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The Manufacturing of Greta Thunberg – for Consent: Controlling the Narrative [Volume II, Act II]

The Manufacturing of Greta Thunberg – for Consent: Controlling the Narrative [Volume II, Act II]

September 14, 2019

By Cory Morningstar

 

 

ClimateWorks, European Climate Foundation, the Global Strategic Communications Council & the Global Call for Climate Action

 

 

“On March 15, there was a global protest under “Fridays For Future” which saw demonstrations in Indian cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Guwahati. Students from over 1,300 towns and cities went on planned strikes across the world on Friday, according to a statement from the Global Strategic Communications Council (GSCC).”

 

March 16, 2019, The Asian Age, City Youth Protest Climate Change

 

“I can’t breathe. Should I stop going to school?” “Kids need clean air”. “No more excuses”. These were some of the phrases on placards Delhi-NCR students carried as they joined the global “Fridays for Future” protest against climate change, urging governments and authorities to tackle the problem. The protests were started by Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg in August 2018, becoming a regular event on the 15th of every month. Students from over 1,300 towns and cities went on planned strikes across the world Friday, a statement from the Global Strategic Communications Council (GSCC) said.”

 

March 17, 2019, Over 500 Delhi-NCR Students Join ‘Fridays For Future’ Climate Change Protest

Above: The European Climate Foundation Funders [Source]

In Volume II, ACT I, we explored the origins of US ClimateWorks and its core system in Europe, the European Climate Foundation (ECF).

As “the core of the ClimateWorks system in Europe“, the ECF constitutes an integral part of the regional global network created by the San Francisco-based ClimateWorks. ClimateWorks works to oversee and shape climate-related policy work worldwide. Launched in 2008 – the same year as ClimateWorks) – the ECF is a regranting foundation like its US counterpart.

Hewlett Foundation President Larry Kramer explains: “And here, too, the solution was ingenious. To begin, they proposed to create a central hub—the ClimateWorks Foundation—which would serve as grantor of funds to a coordinated global network… To work on transportation in Europe, then, ClimateWorks would simply channel money to ECF and ICCT [International Council on Clean Transportation] to work together on the problem.”

As discussed in Volume II, Act I, ClimateWorks is the largest recipient of climate philanthropy in the world having received over 1.3 billion USD since its inception. [March 1, 2018, Source]

“In September 2018, in the largest-ever philanthropic investment focused on climate change mitigation, 29 philanthropists pledged USD 4 billion over five years to combat climate change.” [Source]

[Further reading on ClimateWorks and the ECF: The Manufacturing of Greta Thunberg For Consent – A Design To Win: A Multi-Billion Dollar Investment, Volume II, ACT I]

Serving as media director for both the European Climate Foundation (ECF) and the Global Strategic Communications Council (GSCC) is Daniel Donner.

Donner also presides over media relations and events for Greta Thunberg and family. [Source] [Source]

“Based in Brussels, Daniel works with media strategy and outreach as part of the ECF’s Strategic Communications team, focusing on both news media and digital platforms. He maintains relationships with key media correspondents and keeps them informed about international stories on energy and climate change, with the aim to raise the media narrative of EU climate ambition.” [Source]

As an example of Donner’s experience in climate change policy, in relation to governments and municipalities, one can read his July 5, 2017 C40 cities press release for the C40 Cities and Climate Action Network:

“Hundreds of cities, states and regions, businesses, investors, and civil society are moving to implement the Paris Agreement ahead of G20 meeting in Hamburg.”

Funders of the ECF include ClimateWorks (created by the Hewlett, Packard and McKnight foundations), the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the KR Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Oak Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Ikea Foundation, along with many more identified in the Climate Finance Partnership and Blended Finance Taskforce such as the Government of France, the Government of Germany, BlackRock and Grantham. The Climate Finance Partnership was established by French President Emmanuel Macron at the September 2018 One Planet Summit as a vehicle to tap into and mobilize institutional capital – by leveraging public funds. [Further reading: Volume I, Acts IV and VI of the Manufacturing for Consent series]

ClimateWorks receives funding for specific programs from foundations including the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation, the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, the Ford FoundationThe Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment, and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

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The Global Strategic Communications Council (GSCC) is a global communications network, set up by the ECF. Its purpose “is to plan and deliver strategic communications in the climate and energy fields at both the international and national levels.” [Source, p. 106]

“The network brings together communications specialists from around the world, each focusing on a particular country or region. They collaborate with and assist a wide range of actors: corporate, government, institutional, media, NGO, think tanks. Part of their work involves identifying high-potential campaigns and individuals, and helping them to plan their actions, target the right audiences and formulate their baseline messages, making sure along the way that each campaign bolsters an overarching narrative. Through the combination of behind-the-scenes (GSCC) and public communications activities, the ESC sought to shape the public debate around climate change.” [Source, p. 107] [Emphasis added]

Countries with GSCC-affiliated experts are growing. States represented thus far include as Australia, Poland, China, India, Brazil, France, Germany, Turkey, the EU, the UK, and the US.[Source] [Source]

As the Manufacturing Greta Thunberg For Consent series has demonstrated, the Global Call for Climate Action (GCCA) has played a leading and critical role as lead organizer and behavioural change agent in the climate “movement” realm over the last decade. In ACT VI of the series, we touched upon three other instrumental actors who have shaped present and future climate policies to reflect the desires of the ruling classes: the European Climate Foundation’s Global Strategic Communications Council (GSCC), the Climate Briefing Service (CBS), and the International Policies and Politics Initiative (IPPI).

