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Climate Warriors and Flagships from Hell

OffGuardian

November 10, 2021

By Michael Swifte

 

There should be encampments and occupations in and near Middlesborough and Hull. There should be. If the spirit of Earth First and actual environmentalism was with us, perhaps there would be.

The EAST COAST CLUSTER (centred around Middlesborough and Hull) is a well-supported proposal for two industrial decarbonisation hubs connected by a pipeline to North Sea geological storage of CO2. It is the flagship product of the ‘Kickstarter’ initiative launched by the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI) in September 2019.

When the CO2 pipeline is connected and the fossil hydrogen production begins the members of the OGCI, a collection of the world’s wealthiest oil and gas CEOs, will have been installed as the gatekeepers of geological storage of CO2. Much like the Porthos project in Rotterdam, the East Coast Cluster is one of many new decarbonisation hubs projected as flagships for late stage fossil fuel extractivism.

You may have heard the argument made before that climate justice activism has crowded out classical environmentalism with an omni-problem – the greatest and most urgent issue we face. This is indeed the case. Nobody can deny that climate warriors have always called for an end to fossil fuel extraction.

Most of the credulous masses believe that keeping-it-in-the-ground is a central objective of climate justice NGOs, indeed most of the mouthpieces and paid campaigners still believe that keeping fossil fuels in the ground is what they are fighting to achieve. But, as is always the case, the truth is more complicated and insidious than most can comprehend or imagine.

Through their hegemonic networks, philanthropists have directed the action for the bureaucratic class of climate activism and limited the incubation of grassroots groups. Through their networks and discretionary funding, they have limited the opportunities for campaigning that could pose a credible threat to fossil fuel extractivism.

They have created the conditions for the perpetuation of the biomass carbon double-counting scam. The core components of the stakeholder capitalist plans for net zero in Europe require biomass as a ‘feedstock’. It will function as a key negative value on the deep decarbonisation net zero ledger. The scam is currently deployed to plump up the renewables figures when it is used to replace coal in existing power plants.

Laurence Tubiana is CEO of the European Climate Foundation (ECF) which is a well-funded node in the ClimateWorks empire under the Design to Win plan. Tubiana says that abatement of emissions from industry is now possible, and says that “Industry leaders are looking at totally disruptive technologies and visions”. The ECF has commissioned research into the potential role of biomass as a ‘feedstock’ in industrial clusters using carbon capture and storage.

In one significant 2019 collaboration that included one of the Extinction Rebellion funders, the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, it was made clear that the necessary concession positions were in place. In effect, the ECF position is that a little Bioenergy (biomass) with Carbon Capture and storage (BECCS) is okay if heavy industry could please use less fossil fuels and not too much biomass.

In effect they have displayed their concession positions that leave the door open for business as usual, but with some abatement of CO2.

‘A little bit of BECCS and some ‘clean’ fossil fuels in exchange for a renewables revolution’ is the bargain that the bureaucratic class of climate campaigners thought they had on the table as early as 2005.

Bellona Foundation and Climate Action Network Europe (CANE) represent two sides of the NGO discourse in discussions on negative emissions technologies in Europe over the last two decades. Both are associated with Design to Win funding. This is due in part to the sheer size and scope of the regranting networks fostered by John Podesta.

The process for capturing campaigning and activism is deviously simple: new campaigns are incubated and existing NGOs consolidate their positions in the messaging sphere subject to the terms on which grants are distributed. As long as you don’t take aim at the concession positions of the funders, your campaign will stand a chance. Add the captive media with incomprehensible editorial positions and astonishing blind spots, and you have a self-reinforcing, narrative-driven fount of propaganda. Control of the messaging sphere via discretionary funding was made possible by the vast scale of the Design to Win philanthropies interests and influence.

Bellona are BECCS hawks. They are one of John Podesta’s favourite NGOs. Their positions are aligned with the Design To Win imperative/concession position to leave space for “unavoidable fossil fuels”. CANE collectively represent the climate warrior positions which have always included an end to fossil fuels, but are tempered by the pragmatics of managing a transition to renewables and energy efficiency. Everywhere in the ClimateWorks empire you see Design to Win funding for both the hawkish NGOs like Clean Air Task Force and climate warrior NGOs like Global Energy Monitor.

The rapid deployment of BECCS has been a long time in the planning. The former Head of Climate Change and Energy at WWF-UK, Emma Pinchbeck attended the launch of the Teesside Collective in July 2015. At the time she articulated WWF’s position in terms that should have shocked climate warriors, “industrial CCS is the no-alternative solution for the industrial sector”. [Source] With the help of the OGCI, the Teesside Collective’s ambitions have turned into the East Coast Cluster.

Pinchbeck is currently the Chief Executive of Energy UK which touts itself as “The voice of the energy industry”. She still supports investment in BECCS and despite her bio stating that she specialises in ‘whole economy’ decarbonisation, she doesn’t seem to care much about the externalities that will be created when the flagships from hell set sail. The economic and environmental impacts caused by the ongoing destruction that fossil fuel extraction and the large-scale uptake of BECCS are unquantifiable.

Antonio Guterres signalled his support for the industrial decarbonisation plans of the OGCI when he sent his special adviser (Robert Orr) to the Gramercy Hotel to meet their CEOs the night before Greta Thunberg’s big speech in New York. The message delivered on behalf of the UN Secretary-General (who had invited Greta to come to New York) made it clear that the ‘Kickstarter’ initiative, the subject of an embargoed media release, had the green light.

“Your industry has the assets and the expertise to demonstrate the ambition we need and to lead the way. The world needs, and is demanding, an ambitious road map to reduce the carbon intensity of your industry, and to demonstrate your commitment to align with the goals of the Paris agreement.”

Robert Orr, Special Adviser to Antonio Guterres, September 22, 2019

Philanthropies incubate and fund campaign groups and NGOs to serve particular narratives. Talking points embedded with fallacious logic are easily passed on and bolstered by access to market reach and attention metrics. Greta, AOC and XR are the three most significant examples of high-reach climate warriors. All three share a blind spot that has been crucial to controlling the narratives about what climate action should look like – they all completely ignored the output of the IPCC Working Group 3 (WG3) on mitigation.

BECCS and CCS appeared in three of the four mitigation pathways (P2-4) developed for WG3, with one pathway (P1) avoiding BECCS and CCS – labelled the ‘degrowth pathway’. Any meaningful investigations or public discourses into the various pathways might have unpacked some vital questions about the political will and the future plans of big oil, gas, coal and biomass.

While Thelma Krug (Vice Chair of the IPCC) was happy to present the WG3 pathways to the fossil fuel sector to demonstrate future opportunities, the only mainstream attention exploring the degrowth pathway came from Jason Hickel’s writing about the ‘Grubler et al (2018) ‘Low Energy Demand’ scenario’. Sadly, the degrowth movement discovered Hickel’s work too late to make a meaningful contribution to the discourse when it mattered which was between October 2018 and October 2020 during the ascendancy of Greta, AOC, and XR.

The impact of BECCS is global, but its potential for scale and implementation is currently very European. Decarbonisation hubs in Europe will be made possible by CO2 pipelines, port facilities and imported biomass. BECCS deployment in Europe will require vast quantities of wood chips and waste trimmings from forestry and agroforestry in North America.

The anticipated demand for BECCS and the application of carbon accounting trickery to woody biomass has allowed industry to once again transform waste products like the ‘forest residues’ from agroforestry into valuable feedstocks.

In turn the capturing of CO2 through the application of CCS transforms it into a value added product and potential feedstock for enhanced oil and gas recovery. It is the pipelines connecting the industrial areas near Middlesborough and Hull that form the crucial infrastructure establishing each decarbonisation cluster.

Around the globe planned and already implemented decarbonisation hubs are contingent on CO2 pipelines. Proximity to storage locations is not easily achieved. The Sturgeon hub near Edmonton is a good example of the kind of projects we are likely to see after COP26 when tax credits, border adjustments and other effective subsidies become operational. The $25 billion three train Sturgeon oil sands refinery only uses 10% of the capacity of the CO2 pipeline that forms the foundation of the Sturgeon hub.

 

A proposed global layout of carbon capture and storage in line with a 2 °C  climate target | Nature Climate Change

“Results show 3,093 carbon clusters and 432 sinks in 85 countries and regions are selected to achieve 92?GtCO2 mitigation by CCUS, 64% of which will be sequestered into sedimentary basins for aquifer storage and 36% will be used for CO2-EOR (enhanced oil recovery). Of the identified source–sink matching, 80% are distributed within 300?km and are mainly located in China, the United States, the European Union, Russia and India. The total cost is ~0.12% of global cumulative gross domestic product. Of countries with CO2-EOR, 75% will turn into profitable at the oil price over US$100 per barrel.” [Source: Nature]

 

The Alberta Carbon Trunk Line transports CO2 from Sturgeon to depleted conventional oil fields for enhanced oil recovery. The CO2, we are told, reintegrates into the rock matrix while the produced crude is pumped to Hardisty for export via train and pipeline.

