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The Unannounced Death of the Green New Deal: Part 1 – What Happened to the People’s Plan?

Wrong Kind of Green

September 11, 2020

By Michael Swifte

 

 

Is this a people’s plan or is this a process to get elected officials a policy in a timeline that will allow them to promote it around the 2020 election?

 

— John Washington speaking on behalf of Climate Justice Alliance to New Consensus and networks on 18 March 2019 [Source]

 

False Solutions continue to poison, displace, and imprison communities

 

Nuclear, fracking, “clean coal”, incineration and even prisons are offered as economic transition solutions to the climate crisis, but only continue to harm the health of people and the planet. The path of extracting, transporting, processing, and consuming these technologies is paved with communities riddled with cancer, reproductive and respiratory disease, among other devastating health impacts. These false solutions turn low-income communities, communities of color and indigenous communities into sacrifice zones. These do not move us toward a just transition.

 

Climate Justice Alliance, Just Transition Principles, 21 April 2017 [Source]

 

You could say that the Green New Deal died when the Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force recommendations came through, or perhaps that was the moment we knew that the Jemez Principles  and the principles of a Just Transition had been abandoned more than a year before? Perhaps they were abandoned shortly after John Washington’s straight forward, perfectly articulated warning to New Consensus? Or perhaps they were abandoned as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ed Markey prepared the Green New Deal resolution with it’s “clean” and “net zero” language replacing the language of fossil fuel phase outs and 100% Renewables? Perhaps the Sunrise Movement, New Consensus, Justice Democrats and Data for Progress all fell in line with the net zero language of ruling class carbon accounts while paying lip service to fighting fossil fuels and pushing the advocates for First Nations and frontline communities further from the negotiating table?

I’ve looked and I’ve watched and I may be wrong, but it seems like the concerns of the Climate Justice Alliance fell off the map in March 2019 after they presented their position on the importance of observing the Jemez principles in the development of the Green New Deal to New Consensus and its connected networks. At some point between the first promises of a fossil fuel phase out and no new nuclear energy that were part of the notional Green New Deal endorsed by 350 dot org and 600+ of their NGO friends in January 2019, and the release of the Unity Task Force recommendations, any notion of actually centering-frontline-communities in the development of a Green New Deal were, it seems, abandoned. Not long after the Green New Deal Resolution was introduced on 7 February 2019, 350 dot org’s Julian Brave Noisecat took up a key position at Data for Progress whose September 2018 report on the Green New Deal more completely resembles the net zero language of “clean energy” rather than the phase out language of “100% Renewables”. The exact phrase Bria Viniate used in reference to the Ocasio-Cortez/Sunrise version of the Green New Deal in Vogue shortly before the November 2018 midterms is “100% Renewables”. The new phrase at the center of the Green New Deal after the introduction of the Green New Deal Resolution is “100% clean, renewable and zero emissions”.

 

Key Documents

Jemez Principles: https://www.ejnet.org/ej/jemez.pdf

Just Transition Principles: https://climatejusticealliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/CJA_JustTransition_Principles_final_hi-rez.pdf

People of Color Environmental Justice: “Principles of Working Together” http://www.ejnet.org/ej/workingtogether.pdf

Green New Deal Resolution: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/116/hres109/text

Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force Recommendations: https://joebiden.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/UNITY-TASK-FORCE-RECOMMENDATIONS.pdf

Data for Progress – Green New Deal Report: https://www.dataforprogress.org/green-new-deal/

Fake it until you make new plans?

19 November 2018 – January 10 2019

When First Nations groups like the Lakota Law Project celebrated the creation of a Green New Deal in November 2018 they did so after hearing Ocasio-Cortez tell of her experiences at Standing Rock and saying “we have to get to 100 percent renewable energy in 10 years”.

Now, we find ourselves in this struggle together. Every aspect of the Green New Deal must be implemented now.

 

Chase Iron Eyes, Lakota People’s Law Project lead counsel [SOURCE]

In December 2018 Climate Justice Alliance issued a statement that made it clear that it’s primary demand was that Green New Deal builders go to the grass roots and take direction from there.

The proposal for the GND was made public at the grasstops level. When we consulted with many of our own communities, they were neither aware of, nor had they been consulted about the launch of the GND.

 

Climate Justice Alliance [SOURCE]

In January of 2019 Climate Justice Alliance and Indigenous Environment Network made very clear the commitments that would need to be upheld to keep a Green New Deal functioning.

What we want to do is strengthen and center the Green New Deal in environmental justice communities that have both experience and lived history of confronting the struggle against fossil fuel industries,

 

Angela Adrar [SOURCE]

 

The way that the plan was developed and shared is one of its greatest weaknesses,

 

Angela Adrar [SOURCE]

One of the most significant statements, attributable to Angela Adrar, is hard to date. The comment appears in the Green New Deal section of the CJA website but I could not find it in any published documents. It contains a dire warning about “Net Zero” and the burden that will be felt by frontline communities.

 

Allowing for neoliberal constructs such as Net Zero emissions, which equate carbon emission offsets and technology investments with real emissions reductions at source, would only exacerbate existing pollution burdens on frontline communities.

 

Angela Adrar [SOURCE]

On the eve of the release of the letter to congress from 626 environmental groups including 350 dot org Tom Goldtooth from Indigenous Environment Network reaffirmed the need for Green New Deal proponents to engage under the appropriate principles.

We’re asking that leadership of the Green New Deal meet with us and have a discussion how we can strengthen this campaign with the participation of the communities most impacted.

 

Tom Goldtooth [SOURCE]

Speaking upon the release of the letter of 626 groups and in reference to the input from IEN and CJA, Goldtooth indicated that commitment to “real solutions” were hard won. It’s important to note that at the time of the release of this letter Ocasio-Cortez was on record supporting “100% Renewables” having tweeted a call for a “wartime-level” mobilization in a January 2, 2019 tweet. [LINK]

Of course, we really had to assert ourselves on different issues that are very dear to us on seeking real solutions to mitigate climate change.

 

Tom Goldtooth

 

Goldtooth goes on to make it very clear that “real solutions” do not include carbon capture utilization and storage.

The techno fixes are very critical as well. In our analysis, it’s part of the false solutions. Carbon capture and storage, for an example, the technology is still being tested out there, concerns around leakage, and a lot of the private sector, the polluters, will benefit now, only to find out that there’s complications, and really justifying the offset regimes that happen in this scenario to where carbon capture and storage just isn’t working. Carbon capture use and storage and these other areas are very critical concerns with us. We have formed solidarity with other entities that have been addressing this issue as well. And so, we’re very thankful to all the other green groups, the six hundred and twenty some signatures, that they stand with us in looking for real solutions. [SOURCE]

Below is a key passage from the strongly aspirational letter of the 626 groups, January 10, 2019. The claims within have been rendered into empty promises since the introduction of the Green New Deal Resolution. More than a dozen bipartisan bills aimed at expanding fossil fuel extraction are making their way through congress. Bills designed; to expand the refining and use of fossil fuels through 45Q tax credits & modifications to the tax code; develop pipeline corridors; provide support and funding for R&D; and enable the use of financial instruments like private activity bonds. Scarce little has been done by Green New Deal Resolution cosponsors, proponent NGOs or climate justice and progressive NGOs to fight against the bipartisan 45Q bills or indeed in support of the solitary bill designed to eliminate the 45Q tax credit, the End Polluter Welfare Act 2020.

Further, we will vigorously oppose any legislation that: (1) rolls back existing environmental, health, and other protections, (2) protects fossil fuel and other dirty energy polluters from liability, or (3) promotes corporate schemes that place profits over community burdens and benefits, including market-based mechanisms and technology options such as carbon and emissions trading and offsets, carbon capture and storage,nuclear power, waste-to-energy and biomass energy. [Source]

The resolution and the handover to Democrat apparatchiks

4 February 2019 – 18 March 2019

Julian Brave Noisecat was able to see and respond to the language of the Green New Deal resolution before it was introduced. On February 4, 2019 Noisecat made comments published in Politico that show him attempting to bridge the contradiction between fighting for a fossil fuel phase out and fighting for net-zero.

 The language I read was clean, renewable, zero emissions — which is that ‘keep the door open’ approach,” said Julian NoiseCat, policy director with the climate group 350.org, adding that his organization pressed Ocasio-Cortez to include a statement requiring the phase-out of fossil fuels. [SOURCE]

 Noisecat made his comment while he was still employed by 350 dot org. Within a couple of months he would become the Director of Green New Deal Strategy with Data for Progress. While 350 dot org, in theory, still support a fossil fuel phase out, Data for Progress have always used the language as it appeared in the GND resolution. There is nothing that Data for Progress are doing or have done that is strategically supporting a fossil fuel phase out. As reported on January 18, 2019 a few weeks before the GND resolution was published, Greg Carlock, a key author of the Data for Progress – Green New Deal Report published in September 2018, thinks carbon capture utilization and storage is inevitable.

There is no scenario produced by the IPCC or the UN where we hit mid-century decarbonization without some kind of carbon capture.

Carlock also works for the World Resources Institute (WRI) as Manager for Climate Action and Data. WRI have never been committed to phasing out fossil fuels or building 100% renewables.

 

It is firmly understood that going 100 percent renewable in 10 years is technically impossible—like, physically and engineering-wise, it is impossible, [SOURCE] https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2019/01/first-fight-about-democrats-climate-green-new-deal/580543/

In testimony to the House Resources Committee on February 6, 2019, at a hearing titled: ‘Climate Change: The Impacts and the Need to Act’, Elizabeth Yeampierre, executive director of Uprose and steering committee co-chair of Climate Justice Alliance reiterated the need for a just transition.

VIDEO: The House Committee on Natural Resources hosted the hearing “Climate Change: The Impacts and the Need to Act”:

 

To effectively tackle climate change, we must invest in a Just Transition toward specifically local, living economies of scale.

 

Just Transition is a vision-led, unifying and place-based set of principles, processes and practices that build economic and political power to shift from an extractive economy to a regenerative economy – not just for workers but for whole communities. This means approaching production and consumption cycles holistically and waste-free.

 

This transition away from fossil fuels itself must be just and equitable, redressing past harms and creating new relationships of power for the future through reparations, living wage jobs and economic and social development that aims to address historical harm and discrimination. If the process of transition is not just, the outcome will never be. [Source]

An FAQ document that was apparently released in error on February 7, 2019 in advance of the introduction of the Green New Deal Resolution shows that the team formulating the resolution were cognisant of the implications of the change in language from “100% Renewables” to “100% clean and renewable” or “clean, renewable and zero-emission energy” which became the specific language in the resolution.

 

 Why 100% clean and renewable and not just 100% renewable? Are you saying we won’t transition off fossil fuels?

 

Yes, we are calling for a full transition off fossil fuels and zero greenhouse gases. Anyone who has read the resolution sees that we spell this out through a plan that calls for eliminating greenhouse gas emissions from every sector of the economy. [SOURCE: Green New Deal FAQ Fact Sheet, February 7, 2019]

 

On February 7, 2019 Indigenous Environment Network released their ‘talking points’ on the Green New Deal resolution offering an instant rejection of the “net-zero” language.

The primary goal of the AOC-Markey Green New Deal (GND) Resolution is to “achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions”. We reject net-zero emissions language (as well as carbon neutral and zero-carbon) because it implies the use of carbon accounting that includes various types of carbon pricing systems, offsets and/or Payments for Ecological Services (PES).

 

We can no longer leave any options for the fossil fuel industry to determine the economic and energy future of this country. And until the Green New Deal can be explicit in this demand as well as closing the loop on harmful incentives, we cannot fully endorse the resolution. [SOURCE]

In response to the release of the Green New Deal resolution the Indigenous Environment Network released a statement on February 8, 2019. In it they make very clear their position on nuclear energy and their concerns stemming from the door being left open for nuclear in the resolution language.

The Green New Deal (GND) resolutio[n], as it is written right now, with no exclusion of nuclear energy to be considered clean energy, would open the door for Yucca Mountain to be reconsidered for dumping the nuclear energy waste. It would create the largest nuclear waste transportation campaign in history, possibly endangering residents in 44 states, thousands of towns and cities, and our Indigenous territories. [SOURCE]

It’s clear from Ed Markey’s dismissive statements at a press conference on February 11, 2019 unveiling the Green New Deal Resolution that there was a clear break in language of and the responsibility for the Green New Deal. His responses suppose that moderate Democrats should be kept happy. At the same moment First Nations and frontline advocates were clearly unhappy.

We’ve drafted it in a way that can get the support of progressives and moderates inside our caucus.

 

Ed Markey

 

That’s what you should focus on. Focus on the resolution.

 

Ed Markey [SOURCES]

The language of the resolution itself calls for the exercise of the same values enshrined in the Jemez principles.

in transparent and inclusive consultation, collaboration, and partnership with frontline and vulnerable communities, labor unions, worker cooperatives, civil society groups, academia, and businesses. [SOURCE]

In her February 13, 2019 piece for The Intercept following the introduction of the GND resolution Naomi Klein did not mention the disappearance of a fossil fuel phase out or note the change in language.  If 350 had pressed Ocasio-Cortez on a phase out like Noisecat says, you would think it ought to be mentioned by 350’s leading light? Klein instead called for vigilance and ensuring responsiveness to pressure from frontline communities.

The Green New Deal will need to be subject to constant vigilance and pressure from experts who understand exactly what it will take to lower our emissions as rapidly as science demands, and from social movements that have decades of experience bearing the brunt of false climate solutions, whether nuclear power, the chimera of carbon capture and storage, or carbon offsets. [SOURCE]

By mid March 2019 the Climate Justice Alliance were pushed to the point where they felt they had to ask some questions about the values held by New Consensus: Who funds it? and, To whom is it accountable?

To this end, in order for us to continue in this process, we have four clear demands:

 

  1. Include both the Jemez Principles and the Environmental Justice Principles of Working Together in all work stemming from this gathering and forthcoming;

 

  1. Disclose and maintain transparency in funding sources, current and emerging, and commit that funding directly to those most impacted, including frontline and base-building organizing groups, alliances and networks for the development of policy priorities and language;

 

  1. Clearly outline who New Consensus is accountable to and who it works for; and why is there redundancy, going into communities where work is already being done when the country is vast and there are so many other places where there isn’t yet consensus;

 

  1. Commit to New Consensus’ participation in a strategy meeting with CJA and allied frontline partners in order to move our collective conversation and possible relationship forward, we would ask that a MOA be entered into between New Consensus and CJA frontlines.[SOURCE]

John Washington presented his strident arguments to new Consensus and GND partners on March 18, 2019 following the reading of the CJA statement by Miya Yoshitani. Robinson Meyer reported in The Atlantic in June 2019 that “difficulties came to a head” that day, but he did not specify which 2 activists raised issues.

The meeting was bumpy from the first hour, when two environmental-justice activists interrupted proceedings to protest the absence of the Climate Justice Alliance, a national network of urban, rural, and indigenous groups. The alliance had been asked to endorse the Green New Deal, but it had not been asked to help write it, the activists charged.

 

But one of the major demands the environmental-justice activists raised at the meeting has gone publicly unanswered. They asked a simple question: Who’s funding New Consensus? [SOURCE]

The Series

In Part 2 of this series I will look more closely at the negative impacts of marginalizing First Nations, frontline and grass roots voices, and how the fuzzy “clean” language of the Green New Deal Resolution left room for all the Democratic presidential hopefuls to capitalise on climate and justice issues, even when their real commitments would put them at odds with a fossil fuel phase out or 100% renewables.

In Part 3 I will look in depth at the neglected battlefields in stopping fossil fuel extraction including the bipartisan bills supporting expansion of the already misused 45Q tax credit making their way through congress, and the forces lining up to profit from the absence of any real commitment to eliminating fossil fuel subsidies from the DNC through the Progressive Caucus and onto the Green New Deal proponents.

Conclusion

Angela Adrar observed that the way the grass roots component of the Green New Deal was developed is its “greatest weakness” and that the “grasstops” announcement of the Green New Deal concept was not preceded by consultation with grass roots networks. We should keep this in mind whenever we think about the Green New Deal. We may never discover what happened after the March 2019 New Consensus meeting, but we do know there is an enormous responsibility on the shoulders of any honest brokers to redress the relationships compromised in the process of delivering policies for Democrat presidential hopefuls.

We should take as a warning and a lesson the words of Mark Charles at the Native American Presidential Forum in August 2019 as reported by Julian Brave Noisecat.

Now, if you have a house that’s built on a bad foundation, you’re going to get cracks in your walls. You’re going to get gaps in your windows. And you’re going to get a creaky floor,” he said, his oration reaching its soaring conclusion. “And you can scream and you can fight about what color to paint the walls, what kind of calking to use in your windows, and what kind of carpet to put on your floor, but until you go into the basement and examine your foundation and do something to firm those up and make those strong—you are never going to fix the problems in the house.” The audience cheered. Some women who had been cautious with their lele’s earlier really let loose.” [SOURCE]

 

[Michael Swifte is an Australian activist and a member of the Wrong Kind of Green critical thinking collective.]

COMMENTS on ‘Green’ billionaires behind professional activist network that led suppression of ‘Planet of the Humans’ documentary

COMMENTS on ‘Green’ billionaires behind professional activist network that led suppression of ‘Planet of the Humans’ documentary

Wrong Kind of Green

September 9, 2020

An informal response written by Cory Morningstar (Wrong Kind of Green Collective) to the recent Max Blumenthal piece “‘Green’ billionaires behind professional activist network that led suppression of ‘Planet of the Humans’ documentary”.

 

 

Now that much (perhaps some?) of my work over the past decade is finally suitable for discussion and sharing, having been rewrapped with a Max Blumenthal bow, I’m adding some further commentary to complement the relevant piece being widely shared by filmmaker Jeff Gibbs and many more.

Let’s begin.

1. MB: “Naomi Klein, perhaps the most prominent left-wing writer on climate-related issues in the West, did not weigh in to defend “Planet of the Humans.” Instead, the Intercept columnist, social activist, and Gloria Steinem Endowed Chair in Media, Culture, and Feminist Studies at Rutgers University was an early participant in the campaign to suppress the film.”

Adding: Video, Gloria Steinem Discussing Her Time in the Central Intelligence Agency, [running time 3m:16s]:

2. MB: “He pointed to the New York State Assembly’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act as an embodiment of the foresight of proponents of a near-total transition to renewable energy.”

Adding: The Climate Leadership & Community Protection Act heralded as “moonshot”, “historic” and “one of the World’s Most Ambitious Climate Plans” promises more than a tripling of solar by 2025.

Percentage of NYC electricity from solar, 2019: 1.40%.

[Link: https://twitter.com/elleprovocateur/status/1144253062384619521]

Adding that “renewable energy” is old news, as data, as a new class asset, has emerged as the new oil – with carbon capture and storage, nuclear, and geoengineering to be at the forefront of climate “solutions” (with little resistance).

3. MB: “35 percent of investments from clean energy and energy efficiency funds [be] invested in disadvantaged communities.”

Adding: This language can serve to situate industrial sites (infrastructure which will include the physical waste and ecological devastation) on First Nations lands (recognizing that all land has been stolen from First Nations) and marginalized/impoverished communities.

4. MB: “Jacobson’s study, according to National Geographic, was “a foundation stone” of the Green New Deal proposal put forward by Democratic Sen. Ed Markey and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.”

Adding: The National Geographic is a leading partner in the plan to financialize nature led by the World Economic Forum, the World Wildlife Fund, Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project and the United Nations, which partnered with the WEF on June 13, 2019. This is the single most important threat to the natural world, now underway – with the non-profit industrial complex in its entirety, in tandem with media, supporting it (or remaining silent on it). This is the corporate capture of the commons, global in scale. Nature is to be bought, sold and traded on Wall Street. Assigning monetary value to social capital will follow. Nicole Schwab, daughter of Klaus Schwab, founder and CEO of the World Economic Forum, serves as National Geographic Society Director International  Relations, in addition to overseeing the World Economic Forum initiatives: Platform to Accelerate Nature Based Solutions – and  1tDOTorg (the Trillion Trees initiative).

[More: https://twitter.com/search?q=%40elleprovocateur%20%3A%20nicole&src=typed_query]

[Further reading, the non-funded grassroots campaign: “No Deal For Nature: Because Life is Not a Commodity]

5. MD: “He mentioned ‘a foundation based in Sweden, I think it’s called the Rasmussen Foundation that I think has been the biggest funder.'”

Adding: The 2014 People’s Climate March was a project of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and V.K. Rasmussen Foundation from the onset. Avaaz and 350-org were the leading NGOs tasked with “herding” the “cats”. Tom Kruse, Program Director at the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, serves/served on the 350-org U.S. advisory council.

