that for an “avoided deforestation” project to have most effect, it should be located in areas where the forest is most at risk – i.e., in the south or east, and especially in the Mato Grosso. To locate projects in the uninhabited north, or the sparsely inhabited, inaccessible west, cannot be considered a high priority.

Furthermore, as is pointed out in a report from the Albert-Ludwigs-University Freiburg, for maximum carbon sequestration, the most effective option is reforestation of deforested areas. This is also the best conservation and biodiversity option.

As to a finance system based wholly or largely on carbon credits, there were “considerable risks for perverse incentives regarding these objectives.” Firstly, the potentially huge number of credits that would become available if the entire global forest mass was included in the CDM would crash the carbon price. This would give CO2 producers a “get out of jail free” card, reducing their incentive to adopt carbon reduction technologies by allowing them to acquire cheap credits and maintain a “business as usual” profile.

Secondly, a simplistic, market-based system such as CDM would not discriminate between priority areas, which tend to be problematic, and the “low hanging fruit”. This is recognised by the Freiburg report – which was commissioned by Greenpeace – where reference is made to “leakage”, the displacement of emissions, rather than any absolute reduction.

Such nuanced arguments, with other reservations set out in further reports, seem to be absent from the WWF case. While Greenpeace opposes the universal adoption of the CDM mechanism, and proposes focusing on priority areas, WWF persists in making shrill demands for unrestricted carbon trading. Without this, it says, “keeping global average surface temperature increase below 2°C will likely be impossible.”

A human-centric approach

Amazon+survival WWF Mines The Green Gold Rush To The Amazon:  Making $60 billion From FearIn contrast to the wildlife-centric approach of the WWF, and the environmental activism of Greenpeace, the World Rainforest Movement (WRM) and organisations such as Survival International, take a human-centric approach.

Securing the land rights of indigenous people, and rigorously enforcing them, they argue, is the best way of preventing damaging exploitation of the forests. And, as Survival International illustrates, environmental degradation and human rights abuses often go hand-in-hand.

Other issues, such as illegal logging, are primarily matters for law enforcement. While NGOs have proved of considerable value in pointing out lapses in enforcement – and worse – as well as reporting illegal activities to the authorities, establishment of extremely expensive protected areas is hardly necessary for such functions to be performed. The revenue-generating potential of monitoring activities, however, is very low.

In it for the money

Taken at face value, and certainly at the valuation placed upon its enterprise by WWF, setting up protected areas in the Amazon rainforests is wholly benign. From a robust, climate-sceptic stance, however, attempting to lock carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere is a waste of time and effort. On the other hand, even if the entire climate change agenda is accepted unreservedly, the enterprise still fails to pass muster – on numerous counts.

In the first instance, the ARPA project is extraordinarily expensive. The $80 million spent is more than ten times the entire income of a charity such as Survival International. Arguably, with considerably less funds, it achieves a great deal more than this exercise.

Secondly, even if the enterprise could be considered good value in isolation, it would be very hard to argue that the areas chosen – in the context of the damage being done elsewhere – represent the main or even an important priority. The resource expended, undoubtedly, could achieve more in other areas.

Thirdly, the reserves are a high maintenance exercise and are not economically viable. They require a constant flow of funds from external sources – thus generating the need for the carbon trading scheme. A less ambitious – or more pragmatic – scheme which achieved less than perfection but which was economically self-sustaining, would achieve more overall. Such a model, though, does not seem to have been considered.

Amazon+smoke WWF Mines The Green Gold Rush To The Amazon: Making  $60 billion From FearFourthly, the projects seem to have been set up in anticipation of the need for continued external funding, essentially creating a demand for financial scheme that would otherwise have no justification. Effectively, one could see the ARPA scheme as a Trojan Horse for trading in forest carbon.

Fifth, the actual amount of carbon saved would be minimal, and only a fraction of what could be saved if other options were taken up, such as reforestation.

Sixth, the trading in forest carbon would destabilise the CDM, crashing the carbon price and obviate the need for industrial CO2 producers to invest in “clean” technologies. Longer-term, it would reduce the amount of finance available for forest preservation and restitution, as funds were diverted to harvesting “low hanging fruit”.

Seventh, the programme is an interference in the internal affairs of host nations, distorting national priorities and absolving – or even preventing – those nations developing environmental protection schemes attuned to their own specific needs. It also risks damaging the rights of indigenous peoples, and creating dependency cultures.

In terms of climate change mitigation, conservation or any similar aspect, therefore, there is nothing to commend this WWF strategy. It is wholly malign. From the WWF stance, however, there are many advantages.

Firstly, the scheme would generate significant income for the pioneer, which happens to be WWF. It also generates funds for donor countries, either directly or indirectly by subsidising environmental programmes which would otherwise have to be tax-funded. This ensures cordial relations between the NGO and the governments on which they rely for access and permission to operate.

Secondly, it is a high-profile activity with a strong “feel-good” quotient which is likely to be attractive to private and corporate donors. It allows the claim that “we are saving the forests” – and the planet.