Funders of the Global Call for Climate Action (GCCA) include ClimateWorks, the European Climate Foundation, International Policy and Politics Initiative (IPPI), the Oak Foundation, Foundation of Prince Albert II of Monaco, the Government of France, Purpose (Avaaz), the Government of Québec, The Rockefeller Foundation, the UNFCCC Secretariat, and the VK Rasmussen Foundation. [1] [Source] In 2017, GCCA secured new funding from the Global Strategic Communications Council (GSCC), the Waterloo Foundation, and the Institute for Climate and Society. [Source]

Jennifer Morgan, current executive director of Greenpeace International, (instrumental in the formation, launching and management of the GCCA) was also in charge of coordinating the International Policies and Politics Initiative (IPPI) formed in 2013. Leading up to COP15, IPPI worked closely with the European Climate Foundation’s (ECF) strategic communications team. [Further reading: A Decade of Strategic and Methodical Social Engineering, Volume I, ACT VI, Crescendo]

“IPPI was initially intended as a “discrete ECF programme” whose role was to “work behind the scenes.” While the ECF had given rise to the original idea and while it housed its dedicated staff, IPPI was very much presented as an autonomous and “unbranded” initiative (“unbranded” as in not linked to any particular organization). Jennifer Morgan from the WRI was appointed as its coordinator.”[Source, p. 101][Emphasis added]

The overlap between the Global Call for Climate Action (GCCA) and the European Climate Foundation’s Global Strategic Communications Council (GSCC) is extensive. As is the overlap between GCCA, GSCC, the CBS, and the IPPI. Yet, whereas GCCA played the lead role in the public realm, GSCC, like CBS and IPPI, would work behind the scenes as a largely invisible entity. [2]

“Secondly, whereas the GCCA pushed its partners to adopt, publicize and rally behind a common brand—TckTckTck—CBS and IPPI adopted a behind-the-scenes, unbranded approach, supplying partners with information and suggested key messaging but without ever appearing as the source of that information and messaging. CBS briefing recipients were systematically reminded that they were ‘confidential and not for public circulation.'” [Source, p. 111][Emphasis added]

This overlap extended to Climate Nexus [3], a sponsored project of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, and organizer of the 2014 People’s Climate March in collaboration with with foundations and GCCA NGOs.

“The underlying idea was to ‘nurture and engage influential constituencies (industry alliances, ambassadors, foreign affairs think tanks, mayors, states and regions, security officials, humanitarian organisations) with a view of aligning organisations around political interventions as agreed with the relevant national communications capacity of the region.’ At the national and regional levels, this required identifying key narratives and spokespeople. To do this, CBS built up a team of country leads or ‘relationship managers.’ There again, there was an overlap between CBS, the GSCC and other associated communications outfits (Climate Nexus, [The Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit] ECIU, etc.).” [Source, p. 112][Emphasis added]

By 2015, following the GCCA and the Climate Action Network (CAN-International) inaugural meeting in Paris the year prior, the groups had morphed into the “tightly focused, unbranded, Global Strategic Communications Committee (GSCC+) aimed at delivering powerful, positive messages ahead of the Paris COP21”:

Close integration among GSCC+ partners meant that, by Paris, coordination reached unprecedented levels, allowing us to operate in multiple languages worldwide before, during and after the COP. Work included media and policy analysis, pitching proactive stories, and a reactive strategy for unforeseeable threats and opportunities, involving a team including op-ed writers, graphic designers, social media campaigners, photographers and videographers. GCCA staff held key roles in this team, taking joint responsibility for overall coordination and rapid response, and leading the visual media crew, including the production of daily video newscasts broadcast via GreenTV. As part of this initiative, more than 350 participants from 107 different countries languages and 70 countries. Together, we framed the Paris Summit as a vital stepping stone in the ongoing and inevitable transition from fossil fuels to renewables and greater climate resilience, and our ‘Road Through Paris’ message had a huge impact on media coverage at and after COP21 – aligning and amplifying the ‘good news’ story that the transition is both necessary and desirable.” [Source: Global Call for Climate Action Annual Report 2015–2016, p. 4][Emphasis added] [4]

Among CAN International funders in 2015 were Avaaz, ClimateWorks, European Climate Foundation, Greenpeace, GSCC, Res Publica (co-founder of Avaaz), and WWF. [For the full list, see CAN’s 2015 Annual Report.]

“Within the climate community gravitating around the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) space, one group in particular was especially satisfied with the Paris outcome. The members of this group were not just satisfied with the agreement but with themselves. They were convinced that they had played a pivotal role in the Paris success. Cutting across a variety of organizations and interests, this group of activists, consultants, business representatives, policy analysts, public figures, climate experts, communications and media specialists, and data analysts worked together—and often in collaboration with the UNFCCC and Parties to the negotiation—in the months and years leading up to COP21 to create the conditions for a “successful” Paris outcome. Late into the evening of December 12, at the Climate Action Network (CAN) International celebratory event in central Paris, members of this highly qualified and experienced network of individuals were celebrating not only the agreement but also their contribution to its realization. As they sang along to Queen’s “We are the Champions!” they had themselves in mind. This was their moment. This was their agreement.”

 

The Price of Climate Action: Philanthropic Foundations in the International Climate Debate, 2016, Edouard Morena] [p. 3] [Emphasis added]

Those who served on the GCCA Board of Directors in 2015-2016 include GCCA Board Vice-Chair Phil Ireland (Purpose), Online Progressive Engagement Network), Hoda Baraka (350.org), Fatima Denton (WWF International), Lo Sze Ping (WWF China), and Farhana Yamin, Associate Fellow, Chatham House, and recognized by the Financial Times as “one of the movement’s leading voices” in Extinction Rebellion.

“Over the next two years, GCCA aims to grow its new entrant network to 4,000+ members.”