Sept 23, 2015: Under One Bad Sky | TckTckTck’s 2014 People’s Climate March: This Changed Nothing:

http://www.wrongkindofgreen.org/2015/09/23/under-one-bad-sky/

Book review of This changes everything: Capitalism vs the Climate – by Tom Kruse, program director of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. Featured in the 2016 issue of Alliance magazine ("for philanthropy and social investment worldwide").

Book review of This changes everything: Capitalism vs the Climate – by Tom Kruse, program director of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. Featured in the 2016 issue of Alliance magazine (“for philanthropy and social investment worldwide”). Sept 27, 2014, Klein: “”But I have never said that we need to “slay,” “ditch” or “dismantle” capitalism in order to fight climate change.” Today, under the guise of “stakeholder capitalism” the ruling class is determined to maintain the social license required to continue in their plunder and exploitation while securing their position and status. See work of activist and author Stephanie McMillan.

 

Klein’s alliance with the Rockefeller Foundation goes way back. Nov 28, 2011: “Mission Related Investing, Making Sense of Philanthropy’s Role in the Occupy Wall Street Movement.” Featured on the five person panel was both Naomi Klein and Rockefeller’s Tom Kruse. In 2016 Kruse wrote a glowing book review on This Changes Everything (the project the Rockefeller’s  helped finance). Klein’s book, launched on September 16, 2014, just prior to “The People’s Climate March” and Climate Week NYC (Sept 22-28)(an annual event hosted in association with the United Nations; organized by The Climate Group, and the World Economic Forum), served a foundation for a ten-year global social engineering project. “Changing Together” and “Together” would be branded terms that would slowly erode all critical class analysis. On September 17, 2019, again just prior to the UN activities, Klein would release “On Fire: The Burning Case for a Green New Deal”. This book would serve to build demand for a Global Green New Deal as sought by the United Nations.

Sept 24, 2015: McKibben’s Divestment Tour – Brought to You by Wall Street [Part XIII of an Investigative Report] The Increasing Vogue for Capitalist-Friendly Climate Discourse:

http://www.wrongkindofgreen.org/2015/09/24/mckibbens-divestment-tour-brought-to-you-by-wall-street-part-xiii-the-increasing-vogue-for-capitalist-friendly-climate-discourse/

June 7, 2016: Book review by Rockefeller’s Tom Kruse featured in Alliance Magazine (“for philanthropy and social investment worldwide”):

https://www.alliancemagazine.org/book-review/this-changes-everything-capitalism-vs-the-climate-naomi-klein/

All roads lead to emerging markets. The roads are paved with the sustainable development goals.

6. MB: “It began when the foundation incubated a group called 1Sky with a $1 million grant. McKibben immediately joined as board member.”

Adding: 1Sky was injected with massive funding as this juncture, but it actually began with Step It Up (2007) – the same year Avaaz was launched. Here I will add that Avaaz and 350 are closely intertwined and have been since inception. May Boeve, 350 co-founder and current executive director, (base salary of $130,431 in 2017) has been listed as director in Avaaz 990 forms on more than one occasion.

Avaaz plays a leading role in destruction of targeted sovereign states. (A fact Klein blocked me for when asking why she did not expose this on Twitter.) Klein’s father-in-law, often affiliated with her Leap NGO, is one of Canada’s most egregious imperialists. A ideology that Klein has supported on many occasions. (Bolivia, Syria, Libya).

Avaaz is also behind the scheme to financialize nature. This ties into the global climate strikes (to strengthen the Voice for the Planet and New Deal for Nature campaigns led by World Economic Forum/UN, and the World Wildlife Fund) where again, Avaaz has played a leading role. 350 and Avaaz are both co-founders of GCCA which has largely navigated the climate “movement” since 2009. In 2015 Kumi Naidoo, former executive director of both Greenpeace International and GCCA, serving as executive director of Amnesty International, until resigning Dec 2019, was cited as a 350 director in the 2015 990 filing.

7. MB: “Whatever his motives were, since the testy exchange with Strickler, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund has contributed over $1 million to McKibben’s 350.org.

Adding: $1 million is pocket change for these groups. Look at ClimateWorks and other sources of funding (corporate profits laundered through tax exempt foundations) that protect and expand capital. 350 is international in scope – financed to provide “climate change awareness services training and events” – prior to the November 2019 coup in Bolivia. This foreign influence training model (imperial tentacles) extends to countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

Sept 11, 2019: A Design to Win — A Multi-Billion Dollar Investment [VOLUME II, ACT I]:

http://www.wrongkindofgreen.org/2019/09/11/the-manufacturing-of-greta-thunberg-for-consent-volume-ii-act-i-a-design-to-win-a-multi-billion-dollar-investment/

Article posted October 1, 2015. The UN Global Goals, also know as the Sustainable Delevelopment Goals (SDGs), are the vehicle for emerging markets. The Word Economic Forum oversees the implemtation of the SDGs.

Article posted October 1, 2015. The UN Global Goals, also know as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), are the vehicle for emerging markets. The Word Economic Forum oversees the implementation of the SDGs.

 

8. MB: “Today, the Solutions Project is ‘100% co opted and sold out,’ Fox acknowledged.”

Adding further background research on the Solutions Project:

Dec 17, 2016: Standing Rock: Profusion, Collusion & Big Money Profits [Part 5]:

http://www.wrongkindofgreen.org/2016/12/13/standing-rock-profusion-collusion-big-money-profits-part-5/

9. MB: “Skoll funded Al Gore’s film on climate change, “An Inconvenient Truth,” which went into production soon after Gore launched his Generation Investment Management fund – an inconvenient truth pointed out by “Planet of the Humans.”

Adding this as a side note: Media has recently covered the WE –Trudeau “scandal” in Canada. Conveniently media has omitted key facts – such as Jeff Skoll having been involved in the financing/creation of WE from inception. WE is partnered with the United Nations with deep ties to the ruling class in the UK.

Thread: https://twitter.com/elleprovocateur/status/1286672712690262016

Adding: To see what Gore’s dream of solar in remote and/or impoverished areas of Africa look like in real life, please read:

Jan 30, 2019: The Most Inconvenient Truth: “Capitalism is in Danger of Falling Apart” [ACT III]:

http://www.wrongkindofgreen.org/2019/01/28/the-manufacturing-of-greta-thunberg-for-consent-the-most-inconvenient-truth-capitalism-is-in-danger-of-falling-apart/

10. MB: “Dinwoodie, who signed Fox’s letter calling for the retraction of “Planet of the Humans,” was a top donor to the Rocky Mountain Institute, a so-called “do-tank” where he serves as a lead trustee. The initiative, according to Rocky Mountain, will serve as “an engine room for the financial sector to partner with corporate clients to identify practical solutions through deep partnerships with industry, civil society and policymakers to facilitate a transition in the global economy to net-zero emissions by mid-century.”

Adding: The term net-zero has nothing to do with zero emissions.

Source: Indigenous Environmental Network [IEN]

Source: Indigenous Environmental Network [IEN]

 

Adding: Co-signer Dinwoodie serves as Sierra Club’s Climate Cabinet and Scientific Advisory Panel, MIT Mechanical Engineering Visiting Committee, Advisory Board to The Solutions Project, Advisor to the MIT Energy Club (MIT is a World Economic Forum co-curator), and executive producer of film “Time To Choose”.

11. MB: “Klein, a longtime critic of elite family foundations and the billionaire class, was among the most prominent figures to join the campaign to censor “Planet of the Humans.”

Adding the background to photo of Naomi Klein and Angel Gurría, Secretary-General of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD.)Jan 25, 2016, The De-Klein of a Revolutionary Writer: From Subcomandante Marcos to Angel Gurria:

http://www.wrongkindofgreen.org/2016/01/25/the-de-klein-of-a-revolutionary-writer-from-subcomandante-marcos-to-angel-gurria/

Adding that the perception that “Klein, a longtime critic of elite family foundations and the billionaire class” is a larley a false premise manufactured by media. Consider “Honourable” Hilary M. Weston presenting the Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction to Naomi Klein, on October 15, 2014. The Westons, one of the most wealthy families in Canada, were architects of a 14-year-long bread price-fixing scheme, fleecing working class Canadians of grocery money. In 2018, the Westons were named Ireland’s richest family for the tenth year running, with a wealth of €11.42 billion. In 2020 the Westons were included in the Sunday Times Rich List ranking of the wealthiest people in the UK. The Westons are the third richest family in Canada (made possible by the exploitation and theft of labour).

More recently Klein shares equal billing for the endorsement of The Future We Choose book (authored by Christiana Figueres; UN, We Mean Business, etc.) with World Economic Forum founder and CEO, Klaus Schwab.

The World Economic Forum's Book Club pick for March 2020: The Future We Choose by Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac.

The World Economic Forum’s Book Club pick for March 2020: The Future We Choose by Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac.

 

There is no institution more important than the World Economic Forum at this moment in time, in regard to what is to happen under the guise of climate mitigation and protection of biodiversity. This, the most critical component, is missing.

Also recent, is the 2019 Confluence Philanthropy webinar with Klein, and Stephen Heintz, president of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund under the subheading of “mission-aligned investing” (often referred to as “impact investing”):

 

12. MB: “Klein has celebrated the Danish government where KR Foundation leaders have served for advancing “some of the most visionary environmental policies in the world.”

Adding: The Nordic countries are also at the helm in the plan to assign monetary value to all of nature’s “services”, global in scale.

Link: https://twitter.com/elleprovocateur/status/1301966944321572865

September 20, 2019: "It was the Nordic Council Sustainability Committee who initially came up with the idea of an initiative targeting the youth, and the idea was immediately supported by the Nordic Council of Ministers for the Environment."

September 20, 2019: “It was the Nordic Council Sustainability Committee who initially came up with the idea of an initiative targeting the youth, and the idea was immediately supported by the Nordic Council of Ministers for the Environment.”

 

Nordic Council of Ministers: "This analysis examines the attitudes of Nordic youth aged 13-30 in relation to achieving Sustainable Development Goal 12 (SDG 12) on Sustainable Consumption and Production."

Nordic Council of Ministers: “This analysis examines the attitudes of Nordic youth aged 13-30 in relation to achieving Sustainable Development Goal 12 (SDG 12) on Sustainable Consumption and Production.”

 

13. MB: “For its part, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund has supported The Syria Campaign, a public relations outfit that clamored for US military intervention to remove the UN-recognized government of Syria.”

Here it is critical to add that The Syria Campaign is a project incubated by Purpose – the for profit public relations arm of Avaaz. Specializing behavioural change, it’s clients include some of the biggest corporations on the planet. It’s most recent partnership with the UN is ShareVerified. (Promoting vaccines and data mining while attempting to control control pandemic narrative being leveraged by World Economic Forum to usher in the fourth industrial revolution architecture.) Both Purpose and Greenpeace  contributed to the creation of We Mean Business coalition representing 1340 corporations with an approx. 24.8 trillion market cap.

14. Adding mining links highlighting praise of both Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Greta Thunberg as “heroines” to the mining industry:

https://twitter.com/elleprovocateur/status/1193691372290793472

https://twitter.com/elleprovocateur/status/1224698188818456576

https://twitter.com/elleprovocateur/status/1190643776139739136

15. “Klein’s 2015 book and documentary film on climate change, “This Changes Everything,” was initially launched as a project called “The Message.” It was supported with hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants from a who’s who of major family foundations that help sustain McKibben’s political apparatus.”

Adding source: July 30, 2014, Financing “The Message” Behind Naomi Klein’s ‘This Changes Everything’ Project:

http://www.wrongkindofgreen.org/2015/10/02/financing-the-message-behind-naomi-kleins-this-changes-everything-project/

Susan Rockefeller at her home on the Upper East Side in Manhattan, New York, on Sept. 8, 2015. Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)

Susan Rockefeller at her home on the Upper East Side in Manhattan, New York, on Sept. 8, 2015. Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)

 

16. MB: “In a recent The Intercept column, Klein took aim at Schmidt, describing him as one of the billionaires exploiting “a coherent Pandemic Shock Doctrine” to begin “building a high tech dystopia.” She noted that Schmidt is closely aligned with the national security state as chair of the Defense Innovation Board, which consults for the Pentagon on the military’s application of artificial intelligence.”

Adding that Klein neglects to use the World Economic Forum’s terminology – “fourth industrial revolution”. (Max also neglects to mention this critical terminology.) See Alison McDowell’s work on Artificial intelligence (AI) and 5G in respect to the nightmarish future of militarism. Independent journalist Alison McDowell also challenges Klein on specifics and framing (via Twitter) which Klein ignores.

17. MB: The Senate version of the Green New Deal calls for the construction of “smart” power grids almost exactly like those Schmidt imagined. Klein and other high-profile Green New Deal proponents have neglected to mention that this seeming benign component of the well-intentioned plan could represent a giant step on the way to the “high tech dystopia” of Silicon Valley barons and their national security state partners.

Adding (again) that the Green New Deal (resurrected from 2009, led by the United Nations, Avaaz, etc.) is a Trojan horse for fourth industrial revolution technologies and the financialization of nature.

Adding – that Klein, with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Al Gore, Jamie Margolin of Zero Hour (groomed by Gore, tagged by “We Don’t Have Time” in the screenshot below), are the chosen/leading influencers – for a Global Green New Deal as sought by UN (now partnered with both World Economic Forum and the World Bank).

Communication specialist Callum Grieve: Co-founder of We Mean Business, creator of Climate Week NYC for The Climate Group - and Greta Thunberg handler. Grieve has coordinated high-level climate change communications campaigns and interventions for the United Nations, World Bank Group, C40, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and several Fortune 500 companies.

Communication specialist Callum Grieve: Co-founder of We Mean Business, creator of Climate Week NYC for The Climate Group – and Greta Thunberg handler. Grieve has coordinated high-level climate change communications campaigns and interventions for the United Nations, World Bank Group, C40, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and several Fortune 500 companies. Further reading: “A 100 Trillion Dollar Storytelling Campaign [A Short Story], Oct 6, 2019]

“The liquidation of fascism must be the liquidation of the bourgeoisie that created it.” – Gramsci [Tagging this with #WeDontHaveTime]

18. MB: Flush with dark money from Democratic Party-aligned billionaires, Sunrise Movement co-founder Varshini Prakash stated on July 14 – the day Biden released his clean energy plan: “It’s no secret that we’ve been critical of Vice President’s Biden’s plans and commitments in the past. Today, he’s responded to many of those criticisms: dramatically increasing the scale and urgency of investments… Our movement, alongside environmental justice communities and frontline workers, has taught Joe Biden to talk the talk.”

Adding: “Our movement”: To speak of “environmental justice communities” and “frontline workers” – as having taught Joe Biden to “talk the talk” is hard to swallow, when Biden is an imperialist. Has Sunrise transformed Biden into an anti-imperialist who now respects self-determination? (rhetorical question).

Video: Biden and Elliott Abrams on Nicaragua,1987:

https://www.c-span.org/video/?c4731064/user-clip-1987-bidennicaragua

January 18, 2017, Davos: Joe Biden (R) with Klaus Schwab, founder and CEO of the World Economic Forum, Image: Manuel Lopez

19. “While it brands itself as a grassroots movement that has organized anti-establishment stunts putting centrist figures like Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein on the spot, the Sunrise Movement was incubated with a grant from the Sierra Club, the Mike Bloomberg-backed juggernaut of Big Green organizing. Today, offices of the two organizations are located a floor apart in the same building in downtown Washington DC.”

Adding: Background on Sunrise and the Green New Deal:

Feb 13, 2019: The Green New Deal is the Trojan Horse for the Financialization of Nature [ACT V]:

20. Finally, Michael Moore’s commentary in the Q&A session that followed the release of “Planet of the Humans, was worse than disappointing – yet more than revealing. Highlighting Greta Thunberg, Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Extinction Rebellion,  Green New Deal – all in the design/pocket of the ruling classes. In just one hour Moore undermines the said intent of the film. “That’s what’s great about Bernie and AOC… each of their Green New Deals acknowledge this income inequality…” Any/all Green New Deals will serve the ruling class. The World Economic Forum-United Nations is at the helm. Not Sanders. Not AOC. Not the Democrats. This matters as over 105,000 very interested people listened – wishing to learn. Moore: “we need to have a whole new environmental movement, maybe what Greta has started… Sun Rise Movement, Extinction Rebellion, Greta and her Friday School Strike.” Moore re-directs youth right back to foundation financed, billionaire/corporate backed “movements”. [Thread]

Adding that Max B missed the important article by WKOG collective member Michael on the Planet of the Humans documentary:

http://wrongkindofgreen.org/2020/05/20/clinton-to-mckibben-to-steyer-to-podesta-comments-on-planet-of-the-humans-by-michael-swifte

In respect to the pandemic referenced by MB in his article. The ruling class has weaponized the power of both fear and conformity against us. That Covid-19 is the catalyst to usher in a new global architecture, that is, the “fourth industrial revolution”, is not conjecture, not “conspiracy theory“, but a fact. Full compliance and social license of the global citizenry is required.

The ruling class has conspired to usher in a new global governance with Covid-19 as the pretext. With the World Economic-United Nations-World Bank partnership; a global consolidation of power, well underway. It is understood that the transition will cause unprecedented suffering. The only thing they fear is revolt.

The fourth industrial revolution architecture catalogues children as human capital data to be commodified on blockchain, linking behaviour to benefits. The human population to be controlled “via digital identity systems tied to cashless benefit payments within the context of a militarized 5G, “internet of things” and an “augmented reality” environment.” [See the work of Alison McDowell.]

The fourth industrial revolution cannot come into fruition without the 5G infrastructure that will run the Internet of Things. “Smart” cities (via Global Covenant of Mayors) must be understood within the context of global policing and the military industrial complex. Cybersecurity will be the battle space of the 21st century.

As part of “the great reset”, in 2021, the ruling class intends to implement the financialization of nature. Those with money will own nature The very corporations that have brought us to the precipice of ecological collapse – will now be appointed as the new stewards of nature. This has been dubbed by John Elkington (Extinction Rebellion Business signatory, Volans) as the “biosphere economy”. This represents the largest transformation of the global economic system in modern history. Assigning monetary value to nature (“natural capital”) will replace GDP, with nature “valued” at 125 trillion vs. GDP at 85.9 trillion (2018).

Image

Voting in a capitalist system is not going to cut it. Petitions are not going to stop it.

An environmental movement not built on a foundation of anti-imperialism, anti-militarism and anti-capitalism is meaningless. Worthless.

I have tried to keep this concise and brief – which is impossible. Upon that note, I caution that the most important elements now underway, in respect to further destruction of our natural world, are still be ignored by groups and writers with far more resources, and far larger audiences than we have at Wrong Kind of Green. Silence is complicity. Discourse is a strategy utilized by those in service to the ruling class. I hope this inspires more people to investigate, write and organize.

“And that’s the real question facing the white activists today. Can they tear down the institutions that have put us all in the trick bag we’ve been into for the last hundreds of years?” So to me the question is “are we tearing down the institutions or keeping them propped up?”

 

— Stokely Carmichael, 1966

 

[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, Internationalist 360, Tortilla con Sal, and Counterpunch. Her writing has also been published by Bolivia Rising and Cambio, the official newspaper of the Plurinational State of Bolivia. You can follow her on twitter @elleprovocateur]

‘Green’ billionaires behind professional activist network that led suppression of ‘Planet of the Humans’ documentary

The Grayzone

September 7, 2020

By Max Blumenthal

 

“We must take control of our environmental movement and our future from billionaires and their permanent war on Planet Earth. They are not our friends.”

 

-Jeff Gibbs, director of “Planet of the Humans”

Green' billionaires behind professional activist network that led suppression of 'Planet of the Humans' documentary | The Grayzone

 

It is hard to think of an American film that provoked a greater backlash in 2020 than “Planet of the Humans.” Focused on the theme of planetary extinction and fanciful proposals to ward it off, the documentary was released for free on YouTube on April 21. The date was significant not only because it was the eve of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, but because a global pandemic was tearing through America’s social fabric and exposing the human toll of the country’s globalized, growth-obsessed economic model.“The Michael Moore-produced ‘Planet of the Humans’ faced a coordinated suppression campaign led by professional climate activists backed by the same ‘green’ billionaires, Wall Street investors, industry insiders and family foundations skewered in the film.”

Even before “Planet of the Humans” was released, however, the producers of the film had fallen under pressure to retract it. Upon the film’s release, a who’s who of self-styled climate justice activists proceeded to blanket the internet with accusations that it was a racist, “eco-fascist” screed that deliberately advanced the interests of the oil and gas industry. When “Planet of the Humans” was briefly yanked from YouTube thanks to a questionable copyright claim by an angry climate warrior, the free speech organization Pen America issued a remarkable statement characterizing the demands for retraction as a coordinated censorship campaign.