Dozens of pipelines and hubs have been proposed in North America. Exxon have proposed the Houston Ship Channel – Innovation Zone to process gas from the gulf. The Wyoming Pipeline Corridor Initiative could become a lifeline for coal creating opportunities for coal to hydrogen production while supplying enhanced oil recovery projects.

These projects have been given importance because the effective subsidies that will make the finance work have continued to expand with little to no resistance. The 45Q tax credit is the most prominent of the measures being developed to support the building of CO2 pipelines in the US. It will be further expanded under Sec. 136107 of the Build Back Better Act.

Grassroots campaigners have begun to rise up in the US state of Iowa against the Midwest Carbon Express pipeline intended to cross 5 states and if built would be the longest pipeline of its kind in the world. Look up the Iowa Carbon Pipeline Resistance Coalition and follow their looming fight against eminent domain. Check out a recent series of interviews by Great Plains Action Society founder Sikowis. They are a must listen.

On October 25, 2021 the International Renewable Energy Agency published a technical paper on the synergies between CCS and renewables in “reaching zero”. This is an astonishing and categorical failure by IRENA if indeed they ever held any proper ambition for wide scale implementation of renewables. The widely echoed calls for 100% renewables are fundamentally threatened by any CCS applied to fossil fuels or biomass. We should be very concerned at this time to see IRENA defy the fundamentals of its platform.

In the wash up from COP 26 we will see a deflating reality play out. Saudi Aramco will make more blue ammonia and blue hydrogen deals in Asia. Australian extractive industries will do the same. Scratch the surface of any net zero commitment and you will find partially laid out plans that suggest that fossil fuels aren’t going anywhere for a good while yet, but that the appetite for CO2 abatement and storage is growing.

We should remember the words of the Saudi Aramco chief technology officer Ahmad Al Khowaiter at the Atlantic Council: Global Energy Forum 2019,

“CO2 is a valuable feedstock, we should not forget that.”

 

[Michael Swifte is a researcher, anti-fossil fuel activist and a member of the Wrong Kind of Green critical thinking collective. His writing can be found on the WKOG website and on his blog We Suspect Silence.]

The Left’s Covid Failure

Unherd

November 24, 2021

By Toby Green and Thomas Fazi

 

Antonio Berni, Manifestación, 1934

 

Amplifying the crisis is no way to rebuild trust

Throughout the various phases of the global pandemic, people’s preferences in terms of epidemiological strategies have tended to overlap closely with their political orientation. Ever since Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro expressed doubts as to the wisdom of a lockdown strategy in March 2020, liberals and those on the Left of the Western political spectrum, including most socialists, have fallen over themselves to adhere in public to the lockdown strategy of pandemic mitigation — and lately to the logic of vaccine passports. Now as countries across Europe experiment with tighter restrictions of the unvaccinated, Left-wing commentators — usually so vocal in the defence of minorities suffering from discrimination — are notable for their silence.

As writers who have always positioned ourselves on the Left, we are disturbed at this turn of events. Is there really no progressive criticism to be made about the quarantining of healthy individuals, when the latest research suggests there is a vanishingly small difference in terms of transmission between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated? The Left’s response to Covid now appears as part of a broader crisis in Left-wing politics and thought — one which has been going on for three decades at least. So it’s important to identify the process through which this has taken shape.

In the first phase of the pandemic — the lockdowns phase — it was those leaning towards the cultural and economic right who were more likely to emphasise the social, economic and psychological damage resulting from lockdowns. Meanwhile, Donald Trump’s initial lockdown scepticism made this position untenable for most of those leaning towards the cultural and economic Left. Social media algorithms then further fuelled this polarisation. Very quickly, therefore, Western leftists embraced lockdown, seen as a “pro-life” and “pro-collective” choice — a policy that, in theory, championed public health or the collective right to health. Meanwhile any criticism of the lockdowns was excoriated as a “right-wing”, “pro-economy” and “pro-individual” approach, accused of prioritising “profit” and “business as usual” over people’s lives.

In sum, decades of political polarisation instantly politicised a public health issue, without allowing any discussion as to what a coherent Left response would be. At the same time, the Left’s position distanced it from any kind of working-class base, since low-income workers were the most severely affected by the socio-economic impacts of continued lockdown policies, and were also those most likely to be out working while the laptop class benefitted from Zoom. These same political fault lines emerged during the vaccine roll-out, and now during the Covid passports phase. Resistance associates with the Right, while those on the mainstream Left are generally supportive of both measures. Opposition is demonised as a confused mixture of anti-science irrationalism and individualistic libertarianism.

But why has the mainstream Left ended up supporting practically all Covid measures? How did such a simplistic view of the relationship between health and the economy emerge, one which makes a mockery of decades of (Left-leaning) social science research showing just how closely wealth and health outcomes are connected? Why did the Left ignore the massive increase in inequalities, the attack on the poor, on poor countries, on women and children, the cruel treatment of the elderly, and the huge increase in wealth for the richest individuals and corporations resulting from these policies? How, in relation to the development and roll-out of vaccines, did the Left end up ridiculing the very notion that, given the money at stake, and when BioNTech, Moderna and Pfizer currently make between them over US$1,000 per second from the Covid vaccines, there might be motivations from the vaccine manufacturers other than “the public good” at play? And how is it possible that the Left, often on the receiving end of state repression, today seems oblivious to the worrying ethical and political implications of Covid passports?

While the Cold War coincided with the era of decolonisation and the rise of a global anti-racist politics, the end of the Cold War – alongside the symbolic triumph of decolonisation politics with the end of apartheid – ushered in an existential crisis for Left-wing politics. The rise of neoliberal economic hegemony, globalisation, and corporate trans-nationalism, have all undermined the Left’s historic view of the state as an engine of redistribution. Combined with this is the realisation that, as the Brazilian theorist Roberto Mangabeira Unger has argued, the Left has always prospered most at times of great crisis — the Russian Revolution benefited from the World War One, and welfare capitalism from the aftermath of the World War Two. This history may partly explain the Left’s positioning today: amplifying the crisis and prolonging it through never-ending restrictions may be seen by some as a way to rebuild Left politics after decades of existential crisis.

The Left’s flawed understanding of the nature of neoliberalism may also have affected its response to the crisis. Most people on the Left believe that neoliberalism has involved a “retreat” or “hollowing out” of the state in favour of the market. Thus, they interpreted government activism throughout the pandemic as a welcome “return of the state”, one potentially capable, in their view, of eventually reversing neoliberalism’s allegedly anti-statist project. The problem with this argument, even accepting its dubious logic, is that neoliberalism hasn’t entailed a withering away of the state. On the contrary, the size of the state as a percentage of GDP has continued to rise throughout the neoliberal era.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Neoliberalism relies on extensive state intervention just as much as “Keynesianism” did, except that the state now intervenes almost exclusively to further the interests of big capital – to police the working classes, bail out large banks and firms that would otherwise go bankrupt, etc. Indeed, in many ways, capital today is more dependent on the state than ever. As Shimshon Bichler and Jonathan Nitzan note: “[A]s capitalism develops, governments and large corporations become increasingly intertwined. … The capitalist mode of power and the dominant-capital coalitions that rule it do not require small governments. In fact, in many respects, they need larger ones”. Neoliberalism today is more akin to a form of state-monopoly capitalism – or corporatocracy – than the kind of small-state free-market capitalism that it often claims to be. This helps explain why it has produced increasingly powerful, interventionist, and even authoritarian state apparatuses.

This in itself makes the Left’s cheering at a non-existent “return of the state” embarrassingly naïve. And the worst part is that it has made this mistake before. Even in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, many on the Left hailed large government deficits as “the return of Keynes” – when, in fact, those measures had very little to do with Keynes, who counselled the use of government spending to reach full employment, and instead were aimed at bolstering the culprits of the crisis, the big banks. They were also followed by an unprecedented attack on welfare systems and workers’ rights across Europe.