 

Global Call for Climate Action Annual Report, 2015–2016 [Source]

The interlocking directorate between those serving ClimateWorks/EFC and the foundations, institutions and leading NGOs with “designs to win”, can be illustrated in the following brief examples:

  • Tim Nuthall serves as the international communications director at the European Climate Foundation. During 2016 Nuthall served as the communications director of the Christiana Figueres’ campaign to become the new secretary general of the United Nations. [Source] Nuthall was also short-listed for the 2014-2016 International Council for Science (ICSU) Road to Paris top “20 people we want to hear more from in the climate change debate.” [Source] [5]
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  • Tom Brookes is executive director, strategic communications, and a member of the ECF Executive Management Team. Based in Brussels, Brookes works to advance the policy response to climate change, and has responsibility for external communications, public affairs, and political communications strategy for the ECF, its affiliates, and network. [Source] Having joined the ECF in 2009, Brookes is also senior advisor on international strategic communications for the ClimateWorks Foundation and executive director of the Global Strategic Communications Council (GSCC). [Source]
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  • Christian Teriete is part of the ECF’s Strategic Communications unit working as the network director to coordinate the activities of an international team of communications specialists. Prior to joining the ECF in 2016, Teriete served as communications director for the Global Call for Climate Action (GCCA). Prior to joining the GCCA in 2010, Teriete spent seven years working for WWF. From 2004 to 2006, he managed communications for the global PowerSwitch campaign. From 2007 to 2010, he coordinated WWF’s climate and energy campaigns in the Asia-Pacific region. [Source]
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  • Andrew Schenkel “works primarily with the Global Strategic Communications Council, a global network of communications professionals in the field of climate and energy.” Prior to this role, Schenkel served as both communications Director and managing editor and director of special projects for Global Call for Climate Action – GCCA. [Source]
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  • James Lorenz serves as Southeast Asia manager for the Global Strategic Communications Council (GSCC). “The role has required diplomacy, tact and leadership to forge relationships with a broad range of stakeholders – from investors at Vietnam Holdings, to Mission2020, led by former Executive Director of the UNFCCC, Christiana Figueres.” Prior to this Lorenz served as Australia lead to the GSCC. Prior to his work at GSCC, Lorenz served as senior media advisor, media manager, head of communications for Greenpeace Australia Pacific. [Source: Lorenz CV]
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  • Aarti Khosla is director of Climate Trends. Prior to this position, Khosla was climate and energy communications specialist for Global Strategic Communications Council India for four years. Prior to this position, Khosla served WWF for seven years. [Source]
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    As an example of the collaborative efforts between GSCC and affiliates, one can observe the Social Media Communications hybrid capacity-training program led by GSCC and assisted by GCCA co-founder Avaaz. [“Social Media Communications Skill Share (SMC) is a hybrid capacity building training organized by GSCC,Bankwatch and European Beyond Coal Campaign.] SMC aims to address the needs of the civil society organizations in Central Eastern Europe and Balkans Region”.] All online learning modules, weeks one to four were led by GSCC affiliates. Week 1 was led by GSCC’s Devin Bahceci (climate and energy campaigner for Greenpeace) and Greg McNevin (communications director for Europe Beyond Coal, former strategic communications directors for GCCA, and former media relations specialist for Greenpeace). Week 2 was led by Daniel Donner (Thunberg media manager) and Paul Batty, both of GSCC, while the social media campaigning and engagement webinar was to be conducted by Iain Keith of Avaaz. The webinars were open to all interested people from the Europe Beyond Coal network and partner organizations. A day camp to “focus building skills together on concrete case of social media campaigning” was also organized. [Source]

    The ECF is the leading partner of the Beyond Coal campaign in Europe. Bloomberg Philanthropies is a major funder of ECF:

    “November 9 2017, New York, NY— Just after announcing a renewed commitment of $64 million to the Beyond Coal campaign in the United States and during this year’s UN Climate Conference COP 23 in Bonn, Germany, Michael R. Bloomberg, U.N. Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change, announced a $50 million-dollar commitment to partners worldwide to catalyze a global effort to move nations away from coal dependence. European Climate Foundation will be the leading partner in Europe.”

     

    Michael R. Bloomberg Commits $50 Million to International Effort to Move Beyond Coal, Reinforcing Leadership on Global Climate Action, ECF website

    As coal was phased out, natural gas moved in to take its place with energy corporations planning to add at least 150 new gas plants and thousands of miles of pipelines in the years ahead, in the US alone. [June 26, 2019: “As Coal Fades in the U.S., Natural Gas Becomes the Climate Battleground”] It’s par for the course that Willett Advisors, the investment arm for the personal and philanthropic assets of Michael Bloomberg, specializes in oil and gas. Here, we can note that the lead at the environment program at Bloomberg Philanthropies sits on the ECF supervisory board. [Further reading: Volume II, ACT I]

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    A pivotal role in foundation funding, is hegemonic control and further colonization over states struggling to achieve or maintain their right to sovereignty. The protection and expansion of imperial foreign policies and economic interests is paramount. Consider that from 2015 to 2016, the Oak Foundation provided funding to the ECF in order to “expand and improve the public discourse on climate change and energy issues in India”. Not the Netherlands, where the project is based, but India. [“Starting with a focus on COP21, GSCC is working across a diverse set of partnerships including civil society groups, policy makers and the informed public to mainstream the discussions on climate change and energy in India.”] This is nothing more egregious than continued colonization under the guise of climate protection. [Source]

    Whereas 20th century missionaries carried out their conquests in servitude to colonial states, in the 21st century it has been international NGOs for the most part fulfilling this endeavour. A transition is underway, however. Whereas the NGOs comprising the non-profit industrial complex are this century’s primary force multipliers, today, in an avant-garde brave new world – meets society of spectacle, the new improved, modern weapon of choice has become the citizenry of a targeted demographic, who can be made to demand a camouflaged destruction of their own shared futures. Consumers have been shaped into prosumers – product and brand advocates –  who now take the lead in demanding products and/or change/reform. This new role is encouraged, nurtured, and repurposed by corporations as leverage to bolster their profits, growth and credibility under the guise of capitulation and benevolence. Unwittingly, the collective can be made to demand their own further servitude and enslavement under the guise of empowerment. Made both invisible and irrelevant is the labourer, now recognized as human capital, who with little to no disposable income, has become largely disposable.