What had this documentary done to inflame so much opposition from the faces and voices of professional climate justice activism? First, it probed the well-established shortcomings of renewable energy sources like solar and wind power that have been marketed as a green panacea. “Planet of the Humans” portrayed these technologies as anything but green, surveying the environmental damage already caused by solar and wind farms, which require heavy mining and smelting to produce, destroy swaths of pristine land, and sometimes demand natural gas to operate.

While major environmental outfits have lobbied for a Green New Deal to fuel a renewables-based industrial revolution, and are now banking on a Democratic presidency to enact their proposals, “Planet of the Humans” put forward a radical critique that called their entire agenda into question.

As the director of the documentary, Jeff Gibbs, explained, “When we focus on climate change only as the thing destroying the planet and we demand solutions, we get used by forces of capitalism who want to continue to sell us the disastrous illusion that we can mine and smelt and industrialize our way out of this extinction event. And again, behind the scenes, much of what we’re doing to ‘save’ the planet is to burn the ‘bio’ of the planet as green energy.”

“Planet of the Humans” crossed another bright green line by taking aim at the self-proclaimed climate justice activists themselves, painting them as opportunists who had been willingly co-opted by predatory capitalists. The filmmakers highlighted the role of family foundations like the Rockefeller Brothers Fund in cultivating a class of professional activists that tend toward greenwashing partnerships with Wall Street and the Democratic Party to coalitions with anti-capitalist militants and anti-war groups.

Bill McKibben, the founder of 350.org and guru of climate justice activism, is seen throughout “Planet of the Humans” consorting with Wall Street executives and pushing fossil fuel divestment campaigns that enable powerful institutions to reshuffle their assets into plastics and mining while burnishing their image. McKibben has even called for environmentalists to cooperate with the Pentagon, one of the world’s worst polluters and greatest exporters of violence, because “when it speaks frankly, [it] has the potential to reach Americans who won’t listen to scientists.”

Perhaps the most provocative critique contained in “Planet of the Humans” was the portrayal of full-time climate warriors like McKibben as de facto lobbyists for green tech billionaires and Wall Street investors determined to get their hands on the whopping $50 trillion profit opportunity that a full transition to renewable technology represents. Why have figures like Google CEO Eric Schmidt, Michael Bloomberg, Virgin’s Richard Branson, and Tesla founder Elon Musk been plowing their fortunes into climate advocacy? The documentary taunted those who accepted these oligarchs’ gestures of environmental concern at face value.

For years, leftist criticism of professional climate activism has been largely relegated to blogs like Wrong Kind of Green, which maintains an invaluable archive of critical work on the co-optation of major environmental organizations by the billionaire class. Prominent greens might have been able to dismiss scrutiny from radical corners of the internet as background noise; however, they were unable to ignore “Planet of the Humans.”

That was because Oscar-winning documentarian Michael Moore put his name on the film as executive producer, alongside his longtime producer, Gibbs, and the scholar-researcher Ozzie Zehner. “Michael Moore validates this film,” Josh Fox, the filmmaker who led the campaign against “Planet of the Humans,” told me. “So if Michael Moore’s name is not on that film, it’s like a thousand other crappy movies.”

By racking up millions of views after just a month on YouTube, “Planet of the Humans” threatened to provoke an unprecedented debate about the corruption of environmental politics by the one percent. But thanks to the campaign by Fox and his allies, much of the debate wound up focused on the film itself, and the credibility of its producers.

“I had some sense that the film was going to ruffle some feathers, but I was unprepared for that response from what ended up being a group of people who are like an echo chamber – all related to the same funding organizations,” said Zehner. “It’s a pretty tight circle and it was a really strong, virulent pushback.”

The line of attack that may have gained the most traction in progressive circles portrayed a convoluted section of the film on the dangers of population growth and overconsumption as Malthusian, and even racist. Zehner told me he considered the attacks opportunistic, but “from a public relations standpoint, they were effective. What we were trying to do was highlight the dangers of a consumption-based economic model.”

The backlash to “Planet of the Humans” also related to its portrayal of renewables as badly flawed sources of energy that were also environmentally corrosive. Many of those attacks painted the film’s presentation of solar and wind to present the documentary as out of date and filled with misinformation.

Oddly, the professional activists who coordinated the campaign to bury “Planet of the Humans” glossed over an entire third of the documentary which focused on the corruption and co-optation of environmental politics by “green” foundations and “green” investors.

As this investigation will reveal, those climate justice activists were bound together by support from the same family foundations, billionaire investors, and industry interests that were skewered in the film.

Josh Fox Planet of the Humans billionaires

Filmmaker Josh Fox

“Censorship, plain and simple”

The ringleader of the push to suppress “Planet of the Humans” was Josh Fox, the Oscar-nominated director of the film “Gasland,” which highlighted the destructive practices inherent to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Fox launched the campaign with a sign-on letter calling for the documentary to be retracted by its producers. Then, in an incendiary takedown published in The Nation, he branded Michael Moore “the new flack for oil and gas,” a racist, and “eco-fascist” for producing the film.

As videographer Matt Orfalea reported, Fox’s crusade began the night Moore’s film was released, with an unhinged mass email to online publishers that blasted the documentary as “A GIGANTIC CROCK OF SHIT.” Fox commanded, “It must come down off your pages immediately.”

Hours later, Fox fired off another breathless email to a group of public relations professionals. “A number of reputable websites are hosting this abomination and I need your support in getting them to take it down,” he wrote. The following day, Fox took to Twitter to assure his ally, 350.org founder Bill McKibben, “We are on it.”

Next, Fox organized a sign-on letter demanding the film “be retracted by its creators and distributors and an apology rendered for its misleading content.” Among the letter’s signatories was academic and renewables advocate Leah C. Stokes, who proclaimed her wish in an article in Vox that “this film will be buried, and few will watch it or remember it.”

On April 24, Josh Fox claimed he had successfully pressured an online video library, Films For Action, into removing “Planet of the Humans” from its website. His victory lap turned out to be premature, as Films For Action re-posted the film and publicly condemned Fox’s campaign to drive it into oblivion.

The relentless push by Fox and others eventually triggered a striking statement by PEN America, the free speech advocacy group. “Calls to pull a film because of disagreement with its content are calls for censorship, plain and simple,” PEN America declared.

“Listen, nobody called to censor this movie,” Fox insisted to me. “We asked the filmmakers as part of their community to retract it, because it unfairly attacked people that we know are good, honest dealers and its premise was wrong and false.”

Fox likened “Planet of the Humans” to radio host Mike Daisey’s monologue on visiting the Foxconn factory in China where iPhones are made, and which was retracted by NPR after major fabrications came to light. “It’s clear to me that the filmmakers… put incorrect information into the film that they knew was incorrect. That thing was out of date,” Fox said of the Moore-produced documentary. “And many, many people from within our community reached out to them, which I didn’t know actually, prior to the release of the film and said, ‘This information is incorrect. What are you doing?’”

Fox was particularly incensed at Michael Moore for attaching his reputation to the film. He described the famed director as one of “the bad guys”; “a megalomaniacal multi-millionaire who craves attention unlike anyone I’ve ever met”; “the 800-pound elephant in the room”; the maker of a “racist” and “eco-fascist” film; and “a multi-millionaire circus barker” guilty of “journalistic malpractice.”

“The real bully is Michael Moore here,” Fox maintained. “It’s not me.”

Though Fox and his allies did not succeed in erasing “Planet of the Humans” from the internet, the documentary was momentarily removed from YouTube on the grounds of a copyright claim by a British photographer named Toby Smith. In a tweet he later deleted, Smith said his opposition to the film was “personal,” blasting it as a “baseless, shite doc built on bull-shit and endless copyright infringements.”

As the attacks on “Planet of the Humans” snowballed, director Jeff Gibbs attempted to defend his film. Following an article at The Guardian branding the film as “dangerous,” Gibbs emailed the paper’s opinion editors requesting a right of reply. He told me they never responded. However, just hours after Toby Smith’s politically-motivated copyright claim prompted YouTube to remove Gibbs’ documentary, he said The Guardian reached out to him for comment. “How’d they catch that so early?” he wondered.

A few left-wing journalists tried to push back on the attacks as well. But in almost every case, they were spiked by editors at ostensibly progressive journals. Christopher Ketcham, author of “This Land: How Cowboys, Capitalism, and Corruption are Ruining the American West,” was among those unable to find a venue in which to defend the documentary.

“I have come across very few editors radical enough to have the exceedingly difficult conversation about the downscaling, simplification, and the turn (in the developed world) toward diminished affluence that a 100 percent renewable energy system will necessarily entail,” Ketcham reflected to me. “You see, they have to believe that they can keep their carbon-subsidized entitlements, their toys, their leisure travel — no behavioral change or limits needed — and it will all be green and ‘sustainable.’”

Naomi Klein, perhaps the most prominent left-wing writer on climate-related issues in the West, did not weigh in to defend “Planet of the Humans.” Instead, the Intercept columnist, social activist, and Gloria Steinem Endowed Chair in Media, Culture, and Feminist Studies at Rutgers University was an early participant in the campaign to suppress the film.

According to McKibben, “Naomi [Klein] had in fact taken Moore aside in an MSNBC greenroom” before the documentary’s release to lobby him against publishing the film. Klein later signed Josh Fox’s open letter demanding the film be retracted.

On Twitter, Klein condemned “Planet of the Humans” as “truly demoralizing,” and promoted a “big blog/fact check” of the film by Ketan Joshi, a former communications officer for the Australian wind farm company Infigen Energy.

Mining a green future and burying the cost

Like most opponents of “Planet of the Humans,” Ketan Joshi painted the documentary as “a dumb old bull in the china shop that is 2020’s hard-earned climate action environment.” And along with other critics, he accused the film’s co-producers, Gibbs and Zehner, of wildly misrepresenting the efficiency of renewables.

To illustrate his point, he referenced a scene depicting the Cedar Street Solar Array in Lansing, Michigan with flexible solar panels running at 8% efficiency – purportedly enough to generate electricity for just 10 homes. Because that scene was part of a historical sequence filmed in 2008, Joshi dismissed it as an example of the film’s “extreme oldness.”

However, this February, the solar trade publication PV Magazine found that Tesla’s newest line of flexible solar shingles had an efficiency rate of 8.1% – almost exactly the same as those depicted in “Planet of the Humans.”

While it is true that mono-crystalline solar panels boast a higher efficiency rate (between 15% and 18% in commercially available form), they were also on the market back in 2008. These panels are significantly more expensive than the flexible, less efficient panels, however. And their efficiency levels do not account for the intermittency inherent to solar energy, which does not work well in cloudy or dark conditions.

Yet according to Josh Fox, the most vehement opponent of “Planet of the Humans,” the planet-saving capacity of solar and other supposedly clean forms of energy was so well-established it was beyond debate.

“The premise of the film is renewable energy doesn’t work and is dependent on fossil fuels. And that is patently ridiculous,” Fox remarked to me. “And the reason why I got into this is because I had young environmentalists – young people who are steadfast campaigners – calling me in the middle of the night, freaking out, [telling me] ‘I can’t believe this!’ And I looked at them and I said, ‘Well, there’s a reason why you can’t believe this; it’s because it’s not true.’”

But was the presentation of renewable energy sources in “Planet of the Humans” actually false? Ecological economist William Rees has claimed that “despite rapid growth in wind and solar generation, the green energy transition is not really happening.” That might be because it is chasing energy growth instead of curtailing it. Rees pointed out that the surge in global demand for electricity last year “exceeded the total output of the world’s entire 30-year accumulation of solar power installations.”

Are there not reasonable grounds then to be concerned about the practicality of a full transition to renewables, especially in a hyper-capitalist, growth-obsessed economy like that of the United States?

A September 2018 scientific study delivered some conclusions that contradicted the confident claims of renewables advocates. A research team measured solar thermal plants currently in operation around the world and found that they are dependent on the “intensive use of materials,” which is code for heavily mined minerals.

minerals renewable energy IEA

Minerals needed to produce renewable energy (Source: International Energy Agency / IEA)

 

Further, the researchers found that the output of these plants was marred by “significant seasonal intermittence” due to shifting weather patterns and the simple fact that the sun does not always shine.

The negative impact of massive wind farms on the environment and marginalized communities – an issue highlighted in “Planet of the Humans” – is also a serious concern, especially in the Global South. Anthropologist and “Renewing Destruction: Wind Energy Development, Conflict and Resistance in a Latin American Context” author Alexander Dunlap published a peer-reviewed 2017 study of wind farms in the indigenous Tehuantepec region of Oaxaca, Mexico, which has been marketed as one of the most ideal wind generation sites in the world. Dunlap found that the supposedly renewable projects “largely reinforced income inequality, furthered poverty entrenchment and increased food vulnerability and worker dependency on the construction of more wind parks, which cumulatively has led to an increase in work-related out-migration and environmental degradation.”

When wind turbines reach the end of their life cycle, their fiberglass blades, which can be as long as a football field, are impossible to recycle. As a result, they are piling up in rural dumping sites across the US. Meanwhile, the environmentalist magazine Grist warned this August of a “solar e-waste glut” that will produce “megatons of toxic trash” when solar panels begin to lose efficiency and die.

In response to my questions about so-called renewable energy, Fox referred me to a close ally, Anthony Ingraffea, who signed his letter calling for “Planet of the Humans” to be pulled. A civil engineer and co-founder of Physicians, Scientists and Engineers for Healthy Energy, which advocates for renewables, Ingraffea is a former oil and gas industry insider who turned into a forceful opponent of fracking. In the past six years, he has produced scientific assessments for the governments of New York State and California on a transition to mostly renewable energy sources.

Ingraffea slammed “Planet of the Humans” as “way off base” and derided research by Ozzie Zehner, the co-producer, as “conspiracy theory shit.” He contrasted his credentials with those of Zehner, boasting that while he has earned 15,000 citations in peer-reviewed academic journals during his career as an engineer, Zehner had chalked up a mere 300.

When I turned to the subject of social and environmental damage caused by so-called renewables, Ingraffea argued that the burning, storing, and transportation of fossil fuels outweighed any of those costs. According to Ingraffea, when New York State makes a decisive transition to renewables, only about 2% of the state’s land would be occupied by solar and wind farms – which translates to about 1,100 square miles.

He pointed to the New York State Assembly’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act as an embodiment of the foresight of proponents of a near-total transition to renewable energy. The bill, which calls for the state to run 70% of its publicly generated energy off of “renewable energy systems” by 2030, also mandates that “35 percent of investments from clean energy and energy efficiency funds [be] invested in disadvantaged communities.”

“That’s wisdom speaking,” Ingraffea said of the legislation. “That’s telling you that yes, we are aware of the problem that you said we should be aware of. Yeah, we’re not all dumb. We’re not all crazy. We’re not all ideological. Not all technical nerds who just fall in love and want to make sex with solar panels.”

However, the communities (or their designated NGO representatives) supposedly compensated through the New York State bill are not located in the regions that will be most impacted by the extraction necessary to manufacture so-called renewables. Already devastated by coups and neocolonial exploitation, swathes of the Global South from Bolivia to Congo – home to massive reserves of cobalt hand-mined in “slave conditions” for electric car batteries and iPhones – are being further destabilized by the minerals rush.

Even mainstream environmentalists acknowledge that rising reliance on renewable energy “means a lot of dirty mining” to extract the minerals required for electric batteries and solar cells. This prospect has sparked excitement within the mining industry, with the editor of Mining.com, Frik Els, dubbing Green New Deal spokeswomen Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Greta Thunberg “mining’s unlikely heroines.”

“Going all in on the green economy and decarbonisation requires siding with the greens against fossil fuels,” Els informed fellow mining industry insiders. “It means selling global mining as the solution to climate change because mining metals is the only path to green energy and green transport.”

Mining com Greta Thunberg AOC

The inevitable rush on minerals required to power the green revolution has not exactly delighted residents of the Global South, however.

Evo Morales, the indigenous former president of Bolivia, was driven from power in 2019 by a military junta backed by the United States and local oligarchs, in what he branded a lithium coup. With the world’s largest untapped lithium resources, Bolivia is estimated to hold as much as half of the world’s reserves. Under Morales, the country guaranteed that only state-owned firms could mine the mineral.

The ousted socialist leader argued that multi-national corporations supported his right-wing domestic opponents in order to get their hands on Bolivia’s lithium – an essential element in the electric batteries that provide the cornerstone to a digital economy dependent on smartphones, laptops, and electric vehicles. “As a small country of 10 million inhabitants, we were soon going to set the price of lithium,” Morales said. “They know we have the greatest lithium reserves in the world [in a space of] 16,000 square kilometers.”

minerals electric cars IEA

Minerals needed to produce electric cars (Source: International Energy Agency / IEA)

 

Just before the military coup in Bolivia, a report (PDF) by the World Economic Forum’s Global Battery Alliance reported that the global demand for electric batteries will increase 14-fold before 2030. Almost half of today’s lithium is mined to produce electric batteries, and the demand for the mineral will only rise as power grids incorporate high levels of battery powered tech and the demand for electric vehicles increases.

Electric batteries are also heavily reliant on cobalt, most of which is mined from Congo, and often in illegal and dangerous conditions by child labor. In December 2019, over a dozen Congolese plaintiffs sued Apple, Google’s Alphabet parent company, Microsoft, Dell, and Tesla, accusing them of “knowingly benefiting from and aiding and abetting the cruel and brutal use of young children in Democratic Republic of Congo (‘DRC’) to mine cobalt.”

This July, Tesla CEO and electric battery kingpin Elon Musk appeared to take partial credit for the 2019 military coup that forced Bolivia’s Evo Morales from power, asserting that big tech billionaires like him could “coup whoever we want.”

The payoff for all the dirty and deadly mining required to manufacture the solar panels, wind turbines, and electric batteries required to power the new industrial revolution is supposed to be a planet no longer faced with a “climate emergency” – and nevermind the damage to the Earth and its non-human inhabitants. But with the demand for electricity constantly growing, is it even possible to power an economy like that of the US with entirely renewable sources of energy (excluding nuclear)?

A scientific projection by one of the closest allies of Josh Fox and Anthony Ingraffea was supposed to have answered that question and put all doubts to bed. Instead, it resulted in acrimony and embarrassment for its author.

The 2050 transition goal: real science or a murky crystal ball?

In his piece hammering “Planet of the Humans” in The Nation, Fox touted “the proliferation of 100 percent renewable energy plans put forward by Stanford University Professor Mark Jacobson” as one of the most important pieces of evidence refuting the film’s grim narrative.

Jacobson’s study, according to National Geographic, was “a foundation stone” of the Green New Deal proposal put forward by Democratic Sen. Ed Markey and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. It was also central to the energy plan advanced by the  presidential campaigns of Sen. Bernie Sanders, who co-authored an op-ed with Jacobson that called for a full transition to “clean” energy by 2050.

Jacobson, like Ingraffea, is an environmental engineer and political partner of Fox. The Stanford professor helped Fox found the environmental advocacy organization the Solutions Project, alongside actor Mark Ruffalo and the banker and former Tesla executive Marco Krapels in 2011. (More on this group later.)

Besides his working relationship with Jacobson, Fox failed to acknowledge that the professor’s all-renewables projection was strongly challenged by 21 leading energy scientists in the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal. The scientists concluded Jacobson’s paper was rife with “invalid modeling tools, contained modeling errors, and made implausible and inadequately supported assumptions.”

A survey of the debate by Scientific American scoffed at Jacobson’s remarkable assumption “that U.S. hydroelectric dams could add turbines and transformers to produce 1,300 gigawatts of electricity instantaneously… or the equivalent of about 1000 large nuclear or coal power plants running at full power.”

Jacobson retaliated against his critics by filing a $10 million defamation lawsuit, which he was forced to withdraw in 2018. Legal commentator Kenneth White described the suit as “clearly vexatious and intended to silence dissent about an alleged scientist’s peer-reviewed article.”

This April, a DC Superior Court judge invoked anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) legislation that reportedly ordered Jacobson to pay the defendants’ legal fees.

“Planet of the Humans” co-producer Ozzie Zehner saw Mark Jacobson’s flameout as a symptom of a wider problem within mainstream climate activism. “When Big Greens talk about ‘facts,’ they often aren’t talking about what most people understand to be facts,” he explained. “They’re usually talking about models, which attempt to predict the future based on estimations of physical conditions, projections, and assumptions. Greens industrialists claim they can accurately model a renewable energy future and its effects on the global biosphere. But our best science can’t even model a fish tank.”

Ingraffea insisted that Jacobson’s legal fight had only begun, and said the professor’s critics were “partially driven by Mark [Jacobson] having made a very famous name for himself in an arena with many other people working, and they’re not getting all the fame.”

Jacobson echoed this line in his own defense: “They don’t like the fact that we’re getting a lot of attention, so they’re trying to diminish our work.”