Something similar is happening today, as state contracts for Covid tests, PPE, vaccines, and now vaccine passport technologies are parcelled out to transnational corporations (often through shady deals that reek of cronyism). Meanwhile, citizens are having their lives and livelihoods upended by “the new normal”. That the Left seems completely oblivious to this is particularly puzzling. After all, the idea that governments tend to exploit crises to further entrench the neoliberal agenda has been a staple of much recent Left-wing literature. Pierre Dardot and Christian Laval, for example, have argued that under neoliberalism, crisis has become a “method of government”. More famously, in her 2007 book The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein explored the idea of “disaster capitalism”. Her central thesis is that in moments of public fear and disorientation it is easier to re-engineer societies: dramatic changes to the existing economic order, which would normally be politically impossible, are imposed in rapid-fire succession before the public has had time to understand what is happening.

There’s a similar dynamic at play today. Take, for example, the high-tech surveillance measures, digital IDs, crackdown on public demonstrations and fast-tracking of laws introduced by governments to combat the coronavirus outbreak. If recent history is anything to go by, governments will surely find a way to make many of the emergency rules permanent – just as they did with much post-9/11 anti-terrorist legislation. As Edward Snowden noted: “When we see emergency measures passed, particularly today, they tend to be sticky. The emergency tends to be expanded”. This confirms, too, the ideas on the “state of exception” posited by the Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben, who has nonetheless been vilified by the mainstream Left for his anti-lockdown position.

Ultimately, any form of government action should be judged for what it actually stands for. We support government intervention if it serves to further the rights of workers and minorities, to create full employment, to provide crucial public services, to rein in corporate power, to correct the dysfunctionalities of markets, to take control of crucial industries in the public interest. But in the past 18 months we have witnessed the exact opposite: an unparalleled strengthening of transnational corporate behemoths and their oligarchs at the expense of workers and local businesses. A report last month based on Forbes data showed that America’s billionaires alone have seen their wealth increase by US$2 trillion during the pandemic.

Another Left-wing fantasy that has been shuttered by reality is the notion that the pandemic would usher in a new sense of collective spirit, capable of overcoming decades of neoliberal individualism. On the contrary, the pandemic has fractured societies even more – between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated, between those who can reap the benefits of smart working and those who can’t. Moreover, a demos made up of traumatised individuals, torn apart from their loved ones, made to fear one another as a potential vectors of disease, terrified of physical contact – is hardly a good breeding ground for collective solidarity.

Juanito dormido | Contemporary Art Day Auction | | Sotheby's

Antonio Berni, Juanito dormido

But perhaps the Left’s response can be better understood in individual rather than collective terms. Classic psychoanalytic theory has posited a clear connection between pleasure and authority: the experience of great pleasure (satiating the pleasure principle) can often be followed by a desire for renewed authority and control manifested by the ego or “reality principle”. This can indeed produce a subverted form of pleasure. The last two decades of globalisation have seen a huge expansion of the “pleasure of experience”, as shared by the increasingly transnational global liberal class – many of whom, somewhat curiously in historical terms, identified themselves as on the Left (and indeed increasingly usurped this position from the traditional working-class constituencies of the Left). This mass increase in pleasure and experience among the liberal class went with a growing secularism and lack of any recognised moral constraint or authority. From the perspective of psychoanalysis, the support from this class for “Covid measures” is quite readily explained in these terms: as the desired appearance of a coterie of restrictive and authoritarian measures which can be imposed to curtail pleasure, within the strictures of a moral code which steps in where one had previously been lacking.

Another factor explaining the Left’s embrace of “Covid measures” is its blind faith in “science”. This has its roots in the Left’s traditional faith in rationalism. However, one thing is believing in the undeniable virtues of the scientific method – another is being completely oblivious to the way those in power exploit “science” to further their agenda. Being able to appeal to “hard scientific data” to justify one’s policy choices is an incredibly powerful tool in the hands of governments – it is, in fact, the essence of technocracy. However, this means carefully selecting the “science” that is supportive of your agenda – and aggressively marginalising any alternative views, regardless of their scientific value.

This has been happening for years in the realm of economics. Is it really that hard to believe that such a corporate capture is happening today with regard to medical science? Not according to John P. Ioannidis, professor of medicine and epidemiology at Stanford University. Ioannidis made headlines in early 2021 when he published, with some colleagues of his, a paper claiming that there was no practical difference in epidemiological terms between countries that had locked down and those that hadn’t. The backlash against the paper – and against Ioannidis in particular – was fierce, especially among his fellow scientists.

This explains his recent scathing denunciation of his own profession. In an article entitled “How the Pandemic Is Changing the Norms of Science”, Ioannidis notes that most people – especially on the Left — seem to think that science operates based on “the Mertonian norms of communalism, universalism, disinterestedness, and organized skepticism”. But, alas, that is not how the scientific community actually operates, Ioannidis explains. With the pandemic, conflicts of corporate interest exploded – and yet talking about them became anathema. He continues: “Consultants who made millions of dollars from corporate and government consultation were given prestigious positions, power, and public praise, while unconflicted scientists who worked pro bono but dared to question dominant narratives were smeared as being conflicted. Organized skepticism was seen as a threat to public health. There was a clash between two schools of thought, authoritarian public health versus science – and science lost”.

Ultimately, the Left’s blatant disregard and mockery of people’s legitimate concerns (over lockdowns, vaccines or Covid passports) is shameful. Not only are these concerns rooted in actual hardship but they also stem from an understandable distrust of governments and institutions that have been undeniably captured by corporate interests. Anyone who favours a truly progressive-interventionist state, as we do, needs to address these concerns – not dismiss them.

But where the Left’s response has been found most wanting is on the world stage, in terms of the relationship of Covid restrictions to deepening poverty in the Global South. Has it really nothing to say about the enormous increase in child marriage, the collapse in schooling, and the destruction of formal employment in Nigeria, where the State Statistics agency suggests 20% of people lost their jobs during the lockdowns? What about the reality that the country with the highest Covid mortality figures and excess death rate for 2020 was Peru – which had one of the world’s strictest lockdowns? On all this, it has been virtually silent. This position must be considered in relation to the pre-eminence of nationalist politics on the world stage: the electoral failure of Left internationalists such as Jeremy Corbyn meant that broader global issues had little traction when considering a broader Western Left response to Covid-19.

It is worth mentioning that there have been outliers on the Left – radical-left and socialist movements that have come out against the prevailing management of the pandemic. These include Black Lives Matter in New York, Left Lockdown Sceptics in the UK, the Chilean urban left, Wu Ming in Italy and not least the Social Democrat-Green alliance which currently governs Sweden. But the full spectrum of Left opinion was ignored, partly due to the small number of Left-wing media outlets, but also due to the marginalisation of dissenting opinions first and foremost by the mainstream Left.

Mainly, though, this has been a historic failure from the Left, which will have disastrous consequences. Any form of popular dissent is likely to be hegemonized once again by the (extreme) Right, poleaxing any chance the Left has of winning round the voters it needs to overturn Right-wing hegemony. Meanwhile, the Left holds on to a technocracy of experts severely undermined by what is proving to be a catastrophic handling of the pandemic in terms of social progressivism. As any kind of viable electable Left fades into the past, the discussion and dissent at the heart of any true democratic process is likely to fade with it.

 

[Toby Green is a professor of history at Kings College London. His latest book is The Covid Consensus: The New Politics of Global Inequality (Hurst).]

 

 

Stealth Game: “Community” Conservancies Devastate Land & Lives in Northern Kenya

Oakland Institute

November 2021

 

“They have put fear in our hearts. . .”

 

– Mohammed Kampicha Bilalo, Biliqo, Chari Ward, June 2019

 

Source: AEON

Stealth Game: “Community” Conservancies Devastate Land & Lives in Northern Kenya — reveals the devastating impact of privatized and neo-colonial wildlife conservation and safari tourism on Indigenous pastoralist communities. Although terms like “participatory,” “community driven,” and “local empowerment” are extensively used, the report exposes how the Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT) and the Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS), have allegedly dispossessed pastoralist communities of their ancestral lands, through corruption, cooptation, and sometimes through intimidation and violence, to create wildlife conservancies for conservation dollars.

Since its founding in 2004, NRT has set up 39 conservancies on over 42,000 square kilometers of land in Northern and Coastal Kenya — nearly eight percent of the country’s total land area. While NRT claims that its goal is to “transform people’s lives, secure peace and conserve natural resources,” the Oakland Institute’s report elevates voices of communities — predominantly pastoralists — who allege NRT dispossesses them of their land and deploys armed security units involved in serious human rights abuses. NRT is also involved in security, management of pasture land, and livestock marketing, which according to the impacted communities, gives it a level of control that surpasses even that of the Kenyan government.

Based on extensive field research, Stealth Game: “Community” Conservancies Devastate Land & Lives in Northern Kenya, is the first independent report to provide a comprehensive review of the evolution of Kenya’s land and wildlife conservation laws; the history, structure, and functioning of “community” conservancy model of NRT; as well as land and human rights issues surrounding the privatized model of conservation in Kenya.