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    The European Climate Foundation (ECF) has provided the GSCC millions in funding since its inception. More recently, and notably, on August 9, 2018, the ECF granted the GSCC and the Philanthropy Task Force just over one million dollars:

    “This grant will support the European Climate Foundation’s Philanthropy Task Force. This was inspired by French President Emmanuel Macron to catalyze both private donors and development agencies to support climate mitigation in Southeast Asia, clean energy innovation, global clean air campaigns, and efforts to protect land-based carbon sinks. The second part of the grant will support ECF’s Global Strategic Climate Communications program. This grant will fund the GSCC’s core program and its India program. The key focus in this grant period is to create narratives of climate ambition at key moments throughout the year, both at international and national levels, in order to help turn sectors and governments from a simple commitment to the Paris Agreement to implementing its measures in earnest.” [Source][Emphasis added]

    The ECF grant exemplifies the cohesion between the European Climate Foundation’s Philanthropy Task Force with the European Climate Foundation’s Global Strategic Climate Communications program. Hence, the Philanthropy Task Force and the Global Strategic Climate Communications program can be considered shared/joint endeavours. Both endeavours belonging to the European Climate Foundation, “the core of the ClimateWorks system in Europe”.

    The Natural Capital Summit led by ClimateWorks Australia took place from June 6-7, 2019, as part of Climate Week Queensland 2019. A Natural Capital Roadmap was developed which will provide a framework for accelerating “natural capital thinking” in Australia. “The program is contributing to and benefiting from participation in the global Food and Land Use Coalition, led by the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, the World Resources Institute and others.” [Source]

    Rebrand: From Corporate Sycophant to Corporate Activist

    Both the Global Strategic Communications Council (GSCC) and Christiana Figueres are slowly being introduced and embedded into the public “activism” realm. The May 2, 2019 article “United Zero Emission Union until 2050 – recommends the Climate Change Committee” reports, “After the protests of Extinction Rebellion, climate strikes involving Greta Thunberg and the announcement of a climate threat by the parliaments of Scotland, Wales and the United Kingdom, climate change is at the top of the political agenda in the UK, even removing Brexit.” The article, which quotes both Christiana Figueres (highlighting her leadership position with Mission2020 as well as her past position as the executive secretary of the UNFCCC) and WWF, is published by Wojciech Makowski, Global Strategic Communications Council (GSCC).

    Another recent example of the Figueres rebranding from elite and corporate strategist to activist can be explored in the April 12, 2019 op-ed written by Figueres with 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben. This follows an op-ed written by Figueres with Greta Thunberg in January 2019 as touched upon in this Volume of this series.

    On June 18, 2019, an additional case in point of Figueres being brought into the mainstream fold of manufactured activism can be identified in the form of an Extinction Rebellion podcast. A description of the Extinction Rebellion Podcast Episode 4 – Looking Forwards reads: “In our first episode since April’s International Rebellion, the Extinction Rebellion Podcast discusses the future.” The interview was highlighted in the June 26, 2019 XR newsletter. The episode also features The Guardian’s George Monbiot.

    L-R: Aarti Khosla (GSCC India), Christiana Figueres (Mission 2020 Convenor and former head of the UNFCCC), Dr. Arvind Kumar (Founder and Trustee, Lung Care Foundation), and Shweta Narayan (Healthy Energy Initiative India Coordinator) November 8, 2018 [Source]

    Within this series, we will spend a brief moment highlighting the close-knit relationship between Christiana Figueres and GCCA co-founder Avaaz. Avaaz’s for-profit sister org, Purpose, is a New York public relations firm specializing in behavioural change for clients. As the material demonstrates, Avaaz promotes and assists Figueres. Figueres, in turn, promotes Avaaz.

    We also need to highlight the relationship between Farhana Yamin (Extinction Rebellion) and Avaaz. The Avaaz branding and campaigns are heavily promoted through Yamin’s NGO “Track 0” website and affiliated Twitter account. Yamin, an “invitation only CBS participant” with others such as Iain Keith (Avaaz) and Jamie Henn (350.org) – also attended the 2015 Avaaz retreat with those such as Rajiv Joshi, Managing Director of Richard Branson’s The B Team. The B Team, is co-founder of We Mean Business. B Team leader and experts include Christiana Figueres and Avaaz/Purpose co-founder Jeremy Heimans. The B Team is managed by Purpose. Both Purpose and Greenpeace assisted in the creation of We Mean Business. [Volume 1, ACT ]

    We Have A Plan – M2020

    The Nature (“international weekly journal of science”), June 28, 2017 paper “Three Years to Safeguard Our Climate” [Christiana Figueres et al – Christiana Figueres, Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, founder of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Gail Whiteman, Professor in-Residence at the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), Johan Rockström, Chief Scientist of Conservation International, co-chair of the Future Earth Advisory Committee, Anthony Hobley, CEO of Carbon Tracker, and Stefan Rahmstorf oceanographer and climatologist at the Potsdam Institute] outlines a “six-point plan for turning the tide of the world’s carbon dioxide by 2020.”

    An excerpt from the Nature paper highlights the imperative, with a concession for the global economy:

    “After roughly 1°C of global warming driven by human activity, ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are already losing mass at an increasing rate. Summer sea ice is disappearing in the Arctic and coral reefs are dying from heat stress — entire ecosystems are starting to collapse… The magnitude of the challenge can be grasped by computing a budget for CO2emissions — the maximum amount of the gas that can be released before the temperature limit is breached… If the current rate of annual emissions stays at this level, we would have to drop them almost immediately to zero once we exhaust the budget. Such a ‘jump to distress’ is in no one’s interest. A more gradual descent would allow the global economy time to adapt smoothly.” [Emphasis added]

    Here, we must note three things: 1) The global temperature not to exceed has always been 1°C (UNAGG, 1998). It was adjusted to 2°C by economist William Nordhaus in order to allow for continued global economic growth. 2) Even if emissions stopped tomorrow, the world will still be locked in to 2-4+°C (V. Ramanathan and Y. Feng, 2008), and 3) There is no remaining carbon budget, which should be obvious by the ecological devastation that has already taken place, as highlighted by authors.