“Give the guy a break,” Ingraffea appealed. “You know, if he’s wrong, of course he’s wrong. No one’s going to be right. No one could possibly be right right now about what’s going to happen in 25 years. We’re all entitled to our projections. We’re all entitled to our crystal balls.”

That same courtesy was not extended by Ingraffea and his allies to the makers of “Planet of the Humans,” however. “We were unable to identify any factual errors in the film, and we’re open to the idea that we could be wrong about some things,” Zehner said. “But we’d like to have that debate and not be shut down.”

Among the wave of attacks on “Planet of the Humans,” a disproportionate number were churned out by renewables industry insiders, from an “innovation strategist” at the Green Power Energy firm that was criticized in the film for clearing a Vermont mountaintop to build a wind farm (“For me, this film was personal,” he stated), to Now You Know, a podcast by two mega-fans of Elon Musk who fawningly refer to the billionaire as “Elon” and have proudly declared that they are “long on Tesla stock.”

Missing from nearly all of the takedowns was the documentary’s scathing critique of the corruption of environmental politics by billionaires and elite family foundations.

“The conversation our critics really didn’t want to have was about the last one-third of the film,” Zehner remarked, “which dealt with the influence of billionaires and money in the environmental movement, and the divestment sham.”

The shell game of fossil fuel divestment

The tactic of fossil fuel divestment is at the heart of the so-called climate justice movement’s plan to defeat the fossil fuel industry. Launched by Bill McKibben’s 350.org and a coalition of professional activists soon after the re-election of President Barack Obama in 2012, the campaign has resulted in institutions like Oxford University and Goldman Sachs supposedly divesting their holdings in oil and gas companies. Campaigners like McKibben simultaneously encouraged their constituents to invest in funds whose portfolios were supposedly free of fossil fuel companies.

“Planet of the Humans” raked this tactic over the proverbial coals, demonstrating how investment funds endorsed by 350.org have engaged in a shell game in which fossil fuel assets are simply replaced with investments in plastics, mining, oil and gas infrastructure companies, and biomass.

“The big issue with divestment is that it absolves the destructive power of extreme wealth,” Zehner explained. “It’s saying that family foundations can be forgiven and money can be moved into mining, gas and oil infrastructure, solar, wind, and biomass. They divest from the brand name coal companies while investing in infrastructure companies that support coal mining.”

In one of the most controversial scenes in “Planet of the Humans,” Bill McKibben was seen inaugurating a wood-burning biomass energy plant at Middlebury College, where he has been a scholar-in-residence. The environmental leader praised the initiative as “an act of courage.”

Because the event took place in 2009, McKibben and his allies have attacked the scene as an unfair representation of his current position. In an official 350.org response to “Planet of the Humans,” McKibben claimed that his views on biomass have evolved, leading him to cease his support for the energy source in 2016.

Yet less than a week after The Nation published Josh Fox’s incendiary attack on Michael Moore and “Planet of the Humans,” Nation editor-in-chief D.D. Guttenplan hosted an event with McKibben that was sponsored by a fund with major investments in several wood-to-energy biomass companies.

Called Domini Impact Investments, the fund claims to hold investments in “68 companies… that both impact forests and depend on them, whether for forest derived products or ecosystem services.” One such Domini holding is a wood-to-energy company called Ameresco, which builds “large, utility-scale biomass-to-energy plants,” according to its website.

Domini Impact also features its sustainable “timber” holdings, including Klabin SA, a company with logging operations spanning 590,580 acres in Brazil. Klabin SA manufactures pulp and paper products and operates a 270MW on-site black liquor biomass plant. This May, just days after Domini sponsored McKibben’s talk, the company purchased a second biomass plant.

(Fabio Schvartzman, the former CEO of Klabin SA, was charged with 270 counts of homicide in Brazil this January, after allegedly concealing knowledge of an imminent dam burst to protect the share price of his current company, Vale. The 2019 Mariana dam collapse has been described as Brazil’s worst environmental disaster.)

While introducing the Domini-sponsored event with McKibben, The Nation’s Guttenplan stated, “By investing in the Domini Funds, you can help build a better future for the planet and its people, and be part of a movement working to address a wide range of social and environmental issues including human rights, climate change mitigation and forest stewardship.”

Neither McKibben nor Guttenplan responded to email requests for comment from The Grayzone.

Domini Funds was hardly the only investment fund that McKibben has partnered with to promote fossil fuel divestment – and which has engaged in the shell game exposed in “Planet of the Humans.”

In what was perhaps the film’s most devastating scene, narrator Jeff Gibbs detailed how McKibben has advised 350.org members to direct their money into the Green Century Fund, an investment portfolio that boasts of being “wholly owned by environmental and public health nonprofit organizations,” and free of fossil fuel stock.

Green Century Funds Bill McKibben invest fossil fuels

As “Planet of the Humans” revealed, however, the Green Century Funds’ portfolio has contained heavy investments in mining companies, oil, and gas infrastructure companies, including an exploiter of tar sands, the biofuel giant Archer Daniels Midland, McDonald’s, Coca Cola (the world’s leading plastic pollution proliferator), logging giants, and big banks from Bank of America to HSBC.

Asked about this section of the film, Josh Fox dismissed it as out of date. He claimed that “the entire idea of what constitutes a divested fund has changed really radically over the last eight years, starting at first from just oil, coal and gas investments, to then encompassing things like plastics and the meat industry and derivatives and all other options.”

However, a probe of the 2019 Securities and Exchange Commission filings by Green Century Funds showed the fund held thousands of shares in meat giant McDonald’s and Royal Caribbean Cruises, among other mega-polluters. The latter company’s Harmony of the Seas ship happens to be the most environmentally toxic cruise liner on Earth, relying on three massive diesel engines to burn 66,000 gallons of fuel a day. By the end of one voyage across the Atlantic, the ship has expended the same amount of gasoline as over 5 million automobiles traveling the same distance.

Green Century’s SEC filing boasted that it elicited a pledge from Royal Caribbean “to make its food waste management and reduction strategies more public.” It also claimed to have “helped convince McDonald’s, the largest purchaser of beef in the world, to restrict the use of antibiotics in its beef and chicken supply chains.”

It was a classic case of greenwashing, in which corporate behemoths burnished their reputation among progressives by embracing cosmetic reforms that did little to challenge their bottom lines.

When I informed Fox about Green Century’s ongoing investments in carbon-heavy industries, he said, “Well, I’m all for an investigation of those things on real grounds.”

In the same breath, Fox pivoted to another complaint about “Planet of the Humans”: “The film attacks Bill McKibben in ways that were unfair and untrue.”

Was that the case, though? One of the most provocative points about McKibben and his allies in “Planet of the Humans” – that they function as de facto public relations agents for the “green” billionaires seeking to cash in on the renewables rush – was never coherently answered. But as this investigation reveals, the climate warriors criticized in the film are sponsored by many of those same billionaires, as well as the network of family foundations that help set the agenda for groups like 350.org.

The Rockefeller Brothers Fund incubates 350.org

In perhaps the most uncomfortable scene in “Planet of the Humans,” Bill McKibben was shown visibly squirming as an interviewer asked him about family foundation support for his 350.org.

“We’re not exactly Big Greens,” McKibben insisted during a 2011 interview with climate journalist Karyn Strickler. “I’m a volunteer, we’ve got seven people who work full time on this 350.org campaign.”

With a telling smirk on her face, Strickler asked McKibben how his group sustained itself.

“To the degree that we have any money at all it’s come from a few foundations in Europe and the US,” McKibben insisted.

He mentioned “a foundation based in Sweden, I think it’s called the Rasmussen Foundation that I think has been the biggest funder.”

After some prodding by Strickler, a visibly uncomfortable McKibben divulged that the “Rockefeller Brothers Fund gave us some money right when we were starting out. That’s been useful too.”

However, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and Rasmussen were not observing the birth of 350.org from the sidelines. In fact, the Rockefeller Brothers were instrumental in establishing 350.org and guiding the organization’s agenda. It began when the foundation incubated a group called 1Sky with a $1 million grant. McKibben immediately joined as board member.

As documented by radical environmentalist Cory Morningstar, 1Sky’s launch was announced at a 2007 gathering of the Clinton Global Initiative by former President Bill Clinton, who stood on stage beside Rockefeller Brothers Fund President Stephen Heintz. Four years later, the Rockefeller Brothers announced “the exciting marriage of 1Sky and 350.org — two grantees of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund’s Sustainable Development program.”

Why McKibben was so uncomfortable about discussing his relationship with Rockefeller was unclear. Perhaps he was concerned that the organization he once described as a “scruffy little outfit” would be seen as a central node in the donor-driven non-profit industrial complex.

Whatever his motives were, since the testy exchange with Strickler, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund has contributed over $1 million to McKibben’s 350.org.

Alongside a network of foundations and “green” billionaires, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and its $1.2 billion endowment serves as a primary engine of the network of self-styled “climate justice” activists that sought to steamroll “Planet of the Humans.”

These interests have cohered around the Environmental Grantmakers Association (EGA), which is located in the New York City offices of the Rockefeller Family Fund.

The EGA enables elite foundations and billionaire donors to cultivate a cadre of professional “doers” during retreats in scenic locations. One first-time student attendee said the retreat experience was designed with “the intention of strengthening relationships between funders and build[ing] relationships within the environmental movement.” As soon as she arrived, she was “paired with mentor ‘buddies,’ folks who had been to past EGA Retreats to show us the ropes.”

These encounters take place in Napa Valley, California, or at the Mohonk Mountain House resort in New York’s Hudson Valley.

report by the Threshold Foundation described the theme of the 2015 EGA fall retreat at Mohonk: “‘Fund the Fighters!’ That’s the rallying call from the stars. Not the celestial stars, but from well-known artists such as Mark Ruffalo and Naomi Klein.”

In accordance with its relationship with the EGA’s network of environmental cadres and outfits like 350.org, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund embraced their fossil fuel divestment campaign, shedding its stocks in oil and coal while increasing assets in other industries that can hardly be described as green. A look at the results of the foundation’s move offers another disturbing case study in the divestment shell game.

The Rockefeller Brothers go “green,” invest in Halliburton

In 2014, following consultations with 350.org, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund announced that it was divesting from fossil fuels. “We were extremely uncomfortable with the moral ambivalence of funding programs around the climate catastrophe while still being invested in the fossil fuels that were bringing us closer to that catastrophe,” Rockefeller Brothers Fund President Stephen Heintz said.

At a December 2015 side session of the UN climate conference in Paris, 350.org executive director May Boeve joined Heintz to celebrate the foundation’s decision to divest. “A growing number of investors representing a growing amount of capital do not want to be associated with this industry any longer,” Boeve stated.

350.org’s Boeve and Rockefeller’s Heintz at the UN climate summit in 2015

 

A look at the most recent publicly available financial filing of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, from 2018 (PDF), offered a clear glimpse at the shell game that divestment has entailed.

According to the filing, while the Rockefeller Brothers freed itself of fossil fuels, the foundation remained invested in companies including the oil services giant Halliburton, the Koch-run multinational petroleum transportation partnership Inter Pipeline Ltd, and Caterpillar, whose bulldozers are familiar at scenes of deforestation and Palestinian home demolitions. (Several NGOs that advocate divestment from companies involved in the Israeli occupation of Palestine, such as +972 Magazine and the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, have also received support from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund).

The foundation padded its portfolio with stock in financial industry titans like Citigroup and Wells Fargo, as well as Newcrest Mining, Barrick Gold, Wheaton Precious Metals Corporation, and Agnico Eagle Mines.

The Rockefeller Brothers Fund listed at least $20 million of investments in Vision Ridge Partners, which was itself invested in a biomass company called Vanguard Renewables under the guise of “renewable energy.” In December 2019, Vanguard Renewables forged a partnership with Dominion Energy – the energy giant whose Atlantic Coast Pipeline was defeated this June thanks to grassroots environmental mobilization – to convert methane from farms into natural gas.

Since the Rockefeller Brothers Fund answered 350.org’s call to divest from fossil fuels in 2014, the foundation’s wealth has increased substantially. As the Washington Post reported, “the Rockefeller Brothers fund’s assets grew at an annual average rate of 7.76 percent over the five-year period that ended Dec. 31, 2019.”

The outcome of the Rockefellers’ widely praised move established a clear precedent for other elite institutions: by allowing organizations like 350.org to lead them by the hand, they could greenwash their image, offload stocks in a fossil fuel industry described by financial analysts as a “chronic underperformer,” and protect their investments in growth industries like mining, oil services, and biomass.

McKibben, for his part, has marketed fossil fuel divestment as a win-win strategy for the capitalist class: “The institutions that divested from fossil fuel really did well financially, because the fossil fuel industry has been the worst performing part of our economy… Even if you didn’t care about destroying the planet, you’d want to get out of it because it just loses money.”

Blood and Gore make “the case for long-term greed”

In another move apparently intended to burnish its green image while padding its assets, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund invested over $100 million in Generation Investment Management’s Generation Climate Solutions Fund II and Generation IM Global Equity Fund.

These entities are jointly managed by Al Gore, the former US vice president who negotiated a notorious carbon offsets loophole at the 1997 Kyoto Climate Protocol that has been blamed for the release of 600 million tons of excess emissions. Gore launched the fund alongside David Blood, the ex-CEO of asset management for Goldman Sachs, in order to promote a climate-friendly capitalism.

In a 2015 profile of Blood and Gore’s Generation Investment Management fund, The Atlantic’s James Fallows described their investment strategy as “a demonstration of a new version of capitalism, one that will shift the incentives of financial and business operations” toward a profitable “green” economy – while potentially saving the system of capitalism from itself.

Blood was blunt when asked about his agenda: “We are making the case for long-term greed.”

The banker Blood and the green guru McKibben shared a stage together at the 2013 conference of Ceres, a non-profit that works to consolidate the mutually beneficial relationship between Big Green and Wall Street.

Bill McKibben (on the right) and former Goldman Sachs executive David Blood at the 2013 Ceres conference

 

The event featured a cast of corporate executives from companies like Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) and GM. Sponsors included Bank of America, PG&E, Bloomberg, Citi, Ford, GM, Prudential, Wells Fargo, TimeWarner, and a collection of Fortune 500 companies.

During their conversation, the investor Blood pledged to mobilize “something in the order of $40 to $50 trillion of capital” in renewables, underscoring the massive profit center that a transition to “green” energy represents.

“It’s entirely dependent on what kind of political will we can muster,” McKibben proclaimed, pledging to work toward Blood’s goal.

The unsettling sight of McKibben discussing multi-trillion dollar profit possibilities with a former Goldman Sachs banker was featured prominently in “Planet of the Humans,” and undoubtedly helped inspire the ferocious backlash against the documentary by the 350.org founder’s network.

McKibben was far from alone among climate justice warriors in his dalliance with the billionaire class, however.

A foundation-supported “ragtag bunch”

Before Josh Fox launched his media blitz against “Planet of the Humans,” he directed a full-length documentary vehicle for 350.org, titled “Divest.” For the 2016 film, Fox followed McKibben and allies like Naomi Klein as they embarked on a cross-country road trip to promote fossil fuel divestment.

Fox’s ties to the professional activists extend to the funding network centered around the Environmental Grantmakers Association. Between 2012 and 2017, Fox’s film company International WOW reported grants totaling $2.5 million. Much of that funding came courtesy of the Rockefeller Brothers Cultural Innovation Fund and Rockefeller MAP fund, as well as the Ford and Park Foundations.

Josh Fox International WOW funding foundations

Foundation funding for Josh Fox’s production company International WOW (Source)

 

In 2012, the year Fox and his allies launched their campaign promoting fossil fuel divestment, he co-founded an environmental advocacy group called the Solutions Project. He conceived the organization alongside celebrity actor Mark Ruffalo, former Tesla executive Marco Krapels, and Stanford University’s Mark Jacobson – the professor behind the dubious 2050 all-renewables projection.

The four founders gathered seed money from the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation of the eponymous film actor, and from the 11th Hour Foundation of Google CEO Eric Schmidt and his wife, Wendy, according to Fox. Fox said that after a power struggle and an attempt to force him out in order to raise several million from the Sierra Club, he, Krapels, and Jacobson eventually left the organization.

Krapels has since launched an electric battery company in Brazil – another country that happens to hold a massive reserve of lithium and other minerals necessary for his products. Brazil has experienced a rush on lithium mining in recent years thanks to the roaring demand for lithium-ion batteries.

Krapels’ former partner at Tesla’s disastrous Solar City project, Elon Musk, announced plans this year to build an electric car factory in Brazil. Musk has even reportedly sought an audience with the country’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, to further his business interests.

Today, the Solutions Project is “100% co opted and sold out,” Fox acknowledged. Indeed, the group’s board members currently include Brandon Hurlbut, a former Obama Department of Energy official who founded Boundary Stone Partners – a lobbying firm that represents the nuclear industry. Also on the board is Billy Parish, the founder of Mosaic, a financial firm that declares its “mission to revolutionize two of the biggest industries in the world: energy and finance…” Mosaic’s website states. “We focus on the integration of doing good (for the planet) and doing well (financially).”

According to its website, the Elon Musk Foundation is among the Solutions Project’s funders. The organization describes Musk as “the guy who is trying to save humanity in like four or five different ways,” comparing him to a Marvel Comics superhero.

In reality, Musk is a ferocious union-buster who recently fired workers for staying home as the Covid-19 pandemic hit – but not before deceiving them into believing they had permission to safely quarantine.

Other Solutions Project supporters include the Skoll Global Threats Fund, run by eBay billionaire Jeffrey Skoll. Skoll funded Al Gore’s film on climate change, “An Inconvenient Truth,” which went into production soon after Gore launched his Generation Investment Management fund – an inconvenient truth pointed out by “Planet of the Humans.”

The 11th Hour Project foundation of Google CEO Schmidt and his wife remains a supporter of the Solutions Project after ponying up the seed money to launch it. Asked in 2014 about the inequality and displacement that start-up tech businesses bring to the Bay Area, where Google is located, Schmidt responded, “Let us celebrate capitalism. $19 billion for 50 people? Good for them.”

When I challenged Fox about the co-optation of climate justice politics by tech oligarchs like Skoll, Schmidt, and Musk, he grew defensive. “You have to see these things in a time continuum of us trying to take off big, something bigger than anybody’s ever tried to take on in the world,” he stated, referencing his and his allies’ fight against the fossil fuel industry. “They’re bigger than Nazi Germany, bigger than America. Bigger than all of them combined. We’re a ragtag bunch of extraordinarily committed people who are willing to put our lives on the line to stop the fossil fuel industry.

“Yeah, that’s that’s really laudable,” Fox continued, referring to his own efforts, “and for a multi-millionaire circus barker, as Bill McKibben calls Michael Moore, to take potshots using flawed science, dishonest techniques, misrepresentation of the timeline, and 1,000 other things that are journalistic malpractice and that was called out by an extraordinary number of people – that’s the real story here. The real bully is Michael Moore here. It’s not me.”

The Producer

This year, Josh Fox launched a one-man show and film called “The Truth Has Changed.” According to promotional material for the performance, Fox narrated his experience as “an eyewitness to history” who “was the subject of a 100 million dollar smear campaign from the oil and gas industry.”

“Josh Fox was the beta test for the types of propaganda and smears the gang that created Cambridge Analytica is now known for world wide,” the film’s website stated. “And Josh is telling his story in an uncompromising way like never before.”

The performance was supposed to have enjoyed a lengthy run this January at one of the most renowned venues for political theater in the country, The Public Theater in New York City. But the show was abruptly canceled after the Public accused Fox of violating the theater’s code of conduct through “a series of verbal abuses to the staff.”

Fox, who is Jewish, retaliated by accusing the theater’s directors of anti-Semitism. According to the New York Times, Fox “said he had been told that he was too passionate, too loud and too emotional.”

“To me that is distinctly cultural,” Fox told the paper. “That’s a classic anti-Semitic trope.”

Behind the drama over the monologue’s cancellation, a more salient issue lingered. The executive producer of Fox’s “The Truth Has Changed” was Tom Dinwoodie, a wealthy “cleantech” entrepreneur and engineer who owned dozens of patents on solar technology, and therefore stood to reap a massive windfall profit from the renewables revolution that Fox and his allies were campaigning for.

Dinwoodie, who signed Fox’s letter calling for the retraction of “Planet of the Humans,” was a top donor to the Rocky Mountain Institute, a so-called “do-tank” where he serves as a lead trustee. In 2014, Dinwoodie helped oversee the merger of his think tank with billionaire Virgin CEO Richard Branson’s Carbon War Room, which was founded with “a mission to stimulate business-led market interventions that advance a low-carbon economy.”

“Increasingly, the solutions for climate change are those policy measures that drive economic growth,” a spokesman declares in a video announcing the strategic partnership between Branson’s non-profit and Dinwoodie’s Rocky Mountain “do-tank.”