Created by Ian Craig, whose family was part of an elite white minority during British colonialism, NRT’s origins date back to the 1980s when Craig’s family-owned, 62,000-acre cattle ranch was transformed into its first conservancy. Today, NRT receives millions in funding from donors such as USAID, the European Union, Danish and French development agencies and large environmental NGOs, including The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and Space for Giants.

In recent years, impacted communities have held protests, signed petitions, and initiated legal action against the presence of NRT on their lands. Community members have repeatedly asked for justice after years of being ignored by the Kenyan government and by the police when reporting killings of family members and other human rights abuses. The findings of Stealth Game call for an urgent independent investigation into land and human rights related grievances around NRT’s community conservancies — including allegations of involvement of NRT’s rapid response units in inter-ethnic conflict, and of abuses and extrajudicial killings.

The report’s release comes as the international community is considering adopting the “30×30 initiative” under the UN’s Convention on Biological Diversity, which calls for 30 percent of the planet to be placed in protected areas or other effective area-based conservation measures by 2030. Stealth Game makes it clear that fortress conservation must be replaced by truly Indigenous-led conservation efforts to preserve the remaining biodiversity of the planet while respecting interests, rights, and dignity of the local communities.

 

WATCH: Digital ID: Freedom-As-A-Service. The Lure of Entitlement as the Method for Entrapment.

November 18, 2021

 

Our identity is, literally, who we are, and as the digital technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution advance, our identity is increasingly digital. This digital identity determines what products, services and information we can access – or, conversely, what is closed off to us.”

 

September 2018, World Economic Forum insight report, Identity in a Digital World, A new chapter in the social contract

 

November 1, 2018: “If Dave Birch of Consult Hyperion is correct, identity is the new money.” [Source]

OWI (PRNewsfoto/One World Identity)

 

 

2016: Yesterday’s ID2020 is today’s Good Health Pass, is tomorrows Digital Identity for All. Freedom-As-A-Service [Source]

Digital ID. The commodification of freedom of movement.

From the roll-out of vaccine credentials/accreditations, to obtain health passes (under ID2020 Good Health Pass framework) in order to access services – experimental jabs are the portal to achieving a digital identification global infrastructure – an imperative for a seamless functioning of “ecosystems” (digital finance/wallets, data economy, smart cities, etc.) within the fourth industrial revolution digital architecture. Via framing, marketing, and the branding of bourgeois access, what was formerly recognized as freedom of movement, “the most indelible of rights” (Steppling), is now being repacked as an entitlement in exchange for compliance, within an unfolding fourth industrial revolution economic caste system.

“By 2030, our goal is to enable access to digital identity for every person on the planet.” — ID2020 2017 Summit  

“Figure 1. Screenshots of the proposed digital solution.” – This screenshot is from the 2016 paper Travel Vaccines Enter the Digital Age: Creating a Virtual Immunization Record, by *Kumanan Wilson, Katherine M. Atkinson, and Cameron P. Bell. [*Kumanan Wilson is a physician at The Ottawa Hospital and member of the University of Ottawa Centre for Health Law, Policy and Ethics. Consultant to the World Health Organization on the IHR (2005). Wilson is CEO of CANImmunize Inc., Canada’s national immunization app. CANImmunize is identified as a leading achievement of the Federal Health Minister in 2014; recommended by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC); Recognized by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, and Deloitte Global, as a model for consumer-facing immunization solutions; Certified by the World Health Organization’s VaccineSafetyNet.]

Event 50 – Webinar | Vaccination Passports, March 29, 2021

Consult Hyperion: “Considerable attention is being paid to the topic of vaccination passports… In this webinar our COO, Steve Pannifer, and our Global Ambassador, Dave Birch spoke to Frank Joshi from MVine and Andrew Bud from iProov, who’ve developed one such solution in the UK.”

Consult Hyperion Global Ambassador, David Birch, is an author, advisor and commentator on digital financial services. An internationally recognized and renowned thought leader in digital identity and digital money, he holds a number of board and advisory roles across these fields. He is a Forbes contributor and a columnist for Financial World and has just been ranked one of the top 100 global fintech influencers for 2021. Previously named one of the global top 15 favourite sources of business information by Wired magazine and identified as one of the top ten most influential voices in banking by Financial Brand, he created one of the top 25 “must read” financial IT blogs and was found by PR Daily to be one of the top ten Twitter accounts followed by innovators. [Full bio] Birch is a venture partner in 1414 Ventures – a “digital identity space which supports functions such as payments, cybersecurity, and data privacy & trust.” On Nov. 12, 2020,One World Identity” announced the formation of their senior advisory board to which David Birch was appointed.

Transcript/excerpt:

Consult Hyperion director Dave Birch: “In the past, and certainly in our webinars, you know, and I’ll lump you and I together for this kind of thing, we sort of assumed it would be the government, or the banks, or whatever,  that would get it together and you know, roll out digital [ID]. I don’t know why we thought this, I don’t know, there’s not the slightest evidence they would ever do this, but we sort of thought that would happen. I wonder if what we’re seeing here is the emergence of a different identity infrastructure that’s going to come out in a much more bells and braces way, but ultimately be more effective.

And the reason I think that is, because, if you say to me “Well Dave, you know, you’re going to have a British identity card and prove who you are, well of course, I’ll riot in the streets and complain. You know, its continental tyranny and the podionic imposition and all this sort of thing. Well you say, “Well Dave, if you want to go to the Spoons, so I’m using the democratic andro, trying to be a man of the people here, the spoons, that is where the Wookey [theatre] is … so if I want to go up the Spoons or if I want to see [the] Wookey play, if I’m just told I have to have your vaccines, then I’ll do it. I don’t care. Right? And actually 99% of people in the country wouldn’t care whether that certificate, I mean this is my yellow fever certificate, which is a highly anti-counterfeitable yellow, but you can’t get this yellow paper anywhere. North Korean super note  forgers thrown down their pens in frustration (much laughter from panel). And most people wouldn’t care. I mean we have a responsibility as an industry to make sure that infrastructure is privacy enhancing,  and to make sure that peoples personal information isn’t spewed all over the internet. But actually I don’t think most people would care.

It’s like if you want to get into the Spoons you have to have one of the passports, they’ll do it. Now to your point about the shared infrastructure, I wonder if this isn’t opening up an amazing opportunity for us. Because if I’ve got, let’s do that as a thought experiment. Wetherspoons  have already got the Wetherspoons  app, it already exists. They already got people signed up to it. So Wetherspoons come and say, ‘ well we want to connect into your infrastructure to do this’, and so we tell them ‘well okay’, these guys have got grade 12 education and all this kind of thing, where are we going to get the test data from? Oh God, I don’t know, I know. I answer. ‘They’ve got the test centers and the British Airways app has got the API so why don’t we just use… and why can’t we use…’

I’m just curious if you can see this sort of Lego building up and all of a sudden, where we were going to have a national identity card, which nobody wants, and is a catastrophe and they’ll waste billions on it and all this sort of thing, instead we have kind of a national entitlement card. Which comes out, you know, we have a way of carrying these credentials around. I’m allowed in to see Wookey, I’m allowed in to the Spoons, I’m allowed to book a table at this restaurant. Just growing, and I’m sort of excited about the possibility that you guys are just growing an alternative to the kind of identity infrastructure that’s been talked about for years. And I’m just, I’m really curious about how you see your stuff evolving.”

Founder & CEO of iProov, Andrew Bud: “Dave, I think you put your finger on it.”

 

[Full webinar: https://chyp.com/webinars/span-classwebinar-vaccination-passport-prefix-event-50-span-webinar-vaccination-passports/]

+++

For those who have received the jabs, they may feel this does not affect them. They could not be more wrong. A “health pass” will no longer grant one entry – as soon as the next injection is dictated (by the pharmaceutical industry), or whatever other requirement “to keep us safe” comes along. Until one acquiesces with the new measure (booster or what have you), this person too will be cast out of society – grouped (and shunned) with the “unvaxxed”.

“The pernicious new selling of virtual travel is potentially a way to kill off the dream center of children, to kill their imagination. To move freely, even within the area from which you were born, is in my opinion the most indelible of rights. What is going on is a ruling class soft coup, a less overtly violent coup and their vision of a digital feudal planet is terrifying, if only because it is cannot possibly work. It is delusion.”