    From the paper:

    The fossil-free economy is already profitable and creating jobs (www.clean200.org). A report this year by the International Renewable Energy Agency and the IEA shows that efforts to stop climate change could boost the global economy by $19 trillion. The IEA has also said that implementing the Paris agreement will unlock $13.5 trillion or more before 2050.”

    One wonders how a global economy enhanced by 19 trillion dollars, and the unlocking of trillions more, has anything to do with nature – in a scientific nature journal or otherwise (aside from contributing to nature’s further obliteration).

    The paper identifies six milestones in six sectors to prioritize actions developed by many of the NGOs and institutions laid out in the Manufacturing for Consent series: “Developed with knowledge leaders, these were reviewed and refined in collaboration with analysts at Yale University, the Climate Action Tracker consortium, Carbon Tracker, the low-carbon coalition We Mean Business, the Partnership on Sustainable, Low Carbon Transport (SLoCaT), advisory firm SYSTEMIQ [explored in Volume II], the New Climate Economy project and Conservation International.”

    And although carbon-intensive industries (iron, steel, cement, chemicals, oil, gas, etc.) are identified in the paper as emitting “more than one-fifth of the world’s CO2, excluding their electricity and heat demands”, neither the scientists Rockström, Schellnhuber, nor the signatories of the paper who now declare a global “climate emergency” deem it essential that we put the brakes on industrialization as quickly as possible. Rather, the goal is to accelerate it.

    The Signatories to the paper are most, if not all, those explored in this series, including World Resources Institute, the European Climate Foundation, ClimateWorks, Generation Investment, New Climate Economy, SystemIQ, Grantham Institute, The B Team, the Business and Sustainable Development Commission, C40 Cities, CERES, We Mean Business, Unilever, Carbon Disclosure Project, World Business Council for Sustainable Development, Conservation International, Sustainable Energy for All, International Trade Union Confederation General Secretary, and Climate Action Network. [The full list of co-signatories are identified in the paper’s supplementary information.] [6]

    These six sectors and milestones then form Christiana Figueres Mission2020 campaign, an initiative of Figueres’ Global Optimism project: The Climate Turning Point report published in April 2017 states: “These six milestones provide a vision for where we need to be by 2020 in order to successfully meet the climate turning point.”[Source]

    The Tracking Progress of the 2020 Climate Turning Point report was published by World Resources Institute in February 2019:

     The research shows that we are not yet on track. Despite encouraging progress in some areas such as the uptake of renewable energy, in many other areas, extraordinary action is necessary to meet the milestones. Encouragingly WRI analysis points to tremendous, untapped opportunities to scale up and accelerate action across all sectors.” [Source] [Emphasis in original]

    If the populace followed these institutions rather than NGOs such as Greenpeace, 350.org et al, we would not be easy fodder for such manipulation, as we are at present.

    M2020: Be A Part of It

    Echoing the sentiment and support for the September 2019 United Nations Climate Action Summit is Figueres’ M2020 NGO:

    “BE A PART OF IT – Sept 23, 2019, | New York City”

    The call for further mobilization can be found under the “#2020 Don’t Be Late” section, on the Mission2020 website:

    The heartbeat moments below represent a few of the key opportunities to step up and engage in accelerating climate action so that we can meet the 2020 climate turning point.”

    This “activism” sought by Figueres, We Mean Business, et al., poses zero threat to the system destroying our world, or to those that oversee it. Rather, the “activism” eagerly bolstered by the ruling classes, has been identified as the strategic apparatus which can save the very system itself.

    The two “heartbeat moments” identified by M2020 are the #FridaysForFuture global climate strikes, “an opportunity for school children and adults alike to raise the voice of urgency for climate action and urge leaders to follow the Paris Agreement”, and The UN Secretary-General’s Summit in September 2019: “UN Secretary-General António Guterres is bringing world leaders, from government, finance, business, and civil society to the UN Climate Summit on 23 September 2019. All relevant stakeholders who demonstrate the highest level of ambition and action will be invited to profile their efforts.” [Emphasis added]

    “The Paris Agreement signifies commitment to sustained industrial growth, risk management over disaster prevention, and future inventions and technology as saviour. The primary commitment of the international community is to maintain the current social and economic system. The result is denial that tackling GHG emissions is incompatible with sustained economic growth. The reality is that Nation States and international corporations are engaged in an unremitting and ongoing expansion of fossil fuel energy exploration, extraction and combustion, and the construction of related infrastructure for production and consumption. The targets and promises of the Paris Agreement bear no relationship to biophysical or social and economic reality.”

     

    Clive Spash, This Changes Nothing – The Paris Agreement to Ignore Reality, WU Vienna University of Economics and Business, Vienna, Austria, 2016

    Organizations contributing to the “2020 Climate Turning Point” report highlighted by Mission2020, what is best described as a continuum of the June 28, 2017 paper “Three Years to Safeguard Our Climate“, again include the same “leaders”, institutions and many of those identified in the Manufacturing Consent series. These include The New Climate Economy, SYSTEMIQ, We Mean Business, Conservation International, and World Resources Institute. [Full list] In section four, addressing global industrial processes, the need to accelerate the development of carbon capture and storage (CCS) is highlighted.