In the same video, billionaire former Democratic Party presidential candidate and Rocky Mountain Institute donor Tom Steyer emphasized the profit motive behind the renewables transition: “Changing the way we generate and use energy is the largest industry in the history of the world. There is no time to waste.”

This July 9 – the day after the Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force released its policy recommendations – the Rocky Mountain Institute launched the Center for Climate Aligned Finance in partnership with four of the biggest banks in the world: Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, and JPMorgan Chase.

The initiative, according to Rocky Mountain, will serve as “an engine room for the financial sector to partner with corporate clients to identify practical solutions through deep partnerships with industry, civil society and policymakers to facilitate a transition in the global economy to net-zero emissions by mid-century.”

The partnership represented an obvious boon for green tycoons like Dinwoodie who profit from renewable energy. And for the big banks that continued to top the list of the world’s most prolific investors in the fossil fuel industry, it was another opportunity to greenwash their public image.

Given the economic interests represented by Dinwoodie and his “do-tank,” it was easy to understand why he signed Fox’s letter calling for “Planet of the Humans” to be retracted. The documentary had not only hammered his political partner, Richard Branson, as a PR savvy oligarch exploiting environmental politics; it took aim at the ethos of Big Green outfits that comforted their ruling-class funders with the promise that they could do good while continuing to do well.

When I asked Fox why he thought big tech tycoons and their family foundations were plowing their fortunes into climate activism, he responded, “Probably saving the planet.”

The Danish connection

While wealthy green businessmen like Dinwoodie and Elon Musk furthered their commercial interests by underwriting green advocacy, the V. Kann Rasmussen Foundation and its closely affiliated KR (Kann-Rasmussen) Foundation have strategically directed their resources into nurturing a who’s who of professional climate warriors – including several that played a role in the campaign to suppress “Planet of the Humans.”

Brian Valbjørn Sørensen, the executive director of the KR Foundation, was a former special advisor to the center-left Danish government that lost power in 2015. KR’s chair, Connie Hedegaard, was the ex-minister for climate and energy for the center-right Danish government of Anders Fogg Rasmussen, who went on to serve as secretary general of the NATO military alliance. As the European Union’s first climate chief, Hedegaard argued that renewable energy could strengthen NATO’s soft power against Russia by reducing natural gas imports from the designated enemy state.

KR’s support for groups like 350.org surfaced in “Planet of the Humans” during the cringe-inducing scene in which journalist Karyn Strickler grilled Bill McKibben about his organizational funders. According to the KR Foundation, it donated $2 million to 350.org in 2019.

Toby Smith, the photographer who filed the copyright claim against Planet of the Humans on explicitly “personal” grounds, happened to have been the media outreach director of a KR-funded non-profit called Climate Outreach. As the Rasmussen family’s KR Foundation stated in a recent financial filing, it initiated grants totaling nearly $2 million to Climate Outreach in 2019 alone.

When British columnist George Monbiot published a vitriolic condemnation of “Planet of the Humans” in The Guardian, he neglected to mention that he had been a board member of the Rasmussen-backed Climate Outreach.

The V. Kann Rasmussen Foundation has also supported Naomi Klein’s environmentalist outfit, The Leap, according to the foundation’s website.

Klein, a longtime critic of elite family foundations and the billionaire class, was among the most prominent figures to join the campaign to censor “Planet of the Humans.” As her ally McKibben acknowledged, she unsuccessfully pressured Michael Moore to retract “Planet of the Humans” before it was even released.

Klein has celebrated the Danish government where KR Foundation leaders have served for advancing “some of the most visionary environmental policies in the world.” At the same time, she has denounced the “autocratic industrial socialism” of the Soviet Union and the “petro-populism” of the socialist government of Venezuela, where Denmark has recognized US-backed coup leader Juan Guaidó.

Klein’s recent broadsides against Venezuela contrasted strongly with her signing of a 2004 open letter that proclaimed, “If we were Venezuelan… we would vote for [Hugo] Chavez”; and a 2007 column in which she wrote that thanks to the Chavez government, “citizens had renewed their faith in the power of democracy to improve their lives.”

Naomi Klein and Angel Gurría, Secretary-General of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) on November 4, 2015. Gurria was a former Finance Minister in the administration of Mexico’s neoliberal former president, Ernesto Zedillo. Gurria won the OECD’s “Globalist of the Year” award for his role in negotiating the NAFTA free trade deal and “promot[ing] trans-nationalism.”

From Big Green critic to “Planet of the Humans” opponent

Naomi Klein’s opposition to “Planet of the Humans” was surprising given the views she has expressed in the past on mainstream environmental politics. In 2013, for example, she bemoaned the “deep denialism in the environmental movement among the Big Green groups [on how to fight climate change]. And to be very honest with you,” she continued, “I think it’s been more damaging than the right-wing denialism in terms of how much ground we’ve lost.”

In her widely acclaimed 2008 book “The Shock Doctrine,” Klein documenting the Ford Foundation’s role as a CIA cutout that helped establish the Center for Latin American Studies at the University of Chicago.

The Ford-funded academic department nurtured the infamous “Chicago Boys,” a group of neoliberal economists led by Milton Friedman who conceived the disaster capitalist “shock doctrine” that inspired the title of Klein’s book. They applied their program to Chile as General Augusto Pinochet’s economic advisors following his CIA-backed military coup to destroy the leftist government of Chilean President Salvador Allende.

Klein also surveyed the Ford Foundation’s support for the “Berkeley Mafia” at the University of California that advised the hyper-repressive junta of General Suharto, which toppled Indonesia’s socialist government in 1965.

“The Berkeley Mafia had studied in the US as part of a program that began in 1956, funded by the Ford Foundation…” Klein wrote. “Ford-funded students became leaders of the campus groups that participated in overthrowing Sukarno, and the Berkeley Mafia worked closely with the military in the lead-up to the coup…”

Henry Kissinger, the Nixon foreign policy guru whom Klein identified as the mastermind of the dirty war in Chile, had previously served as the director of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund’s Special Strategies Project, which helped conceive US national security strategies for countering the spread of communism.

Today, the Ford Foundation and Rockefeller Brothers Fund support an array of liberal causes, from diversity and racial justice initiatives to the network of NGO’s organizing for fossil fuel divestment. At the same time, the Ford Foundation backs organizations that push regime change in Latin America, partnering with the US government to fund Freedom House, a DC-based NGO which supported the failed coup to oust Nicaragua’s elected leftist government in 2018. For its part, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund has supported The Syria Campaign, a public relations outfit that clamored for US military intervention to remove the UN-recognized government of Syria.

In 2011, when Klein was appointed to 350.org’s board of directors, she joined forces with an environmental organization incubated by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and supported by the Ford Foundation. “As 350.org founder Bill McKibben puts it: unless we go after the ‘money pollution,’ no campaign against real pollution stands a chance,” Klein wrote at the time.

Klein’s 2015 book and documentary film on climate change, “This Changes Everything,” was initially launched as a project called “The Message.” It was supported with hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants from a who’s who of major family foundations that help sustain McKibben’s political apparatus.

In one of several grants to the book and film project, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund contributed $50,000 to “The Message” via a non-profit pass-through called the Sustainable Markets Foundation. [PDF]

Susan Rockefeller served as a co-executive producer of the documentary version of “This Changes Everything.” Her husband, David Rockefeller Jr. is the son of tycoon David Rockefeller, a US government-linked cold warrior who co-founded the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and helped back the US-managed coup that put Pinochet and the Chicago Boys in power in Chile. Rockefeller Jr., a major supporter of conservationist causes, is a former chairman of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and board member of Rockefeller Financial Services.

In 2014, the Ford Foundation chipped in with $250,000 to Klein’s project. [PDF]

Klein’s “The Message” also benefited from $140,000 in support from the Schmidt Family Foundation of Google CEO Eric Schmidt and his wife, Wendy. The Schmidt Family Foundation is an ongoing contributor to McKibben’s 350.org, kicking in $200,000 in 2018 [PDF].

In April 2019, Klein released “A Message From The Future,” a video collaboration with Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and artist and pundit Molly Crabapple, which promoted the Green New Deal as a pathway to a renewable-powered economic utopia.

Crabapple, a vehement supporter of Washington’s campaign for regime change in Syria, is an Eric and Wendy Schmidt Fellow at the New America Foundation, a Democratic Party-linked think tank substantially funded by Google’s Schmidt, the Ford Foundation and the US State Department.

In a recent The Intercept column, Klein took aim at Schmidt, describing him as one of the billionaires exploiting “a coherent Pandemic Shock Doctrine” to begin “building a high tech dystopia.” She noted that Schmidt is closely aligned with the national security state as chair of the Defense Innovation Board, which consults for the Pentagon on the military’s application of artificial intelligence.

Schmidt also happens to be a proponent of a “smart” energy grid, which he says will “modernize the electric grid to make it look more like the Internet.” Such a model would not only benefit tech companies like Google which make their money buying and selling data, but the U.S. national security state, whose partnerships with big tech companies increase the capacity of its surveillance apparatus.

The Senate version of the Green New Deal calls for the construction of “smart” power grids almost exactly like those Schmidt imagined. Klein and other high-profile Green New Deal proponents have neglected to mention that this seeming benign component of the well-intentioned plan could represent a giant step on the way to the “high tech dystopia” of Silicon Valley barons and their national security state partners.

In May 2018, Klein became the Gloria Steinem Endowed Chair in Media, Culture and Feminist Studies at Rutgers University. The position was created “following a three-year, $3 million campaign…including a dozen foundations.” Among the “early and path breaking contributors,” according to Rutgers, was the Ford Foundation.

Gloria Steinem (L) and Naomi Klein at the 2018 Rutgers ceremony inaugurating Steinem’s endowed chair

 

Contributions also poured in for the endowment from tycoons like Sheryl Sandberg, the billionaire chief operating officer of Facebook and advocate of corporate “Lean In” feminism; and Harvey Weinstein, the Hollywood mogul who was sentenced this March to 23 years in prison for first degree criminal sexual assault. According to Rutgers, Weinstein provided “a gift of $100,000 in honor of his late mother, who shared Gloria Steinem’s hopes for female equality.”

I had hoped to have a conversation with Klein, a former colleague at the Nation Institute, about her reflexive opposition to a documentary that advanced many of the same arguments that appeared in her past writings. Was the exclusive focus on carbon emissions by professional climate warriors not a blinkered approach that ignored the environmental damage inherent in producing still-unproven renewable technology? Did “cleantech” tycoons not have a vested interest in advancing a global transition to the renewable products their companies manufactured? And when she had clearly articulated the problems with billionaire-backed Big Green advocacy, why had Klein cast her lot with a political network that seemed to epitomize it?

My emails were met with an auto-reply informing me Klein was “off grid,” and referring me to her personal assistant.

According to Fox, high-profile climate warriors like McKibben and Klein had no interest in speaking to me about their opposition to the film because “it’s like four months ago, man, everybody’s moved on.”

Seeing green in Biden

By August, members of the professional climate advocacy network that saw its interests threatened by “Planet of the Humans” was preparing for a much more elaborate on-screen production that promised new opportunities.

In the weeks ahead of the Democratic National Convention, climate justice organizations like the Sunrise Movement 501 c-4 which emerged in the shadow of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential run and condemned former Vice President Joseph Biden as a tool of the establishment suddenly changed their tune.

Flush with dark money from Democratic Party-aligned billionaires, Sunrise Movement co-founder Varshini Prakash stated on July 14 – the day Biden released his clean energy plan: “It’s no secret that we’ve been critical of Vice President’s Biden’s plans and commitments in the past. Today, he’s responded to many of those criticisms: dramatically increasing the scale and urgency of investments… Our movement, alongside environmental justice communities and frontline workers, has taught Joe Biden to talk the talk.”

While it brands itself as a grassroots movement that has organized anti-establishment stunts putting centrist figures like Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein on the spot, the Sunrise Movement was incubated with a grant from the Sierra Club, the Mike Bloomberg-backed juggernaut of Big Green organizing. Today, offices of the two organizations are located a floor apart in the same building in downtown Washington DC.

Ahead of the DNC, the Biden campaign introduced a $2 trillion plan pledge to invest heavily in renewable technology to achieve “a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035.” The plan promised to erect 500 million solar panels in the next five years alongside 60,000 new wind turbines.

With the demand for solar plummeting due to the coronavirus pandemic, the prospect of gigantic government subsidies was music to the ears of the “cleantech” tycoons who sponsor Democratic Party-aligned climate advocacy organizations.

Many of these green millionaires and billionaires had feasted at the trough of Obama’s stimulus package, which was directly responsible for powering the rise of America’s solar industry. After promising upon his inauguration to invest $150 billion in “a new green energy business sector,” Obama doled out an eye-popping $4.9 billion in subsidies to Tesla’s Elon Musk and a $1.2 billion loan guarantee for Tom Dinwoodie’s SunPower US to construct the California Valley Solar Ranch. In June 2019, an “avian incident” caused a fire at the SunPower Solar Ranch project, impacting over 1200 acres and knocking out 84% of generating capacity for several weeks.

“Planet of the Humans” presented viewers with the disturbing story of the Ivanpah solar plant, a signature initiative in Obama’s green energy plan which was co-owned by Google. Gifted with $1.6 billion in loan guarantees and $600 million in federal tax credits, Ivanpah was built on 5.6 square miles of pristine public land close to California’s Mojave National Preserve. In its first year, the massive plant produced less than half its of its planned energy goal while burning over 6000 birds to death.

The Ivanpah solar thermal plant and its three power towers spans across the Mojave Desert

 

Because of the intermittency inherent to solar power, the gargantuan energy project has had to burn massive amounts of natural gas to keep the system primed when the sun is not shining. Despite its dependence on fossil fuel, Ivanpah still qualifies under state rules as a renewable plant.

“The bottom line is the public didn’t expect this project to consume this much natural gas,” David Lamfrom, California desert manager for the National Parks Conservation Association, told the local Press-Enterprise. “We did not have full knowledge that this was what we were signing up for.”

Even after the Obama administration poured billions of dollars into solar projects, solar energy output increased between 2008 and 2016 by a mere .7% as a total of American energy production.

Meanwhile, across the country, many new wind projects remain stalled due to community concerns about land destruction. In the home state of Green New Deal advocate Sen. Bernie Sanders, the only remaining wind project was canceled this January.

For raising questions about the efficacy and environmental cost of renewable projects like these, and proposing an explicitly anti-capitalist solution to the corporate destruction of the planet, the makers of “Planet of the Humans” were steamrolled by a network of professional climate activists, billionaire investors and industry insiders.

Now, with the Biden campaign promising a new flood of renewable subsidies and tax breaks under the auspices of a “clean” energy plan, the public remains in the dark about what it is signing up for. Even if the ambitious agenda fails to deliver any substantial environmental good, it promises a growing class of green investors another opportunity to do well.

 

[Max Blumenthal is the editor-in-chief of The Grayzone, an award-winning journalist, and the author of several books. He has produced print articles for an array of publications, many video reports, and several documentaries, including Killing Gaza. Blumenthal founded The Grayzone in 2015 to shine a journalistic light on America’s state of perpetual war and its dangerous domestic repercussions.]

Planet of the Humans Backlash

Journal of People, Peasants and Workers

May 11, 2020

By Yves Engler

 

Planet of the Humans

The backlash may be more revealing than the film itself, but both inform us where we are at in the fight against climate change and ecological collapse. The environmental establishment’s frenzied attacks against Planet of the Humans says a lot about its commitment to big money and technological solutions.

A number of prominent individuals tried to ban the film by Jeff Gibbs and Michael Moore. Others berated the filmmakers for being white, male and overweight. Many thought leaders have declared they won’t watch it.

Despite the hullabaloo, the central points in the film aren’t particularly controversial. Corporate-industrial society is driving human civilization/humanity towards the ecological abyss and environmental groups have largely made peace with capitalism. As such, they tout (profitable) techno fixes that are sometimes more ecologically damaging than fossil fuels (such as biomass or ethanol) or require incredible amounts of resources/space if pursued on a mass scale (such as solar and wind). It also notes the number of human beings on the planet has grown more than sevenfold over the past 200 years.

It should not be controversial to note that the corporate consumption juggernaut is destroying our ability to survive on this planet. From agroindustry razing animal habitat to plastic manufacturers’ waste killing sea life to the auto industrial complex’s greenhouse gases, the examples of corporations wreaking ecological havoc are manifold. Every year since 1969 humanity’s resource consumption has exceeded earth’s capacity to regenerate those resources by an ever-greater volume.

It is a statement of fact that environmental groups have deep ties to the corporate set. Almost all the major environmental groups receive significant cash from the mega-rich or their foundations. Many of them partner directly with large corporations. Additionally, their outreach strategies often rely on corporate media and other business-mediated spheres. It beggars belief that these dependencies don’t shape their policy positions.

A number of the film’s points on ‘renewable’ energy are also entirely uncontroversial. It’s insane to label ripping down forests for energy as “green”. Or turning cropland into fuel for private automobiles. The film’s depiction of the minerals/resource/space required for solar and wind power deserves a far better response than “the data is out of date”.

The green establishment’s hyperventilating over the film suggests an unhealthy fixation/link to specific ‘renewable’ industries. But there are downsides to almost everything.

Extremely low GHG emitting electricity is not particularly complicated. In Québec, where I live, electricity is largely carbon free (and run by a publicly owned enterprise with an overwhelmingly unionized workforce, to boot). But, Hydro-Québec’s dams destroy ecosystems and require taking vast land from politically marginalized (indigenous) people. Likewise, nuclear power (also publicly owned and unionized) provides most of France’s electricity. But, that form of energy also has significant downsides.

In the US in 2019 63% of electricity came from fossil fuels, 20% from nuclear and 17% from ‘renewables’. But, even if one could flip the proportion of fossil fuels to ‘renewables’ around overnight there’s another statistic that is equally important. Since 1950 US electricity consumption has grown 13-fold and it continues to increase. That’s before putting barely any of the country’s 285 million registered private automobiles onto the grid. Electricity consumption is growing at a fast clip in China, India and elsewhere.

Oil is another source of energy that is growing rapidly. Up from 60 million barrels a day in 1980 and 86 million in 2010, 100 million barrels of oil were consumed daily in 2019. That number is projected to reach 140 million by 2040.

On one point I agree entirely with critics of the film. It’s unfair to (even indirectly) equate Bill McKibben with Al Gore. Representing the progressive end of the environmental establishment, McKibben has engaged in and stoked climate activism. Gore was Vice President when the US led the destruction of the former Yugoslavia, bombed Sudan and sanctioned Iraq.

Still, it’s ridiculous for McKibben and others to dismiss the film’s criticism of his decade-long promotion of biomass and refusal to come clean on 350.org’s donors as divisive. “I truly hope that Michael Moore does not succeed at dividing the climate movement. Too many have fought too long to build it”, he tweeted with a link to his response in Rolling Stone titled “‘A Bomb in the Center of the Climate Movement’: Michael Moore Damages Our Most Important Goal.” Echoing this theme, Naomi Klein came to her 350.org comrade’s defence tweeting, “it is truly demoralising how much damage this film has done at a moment when many are ready for deep change.” Democracy NowCommon Dreams, the Guardian and other media picked up her remark.

If it is divisive to criticize McKibben’s positions, then the same must be said of his own criticisms aimed at those demanding the Pentagon be highlighted in decarbonization efforts. In a June New York Review of Books column titled “The Pentagon’s Outsized Part in the Climate Fight” McKibben pours cold water on those who have asked him about the importance of “shrinking the size of the US military” (the world’s largest single institutional emitter of fossil fuels) in the fight for a sustainable planet. In fact, his piece suggests the Pentagon is well-positioned to combat the climate crisis since right wingers are more likely to listen to their climate warnings and the institution has massive research capacities to develop green technologies. McKibben seems to be saying the green movement should (could) co-opt the greatest purveyor of violence and destruction in the history of humanity! (In the Wrong Kind of Green blog Luke Orsborne offers a cogent breakdown of McKibben’s militarism.)

McKibben’s repeated advocacy of the private electric car could also be considered divisive. In Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out? McKibben calls for “millions and millions of electric cars and buses” (alongside “building a hell of lot of factories to turn out thousands of acres of solar panels, and wind turbines the length of football fields.”) Does anyone believe the planet can sustain a transportation/urban planning system with most of the world’s 7.8 billion people owning 3,000-pound vehicles?

When an electric car is powered from a grid that is 63% fossil fuels the GHG it contributes per kilometer of travel is generally slightly less than an internal combustion engine. But the production and destruction phases for electric vehicles tend to be more energy intensive and they still require the extraction and development of significant amounts of resources. Additionally, the private car underpins a land, energy and resource intensive big box retail/suburban economy. (For details see my co-authored Stop Signs: Cars and Capitalism on the Road to Economic, Social and Ecological Decay.)