 

— A Solution Without a Solution, September 18, 2021, John Steppling

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LISTEN: 5 Key Takeaways from COP26, Glasgow 2021

Long Lost Nature

November 6, 2021

By Arindam Singh

 

Woke colonization, nature for sale, COP26: Tom Goldtooth, a climate activist and executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, presented “Prince” Charles a gift of plaited sweetgrass. Right of Goldtooth is Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, former UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. WWF-UK President,”Prince” Charles, is founder of The Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group (2015) – rebranded to CLG Europe – a co-founder of the We Mean Business coalition. On June 3, 2020, the “Prince of Wales’ Sustainable Markets Initiative” (SMI), in partnership with the World Economic Forum launched a major global initiative, “The Great Reset”. [Source] At the launch event, “Prince” Charles, a key, long-time proponent behind the financialization of nature, emphasized the imperative to accelerate carbon pricing. In January 2021, following the launch of the Terra Carta (Earth Charter)/ SMI, Charles unveiled the Natural Capital Investment Alliance. During COP26, on November 3, 2021, Forbes published the article “Amazon, Salesforce, Among 45 Companies Awarded Terra Carta Seal From Prince Charles”. 

 

Podcast: What is this COP26 everyone’s talking about? Is it really that great as it sounds in the news? Why not?

 

 

[Arindam Singh is a student blogger and podcaster from New Delhi. He studies things related to the environment and what has gone wrong with it. His writing can be found at longlostnature.wordpress.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @longlostnature.]

 

 

 

 

Revolt of the Essential Workers

Tablet

October 25, 2021

By Alex Gutentag

 

Chona Kasinger/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A sign informs customers of a canceled ferry route at the Water Taxi Terminal during a ferry workers ‘sickout’ in downtown Seattle, 2021Chona Kasinger/Bloomberg via Getty Images

 

Back before the COVID-19 pandemic started, the year 2019 saw anti-government demonstrations in Paris, Manila, La Paz, Port-au-Prince, Bogotá, Prague, Quito , Beirut, Hong Kong, London, Baghdad, Barcelona, Budapest, Santiago, New Delhi, Jakarta, Buenos Aires and more, earning the title “the year of the protest.” It was also a year of resurgent labor activity in the United States. After decades of declining union participation, the country saw 25 major work stoppages involving 425,500 workers, the highest number since 2001.

The economic discontent that propelled both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders to popularity had been building for many years. As a recent article in the journal American Affairs noted, $34 trillion of real equity wealth, in 2017 dollars, was created between 1989 and 2017. Nearly half that sum (44%) consisted of a reallocation of corporate equity to shareholders at the expense of worker compensation, while economic growth accounted for just 25% of that increase in wealth. In other words, despite the advent of seemingly near-miraculous, time- and space-saving digital technologies, the post-Cold War “economic boom” consisted mainly of America’s wealthy shareholders taking money from its increasingly insecure workforce.

America, and other Western societies, had moved from a model of real growth and expanding benefits for all to a model where the rich got richer by impoverishing the less wealthy orders of society—and the lower orders were fighting back. However, after lockdowns were imposed in March 2020, the balance of power abruptly shifted back toward billionaire oligarchs and large corporations. Tech-based U.S. monopolies widened their profit margins as workers and their children were confined to their homes and the Fed pumped money into Wall Street. As the Fed provided unlimited purchases of corporate debt and securities, millions of people filed for unemployment, nearly 1 in 4 households experienced food insecurity, and 200,000 small businesses closed. The result was an estimated loss of $1.3 trillion in household wealth for American workers. Meanwhile, U.S. billionaires gained $1 trillion.

COVID-19 stopped a nascent American workers’ movement in its tracks, as protests and acts of political rebellion were essentially banned. Amid intense fear and confusion, public health edicts effectively suspended the right to assembly. The concept of “social distancing” encouraged people to view their neighbors, colleagues, friends, and even family members as potential sources of disease. “Experts,” technocrats, and corporations became the heroes of the pandemic, while the masses became the villains.

When lockdowns began we were told that we were “all in this together,” but every measure since then has served to entrench inequality, sabotage the middle class, and enrich elites. Images of ultrawealthy celebrities parading around maskless at fancy events, surrounded by masked servants, have provided a powerful visual representation of the COVID-19 era—an era that has seen the greatest upward wealth transfer in modern history. As a result of lockdowns, between 143 million and 163 million people worldwide have fallen into poverty and there was a sixfold increase in the number of people suffering through hunger and starvation. At the same time, tech companies like Amazon, Alphabet, and Microsoft saw record profits.

Today, the U.S. is experiencing the fastest rate of inflation since 2008 and consumer prices have increased by 5.4%. The top 1% of the country has more wealth than the entire middle class, the top 10% own 90% of stocks, and BlackRock and other investment firms are buying up houses. It has been 83 weeks since “two weeks to flatten the curve.” Now, the question is not whether workers will accept temporary lockdowns, but rather, whether they will accept a permanent COVID-industrial-complex that continues to erode their quality of life.

New York City municipal workers protest outside the Gracie Mansion Conservancy against the coming COVID-19 vaccine mandate for city workers, Oct. 28, 2021, in New York.

John Deere is expected to see record-breaking earnings of between $5.7 billion and $5.9 billion this year, and the 10,000 UAW members now on strike hope to see their fair share of this windfall. Currently a total of 100,000 U.S. workers from John Deere, Kellogg’s, Warrior Met Coal, Kaiser Permanente, InstaCart, and many other companies are either on strike or have threatened to strike. Will this resurgent labor movement and the growing resistance to vaccine mandates be able to challenge the top-down class warfare of the COVID-19 era?

When “two weeks to flatten the curve” began, the workforce was split in two: Some were defined as “essential” workers, and others as “nonessential.” The “nonessential” ordered delivery from home while farmhands harvested crops, workers in meatpacking plants processed and packaged products, truckers shipped food across the country, cooks prepared dishes, Doordash “dashers” dropped off takeout on doorstops, and sanitation workers picked up the trash. This division allowed the professional class to be protected from exposure to the virus and set the stage for a two-tier society. These tiers are now upheld by medieval protocols that require service workers to remain masked while patrons show their bare faces, and by vaccine pass systems that disproportionately impact and exclude poor and working-class people, especially people of color.

In conjunction with this sharp class division, government assistance has often benefited the wealthy. In total, eligible Americans got $3,200 through three stimulus checks. However, the first stimulus bill, the CARES Act, provided 43,000 millionaires with $1.7 million each through a tax break, and the second stimulus bill included a $200 billion giveaway for the rich. The CARES Act also bailed out many corporations with few strings attached. In the case of the airline industry, for example, executives used taxpayer money to give themselves bonuses while laying off tens of thousands of employees.

This imbalance is part of what has fueled the ongoing worker revolt. A common theme in worker demands is that they have worked grueling and difficult jobs throughout the pandemic, in some cases barely making a living wage, while executives and shareholders hoard the profits. Another common theme is worker burnout and staffing shortages. In California 24,000 health care workers voted to authorize a strike, citing critical shortages in a third of the state’s hospitals. 78% of registered nurses in the U.S. have reported unsafe staffing conditions, and the NIH has found that increasing a nurse’s workload by just one patient raises the chance of patient mortality by 7%.

Staffing shortages have only been exacerbated by vaccine mandates. In New York state, 83,000 unvaccinated health care workers faced termination before a judge filed an injunction requiring the state to recognize religious exemptions. In the end the mandate reduced New York’s health care workforce by 34,000 workers, and New York’s governor has deployed the National Guard to replace staff in overwhelmed hospitals.

Perhaps the greatest impact of mandates could be on the trucking industry. A poll of truckers found that 26% of respondents would rather be fired than get the COVID-19 vaccine, and another 10% said they would quit before getting the vaccine. The American Truckers Association has come out strongly against vaccine mandates, with union President Chris Spear stating, “The first rule of any public health policy should be ‘do no harm.’ Unfortunately, these latest mandates and the unintended consequences they’ll create fall short of that standard.”

The consequences of a labor rebellion against artificially low wages and vaccine mandates may be even more profound during the winter ahead. Recent supply chain woes are caused by a combination of an energy crisis in China, the long-term effects of lockdowns, and a shortage of 80,000 truckers. These factors have created a feedback loop of backlogs and congestion, leaving nearly half a million containers and dozens of cargo ships waiting at Los Angeles and Long Beach ports, which handle 40% of inbound containers for the U.S., while hundreds of sailors are stranded at sea on cargo vessels that cannot be unloaded. American citizens are beginning to see the effects of this supply chain stress, with some school districts struggling to feed students, changing their lunch menus, and even considering remote learning due to food shortages.