    The Age of Storytelling

    In 2015, Laurence Tubiana represented France as French ambassador and the lead negotiator for COP 21. In 2018, French president Macron appointed Tubiana to France’s High Council on Climate Change. Like Figueres, Tubiana is recognized as a leading architect of the Paris Agreement.

    Leading up to COP21 Tubiana, Figueres (in her role as Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), and members of the Climate Group attended the July 2015 World Summit Climate & Territories–Lyon (France). A pivotal focus of the meeting was the implementation if the carbon market, “a Tool for Green Economic Development”. [Press release, July 10, 2015]

    “Neoliberal language is rife across their reports and policy recommendations and their adoption of natural capital, ecosystems services, offsetting and market trading. These new environmental pragmatists believe, without justification, that the financialisation of Nature will help prevent its destruction. Thus, environmentalists promote carbon emissions trading but pay little attention to its dangers and failures (Spash, 2010). For example, Nat Keohane of the Environmental Defence Fund has noted on their website how they pushed in the corridors of Paris for ‘an opening for markets’. The right-wing government of New Zealand, leading an 18-country lobby, also had its negotiators pushing for the same international carbon markets. However, you will not find emissions trading, markets, cap and trade or offsets, mentioned in the doublespeak of the Agreement, but rather the term ‘internationally transferred mitigation outcomes’ (clause 108 and Article 6), something Keohane applauds.”

     

    Clive Spash, This Changes Nothing – The Paris Agreement to Ignore Reality, WU Vienna University of Economics and Business, Vienna, Austria, 2016

    Today, as touched upon on this series, Tubiana serves as CEO to ECF alongside serving high-level appointments (One Planet Climate Lab, Energy Transitions Commission, etc.).

    On March 20, 2019, the ECF website highlighted the fact that “Laurence Tubiana, ECF CEO, and key leading architect of the landmark Paris Agreement listed in the World’s 100 most influential people in Climate Policy in 2019”.

    Also highlighted by the ECF were Greta Thunberg, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, “the youngest ever US congresswoman and lead advocate of the Green New Deal”, and David Attenborough. Attenborough serves as an influencer for the financialization of nature under the guise of “New Deal For Nature” as well as a voice for a population control that exclusively targets the Global South.

    More and more, members of the ruling class, and those they appoint, or accept, are believed to the 21st century saviours. Saviours for a planet we are fully prepared and willing to sacrifice, on the promise (fantasies and outright falsehoods) that green technology will save our Western privilege.

    The transition, and normalization, of a fully commodified activism is now a fait accompli. Collectively, the Western populace has been socially conditioned to the concept, and has fully accepted (if not embraced) a 21st century corporate “activism”.

    +++

    October 24, 2016, We Could Be At The Dawn of Climate Friendly Air Travel:

    “With 30,000 new large aircraft taking off in the near future, Christiana Figueres and Laurence Tubiana say now is the time to decouple increased CO2 emissions from aviation growth. As the world becomes increasingly interconnected, demand for air travel is growing, with more than 30,000 new large aircraft expected to take to the skies in the next few years. But if we are to sustain growth in air travel without aggravating global warming, we must quickly reduce aviation-related CO2 emissions, which are substantial and not covered by the Paris climate agreement that more than 190 countries agreed to last December. Fortunately, now is the perfect time to decouple aviation emissions from air-travel growth…”

    The delusion and oxymoron behind the concept of “carbon-smart flying” inspired by Figueres and Tubiana masks the grim fact that 50% of all global greenhouse gas emissions are created by a mere 1% of the population – that is, anyone that can afford to get on a plane. [Further reading: Volume II, Act I] Yet, such fictions are brazenly told as the Western citizenry is hungry to hear them, and more importantly to believe in them. This is the age of storytelling.

    An integral part of the global “green growth” fairytale is the concept of “decoupling”. [Ecological Indicators, December 2018: “When emissions grow less rapidly than GDP environmental economists speak of relative decoupling; if emissions even decrease relative to the pace of economic growth, then decoupling is absolute.”] [7]

    “Despite all the green-growth nonsense, decoupling in line with 1.5-2°C carbon budgets is a pipedream.”

     

    Kevin Anderson, Professor of Energy and Climate Change at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, November 13, 2018

    In response to a question put forward by a journalist, if peak emissions by 2020 is “mission impossible”, Christiana Figueres, responds as follows, referencing a decoupling of emissions:

    “The fact is that now we now have confirmation from different sources, independent sources that we are on for the third year in a row we have actually flattened out in emissions. So for the three years in a row we’ve had flat GHG emissions, greenhouse gas emissions, and we have an increasing GDP. So we could already be beginning to decouple greenhouse gas emissions from GDP. The fact is we are already walking in the right direction. Now what we’re trying to do actually is just increase the pace and the scale.”

    Kevin Anderson, Professor of Energy and Climate Change at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research sheds some much needed light on such fantasy: ” Taking account of UK CO2 from aviation & shipping & from its imports & exports & the UK’s CO2 emissions in 2016 were virtually unchanged from 1990. Real decoupling at a level even approaching what Paris requires has not yet occurred within any nation.” [Anderson, August 24, 2018]. Anderson adds: “I would add that no nation is even approaching doing what “they feasibly can” – & will continue to fail whilst we worship the God of mammon, ephemeral economics, & green-growth (i.e. decoupling) the unholy trinity.” [Anderson: November 18, 2018]

    It is of interest to note that in a largely positive framing of decoupling published by The Guardian, [April 14, 2016: “Is it possible to reduce CO2 emissions and grow the global economy?”] Anderson’s thoughtful and critical commentary was largely disregarded. Anderson’s comment: “In the absence of the huge uptake of highly speculative negative emissions technologies, the concept of green growth within the wealthier industrialized nations is very misleading – all the more once allowance is made for the equity considerations enshrined in the agreement” – was shortened to – “The concept of green growth is very misleading.” Further, Anderson was cited in the article as “an avowed pessimist” for offering a response based on reality rather than one based on wishful thinking – 21st century parables that pay allegiance to the current neoliberal paradigm. [Anderson’s full commentary, April 16, 2016]

    The journalist submits a second, very straightforward question to Figueres: “Emissions from aviation are rising as people want to fly more. Should we just fly less?”