Moreover, as Death by Car recently pointed out, “electric vehicles are haloware — a product that exists to distract attention from continuing SUV and pickup sales. If this thesis is correct, then it is a huge mistake for progressive forces to express enthusiasm” for electric vehicles. Of the 86 million new passenger and light commercial vehicles sold globally in 2018 about 1.2 million of them were powered by battery-only electric engines while 37 million were pickups and SUVs. In other words, for every new battery-electric car there were 30 new SUVs/pickups sold. Alongside growing buzz about electric vehicles, the number of SUVs increased from 35 million to 200 million between 2010 and 2018.

McKibben and associates’ ability to frame the film as divisive rests on the stark power imbalance between the ‘green’ capitalist and degrowth outlooks. While there are few profits in the consume-less worldview, McKibben is situated at the progressive end of a network of organizations, commentators and media outlets empowered by hundreds of billions of dollars of ‘green’ capitalism. This milieu has counterposed solar, wind and biomass to the hyper fossil fuel emitting coal, natural gas and oil industries. But, they aren’t keen on discussing the limitations of their preferred energies and the fundamentally unsustainable nature of limitless energy (or other) consumption. And they certainly don’t want any spotlight placed on environmental groups ties to the mega-rich and an unsustainable model.

Fragments of wind turbine blades await burial at the Casper Regional Landfill in Wyoming. Photographer: Benjamin Rasmussen

But, in reality it’s not the criticism that bothers. Wrong Kind of GreenDeath by CarCounterpunch and various other small leftist websites and initiatives have long documented McKibben and associates’ concessions to the dominant order. Often more harshly than in the film. What is unique about Planet of the Humans is that these criticisms have been put forward by leftists with some power (Michael Moore’s name and the funds for a full-length documentary, most obviously.) In other words, the backlash is not a response to the facts or argument, per se, but the ‘mainstreaming’ of the critique.

The environmental establishment’s ability to generate hundreds of hit pieces against Planet of the Humans suggests the movement/outlook has amassed substantial power. But, it’s not always clear to what ends. Most indicators of sustainability are trending in the wrong direction at the same time as top environmental figures have risen to the summits of power. Québec’s most prominent environmentalist, Steven Guilbeault, recently became a cabinet minister in the Liberal government while the former head of World Wildlife Fund Canada, Gerald Butts, was Justin Trudeau’s chief of staff. These individuals happily participate in a government that oversaw a 15 million tonne increase in Canada’s GHG emissions in 2018 and then decided to purchase a massive tar sands pipeline.

The incredible popularity of Planet of the Humans — seven million views on YouTube — suggests many are worried about the ecological calamity humanity is facing. Many also sense that the solutions environmental groups are putting forward don’t add up.

The lesson to be learned from the film and the frenzied attacks against it is that questioning the system — be that capitalism or the mainstream environmental movement — won’t make you friends in high places.

 

[Yves Engler is the author of 10 books, including A Propaganda System: How Canada’s Government, Corporations, Media and Academia Sell War and ExploitationRead other articles by Yves.]

WATCH: Planet of the Humans [Full Film]

WATCH: Planet of the Humans [Full Film]

April 22, 2020

 


WKOG caveat: Industrial civilization is destroying all life on Earth. Human destruction of biodiversity is not created equally: “Yet tribal peoples are the best conservationists and guardians of the natural world, and 80% of our planet’s biodiversity is found in tribal territories.” [Further reading: The best conservationists made our environment and can save it, Stephen Corry] Human population is often identified as a problem because it strains the world’s resources and pollutes. [1] The first and most efficient way to address over consumption is to reduce consumption in the North is to a) redistribute the resources, (all arable land, etc.) to the Global South, to sustain those in the Global South, and b) phase out the production of all superfluous consumer products that harm life and biodiversity. [Further reading: Too Many Africans?, July 11, 2019] An analysis of population growth that accounts for the vast differences in consumption across class and region is critical in examining the worldwide environmental crisis.

 

Jeff Gibbs, Writer, Producer, Director:  “At long last our film “Planet of the Humans” is now released to the world! It’s one of the happiest days of my life, and a day I fervently hope has a role in initiating some real change in the world. “Planet of the Humans”  is now available free of charge to everyone on planet Earth courtesy of our partnership with Michael Moore. Please help us spread the word by sharing, blogging, posting, tweeting, emailing, or pony expressing your enthusiasm and urgency about why people must see this movie.”

Planet of the Humans takes a harsh look at how the environmental movement has lost the battle through well-meaning but disastrous choices, including the belief that solar panels and windmills would save us, and by giving in to the corporate interests of Wall Street.

Jeff Gibbs, the writer/producer/director of Planet of the Humans, has dared to say what no one will – that “we are losing the battle to stop climate change because we are following environmental leaders, many of whom are well-intentioned, but who’ve sold out the green movement to wealthy interests and corporate America.” This film is the wake-up call to the reality which we are afraid to face: that in the midst of a human-caused extinction event, the so-called “environmental movement’s” answer is to push for techno-fixes and band-aids. “It’s too little, too late,” says Gibbs. “Removed from the debate is the only thing that might save us: getting a grip on our out-of-control human presence and consumption. [1] Why is this not the issue? Because that would be bad for profits, bad for business.”

“Have we environmentalists fallen for illusions, ‘green’ illusions, that are anything but green, because we’re scared that this is the end — and we’ve pinned all our hopes on things like solar panels and wind turbines? No amount of batteries are going to save us, and that is the urgent warning of this film.”

This compelling, must-see movie – a full-frontal assault on our sacred cows – is guaranteed to generate anger, debate, and, hopefully, a willingness to see our survival in a new way—before it’s too late.

[Jeff Gibbs, Writer, Producer, Director | Ozzie Zehner, Producer | Michael Moore, Executive Producer]

 

[1]

Climate and War: Bill McKibben’s Deadly Miscalculation

Climate and War: Bill McKibben’s Deadly Miscalculation

November 6, 2019

By Luke Orsborne

 

 

Source: British Psychological Society

In late June 2019, author and founder of 350.org Bill McKibben produced an article for the New York Review of Books whose headline echoed a growing awareness of the significant role of US militarism in our current ecological crisis. The hook, unfortunately, appeared to be little more than a ruse to entice those who harbor legitimate concerns about the military’s role in the climate crisis in order to then minimize those concerns. What followed was a presentation of selective information, including a superficial critique of US military energy efficiency, that in the end only obfuscates the true cost and context of US militarism as it applies to the health of people and the planet. The result was that rather than highlighting the need for deep structural change which involves putting an end to aggressive US foreign policy, McKibben came across as a cautious cheerleader for the continued centrality of US militarism in global affairs as we enter into an increasingly chaotic, climate destabilized world. This dangerous stance only bolsters the propaganda of so-called “humanitarian interventionism” and a world order built upon violent, neoliberal imperialism.

June 12, 2019: “Since the beginning of the post-9/11 wars, the U.S. military has emitted 1.2 BILLION metric tons of greenhouse gases. The Pentagon is the world’s single largest consumer of oil and a top contributor to climate change.” [Source]

McKibben begins his article by admitting that the US Department of Defense is a major consumer of fossil fuels, but then makes the deceptive claim that the “enormous military machine produces about 59 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually.” Using selective information from a paper entitled Pentagon Fuel Use, Climate Change, and the Costs of War by Professor Neta Crawford of Boston University, a paper which he references heavily for his piece, McKibben goes on to dishonestly downplay the role of the US military in the climate crisis. According to McKibben, this average of 59 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions (which according to Crawford’s paper, the figure between 2001-2017 is actually closer to 70 million) “is not a particularly large share of the world’s, or even our nation’s, energy consumption.” McKibben adds, “Crawford’s careful analysis shows that the Department of Defense consumes roughly a hundred million barrels of oil a year. The world runs through about a hundred million barrels of oil a day. Even though it’s the world’s largest institutional user of energy, the US military accounts, by Crawford’s figures, for barely 1 percent of America’s greenhouse gas emissions.”

In fact, this was not at all the conclusion that Crawford drew from her research. While McKibben mischaracterizes Crawford’s paper as “comprehensive,” Crawford is, by contrast, careful to note that there are in fact several unknowns and unexplored areas when it comes to calculating the fuel use of the military, all of which suggest that the total usage is likely significantly higher than McKibben concludes. She spells out the various sources of military emissions clearly, both those considered and those left unknown, in list form toward the beginning of her paper:

“1. Overall military emissions for installations and non-war operations.

2. War-related emissions by the US military in overseas contingency operations.

3. Emissions caused by US military industry—for instance, for production of weapons and ammunition.

4. Emissions caused by the direct targeting of petroleum, namely the deliberate burning of oil wells and refineries by all parties.

5. Sources of emissions by other belligerents.

6. Energy consumed by reconstruction of damaged and destroyed infrastructure.

7. Emissions from other sources, such as fire suppression and extinguishing chemicals, including Halon, a greenhouse gas, and from explosions and fires due to the destruction of non-petroleum targets in warzones.”

Crawford then clarifies by stating that her focus is “on the first two sources of military GHG emissions—overall military and war-related emissions” and that she will “briefly discuss military industrial emissions.” According to Department of Energy data used in Crawford’s analysis, the total greenhouse gas emissions from the DOD between 2001-2017 was approximately 1.212 billion metric tons. But in the very next section, which McKibben fails to mention, Crawford estimates what the emissions burden of the industrial production of military hardware and munitions might entail. Her calculations are perhaps somewhat rudimentary, but they nonetheless suggest a much greater potential for military produced GHGs than McKibben is willing to admit. If Crawford’s estimates are correct, the combined total of industrial production related emissions and commonly measured military operating emissions would triple the amount of greenhouse gases that are emitted in sustaining our current military infrastructure. Crawford states:

“The estimate above focuses on DOD emissions. Yet, a complete accounting of the total emissions related to war and preparation for it, would include the GHG emissions of the military industry. The military industry directly employs about 14.7 percent of all people in the US manufacturing sector.  Assuming that the relative size of direct employment in the domestic US military industry is an indicator for the portion of the military industry in the US industrial economy, the share of US greenhouse gas emissions from the US based military industry is estimated to be about 15 percent of total US industrial greenhouse gas emissions. If half of those military related emissions are attributable to the post-9/11 wars, then US war manufacturing has emitted about 2,600 million megatons of CO2 equivalent greenhouse gas from 2001 to 2017, averaging 153 million metric tons of CO2e each year.”

Furthermore, Crawford goes into more detail in the Appendix as to why the estimates of CO2e impacts are likely understated. Firstly, she notes that the military documents the impact of methane released from fuel consumption as 25 times as potent in its warming potential as compared to CO2, but the IPCC puts this number at 35. In fact, on shorter time scales, scientists have shown that methane is 85 times or more as powerful a greenhouse gas as CO2.

Secondly, she draws attention to the fact that the additives in jet fuel are not accounted for when tabulating the effects of GHG emissions, suggesting significant unknowns. She states that “While the Department of Energy figures and the calculations here include nitrous oxide and methane, it is possible that the additional effects of high altitude water vapor and additives for jet fuel combustion, which are not included in these calculations, may be significant.”

The third point she brings to bear is the lack of inclusion of all the sources of fuel used by the military in their bookkeeping. One of these sources is known as bunker fuel which, as Crawford writes, is excluded from emission accounts as part of the Kyoto Protocol.

Barry Sanders, author of The Green Zone, The Environmental Costs of Militarism, has also written about bunker fuel. Along with this “off the record, ghost stuff,” as he refers to it, Sanders has enumerated various other ways in which the military has been able to underplay its fossil fuel usage. Among these are the unaccounted for fuel used by interdependent contractors in increasingly privatized warzones, and the no cost fuel provided at times by partner nations like Kuwait.

According to the high end of Sanders’ estimates, which do not include the emissions incurred from weapons manufacture, the total percentage of military emissions from the direct burning of fossil fuels may be more like 5 percent of total US emissions. This figure also does not take into consideration other factors touched upon by Crawford, mentioned above, like emissions from ongoing oil fires, which lasted in some cases for months, and the effect of cement production and equipment operation during post war reconstruction, a significant contributor to atmospheric greenhouse gases. Crawford also recognizes that the militaries of all parties drawn into US-led wars have an unaccounted for carbon footprint when honestly examining the total emissions costs of the American war machine.

These additional factors make calculating the true cost of war next to impossible but, in pure greenhouse gas emissions terms, the numbers are clearly significantly higher than what McKibben has suggested. The counter to this conclusion is that even if the military GHG emissions were in the neighborhood of 5 percent of total US emissions (and it’s possibly higher than this), this is still a much smaller number than the rest of the US economy, which is essentially the argument that McKibben has already made. While 5 percent is not an insignificant figure, this line of argument fails to understand the systemic nature of our problem by making the common mistake of focusing narrowly on GHG emissions. It is an entirely reductive and simplistic lens that dangerously distorts, rather than clarifies humanity’s global, interconnected crisis.

Mosaic Solar. Further reading: From Stable to Star – The Making of North American “Climate Heroes”

After completely misrepresenting the calculations found in Crawford’s paper and restricting debate to the evaluation of deflated GHG emissions figures, McKibben takes a further misstep by having us believe that rather than being a hindrance to resolving the climate crisis, the military can actually be a vital asset. While admitting that the military absorbs a massive amount of money each year from American taxpayers, even going so far as to repeat the widely circulated statistic that the US spends as much as the next seven countries combined on its massive defense budget, McKibben seems to believe in some ways this could in fact be a good thing. He suggests that the technologies developed by the military’s R&D could be utilized in the civilian sector, saying that “The military-industrial complex may not be the single best place to conduct R&D, but given current political realities, it is likely to be one of the few places where it’s actually possible.”

In fact, any genuine grassroots movement that is interested in tackling issues as large as the collapse of human civilization and the destruction of global biotic communities would be less interested in acquiescing to “current political realities” which include a $1.25 trillion war budget, and more interested in engendering the kind of struggle needed to define those realities along the lines of an actually livable, equitable future.

The text reads “The Navajo Nation encompasses more than 27,000 square miles across three states – New Mexico, Utah + Arizona – and is the largest home for indigenous people in the U.S.. From 1944 to 1986, hundreds of uranium and milling operations extracted an estimated 400 million tons of uranium ore from Diné (Navajo) lands.  [1][Source: jetsonorama: stories from ground zero, August 31, 2019]

Military R&D is not geared toward saving the planet from human destruction. Any overlaps with so-called green technological development is secondary to its primary, narrow framework of creating efficient systems of killing to protect a national agenda set by the interests of the wealthy elite. This framework, more often than not, runs contrary to environmental protection. From the radioactive contamination of people and land caused by the use of depleted uranium, to the pollution of drinking water, to the creation of hundreds of superfund sites across the US, America’s military is well understood to be not just a massive source of greenhouse gases, but one of the largest polluters on the planet.

Furthermore, military R&D is often more about lining the pockets of weapons manufacturers than simply developing an effective end product. Waste and cost overruns are a regular feature in the development of military hardware. The F-35 fighter jet, for example, is expected to cost over a trillion dollars over the course of its sixty year lifespan. In a movement that is looking to maximize efficiency of resource usage, it would clearly make more sense to directly fund efforts to that end, rather than relying on the tangential work of an institution engaging in the most unsustainable activities ever conceived: spending trillions of dollars directly destroying land and infrastructure which is then rebuilt.

What McKibben further fails to acknowledge in his article is that the US military has fostered an atmosphere for intensified global destabilization, international distrust, and environmental degradation at a time when the need for global cooperation and environmental stewardship has never been more clear. Accepting the prioritization of US military spending over the dedication of national resources toward environmental research, habitat restoration, and climate mitigation, as McKibben does, is worse than defeatism. It is ultimately a collusion with the most murderous institution in living memory at the expense of genuine social progress or even human survival. While mainstream environmental groups often shun or disavow direct action that involves property destruction or widespread social disruption used as a tactic to secure the survival of the species, a tactic which is increasingly viewed through the lens of a militarized state as a form of terrorism, these nonprofits often have no qualms about tacitly, or even explicitly, supporting an institution that uses organized mass violence in order to further the very political ends which have brought humanity to the brink of extinction.

November, 2016, Standing Rock: The U.S. Army attempts to evict Oceti Sakowin encampments from treaty lands. Photo by Rob Wilson Photography [Source]

What this translates to is perhaps the most critical point presented in this article, which is that as corporate controlled governments and the officials within them are unable to come to meaningful agreements that could at least slow the process of ecological collapse, Bill McKibben is giving a pass to an institution whose job directly involves sowing violent discord around the world. Military adventurism is part and parcel to a world that is enmeshed in competition for resources, power, and strategic high ground rather than cooperation. To not point this out, and to instead highlight the supposedly positive role that the military will play, represents the betrayal of any vision of a decent future for life on earth under the cover of “current political realities”, which in fact is the reality of collective annihilation. The millions of victims of countless forms of Western imperial aggression stand as a testament to that fact, and the distortions and omissions of Bill McKibben cannot be tolerated by people who stand for justice and a livable future.

And while McKibben praised the military for “doing a not-too-shabby job of driving down its emissions—they’ve dropped 50 percent or so since 1991,” he neglected to mention in his article that it was this hyper competitive culture of US militarism that helped turn up the pressure on negotiators for the 1997 Kyoto Protocol in order to exempt militaries around the world from greenhouse gas accounting. The author of the paper Demilitarization for Deep Decarbonization, Tamara Lorincz, described the successful efforts of government officials, military brass, and oil industry insiders working together to keep military carbon pollution off the ledgers. She quotes lead Kyoto negotiator Stuart Eizenstat, then Under Secretary for Economic, Business, and Agricultural Affairs at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing:

“We took special pains, working with the Defense Department and with our uniformed military, both before and in Kyoto, to fully protect the unique position of the United States as the world’s only super power with global military responsibilities. We achieved everything they outlined as necessary to protect military operations and our national security. At Kyoto, the parties, for example, took a decision to exempt key overseas military activities from any emissions targets, including exemptions for bunker fuels used in international aviation and maritime transport and from emissions resulting from multilateral operations.”

Rather than standing up for environmental protection, the military, as one would expect, sought to preserve not simply US supremacy, but a global order in which militarism in general continues to play a central role in the affairs of humanity. Fewer regulations are better for weapons manufacturers around the globe, and the US is also the leading weapons exporter on the planet.

In her paper, Lorincz goes on to quote President Clinton appointee, Secretary of Defense William Cohen who said, “We must not sacrifice our national security… to achieve reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.”  In 2015, the non-binding Paris Climate Accords put an end to the accounting exemption set forth in Kyoto, but without an enforcement mechanism to ensure compliance, it did not explicitly mandate military reductions, leaving it up to individual nations to address those concerns as they saw fit. The priorities of the nation were further clarified when in 2019, in a paper about the grave danger posed by climate change, published by the US Army War College, the military’s role as protector of a pathological order again came on display. The paper stated, “The U.S. military must immediately begin expanding its capability to operate in the Arctic to defend economic interests and to partner with allies across the region…This rapid climate change will continue to result in increased shipping transiting the Arctic, population shifts to the region and increased competition to extract the vast hydrocarbon resources more readily available as the ice sheets contract. These changes will drive an expansion of security efforts from nations across the region as they vie to claim and protect the economic resources of the region.” There is no call in these words to change the kind of thinking that would have nations fighting over the last barrels of oil in a climate destabilized world. There is no reason to believe that a nation that learned nothing positive from the genocide it was founded upon will relinquish its death grip on power, even if it brings the entire planet into ecological chaos.

One of the interesting developments under Trump, the belligerent corporatist who walked away from an ineffectual Paris Climate Accord on the heels of pipeline expansionist and drone warrior Barack Obama, is the fact the military’s attention to climate change is not confined to just one paper. Members of the military community have continued to point out the looming danger of climate change. Even into the strange days of Trump, climate has been an ongoing concern from more vocal members of the Pentagon, and has led to figures like Bill McKibben pointing to their role as advocates for addressing the climate. “…the Pentagon, when it speaks frankly,” McKibben opined, “has the potential to reach Americans who won’t listen to scientists.” Perhaps it is this understanding of the pro-military psyche of the highly propagandized American populace that led him several years earlier to pen an article for The New Republic entitled “A World at War” in which he proclaims “We’re under attack from climate change—and our only hope is to mobilize like we did in WWII.”