In the midst of this looming crisis, many transportation, logistics, and frontline workers remain adamant that they will not relinquish their bodily autonomy. Over a third of Chicago’s police force has defied the city’s vaccine mandate, with the mayor accusing the union of attempting to “induce an insurrection” and threatening to withhold benefits from officers who opt to retire instead of getting vaccinated. Seventy-three unvaccinated school bus drivers were already forced to quit ahead of the first day of school in Chicago, resulting in lack of transportation for over 2,100 students. The city also faced off with unvaccinated teachers before finally giving up after 15% of school district employees refused to get vaccinated.

Similar chaos continues to brew in many parts of the country. Forty percent of TSA agents remain unvaccinated, as do hundreds of thousands of military personnel. About 12% of Washington state’s health care workers did not meet their vaccination deadline, hundreds of Los Angeles firefighters are now suing the city for $2 million each, and the San Francisco MTA warned of possible disruptions to transit. Southwest Airlines was recently forced to cancel over 2,000 flights in what was widely rumored to be a pilot “sick out” over the company’s vaccine mandate. Later, Southwest employees publicly protested the mandate, and the company has temporarily relented. Each local mandate battle ultimately contributes to a national high-stakes game of chicken that pits working people against a wealthy, increasingly authoritarian overclass.

The vaccine has provided the perfect pretext for ideological purges of major institutions and industries, but these purges may backfire. Currently, a considerable amount of human labor is still needed to keep society running. Although much of the pandemic response has resembled a controlled demolition, the potential for a transition to full automation, a rent-only economy, self-driving vehicles, and centralized biometric IDs has not yet been fully realized. As with countless ventures that come out of Silicon Valley, the capital and marketing plans have preceded many of the necessary technological developments.

For months, academics, scientists, managers, administrators, and journalists dismissed the hardships felt by essential workers as necessary to “save lives.” Now, after treating so many people as disposable pawns, the professionals who provided justifications for lockdowns and vaccine mandates may experience the repercussions of these policies in the form of strikes and shortages. If workers can create enough inconvenience for the intelligentsia and enough loss of revenue for corporations and elites, they may be able to gain some ground. While COVID-19 policies once served to undermine mass mobilization and organizing, a tight labor market is now providing a unique chance to reverse this trend.

[Alex Gutentag (@galexybrane) is a writer and Tablet columnist based in California.]

Further reading by Alex Gutentag: The Plague of the Poor

 

 

 

LISTEN: Dr. Mordecai Ogada – A Case for Scrutinizing the Climate Narrative

Death in the Garden

November 13, 2021

Podcasts by Jake Marquez and Maren Morgan

 

 

Image

 

“On this episode of “Death in The Garden,” as COP26 ends in Glasgow, Jake and Maren share their second interview with Dr. Mordecai Ogada, carnivore ecologist, activist for the Decolonization of Conservation, and co-author of The Big Conservation Lie. In our previous conversation with Mordecai, he mentioned the “Our Land, Our Nature” congress in Marseille, which we were lucky enough to attend and acquire this interview in person. This time we go deep into speculating about the more nefarious side of the global climate change narrative, including the obsession with the fertility of African women, the prospect of protected areas being refuges for elites, the establishment of decentralized colonies headed by colonizing NGOs, and conservation being a smoke screen for extraction and industry.

In a time where there are so many “solutions” being thrown up in the air about climate change, we feel it is very important to question everything and consider every detail. Where is the money coming from, and where is it going? Listen to Mordecai Ogada make the case for increasing our scrutiny of conservation NGOs, and demanding accountability and transparency for their dealings, as well as the narrative of climate change as a whole.”

The Big Green Lie

Survival International

 

 

At the next Convention on Biological Diversity summit [phase one: 11-15 October 2021], world leaders plan to agree turning 30% of the Earth into “Protected Areas” by 2030.

Big conservation NGOs say this will mitigate climate change, reduce wildlife loss, enhance biodiversity and so save our environment. They are wrong.

Protected Areas will not save our planet. On the contrary, they will increase human suffering and so accelerate the destruction of the spaces they claim to protect because local opposition to them will grow. They have no effect on climate change at all, and have been shown to be generally poor at preventing wildlife loss.

It is vital that real solutions are put forward to address these urgent problems and that the real cause – exploitation of natural resources for profit and growing overconsumption, driven by the Global North – is properly acknowledged and discussed. But this is unlikely to happen because there are too many vested interests that depend on existing consumption patterns continuing.

Who will suffer if 30% of Earth is “protected”? It won’t be those who have overwhelmingly caused the climate crisis, but rather indigenous and other local people in the Global South who play little or no part in the environment’s destruction. Kicking them off their land to create Protected Areas won’t help the climate: Indigenous peoples are the best guardians of the natural world and an essential part of human diversity that is a key to protecting biodiversity.

We must stop the push for 30%.

These Khadia men were thrown off their land after it was turned into a protected area. They lived for months under plastic sheets. Millions more face this fate if the 30% plan goes ahead.These Khadia men were thrown off their land after it was turned into a protected area. They lived for months under plastic sheets. Millions more face this fate if the 30% plan goes ahead. © Survival

The truth about Protected areas

In many parts of the world a Protected Area is where the local people who called the land home for generations are no longer allowed to live or use the natural environment to feed their families, gather medicinal plants or visit their sacred sites. This follows the model of the United States’ nineteenth century creation of the world’s first national parks on lands stolen from Native Americans. Many US national parks forced the peoples who had created the wildlife-rich “wilderness” landscapes into landlessness and poverty.

This is still happening to indigenous peoples and other communities in Africa and parts of Asia. Local people are pushed out by force, coercion or bribery. They are beaten, tortured and abused by park rangers when they try to hunt to feed their families or just to access their ancestral lands. The best guardians of the land, once self-sufficient and with the lowest carbon footprint of any of us, are reduced to landless impoverishment and often end up adding to urban overcrowding. Usually these projects are funded and run by big Western conservation NGOs. Once the locals are gone, tourists, extractive industries and others are welcomed in. For these reasons, local opposition to Protected Areas is growing.

“If the jungle is taken away from us, how will we survive?”
Kunni Bai, a Baiga woman, denounces efforts to evict her people in the name of “conservation”.

Why should we oppose it?

Doubling Protected Areas to cover 30% of the globe will ensure these problems become much worse. As the most biodiverse regions are those where indigenous peoples still live, these will be the first areas targeted by the conservation industry. It will be the biggest land grab in world history and it will reduce hundreds of millions of people to landless poverty – all in the name of conservation. Creating Protected Areas has rarely been done with the consent of indigenous communities, or respect for their human rights. There is no sign that it will be any different in the future. More Protected Areas are likely to result in more militarization and human rights abuses.

The idea of “fortress conservation” – that local peoples must be removed from their land in order to protect ‘nature’ – is colonial. It’s environmentally damaging and rooted in racist and ecofascist ideas about which people are worth more, and which are worth less and can be pushed off their land and impoverished, or attacked and killed.

The conservation industry is looking to get $140 billion every year to fund its land grab.

Say NO to 30%

What do we propose?

We must fight against this big green lie and and respect indigenous peoples’ rights.

If we’re serious about putting the brakes on biodiversity loss, the cheapest and best-proven method is to support as much indigenous land as possible. Eighty per cent of the planet’s biodiversity is already found there.

For tribes, for nature, for all humanity. #BigGreenLie

HELP STOP THE BIG GREEN LIE

Stop the push for 30%


More information on the 30% land grab:

Mapping For Rights: The ‘Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework’

‘New Deal for Nature: Paying the Emperor to Fence the Wind’

#DecolonizeConservation: Tribal Voice videos

Joint statement by NGOs: concerns over the proposed 30% target

The Big Green Lie: an infographic explainer

EU Conference on 2030 Biodiversity Strategy

30% by 2030 and Nature-Based Solutions: the new green colonial rule

 

 

More information on colonial conservation

Wall Street’s Takeover of Nature Advances with Launch of New Asset Class

Unlimited Hangout

October 13, 2021

By Whitney Webb

 

A project of the multilateral development banking system, the Rockefeller Foundation and the New York Stock Exchange recently created a new asset class that will put, not just the natural world, but the processes underpinning all life, up for sale under the guise of promoting “sustainability.”

Last month, the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) announced it had developed a new asset class and accompanying listing vehicle meant “to preserve and restore the natural assets that ultimately underpin the ability for there to be life on Earth.” Called a natural asset company, or NAC, the vehicle will allow for the formation of specialized corporations “that hold the rights to the ecosystem services produced on a given chunk of land, services like carbon sequestration or clean water.” These NACs will then maintain, manage and grow the natural assets they commodify, with the end of goal of maximizing the aspects of that natural asset that are deemed by the company to be profitable.