    Incredibly, yet par for the (growth) course, Figueres does not agree unequivocally that “yes, we should fly less”, rather she responds that flying less is the wrong approach:

    “The fact is that you cannot exempt any sector of the economy from these efforts. So you can’t say okay we’re not going to fly because aviation is too high emitting. No that’s the wrong approach.”

    Figueres then shifts the topic to two recent announcements from a “very small start-up as well as from Siemens that they foresee that ten years from now they will be having airplanes that are fully electric with clean energy and that have a thousand kilometer range.” Here again, we have decision-making and legislation (or lack of) being based and dependent upon technologies not yet invented. Technologies that may or may not be realized decades into the future.

    Figueres then concedes, if only slightly: “But [for] the time being if you want to be responsible, yes definitely go for the mobility with the low submissions, but that cannot exempt any sector. Every sector needs to bring down to the submissions. And aviation is coming.”

    [Full interview: published April 12, 2017]

    Yes. Aviation is certainly coming. Consider the recent announcement that Leonardo DiCaprio is joining with billionaire investors and philanthropists Laurene Powell Jobs and Brian Sheth to create Earth Alliance, “a new non-profit environmental powerhouse.” Sheth is the co-founder and president of private equity firm Vista Equity Partners. Powell Jobs, widow of former Apple co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs, over the last year, has helped fund Boom Supersonic, a project to create an “economically-viable supersonic airliner” via her Emerson Collective. Yes, these are the people that are going to “tackle climate change”.

    “The Emerson Collective —an org. headed by Laurene Powell Jobs, widow of former Apple CEO Steve Jobs —is one of a number of investors to take part in a $100 million round of funding for Boom…a 55-seat aircraft that is touted to fly at speeds of up to match 2.2 once completed.”

     

    January 8, 2019, Laurene Powell Jobs’ Emerson Collective contributing to $100M funding round for Boom Supersonic

    On another note, consider Conservation International (leading the implementation of the financialization of nature) reports in 2017 that its chairman [2017 earnings: 616,343.00 USD] and CEO [2017 earnings: 442,606.00 USD] “may travel first class due to the frequency and length of the trips required.” [2017 990, p. 124] The Nature Conservancy has similar guidelines. The travel budget for Conservation International came in at just under 11 million dollars in 2017.

    According to the WWF, unregulated carbon pollution from aviation is the fastest-growing source of the greenhouse gas emissions driving global climate change. Current expansion plans for the aviation industry could lead to emissions from this sector tripling by 2040. [Source] Of course, WWF does not address militarism nor the US pentagon, nor does any other entity or “leader” in a position of power or influence. Regardless, the concept of “environmentally sustainable aviation” put forward by Figueres and Tubiana flies in the face of Figueres’ “Every Breath Matters” campaign. Every breath matters, but the necessity for aviation profits and economic growth matters far more.

    “What the Paris Agreement tells is a bizarrely unreal story. Apparently, the cause of climate change is not fossil fuel combustion or energy sources but inadequate technology and the solution is sustainable development (i.e. economic growth and industrialisation) and poverty alleviation. As far as the current production and consumption systems are concerned, little needs to change. There are no elites consuming the vast majority of the world’s resources, no multinational corporations or fossil fuel industry needing to be controlled, no capital accumulating competitive systems promoting trade and fighting over resources and emitting vast amounts of GHGs through military expenditure and wars, and no governments expanding fossil fuel use and dependency.”

    Every Breath Matters

    According to Greta Thunberg’s father, Svante Thunberg, Greta is assisted by various climate organizations. This includes the “Every Breath Matters” group that arranged for Greta’s presence in Davos where she was publicly accompanied by Jennifer Morgan, executive director of Greenpeace International. Every Breath Matters was unveiled to the public on October 30, 2018 by its co-chair Christiana Figueres. The Every Breath Matters campaign is a collaboration between the Berggruen Institute, the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, and Figueres’ Global Optimism.

    The Every Breath Matters group of “clean air champions” includes:

  • Christiana Figueres, Former Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and Convenor of Mission 2020
  • Leonardo DiCaprio, Chairman of the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation
  • Greta Thunberg, Climate Activist
  • Tedros Adhanom, Director-General of the World Health Organization
  • [Full list]

    All inquiries for Every Breath Matters were directed to Callum Grieve, the communications specialist for “Every Breath Matters“. Grieve is the former communications director for We Mean Business, The Climate Group (co-founder of We Mean Business), and Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL) [8]. He has coordinated high-level climate change communications campaigns and interventions for the United Nations, the World Bank Group, and several Fortune 500 companies. [“Led communications for a coalition of the world’s most influential business leaders and investors to help secure the most ambitious global climate agreement possible at COP21.”] In addition to the aforementioned roles, Grieve created and led Climate Week NYC. He is a co-founder and director of Counter Culture, a for-profit brand development firm specializing in behavioural change campaigns and storytelling, still in its initial stages. [Source]

    Callum Grieve tweets to Greta Thunberg on the very first day of her now infamous strike. Others who tweeted to or about Greta on the first day of her strike (August 20, 2018) include Sasja Beslik, Head of Sustainable Finance at Nordea Bank who would later write Thunberg a personal letter in the virtues of capitalism, publicizing it via Twitter. [The Thunberg Twitter account created in June, 2018 also follows Beslik.]