In his opening commentary, he attempts to capture our militarist imagination with images of a supposed war that greenhouse gases are waging against us and the planet as a whole. “Enemy forces have seized huge swaths of territory; with each passing week, another 22,000 square miles of Arctic ice disappears,” he tells us. Instead of listening to scientific and military experts, “we chose to strengthen the enemy with our endless combustion; a billion explosions of a billion pistons inside a billion cylinders have fueled a global threat as lethal as the mushroom-shaped nuclear explosions we long feared.” When McKibben assures us that this comparison is not some figure of speech, he reveals another facet of his dangerous thinking when it comes to climate change and war. “But this is no metaphor. By most of the ways we measure wars, climate change is the real deal: Carbon and methane are seizing physical territory, sowing havoc and panic, racking up casualties, and even destabilizing governments. (Over the past few years, record-setting droughts have helped undermine the brutal strongman of Syria and fuel the rise of Boko Haram in Nigeria.)”

McKibben’s primary intent appears to be one of mobilizing the American people to rise to the challenge of facing climate change, as if we are preparing for World War II. But by framing greenhouse gases, or the combustion of fossil fuels, as a wartime enemy, he commits several grave mistakes. The primary mistake is the reality that wars are not waged by greenhouse gases or machines, but by the people who produce and control the profit and power driven systems that enable their proliferation. While McKibben perceives that the image of war is useful in that it provides an opportunity to appeal to America’s wartime nostalgia and perhaps mobilize those “Americans who won’t listen to scientists,” it falls short of the more accurate perspective that it is the belief in the actual economic system and technologically driven framework which organizes the institutions of power into a war on humanity and the planet.

McKibben can’t bring himself to call capitalism, militarism, and technologically centred consumerism as enemies of the people to be resisted. To excuse him for his particular framing as a kind of practical rhetorical decision is to overlook the dangerous obfuscations that arise and tendencies which are amplified as a result of such a framework. While McKibben nurtures our dangerously sanitized vision of patriotic history, he simultaneously lets off the hook and further empowers some of the most significant perpetrators of the crisis by maintaining our faith in a mythic US military practicality. As previously mentioned, it is not simply the significant and under reported greenhouse gas emissions of the military that is the problem. It is also the diversion of needed resources to unsustainable war making. It is the creation of a global order based in mistrust and brutal competition that fuels consumerism. It is the dangerous empowerment of militarized and paramilitary security forces at a time when the world is becoming increasingly unstable.

And when McKibben characterizes President Assad as the “brutal strongman of Syria”, rather than describing his more nuanced role as a popularly supported leader in the face of US, Israeli, and Gulf State directed aggression, he moves beyond the abstractions of WWII imagery and into direct support for American imperialist interests. His tacit support for the US war machine was further evidenced when he concluded that with the emergence of “green” tech, “The day will come when blocking the strait of Hormuz or blowing up a petrol station will be an empty threat – and that will be a good day indeed.” This of course is a shot at the enemy of American and Israeli elite, Iran. What such a remark avoids is any pretense of a future without US foreign meddling, whether that be in the form of toppling leaders like Iran’s former Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh at the behest of oil interests, or the US implementation of destabilizing sanctions in more recent years. While McKibben might lament the oil wars, his alignment with popularly held US prejudices is right out of the same neoconservative playbook which spawned George Bush’s axis of evil. In a world where the destabilizing climate will become one of many factors that both increase the likelihood of war and provide opportunities to devise profit-garnering narratives of so-called “humanitarian intervention,” McKibben is making it clear that his trust ultimately lies not with the people who suffer under the boot of military aggression and capitalist exploitation, but rather with a power structure that is quite literally killing us.

Kids in Hanano, East Aleppo, 24 hours after liberation from Nusra Front-led occupation, by the SAA and allies. December 2016 [Photo: Vanessa Beeley, Source]

Playing fast and loose again with the reality of the linkages between war, environmental exploitation, and climate change, McKibben declared in an opinion piece for The Guardian: “No one will ever fight a war over access to sunshine – what would a country do, set up enormous walls to shade everyone else’s panels? …A world that runs on sun and wind is a world that can relax.” Beyond the obvious fact that wars were fought long before oil became a hot commodity, perhaps the most glaring deception in McKibben’s arsenal is that war will be significantly reduced simply by the widespread adoption of “green” tech. But if you examine McKibben’s phrasing, he doesn’t say “no one will ever fight a war over access to  the components needed to manufacture green technology.” Rather, it is access to sun or wind, he says, that won’t spur bloodshed. This may be true, but he is implying for the casual reader that access to sun and wind is the same as access to raw materials and technological products that transform wind and sun into electricity. Nothing could be further from the truth, and his careful word choice is extremely deceptive. It is a bit like the kind of lie one might tell if one were operating from a war mentality, justifying the creation of false propaganda meant to rally people around a national cause that is sold as being for the greater good. “Wars can’t be fought over sunshine” makes for a clever, if duplicitous, slogan in a nation whose populace has grown less supportive of the oil wars they are funding with their tax dollars. But perhaps a bit of sleight of hand is good for the cause. The ends justify the means, as the saying goes. But do they really?

Another saying is that truth is the first casualty of war. If you are waging a war against amorphous greenhouse gases rather than acknowledging the war that has been initiated against life by technology and profit centred networks of capitalists, security forces, and politicians of all stripes, then your distorted framework sets the tone for more distortions. But as Medea Benjamin points out in her critique of McKibben’s call for a kind of wartime climate mobilization, “Some of the worst state responses to climate disruption already look like war.” As a means to demonstrate the ugliness of actual wars rather than promulgating simplistic, mythologized narratives, she refers to the Congolese forced labor which was used during WWII to extract uranium that went into the atomic bombs that would needlessly kill over one hundred thousand Japanese civilians.

McKibben assures us “…it’s important to remember that a truly global mobilization to defeat climate change wouldn’t wreck our economy or throw coal miners out of work. Quite the contrary: Gearing up to stop global warming would provide a host of social and economic benefits, just as World War II did.” As a reactive, crisis induced scramble for solutions from the same mindset that produced our problems, this kind of blind triumphalism has no time to soberly internalize both the hard limits of a growth-based economic system on a finite planet, and the deep tragedy of a world which had plunged itself into the bloodiest war in human history. Such triumphalism is ultimately incapable of seeing how the true lessons of war and the belief in a mythological progress continue to be ignored as we move into climate chaos.

This belief in a technologically driven progress which can be found in McKibben’s writing, and which often centers the discussion on an unerring belief in green jobs and economic prosperity over the reality that continued economic growth disrupts global ecologies, mirrors the kind of post WWII optimism which accompanied the so-called Great Acceleration. The Great Acceleration refers to the rapid economic growth seen during the war and the years following, which had an enormous impact on the environment. Ecologist and cellular biologist Barry Commoner concluded that, “The chief reason for the environmental crisis that has engulfed the United States in recent years is the sweeping transformation of productive technology since World War II. … Productive technologies with intense impacts on the environment have displaced less destructive ones. The environmental crisis is the inevitable result of this counter-ecological pattern of growth.” If one considers the radical changes humans have made to the planet on a geological timescale, it is easy to recognize that rather than representing a fundamental break from an older mindset, the rapid push for so called renewables is simply the machine of planetary consumption shifting gears.

In a critique of one aspect of this intensifying technological paradigm, Bill McKibben warns about the potential dangers of things like artificial intelligence in his book Falter, but when he calls the military industrial complex one of “the few places where it’s actually possible” to conduct research and development, his warnings ring hollow. In this world of great acceleration, cultures that value their modern consumerist lifestyle over unbroken forests, that don’t put up serious objections to continued growth and warfare, issue in the next wave of technological “innovation” which further speeds up the process of planetary destruction. If McKibben believes that the military will help develop the next generation battery technology to power electric cars, he should be aware those batteries emerge from a larger gestalt of full spectrum dominance, where better and faster applies first to maintaining a kind of material superiority that, if taken to the logical extension of automated warfare, threatens to launch our technosphere past the ability for humans to meaningfully react.  The crisis, then, when seen through the lens of technological innovation and war, only accelerates the destruction of life.

It is in this reality, where violence and exploitation undergirds the accelerations of modern consumer society, and green tech in fact relies on raw materials lying in often contested ground, that the US Department of the Interior finalized a list of thirty five “critical minerals” in 2018. In the Summary for the final document, the department declared that “The United States is heavily reliant on imports of certain mineral commodities that are vital to the Nation’s security and economic prosperity. This dependency of the United States on foreign sources creates a strategic vulnerability for both its economy and military to adverse foreign government action, natural disaster, and other events that can disrupt supply of these key minerals.” Among the thirty five minerals considered to be part of this “strategic vulnerability” were indium, tellurium, lithium, cobalt, and the rare earth elements, all of which are important components of corporate manufactured “green” technology.

 

What this translates to, of course, is that while wars won’t likely be fought over sunlight, the materials needed to produce “green” technology may indeed be the subject of significant future conflicts. This becomes increasingly clear when one looks more closely at the reality on the ground. For example, the very same nation which contained the highly concentrated uranium ore exploited for the atomic bomb, a nation with a legacy of Western colonial oppression and violent internal conflict, also produces over 60 percent of the world’s supply of cobalt, which is used in the cathode of lithium ion batteries. In 1961, shortly after gaining its independence from nearly 80 years of Belgian colonial rule, the newly elected Prime Minister of the Republic of Congo, Patrice Lumumba, was assassinated with direct assistance from the United States. The result would be a decades-long rule by a US-friendly autocrat followed by his overthrow and subsequent mass violence that intersected with the Rwandan genocide in which millions of people were killed.

Violence within the Congo has long relied on the control of mines for sources of income with which to pay fighters and buy weapons and supplies. One study showed the direct correlation between mineral prices, which went up with growing consumer demand, and the rise of violence. The understanding of this connection between mining operations and violent conflict led to the creation of Section 1502 of the 2010 Dodd Frank Act, which stipulated that companies refrain from purchasing minerals sourced from conflict areas. A Global Witness study, however, found that almost 80% of companies “failed to meet the minimum requirements of the U.S. conflict minerals law.”

With the majority of large mines in the Congo currently owned by China, a nation whose supposed threat to the US was emblazoned in Obama’s strategic Asia Pivot, competition for these resources will likely only go up at a time when “green” tech is being demanded with the urgency of human survival. With an estimated 30 percent of global reserves, and 95 percent of current global production, China is also the global leader in the highly polluting regime of rare earth mineral extraction and processing. To think conflict will simply decrease at the same time there is an increased dependency on unevenly distributed “critical minerals” is beyond naive.  Growing competition between the US and China in exploiting Africa’s resources are an indication of one potential conflict that lies ahead. While China increases its investment on the continent, dozens of private military contractors from countries such as the US, the UK, France, Russia, and the Ukraine are operating in a variety of African nations, protecting mines, serving as bodyguards, as well as a multitude of other security related missions.

Among those looking to capitalize on both security contracts and the increased interest in minerals is the founder of the infamous private mercenary group Blackwater, Erik Prince, who has reportedly expressed his desire to profit from cobalt mines in the Congo as well as rare earth minerals in Afghanistan.

Erik Prince: founder and former CEO of the private mercenary company Blackwater, now known as Academi

Erik Prince: founder and former CEO of the private mercenary company Blackwater, now known as Academi

 

Prince has been embroiled in numerous controversies, and his involvement in the minerals trade is highly suggestive of the troubling world order McKibben is trying to gloss over. In 2007, Blackwater contractors killed 17 Iraqi civilians during what has come to be known as the Nisour Square Massacre. Three contractors involved in the killing were sentenced to thirty years in prison, one of whom would go on to serve a life sentence for murder. In 2010, Blackwater would go on to pay a $42 million settlement to the State Department which, as reported in the New York Times, was in response to crimes that “included illegal weapons exports to Afghanistan, making unauthorized proposals to train troops in south Sudan and providing sniper training for Taiwanese police officers…”.

In 2014, Prince went on to oversee the illegal creation of retrofitted crop dusting planes that could be used as part of a private aerial attack force to be contracted in Africa. As part of a counterinsurgency effort in Sudan to protect oil fields, detailed in the Intercept, “Prince’s $300 million proposal to aid [Sudan President] Kiir’s forces explicitly called for ground and air assaults, initially to be conducted by a 341-person foreign combat unit. Prince’s forces would conduct “deliberate attacks, raids, [and] ambushes” against “rebel objectives,” to be followed by “continuous medium to high intensity rapid intervention”, which would include “search [and] destroy missions.” These proposed operations, which were never fully implemented, were done under the cover of various front companies and were hidden from other executives of Prince’s own company, Frontier Services Group (FSG), who believed the contract would merely entail surveillance services.

More recently, Prince made a pitch to the Trump administration to send 5,000 contracted mercenaries to topple the government of Venezuela.

It is against this backdrop that Erik Prince announced in 2019 the formation of an investment fund that will capitalize on the increased demand for electric car batteries. Looking to bring cobalt and other minerals to market, Prince told the Financial Times, “For all the talk of our virtual world, the innovation, you can’t build these vehicles without minerals that come from generally weird, hard-to-access places.” According to Reuters, by mid-2019, a subsidiary of Frontier Services Group, in which Erik Prince serves as executive director and deputy chairman, filed with the Congolese business registry for the purpose of “‘the exploration, exploitation and commercialisation of minerals’, forest logging, security, transport, construction and ‘all financial, investment and project financing operations, both public and private.'”

In addition to looking to further exploit labor in the Congo, Prince has also reportedly been exploring the potential to profit from the spoils of a war-torn Afghanistan. Expressing a desire to privatize the war in Afghanistan, an effort which would be funded in part by increased mining operations, the details of his plan were further revealed in a BuzzFeed article, where Prince was quoted as advancing “a strategic mineral resource extraction funded effort that breaks the negative security economic cycle.”

His interest rests on a backdrop in which Afghan president Asraf Ghani in 2017 gave the green light for US corporations to begin developing the country’s mineral supply, including rare earth elements, which are used in wind turbines and LED lights. In response to the president’s enthusiasm for incoming US investment, Donald Trump’s White House issued the following statement: “They agreed that such initiatives would help American companies develop materials critical to national security while growing Afghanistan’s economy and creating new jobs in both countries, therefore defraying some of the costs of United States assistance as Afghans become more self-reliant.” Trump was counting on America’s longest war to finally begin paying off, and Erik Prince, a significant financial contributor to the Trump campaign, whose sister Betsy Devos was subsequently appointed as Secretary of Education, may end up being one those beneficiaries.

This is the reality of resource exploitation and war, where large corporations and privatized military forces work as adjuncts to the wars of nation states, reaping multi-million dollar contracts, profiting from natural resources whose sale does little to benefit the impoverished citizens of the nations they are stolen from. The economic disparity engendered by such free market predation can only lead to greater sources of conflict. And now we are being told by the IPCC that in order to have a chance at avoiding the 1.5°C aspirational target set in the Paris Climate Accord, we need to some how scale up  “green” technology in order to reduce global carbon emissions to the tune of 45% by 2030. Under such seemingly impossible circumstances, one can’t help but wonder how many of the jobs to be created by the Green New Deal’s push for mass renewable energy development will include private military contractors guarding mineral mines and supply chains in order to keep profitable the nearly unquestioned human and environmental exploitation which powers our unsustainable lifestyles.

"The so-called ‘Greta Scenario’ describing net 0 carbon emissions by 2025... the demand outlook for copper is going to be significant. What’s more incontrovertible is security of supply... success in finding new sources of copper is declining. In fact, much of the known copper resources today represents 'the work of our grandfathers.'"

“The so-called ‘Greta Scenario’ describing net 0 carbon emissions by 2025… the demand outlook for copper is going to be significant. What’s more incontrovertible is security of supply… success in finding new sources of copper is declining. In fact, much of the known copper resources today represents ‘the work of our grandfathers.'”

 

While images of indigenous resistance to oil pipelines have captured the imagination of the environmental left, the reality is that land grabs in the name of “green” infrastructure is also a growing reality. The new rush to exploit the minerals of Africa is one such example. Another involves the Saami people, whose protest of a copper mine in Norway that would disrupt the land and traditional lifestyles of indigenous herders and fishers, was ignored. With the decision to permit the mine, Trade and Industry minister Røe Isaksen said, “Obviously, most of the copper we mine in the world today is used for transporting electricity. If you look at an electric car for example, it has three times the amount of copper compared to a regular car”.

While demand for access to land rich with minerals will rise, most of the pathways mapped out by the IPCC for limiting global temperature to 1.5°C incorporate the unrealistic use of massive tracts of land for capturing carbon out of the atmosphere. This is the response to a projected timeline in which emissions are not adequately brought down, and the resulting carbon overshoot must be compensated for with so called negative emissions technologies. Such scenarios paint a picture in which areas twice the size of India must be cultivated for biomass. The question is, whose land will be used? Who will be forcibly removed? Taken together, this so-called fourth industrial revolution of “green” technology has all the hallmarks of a militarily-enforced manifest destiny, in which the technologically advanced, hyper consumptive way of life for wealthy nations is violently preserved at the expense of both the planet and lives of impoverished people around the globe. In reality, the likely failure of such hail mary carbon reduction schemes will affect everyone in a rising tide of scarcity and violence, as the global elites rely upon these same kinds of security and military institutions they’ve always turned toward in order to maintain hold on a crumbling order that they packaged as our salvation.

A WKOG parody advertisement that is more and more difficult to detect in the year 2019. NGOs and “environmental leaders” are more and more, openly functioning as key instruments of US imperialism.

In addition to the fact that contested land and minerals needed for a world powered by “green” tech could easily play a role in future conflicts, so long as militaries are economically supported and culturally celebrated, fossil fuels will remain a strategic commodity for armies around the world. As a dense, portable, and storable source of energy, fossil fuels will continue to be the central source of power for military vehicles. Imagine trying to run tanks, destroyers, and fighter jets on solar or wind charged batteries. While the notion of using biofuels in the military is increasingly gaining traction, most vehicles will not run on 100% biofuels, instead requiring a mixture with a standard petroleum derivative. For example, jet fuel made from biomass, known as bioject, can only be mixed at up to a 50% blend. Furthermore, the production of biofuels remains largely energy inefficient and land intensive. The mass adoption of biofuels would likely displace arable land at a time when global population is growing, droughts and extreme weather is increasing, and fantastical schemes to sequester carbon through the cultivation of massive carbon sinks will already be driving up food prices. Rising food prices, of course, is yet another potential source of conflict, so “greening” the military is no surefire method to reduce global tensions.

And so long as militaries, whether American or otherwise, have a critical need for fossil fuels, petroleum will remain a strategic commodity. This means that even if the United States were able to somehow convert its military to be entirely fossil fuel free, if other nations remain reliant upon the use of fossil fuels even if only for their military, control of the world’s oil supply will remain a strategic objective. What all of this suggests is that far from being a preventative measure for military violence, a switch to “green” tech, will likely have little if any impact on war, and in some cases may in fact become a pretext for colonialist land grabs and armed conflict. Only a dedicated anti-war, anti-imperialist movement that intersects with environmental protection, that loudly condemns the crimes and excesses militarism and consumer culture, rather than seeing them as constructive platforms for our future on earth, can have any hope in bringing about peace, and a stable, livable world.

In April 2016, The Climate Mobilization published the paper Leading the Public into Emergency Mode: A New Strategy for the Climate Movement. The paper weighs heavy with American exceptionalism. Notes of nationalism and cultural superiority waft throughout the document. [Source]

Many Westerners have bought into the “war propaganda” of this global push for a “green” tech fueled, militarily enforced capitalism. As both the economic and environmental situations deteriorate, perhaps the push for widespread adoption will indeed reach the kind of fevered pitch Bill McKibben advocates. This could very well come at a time when the militaries which avoided substantive critique and were instead elevated as potential allies in the “climate fight” come on full display. In this future where comforting narratives like McKibben’s steer the populace away from the much darker truth, manufactured humanitarian disasters provide the palatable cover for the dirty work of securing access to raw materials needed for battery production and wind turbines by armies whose bases are hardened for sea level rise, yet whose tactical vehicles are still necessarily dependent upon dense fossil fuel power. At this time of great uncertainty, a genuine dissent which had languished under the spell of false promises of “green” technology and ignored the mass violence that underpins modern industrial society, emerges out of necessity from the growing direness of global crop failures and economic breakdown. This growing dissent, which threatens the illegitimate power held by the global elites, is met with heavy repression that draws upon decades of unimpeded surveillance tech implementation, the militarization of global police forces, and the use of private security. The participants in such a movement would have done well to have heeded the reality that the private contractor TigerSwan, which had operated inside of Afghanistan and Iraq in support of the US war efforts, had been mobilized against protesters during the militarized crackdown at Standing Rock under the watch of President Obama. Nations which had celebrated their institutions of violence while dismissing the real threats such a framework posed, would fall under the shadow of the very security forces they had funded to the detriment of systemically oriented solutions.