Though described as acting like “any other entity” on the NYSE, it is alleged that NACs “will use the funds to help preserve a rain forest or undertake other conservation efforts, like changing a farm’s conventional agricultural production practices.” Yet, as explained towards the end of this article, even the creators of NACs admit that the ultimate goal is to extract near-infinite profits from the natural processes they seek to quantify and then monetize.

NYSE COO Michael Blaugrund alluded to this when he said the following regarding the launch of NACs: “Our hope is that owning a natural asset company is going to be a way that an increasingly broad range of investors have the ability to invest in something that’s intrinsically valuable, but, up to this point, was really excluded from the financial markets.”

Framed with the lofty talk of “sustainability” and “conservation”, media reports on the move in outlets like Fortune couldn’t avoid noting that NACs open the doors to “a new form of sustainable investment” which “has enthralled the likes of BlackRock CEO Larry Fink over the past several years even though there remain big, unanswered questions about it.” Fink, one of the world’s most powerful financial oligarchs, is and has long been a corporate raider, not an environmentalist, and his excitement about NACs should give even its most enthusiastic proponents pause if this endeavor was really about advancing conservation, as is being claimed.

How to Create a NAC

The creation and launch of NACs has been two years in the making and saw the NYSE team up with the Intrinsic Exchange Group (IEG), in which the NYSE itself holds a minority stake. IEG’s three investors are the Inter-American Development Bank, the Latin America-focused branch of the multilateral development banking system that imposes neoliberal and neo-colonalist agendas through debt entrapment; the Rockefeller Foundation, the foundation of the American oligarch dynasty whose activities have long been tightly enmeshed with Wall Street; and Aberdare Ventures, a venture capital firm chiefly focused on the digital healthcare space. Notably, the IADB and the Rockefeller Foundation are closely tied to the related pushes for Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs) and biometric Digital IDs.

The IEG’s mission focuses on “pioneering a new asset class based on natural assets and the mechanism to convert them to financial capital.” “These assets,” IEG states, make “life on Earth possible and enjoyable…They include biological systems that provide clean air, water, foods, medicines, a stable climate, human health and societal potential.”

Put differently, NACs will not only allow ecosystems to become financial assets, but the rights to “ecosystem services”, or the benefits people receive from nature as well. These include food production, tourism, clean water, biodiversity, pollination, carbon sequestration and much more. IEG is currently partnering with Costa Rica’s government to pilot its NAC efforts within that country. Costa Rica’s Minister of Environment and Energy, Andrea Meza Murillo, has claimed that the pilot project with IEG “will deepen the economic analysis of giving nature its economic value, as well as to continue mobilizing financial flows to conservation.”

With NACs, the NYSE and IEG are now putting the totality of nature up for sale. While they assert that doing so will “transform our economy to one that is more equitable, resilient and sustainable”, it’s clear that the coming “owners” of nature and natural processes will be the only real beneficiaries.

Per the IEG, NACs first begin with the identification of a natural asset, such as a forest or lake, which is then quantified using specific protocols. Such protocols have already been developed by related groups like the Capitals Coalition, which is partnered with several of IEG’s partners as well as the World Economic Forum and various coalitions of multinational corporations. Then, a NAC is created and the structure of the company decides who has the rights to that natural asset’s productivity as well as the rights to decide how that natural asset is managed and governed. Lastly, a NAC is “converted” into financial capital by launching an initial public offering on a stock exchange, like the NYSE. This last stage “generates capital to manage the natural asset” and the fluctuation of its price on the stock exchange “signals the value of its natural capital.”

Source: IEG

However, the NAC and its employees, directors and owners are not necessarily the owners of the natural asset itself following this final step. Instead, as IEG notes, the NAC is merely the issuer while the potential buyers of the natural asset the NAC represents can include: institutional investors, private investors, individuals and institutions, corporations, sovereign wealth funds and multilateral development banks. Thus, asset management firms that essentially already own much of the world, like Blackrock, could thus become owners of soon-to-be monetized natural processes, natural resources and the very foundations of natural life itself.

Both the NYSE and IEG have marketed this new investment vehicle as being aimed at generating funds that will go back to conservation or sustainability efforts. However, on the IEG’s website, it notes that the goal is really endless profit from natural processes and ecosystems that were previously deemed to be part of “the commons”, i.e. the cultural and natural resources accessible to all members of a society, including natural materials such as air, water, and a habitable earth. Per the IEG, “as the natural asset prospers, providing a steady or increasing flow of ecosystem services, the company’s equity should appreciate accordingly providing investment returns. Shareholders and investors in the company through secondary offers, can take profit by selling shares. These sales can be gauged to reflect the increase in capital value of the stock, roughly in-line with its profitability, creating cashflow based on the health of the company and its assets.”

Researcher and journalist Cory Morningstar has strongly disagreed with the approach being taken by NYSE/IEG and views NACs as a system that will only exacerbate the corporate predation of nature, despite claims to the contrary. Morningstar has described NACs as “Rockefeller et al. letting the markets dictate what in nature has value – and what does not. Yet, it’s not for capitalist institutions and global finance to decide what life has value. Ecosystems are not ‘assets.’ Biological communities exist for their own purposes, not ours.”

A New Way to Loot

The ultimate goal of NACs is not sustainability or conservation – it is the financialization of nature, i.e. turning nature into a commodity that can be used to keep the current, corrupt Wall Street economy booming under the guise of protecting the environment and preventing its further degradation. Indeed, IEG makes this clear when they note that “the opportunity” of NACs lies not in their potential to improve environmental well-being or sustainability, but in the size of this new asset class, which they term “Nature’s Economy.”

Source: IEG

Indeed, while the asset classes of the current economy are value at approximately $512 trillion, the asset classes unlocked by NACs are significantly larger at $4,000 trillion (i.e. $4 quadrillion). Thus, NACs open up a new feeding ground for predatory Wall Street banks and financial institutions that will allow them to not just dominate the human economy, but the entire natural world. In the world currently being constructed by these and related entities, where even freedom is being re-framed not as a right but “a service,” the natural processes on which life depends are similarly being re-framed as assets, which will have owners. Those “owners” will ultimately have the right, in this system, to dictate who gets access to clean water, to clean air, to nature itself and at what cost.

According to Cory Morningstar, one of the other aims of creating “Nature’s Economy” and neatly packaging it for Wall Street via NACs is to drastically advance massive land grab efforts made by Wall Street and the oligarch class in recent years. This includes the recent land grabs made by Wall Street firms as well as billionaire “philanthropists” like Bill Gates during the COVID crisis. However, the land grabs facilitated through the development of NACs will largely target indigenous communities in the developing world.

As Morningstar notes:

The public launch of NACs strategically preceded the fifteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, the biggest biodiversity conference in a decade. Under the pretext of turning 30% of the globe into “protected areas”, the largest global land grab in history is underway. Built on a foundation of white supremacy, this proposal will displace hundreds of millions, furthering the ongoing genocide of Indigenous peoples. The tragic irony is this: while Indigenous peoples represent less than 5% of the global population, they support approximately 80% of all biodiversity.

IEG, in discussing NACs, tellingly notes that proceeds from a NAC’s IPO can be used for the acquisition of more land by its controlling entities or used to boost the budgets or funds of those who receive the capital from the IPO. This is a far cry from the NYSE/IEG sales pitch that NACs are “different” because their IPOs will be used to “preserve and protect” natural areas.

The climate change panic that is now rising to the take the place of COVID-19 panic will surely be used to savvily market NACs and similar tactics as necessary to save the planet, but – rest assured – NACs are not a move to save the planet, but a move to enable the same interests responsible for the current environmental crises to usher in a new era where their predatory exploitation reaches new heights that were previously unimaginable.

 

[Whitney Webb has been a professional writer, researcher and journalist since 2016. She has written for several websites and, from 2017 to 2020, was a staff writer and senior investigative reporter for Mint Press News. She currently writes for The Last American Vagabond.]