The effect of this, incidentally, can be seen in the report of KFW Entwicklungsbank, which cites project manager Jens Ochtrop. He says: “There is practically no more illegal felling of trees, planting of soybean fields or grazing of cattle in the ARPA areas. The protection by ARPA also affects land speculators and illegal tree fellers. They keep away”.

But then, in the inaccessible Tumucumaque Mountains National Park and other strict protection areas, there was no illegal felling of trees, planting of soybean fields or grazing of cattle. One could make a similar case for the success of a wild elephant eradication scheme in Croydon High Street or Brooklyn.

Amazon+tumac WWF Mines The Green Gold Rush To The Amazon: Making  $60 billion From FearThirdly, the activity is politically “safe”. It avoids confrontation with vested interests in the host country, which might then provoke a political backlash and curtailment of (revenue-generating) activities. It also positions the organisation away from the areas of highest degradation and thus absolves WWF from having to intervene – or report abuse – which might upset actual or potential corporate sponsors and allies.

Fourth, carbon trading itself presents a very valuable income stream for investment and finance houses, which are well-represented on the boards of environmental charity allies and donor foundations. All of these can be relied upon to provide generous support for future activities, funded in part from carbon trading.

Fifth, forest credits available in significant numbers would reduce overall the costs of emitting CO2 for many industrial enterprises and eliminate the need for expensive CO2 reduction technology – and many of these industrial enterprises are generous funders of the environmental movement.

Chris Land, again puts some this in perspective, noting that the Indonesian government is fond of REDD, “not least because it hopes to gain millions of dollars worth of funding through REDD.”

Amazon+cattle2 WWF Mines The Green Gold Rush To The Amazon: Making  $60 billion From FearHe also notes that countries in the north are keen to fund REDD in Indonesia, not least because it allows them to greenwash continued oil extraction. Norway’s StatoilHydro, he says, is developing oil projects in Indonesia. Meanwhile, Norway’s Ambassador to Indonesia, Eivind Homme can claim that, “Norway is financing the UN REDD program, one of the pilot projects on climate change, in Indonesia.”

That identifies a final element. The scheme allows national governments to be seen to be “doing something” on climate change, while avoiding excessive burdens on their industries, on which they rely for taxation and employment. Governments are increasingly important financiers of environmental NGOs, and will tend to favour those who support their agendas.

Putting this all together, one does not need a public admission from WWF to assert – with great confidence – that the motivation behind its current Amazon schemes is money. Similar motivation can be seen in other environmental groups, including the Woods Hole Research Centre.

Above all, to keep the money flowing, there must be continued alarums about “climate change” and its impact on rainforests. Without global warming, of course, there would still be pressure on the forests from logging, from agricultural encroachment and other land use. But it would be difficult to sustain such a large cash flow from dealing with these problems, or legitimise intervention in what would then be the internal affairs of host nations.

Climate change – à la WWF – therefore, affords both cash and an excuse to intervene. If it didn’t actually exist, it would surely have to be invented.

As reported by RN

EDITORIAL: Earth Hour, corporate sponsors and burning planets

14 March 2010

“Earth Hour” will be held around the world on March 27. The event is organised by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and involves participants switching off their lights for the hour as a symbolic declaration of support for environmental action.

The Earth Hour website is sponsored by, among others, Woolworths Limited, the giant supermarket and retail corporation. With the amount of waste and pollution associated with the retail industry in frivolous consumption, built-in obsolescence and so on, this would seem an odd choice for sponsor.

WWF has a shocking record for quite uncritically accepting sponsorship from polluting industries. Back in 2002, Counterpunch co-editor Jeffrey St. Clair exposed WWF’s links with logging corporation Weyerhaeuser, writing on Dissidentvoice.org that WWF “rakes in millions from corporations, including Alcoa, Citigroup, the Bank of America, Kodak, J.P. Morgan, the Bank of Tokyo, Philip Morris, Waste Management and DuPont”.

In November 2009, more than 80 environmental organisations from 31 countries signed a letter attacking WWF’s founding role in the “Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil”. The letter said: “WWF’s involvement is being used by agrofuel companies to justify building more refineries and more palm oil power stations in Europe.”

The palm oil industry is a leading cause of destruction of tropical rainforests.
Currently, WWF is one of the key “environment” organisations in Australia promoting “clean coal”. This hypothetical technology is the main prop in the Australian coal industry’s smoke-and-mirrors trickery to keep the public off its back.

Clearly, WWF is a willing aide to corporate polluters who want to be seen to be cleaning up their act. How much does the environment get back? Whatever WWF ekes out for payment in its bargaining with the devil, it isn’t working for the environment.

The Earth Hour website includes a link to a calculator where visitors can work out their own personal carbon footprint. If you follow links for what you can do after the event to “make Earth Hour every hour” you will be directed toward various governmental awareness raising schemes and green power providers.

If the event simply raised people’s awareness a little, it would be better than nothing. But sometimes “not enough” is worse than nothing: it’s a false hope. The direct links to our climate-criminal government, as much as any donations from polluting corporations, are like telling people to go back to sleep, not to get up, when the house is burning down.

Although individuals will gain positive feelings from participating in Earth Hour, climate activists have to channel popular concern about climate change into rebellion, not tokenism. Or our whole planet will burn down around us.

http://www.greenleft.org.au/2010/830/42717