This is the nightmare that any genuine climate movement would openly seek to avoid, but it is a nightmare that is well under way. Rather than obfuscating the multifaceted threat that a culture of tech driven consumerism and militarism plays in an increasingly resource scarce, climate destabilized world, such a movement would seek to highlight those connections between planetary exploitation, violence, and the climate crisis as a means to deescalate the potential for future global wars, all while acknowledging the reality that climate catastrophe is now an inevitability. It is increasingly clear that we will not stay below the 1.5°C aspirational target set forth in the toothless Paris Climate Accords, and the 2°C target will not likely be respected either.  Widespread disruption is now an inevitablility. Which begs the question, what sort of framework will humanity adopt in approaching this future? Will it be one of a triumphal war rhetoric, “practical” alliances with the military industrial complex, and the downplaying of the disastrous consequences of militarism?

Clive L. Spash, WU Vienna University of Economics and Business, Vienna, Austria, This Changes Nothing: The Paris Agreement to Ignore Reality, Globalizations, 2016 Vol. 13, No. 6, 928–933

Clive L. Spash, WU Vienna University of Economics and Business, Vienna, Austria, This Changes Nothing: The Paris Agreement to Ignore Reality, Globalizations, 2016 Vol. 13, No. 6, 928–933

 

Climate change at its core is about conflict. It is a conflict between how humans live with each other and with the planet, and this conflict builds on centuries of violence and exploitation that are enmeshed, often unseen by the privileged, within the economic, social, and political systems to this day. We can either face our own discomfort and confront the structures of violence that have brought us to this turning point in human history, or we can soothe ourselves with comfortable narratives and allow the internal conflicts inherent in the system to catapult us far beyond the breaking point. With the primary focus currently being on narrow and insufficient technological approaches to a holistic problem of violence and exploitation, a broad and genuine environmental and social justice movement has yet to materialize. While climate catastrophe is now inevitable, its scale has yet to be determined. The underlying social conflicts we refuse to engage with today become the amplified armed conflicts of tomorrow. Only when people join together, rejecting mass consumer culture embodied in capitalism and enforced through militarism, to instead create leverage through sustained civil disobedience and the creation of ecologically minded communities that view life as sacred, can the kind of radical demands needed for the potential of a livable future be realized.

In all likelihood, such resistance will be met with the kind of structural State (and non State) violence that Bill McKibben ignores, but to refrain from the kind of resistance that opens the door to structural change, and to ignore the reality of deep structural violence, only guarantees a violent collapse, as heavily armed and economically stratified societies run up against the hard limits of physics. Indeed, we are now faced with the potential that no matter how great our efforts, the everyday materialism and violence that makes our system function, and the steepness of the changes now required, may prove too daunting to adequately address. How people choose to deal with this reality is yet to be seen, but it is better to have such conversations now than in the midst of bloody social breakdown. Solace can be found in the solidarity of peers, among those who would both work for a better future or stand at your side when such a future is no longer possible. Rather than masking reality with feel good propaganda that profits the wealthy, it is our decision to move with a fierce and loving intent from within a darkness we are able to acknowledge, that gives us the capacity to be both carriers of genuine transformation in a troubled yet salvageable world, and steadfast companions in one that is doomed.

 

[Luke Orsborne contributes time to the Wrong Kind of Green critical thinking collective. You can discuss this article and others at the Climate Change and War group on social media.]

 

[1] Continued: These mining + processing operations have left a legacy of potential exposures to uranium waste from abandoned mines/mills, homes and other structures built with mining waste which impacts the drinking water, livestock + humans. As a heavy metal, uranium primarily damages the kidneys + urinary system. While there have been many studies of environmental + occupational exposure to uranium and associated renal effects in adults, there have been very few studies of other adverse health effects. In 2010 the University of New Mexico partnered with the Navajo Area Indian Health Service and Navajo Division of Health to evaluate the association between environmental contaminants + reproductive birth outcomes. This investigation is called the Navajo Birth Cohort Study and will follow children for 7 years from birth to early childhood. Chemical exposure, stress, sleep, diet + theireffects on the children’s physical, cognitive + emotional development will be studied. Billboard: JC with her younger sister, Gracie (who is a NBCS participant). #stopcanyonmine” [Source]

Just Say No to Fake Action

Just Say No to Fake Action

Art for Culture Change

September 19, 2019

 

 

Green-smearing from Nicaragua to Bolivia

Tortilla con Sal

September 4, 2019

“Green-smearing from Nicaragua to Bolivia”

By Stephen Sefton

 

 

On one level the intensifying deceit of Western media foreign affairs coverage corresponds to the increasing desperation of Western elites confronting their failing global power and influence. But it also signals yet another crisis of capitalist economic growth. After 1945, North America and Western Europe based their genocidal imperialism on a social compact promising prosperity to their peoples at home in exchange for their collusion in imperialist military aggression and neocolonial crimes overseas. That system operated successfully based on the fundamental neocolonial fiction that Western governments and societies promote freedom, justice and democracy around the world, while doing the very opposite.

Now, stagnation and recession in the U.S. and its allied countries demand new dimensions to the endless psychological warfare necessary to sustain the basic neocolonial fiction. Psychological warfare in North America and Europe works to create enduring false beliefs generating, over time, permanent false memories, all serving the purposes of Western elite perception management. That is why the authorities in Sweden, Britain and the U.S. elites have been so vengeful and vindictive towards Julian Assange, among innumerable other less high profile victims. Anyone who effectively exposes the big neocolonial lie is met with the sadistic vindictive revenge of the elites they defied.

A fundamental dimension of contemporary psychological warfare has been dual-purpose corporate co-option of non-governmental organizations. In that psy-warfare dimension, NGOs serve both as disinformation partners with Western news media and too as false interlocutors in international forums and institutions, where they attack governments challenging the U.S. elites and their allies. They actively subvert governments inside countries challenging the West, for example, in Latin America, Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia. But they also pervert due process in institutions like the UN, posing as civil society but in fact serving Western elite corporate imperatives, for example in international human rights and environmental mechanisms and forums.

Among these NGOs figure high profile human rights organizations like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the International Federation for Human Rights and Avaaz along with environmental organizations from 350.org and the World Resource Institute to Global Witness and Greenpeace. An increasing interrelationship has developed between corporate NGO funding and the exploitation of people’s general willingness to volunteer for and support apparently good causes. Symbolic of this is the way World Economic Forum attendees like Kumi Naidoo move readily between top management from one NGO to another, in Naidoo’s case from Greenpeace to Amnesty International. From Libya and Syria to Venezuela and Nicaragua, Amnesty International has played a key role using false reports to demonize governments resisting the U.S. and its allies.

As Cory Morningstar has pointed out, Greenpeace is a key player in promoting the corporate driven New Deal for Nature aimed at financializing what remains of the natural world, especially its biodiversity, as a way of engineering a “Fourth Industrial Revolution”. Western corporate greed underlies the identical patterns of news media and NGO misrepresentation and outright deceit supporting regime change offensives against Libya and Syria, or Venezuela and Nicaragua. Right now, that very same pattern of media and NGO manipulation is clearly at work preparing for an intervention to prevent Evo Morales being re-elected as President of Bolivia.

Bruno Sgarzini and Wyatt Reed have noted how Western media and NGOs have falsely attacked Evo Morales blaming him for not controlling the fires in Bolivia’s Amazon. This is exactly what happened in Nicaragua immediately prior to the coup attempt in 2018 when the Nicaraguan authorities were fighting a fire in the Indio Maíz Biological Reserve. That episode softened up Nicaraguan public opinion and set in motion social media networks involving thousands of youth activists trained for that purpose beforehand over several years with U.S. and also European government funding. In mid-April 2018, barely a week after the Indio Maiz fire was extinguished; those networks launched a social media blitzkrieg of lies and inventions marking the start of the actual coup attempt. A practically identical process is well under way now in Bolivia, which holds presidential elections next October 20th.

The timing of the fires in Bolivia’s Amazon is extremely propitious from the perspective of the U.S. authorities and their allies. It takes almost two months for the effects to wear off of the initial psy-warfare bitzkrieg of the kind waged against Nicaragua in 2018 and against Brazil’s Worker’s Party as part of Jair Bolsonaro’s successful 2018 election campaign that same year. Bolivia will almost certainly experience the same kind of psy-warfare assault via social media prior to the October elections. The campaign will be timed to optimize the effect of mass false accusations of government wrongdoing and corruption along with false media and NGO claims of security force repression. Opposition activists are likely to exploit peaceful demonstrations on indigenous peoples and environmental issues so as to commit murderous provocations, just as they did in Nicaragua and Venezuela.

All of these tactics are likely be deployed against Bolivia so as to destroy the current prestige and high levels of support for President Evo Morales. In Bolivia, as in Nicaragua and Venezuela, the governing progressive political movement enjoys around 35-40% core electoral support, the right wing opposition have around 25-30% with 30-40% of voters uncommitted. The Western elites know they need to motivate something over half of those uncommitted voters against Evo Morales so as to get the right wing government they so desperately need in Bolivia to try and make good the unmitigated debacle of Mauricio Macri’s right wing government in Argentina.

The intensity of any Western media and NGO campaign against Morales is likely to reach similar levels as their cynical campaigns of lies and defamation against Venezuela and Nicaragua. Should that offensive go ahead, as seems probable, the difference will be that this time Evo Morales and his team are alert and unlikely to be taken by surprise as the Nicaraguan authorities were by the vicious, sudden attack against them in April 2018. A likely variation in Bolivia’s case will be a higher profile of environmentalist NGOs working in tandem with their human rights counterparts feeding misrepresentations and downright lies into Western news media. For the U.S. and European Union elites the regional geopolitical stakes are high enough to make an attack on Bolivia imperative.

 

[Stephen Sefton is a member of the Tortilla con Sal collective based in Nicaragua]

WATCH: Selling Extinction

WATCH: Selling Extinction

Prolekult Films

Published April 26, 2019

“Selling Extinction is a short introduction to the capitalist notion of a “Green New Deal”, the NGOs that support it and the recent Extinction Rebellion protests in London.” [Running time: 23:43]

 

[Prolekult is a Marxist film, writing and culture platform based in Birmingham, England. The project is presently run by James Bell (writing and narration) and Alex Bushell (editing and filming). The purpose of the project is to provide high-quality film content looking at world politics, culture and economics from a Marxist perspective. You can support them on Patreon and follow them on Twitter.]

Do Philanthropists Actually Love the Planet?

Books & Ideas | La Vie des Idées


December 11, 2018

by Edouard Morena

 

“Philanthropic foundations are now publicly acknowledged and celebrated as essential actors in the climate struggle. But for what results? As Edouard Morena shows, these foundations actually perpetuate the dominant economic order—an order that many hold accountable for the deepening climate crisis.”

 

Dossier: Who Will Save the Planet? Capitalism, climate change and philanthropy – A collaboration between the US magazine Public Books and La Vie des idées/Books&Ideas.

 

Beyond the calls for urgent action and pledges to commit more resources to the fight against climate change, a noteworthy feature of the first One Planet Summit, held in Paris on December 12, 2017, was the importance given to philanthropists and philanthropic foundations. Far from simply occupying a secondary or supporting role there, foundations were publicly acknowledged and celebrated as essential actors in the climate struggle alongside governments (especially cities and local governments), businesses, investors, and civil society organizations. Bloomberg Philanthropies funded and orchestrated the event.

On the morning of the summit, President Macron hosted a meeting at the Élysée Palace with a group of leading philanthropists, including Michael Bloomberg, Bill Gates, and Richard Branson, where he insisted on philanthropy’s unique role as catalyst of climate action. He also called upon the group

“to convene a task force to target and expand philanthropy’s role in the accelerated delivery of the ambitious goals of the Paris Agreement, including through the development of partnerships with governments and public finance agencies.”

The group of 15 or so individuals that attended the Élysée meeting were representative of a small group of well-endowed private foundations that dominate the climate philanthropy landscape. [1] In 2012, according to one report, the combined spending of the OakHewlettPackardSea ChangeRockefeller, and Energy foundations made up approximately 70 percent of the estimated 350 to 450 million philanthropic dollars allocated annually to climate mitigation. These “big players” share common characteristics. In line with the liberal tradition, they view themselves as neutral agents acting in the general interest and present climate change as a “solvable problem” requiring pragmatic, nonideological, bipartisan, and scientifically grounded solutions.

Yet upon closer scrutiny, their funding priorities and approaches to philanthropy reflect a distinctive and ideologically charged worldview, one premised on a belief that the market knows best and that individual self-interest is the best rationale for saving the climate. For most of these large climate funders, environmental protection and a liberal economic order are not only compatible but mutually reinforcing. Behind their altruistic, pragmatist veneer lies a genuine desire to solve the climate crisis while simultaneously perpetuating the dominant economic order, an order that many observers hold responsible for the deepening climate crisis.

Continuity and Change

Philanthropy has a long history of involvement in the climate debate. In the 1980s, established liberal foundations such as the Rockefeller, Ford, and Alton Jones foundations and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund funded scientific research on “global environmental change” and helped to establish the global processes and multilateral institutions that continue to underpin the international climate regime: the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Guided by the belief that, given the right multilateral institutions, along with adequate resources and information, a global and mutually beneficial solution could be reached, they supported the formation of a “global civil society” space through funding to NGOs and think tanks (e.g., World Resources InstituteClimate Action Network), support for research and communications, and the convening of international symposiums.

Over the course of the late 1990s and early 2000s, various contextual factors led some of the leading climate funders to abandon the climate debate, others to reassess and adapt their strategies of engagement. These factors included the US federal government’s reluctance to commit to ambitious mitigation targets, conservative-backed climate denialism’s effective scaremongering tactics and attacks against climate science, and growing reservations about the UNFCCC’s ability to actually deliver an ambitious and legally binding agreement in the post-Kyoto context.

This period also coincided with the arrival of a new brand of philanthropists and foundations that would go on to reshape the climate funding landscape. While retaining core liberal principles and values, they promoted a distinctive theory of change when it comes to philanthropic giving in the climate field.

A number of these newcomers were products of the technology and financial boom of the period. This was the case of the Schmidt Family Foundation, launched in 2006 by the CEO of Google, and the Gordon and Betty Moore foundation, launched in 2000 by the cofounder of Intel. Other newcomers include the Sea Change Foundation and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, both of whose founders made their fortunes in finance. For these new foundations, a number of which were based in the San Francisco Bay Area, philanthropic engagement in the climate debate represented a means of distinguishing and legitimizing themselves in the public sphere and within US elite liberal circles. These circles were traditionally dominated by East Coast elites whose fortunes originated in the industrial boom of the early 20th century and whose names were often associated with older, well-established liberal foundations like Ford and Rockefeller.

This new brand of “philanthrocapitalists” or “venture philanthropists” mobilize “their business acumen, ambition, and ‘strategic’ mindset” to solve the climate challenge. [2] foundations also set up the International Policies and Politics Initiative, in 2013, to “highlight opportunities for philanthropic collaboration, joint strategy development, resource pooling, and grant-making alignments in the arena of international policies and politics of climate change” [3] and create the conditions for a global climate agreement in Paris.

Through their joint efforts, the most active climate funders sought to create an environment conducive to a societal shift toward a low-carbon economy. From the outset, investors and businesses—and not states—were viewed as the key stakeholders in this process.

Priority was given to policies, initiatives, and projects that sent positive signals to the markets and created incentives for financial and business actors to invest in the green economy. Efforts were also deployed in the field of research and development, to support the large-scale deployment of new, clean technologies and industrial processes. A few months ago, major climate funders such as the Hewlett and MacArthur foundations have decided, for instance, to support research on and the deployment of controversial carbon capture and storage technologies.

A Veneer of Respectability

Despite their comparatively limited resources—climate philanthropy represents less than 0.1 percent of total climate finance—foundations’ combined efforts over the past 30 years have had a significant impact on the international climate debate. As I have argued elsewhere [4] they played an active and influential role in the lead-up to the Paris COP.

As the ECF wrote shortly after the Paris Conference, “although we should be careful not to overstate our role, it is important to recognize that the climate philanthropy community’s activities prior to and at the COP helped to lay the basis for the outcome.” [5] As the 2017 One Planet Summit illustrates, world leaders and other key players in the international climate debate also recognize the central importance of philanthropic foundations.

Has their influential role contributed to curbing climate change? According to the UN, the years from 2015 to 2018 have been the four hottest on record. While climate philanthropy cannot be blamed for rising temperatures, its efforts to curb climate change must be critically scrutinized. We must hold it accountable for its role in developing and promoting the voluntary, market-based, and bottom-up approach that presently dominates the international climate agenda and that has clearly not delivered the required results. As Marc Gunther wrote in a recent op-ed, “if philanthropy is to be judged by its outcomes—and how else should it be judged?—climate philanthropy has failed.”

How then can we explain the fact that, isolated voices such as Gunther’s notwithstanding, relatively few people have raised questions about climate philanthropy’s role and responsibility in the ongoing—and deepening—climate crisis? I believe that three main reasons can be advanced to explain this.

The first reason relates to the fact that many prominent climate NGOs and networks—Climate Action NetworkFriends of the Earth350.org—partially or entirely rely on philanthropic money to function. The limited available resources, especially for organizations active at the international level, and particular nature of the climate philanthropy landscape—dominated by a handful of well-endowed and closely aligned foundations—means that climate funders have a strong influence on the civil society space.

In Europe, for instance, the ECF—which channels and redistributes funds from a number of prominent climate funders—acts as an unavoidable access point for anyone wishing to seriously engage in the climate debate. From a prospective grantee perspective, “the ability to shop at one source—rather than making the same pitch three or more times,” as Mark Dowie observed about the US-based Energy Foundation, can be advantageous. [6]However, by channeling a large proportion of available climate funds, there is also a risk of concentrating power in a single organization and, hence, toward a single approach—to the detriment of groups that offer alternative visions or wish to pursue alternative strategies. The ECF and other large climate funders become de facto reference points and, given their domineering position, difficult ones to openly challenge.

The second reason relates to businesses’ and governments’—especially in high-emitting countries—reluctance to take decisive action on climate change. With the blessing of many governments and international organizations, foundations increasingly appear the only ones capable of breaking the “climate deadlock.” From a criticizable weakness, their lack of accountability and legitimacy becomes a unique and commendable asset.

This idea is promoted by funders themselves. As George Polk, the former chairman of the executive committee of ECFpoints out,

“One advantage foundations have in the policy arena is being shielded both from the political cycles that interrupt policy continuity and coherence and from the market barriers that get in the way of readily available solutions like energy efficiency upgrades in buildings. This means that foundations can often build bridges over tricky waters that governments and firms hesitate to cross.”

The third reason relates to liberal foundations’ broader function in US and global politics. As Inderjeet Parmar has convincingly argued in Foundations of the American Century, liberal foundations have traditionally played an influential role in transforming America from an “isolationist” nation into a global superpower, and in promoting and anchoring liberal ideals both domestically and internationally. [7] The Trump administration’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, by undermining the Party-led UNFCCCprocess, has further strengthened their position in this regard and, by extension, within the climate debate. Trump’s isolationist stance has prompted liberal philanthropists and foundations, as the Bloomberg example illustrates, to step up their efforts in a climate debate that historically forms a symbolic battleground in the war opposing liberals and conservatives.

Climate funders act not only as defenders of the climate but also as guardians of the liberal order, a US-inspired liberal order that is currently being challenged by Trump and other hard-line conservatives across the globe.

Our House Is Burning

It is in this increasingly unstable US and global political context, and in the face of a worsening climate crisis, that philanthropic foundations are increasingly looked to and celebrated as “climate champions.” As we have shown, the consensus surrounding climate philanthropy masks a longstanding, active, and ideologically motivated involvement in the climate debate. Such a consensus also downplays foundations’ errors and responsibilities. To paraphrase former French president Jacques Chirac in 2002, our house is indeed burning down, only now we stare, uncritically, at philanthropists.

Further reading

Mark Dowie, American Foundations : An Investigative HistoryMITPress, 2001 
Marc Abélès, Les Nouveaux Riches : Un Ethnologue dans la Sylicon Valley, Odile Jacob, 2002

List of Philanthropic Foundations

The Children’s Investment Fund Foundation
ClimateWorks 
The Energy Foundation
The Ford Foundation
The William & Flora Hewlett Foundation
The W. Alton Jones Foundation
The David & Lucile Packard Foundation
The Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation
The Oak Foundation
Rockfeller Brothers Fund
The Rockfeller Foundation
The Schmidt Family Foundation
The Sea Change Foundation

 

[Edouard Morena is Lecturer in French politics and history at the University of London Institute in Paris (ULIP). Over the past six years, he has been researching non-state actors’ involvement in international environmental and development processes – and in particular the role of philanthropic foundations. He is the author of The Price of Climate Action: Philanthropic Foundations in the International Climate Debate (Palgrave, 2016) and co-editor (with Stefan Aykut and Jean Foyer) of Globalising the Climate: COP21 and the Climatization of Global Debates (Routledge, 2017).]

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