What’s Really at Stake with Vaccine Passports

Centre for International Governance Innovation

April 5, 2021

By Elizabeth M. Renieris

 

In February, 2021, ID2020 launched Good Health Pass

Elizabeth M. Renieris is a technology and human rights fellow at Harvard University’s Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, a fellow at Stanford University’s Digital Civil Society Lab and an affiliate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society. In May 2020, Renieris, an adviser to the ID2020 Alliance, which aims to bring digital identities to billions of people, resigned over the organization’s direction on digital immunity passes and COVID-19. In her resignation Renieris cited ID2020’s opacity, “techno-solutionism” and corporate influence along with the risks of applying blockchain to immunity passes. [Source: CoinDesk]
 

As the world looks to slowly emerge from the grip of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, and more than a year of associated border closures, travel restrictions, widespread shutdowns and other limitations on once-normal activities, the idea of a digital “vaccine passport” for COVID-19 is also gaining momentum. While proposals come in different varieties, sometimes called “vaccine passports,” “immunity certificates” or “green passes,” among other names, the underlying idea is the same — to provide a digital certificate or credential intended to prove something about an individual’s health status with respect to the pathogen responsible for COVID-19, such as whether the individual has been vaccinated against, tested negative for or recovered from the virus.Each implementation requires a combination of health information, identity verification tools and a mechanism for presenting the certificate or credential, typically in the form of a digital wallet that can present a Quick Response (QR) code or another digital artifact. While we are quite focused on the health information and technology components, we should not lose sight of the third identity-related pillar. In fact, rather than thinking about vaccine passports as temporary, isolated, public health-related measures, we should view them as just one example of how the pandemic is accelerating the rollout of digital identity infrastructure and consider the broader implications for society, particularly as commercial and economic incentives predominate.

To date, the conversation around vaccine passports has largely focused on the trade-offs between their potential utility for reopening economic activities and the privacy and security risks they present to individuals. For example, when the European Union’s President Ursula von der Leyen initially announced the Digital Green Pass, she asserted that it would “respect data protection, security [and] privacy.” But this narrow lens ignores a wide array of other, potentially more worrying concerns, particularly with regard to the risks of driving further inequity, discrimination, exclusion and stigmatization. In addition to expressing serious concerns about the digital tools and technologies implicated in vaccine passport schemes, public health experts and ethicists have also raised critical issues of inequitable vaccine distribution and vaccine nationalism.

Evidence of the need for — or utility of — vaccine passports is unclear, particularly as compared to the many risks. For example, a group of public health experts convened by the Ada Lovelace Institute in the United Kingdom found that “there may be a comparatively narrow window where there is scientific confidence about the impact of vaccines on transmission and enough of a vaccinated population that it is worth segregating rights and freedoms. Once there is population-level herd immunity it will not make sense to differentiate, and passports would be unnecessary.” Despite additional warnings from public health experts about the insufficient scientific foundations or evidence for such vaccine passports and the serious concerns from civil society about the associated risks, there is tremendous pressure from economic and commercial interests. Proponents typically fall into three camps — travel industry stakeholders, economies heavily dependent on tourism, and the wider digital identity industry.

Long before vaccination schemes were even under way, airlines, such as Qantas and British Airways, and trade associations, such as the International Air Transport Association, announced their plans to implement digital vaccination passport schemes for international air travel. Similarly, the Airports Council International, which represents nearly 2,000 airports worldwide, became a member of the World Economic Forum’s Common Trust Network, which is promoting the CommonPass platform for digital health credentials with thin details about its technical architecture or implementation. In the United Kingdom, the government is also facing pressure from the Association of British Travel Agents, while President Joe Biden is facing mounting pressure to support vaccine passports from travel industry stakeholders in the United States, even as his administration had previously rejected the federal government’s involvement in such a scheme. Despite the pressures from industry, the World Health Organization (WHO) continues to caution against the passports’ use on the basis of significant practical and ethical considerations, although it has also opened a public solicitation for comments on a potential “Smart Vaccination Certificate.”

Likewise, the governments lobbying hardest for vaccine passports are, unsurprisingly, from countries that are highly dependent on travel and tourism. Efforts in Europe have been led by Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who has been pushing for an EU-wide COVID-19 vaccination certificate and entering into various bilateral agreements with countries around the world. Similarly, the Thai government is exploring the use of vaccine passports in an attempt to revive tourism as the country faces one of the worst economic contractions since 1998. Israel has already introduced a “green pass” that effectively creates a two-tiered system, opening large swaths of the economy, including hotels, bars and restaurants, to those who can present “proof” of either vaccination or presumptive immunity after having recovered from COVID-19. Some law makers also appear to be motivated by the pressure to get ahead of industry. For example, in a February press conference, European Commission President von der Leyen said that the Commission needed to put forward a “European solution” for digital vaccination certificates before large American technology companies such as Apple and Google introduce them, despite no evidence that either company is working on such a solution.

Underlying all of these schemes is the question of digital identity, a complex and hard-to-define socio-technical concept. Technologists often reduce digital identity to a “set of claims made by one [digital] subject about itself or another subject” or “the unique representation of a subject engaged in an online transaction.” These definitions are misleading as non-digital subjects, i.e. real people, have a lot at stake with respect to digital identity, both online and off, as vaccine passports clearly demonstrate. Digital identity encompasses all of the systems and methods by which we identify ourselves through the use of digital tools in the context of specific interactions or transactions, which need not be digital — we might present an app or QR code when boarding a plane — but it is achieved at least partially through digital means. All vaccine passport schemes rely on digital identity systems that implicate sensitive personal data (i.e. health status), and often rely on advanced biometrics like facial recognition and highly experimental technologies such as blockchain or distributed ledger technology. Proponents wield the usual buzzwords of “speed,” “convenience,” “frictionless interactions” and, especially popular in light of the pandemic, “safety,” which is increasing the adoption of “touchless” or “contactless” digital payments and identity solutions (despite little scientific evidence of viral transmission through surfaces).

While digital identity is already a multi-billion-dollar industry projected to exceed USD $30 billion by the year 2025, the pandemic is accelerating its growth more generally. Researchers predict that the number of digital identity apps in use will exceed 6.2 billion in 2025, a 520 percent increase from 2020, driven in large part by the pandemic hastening a shift toward digital services. The pandemic is also supercharging funding for digital identity ventures, which, despite previously struggling with adoption, are now raising money at record levels. Recent examples include an identity start-up raising USD $100 million in a Series C round, based on a unicorn-status USD $1.5 billion valuation; an artificial intelligence and machine learning-focused identity verification start-up raising $100 million in a Series D round, based on a USD $1.3 billion valuation (growing its customer base by more than 85 percent in 2020); and another UK start-up raising USD $100 million at an undisclosed valuation. In this context, it should come as no surprise that identity industry participants, large and small alike, are among the most active proponents of digital vaccination certification schemes.

While industry interests are driving much of the rollout of this digital identity infrastructure, little is known about the particulars of these solutions, because the pathway from vendor to end user is typically a matter of obscure procurement processes — with limited consultation of the public or civil society along the way. As those in the digital identity industry know, creating secure, interoperable digital credentials at scale is exceedingly difficult (e.g., implementation of the Real ID Act in the US has been delayed multiple times since its passage more than 15 years ago). And even as privacy and data protection-by-design norms and standards are growing in popularity, most of these solutions are designed and implemented without due consideration for the fuller array of the individual and collective rights at stake in the broader context of these systems in practice, including in the case of vaccine passports. We also have limited accountability mechanisms for systems or solutions designed, developed and controlled by the private sector (with some industry participants proactively pushing for liability protections for their experimental technologies).

It is critical that we consider vaccine passports in this broader context of accelerating digital identity adoption, with the risk that digital identity infrastructure built and deployed in response to COVID-19 becomes permanent. To assuage to these concerns, some governments promise the solutions are temporary. For example, the European Commission has said, “The Digital Green Certificate system is a temporary measure [that] will be suspended once the World Health Organization (WHO) declares the end of the COVID-19 international health emergency.” But history tells us that the infrastructure and tools deployed as “temporary measures” are unlikely to disappear, especially when they are already being built as “extensible” solutions that will be applied in so many other contexts, including workplaces, schools, the hospitality sector, entertainment venues and more. As a result, rather than asking how a given digital vaccination passport scheme protects individual privacy and security, we must examine how the introduction of these schemes would shift power and normalize ubiquitous identification across many aspects of our lives.

As Harvard scholar Shoshana Zuboff outlined in her seminal work, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, thwarted any momentum for emerging online privacy efforts in the United States, instead ushering in an era of surveillance exceptionalism and contributing to the rise of surveillance capitalism. As the US government came to see the internet and large Silicon Valley companies as instrumental to the intelligence community’s mission, it pushed for sweeping and extraordinary measures that privileged security over privacy or any liberty, among them the USA PATRIOT Act, which dramatically increased the government’s ability to surveil and collect information. Twenty years after 9/11, the PATRIOT Act and other “temporary” measures remain in effect.  If 9/11 ushered in an era of mass surveillance, the pandemic has the potential to introduce the “ID turn” or the age of ubiquitous identification and the end of anonymity. Such a shift would, in turn, threaten the notion of “public” life, which requires the ability to be one of many in the crowd. In this way, what may appear to be temporary public health-related measures could risk embedding permanent digital identity infrastructure without our full consideration of the consequences.