    “Nordea boss says climate protests are ‘just the beginning'” — BBC, April 17, 2019

     

    At this juncture we should reflect upon the following information disclosed by Bloomberg on August 10, 2019 in the article “Climate Changed – Greta Thunberg and ‘Flight Shame’ Are Fueling a Carbon Offset Boom”:

    “Campaigning by climate activist Greta Thunberg and filmmaker-naturalist David Attenborough is persuading pollution-conscious fliers to try and mitigate the environmental damage caused by their flights.

     

    Sales of so-called carbon offsets are soaring: Myclimate, a Swiss nonprofit whose clients include Deutsche Lufthansa AG, reported a five-fold uptake in its credits in a year. At Ryanair Holdings Plc, Europe’s largest discount carrier, the number of customers making voluntary offset payments has almost doubled in 18 months.”

    From “Activist” for Capital to Influencer

    On the sample list of participants from the We Mean Business, Leaders’ Quest and Mission 2020 [All explored within Volume II] document outlining the “Pathfinders and Deep Practitioners Programs” from 2017, recognizable names include 350.org’s Henn. The term “Deep Practitioners” is applied to a cohort of “30 senior leaders of influential private, public and civil society organizations, who are willing to collaborate across sectors and change their own patterns of behavior.” “Global Influencers will create public and private opportunities for influential leaders to join the collective movement. Committed leaders will increase pressure on their peers to engage – establishing a new norm.” [Source] [Further reading: Volume II]

    The shaping and moulding of our increasing corporatized planet is being carried out by a select group of meticulously groomed people in servitude to a ruling class founded on white supremacist values and American exceptionalism.

    April 1, 2019 From left: Greta Thunberg and Luisa Neubauer, *ONE youth ambassador with Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research directors Ottmar Edenhofer and Johan Rockström. Source: Detlev Scheerbarth. *ONE was co-founded in 2004 by Bono in partnership with eleven non-profits/NGOs including GCCA co-founder and Purpose partner Oxfam. Funding was provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

    Here, we can reflect upon the “Pathfinders and Deep Practitioners” as shaped, moulded, imagined and desired by We Mean Business and partner NGOs founded by Figueres. In this regard, young Thunberg has exceeded all expectations. Consider Thunberg’s May 2019 interview by Brandon Hurlbut for Political Climate (presented/funded by the USC Schwarzenegger Institute and the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation) when asked for her advice for US climate activists:

    “I think just to stick to your message and don’t come with any demands, any specific demands. Leave that to the scientists because we don’t have the proper education to do that. Now we should only [be] focusing on speaking on behalf of the scientists and telling people to listen to them. And that is what I’m trying to do. And to not have opinions yourself, but always refer to science.”

    “Activism” with no demands – is “establishing a new norm”. A dream for corporate power and ruling classes – a nightmare for the working class and those in the Global South who do not have the luxury to afford such lax dissent.

    The mantra (talking point), put forward by young Thunberg, that we (collective society) should “not have opinions, but always refer to science” is an incredibly dangerous proposal. Consider such unequivocal support by society for scientist Johan Rockström, chief scientist of the corporate NGO powerhouse Conservation International, a leading advocate behind the implementation of the financialization of nature.

    Peter Kareiva is the former chief scientist at The Nature Conservancy and co-founder of the Natural Capital Project. Kareiva states that “money can buy you nature”. And this, of course, inadvertently reveals the other side of the equation – that those with no money cannot buy nature. And we are all aware of who has the money. This single ideology alone, now held by many scientists (see the excellent work by ecological economist Clive Spash) is more than enough to demonstrate that scientists are not deities to be obeyed without question. In fact, with Western science playing a leading role in the destruction of the natural world and all life she sustains, while biodiversity that remains intact is under the care and protection of Indigenous populations, this really begs the question of who should be in charge of our multiple ecological crises. Those who have demonstrated they can destroy it – or those who have demonstrated they can protect it. The answer is obvious, yet power will never be given. It must be taken.

    “But remember, this power of the people on top depends on the obedience of the people below. When people stop obeying, they have no power.”

     

    Howard Zinn

    Unite Behind the Science

    We are subjected to the branding term “Unite Behind the Science” pushed hard by the UN-WEF Partnership. This is coupled with a heavy emphasis from the exploited Thunberg, who serves as the face and voice of the movement, to “listen to the science”. The sentiment, which is a subtle yet direct directive, is reverberated throughout international media outlets.

    The slogan “Unite Behind the Science” is not meant to be a call to protect Earth. Here, we have science being used as a tool, and even a weapon, to privatize the commons under the guise of protecting nature, climate and biodiversity. It is meant to unleash a new era of privatization and plunder. All aboard the New Deals for Nature train: New Deal For Nature, Voice for the Planet, New Deal for Nature and People, and Global Deal For Nature (“© Copyright Global Deal for Nature, a project of Sustainable Markets Foundation”).

    Also trending is the “Natural Climate Solutions” terminology, being rolled out by The Nature Conservancy project “Nature4Climate” in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), UN-REDD, Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Conservation International (CI), Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), Woods Hole Research Center, World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), World Resources Institute (WRI), We Mean Business (WMB), and WWF (the dirty dozen). The new term providing a holistic cover for carbon offsets – a rebranding exercise for the carbon market mechanism UN-REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation).

    Above: James Lloyd, project lead at Nature4Climate and Natural Climate Solutions stakeholder manager at The Nature Conservancy, Twitter

    Above: One of the first institutions to highlight Monbiot’s Natural Climate Solutions launch (April 3, 2019) was the Food and Land Use Coalition. This coalition was initiated under Business and Sustainable Development Commission leadership led by former Unilever CEO Paul Polman and Mark Malloch-Brown, recently appointed to the UN Foundation board. Member foundations include ClimateWorks, the David & Lucile Packard Foundation, Ford Foundation, Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation, Good Energies, and Margaret Cargill. 

    The Planetary Boundaries Are Not Intended to Limit Growth

    “The failure to put the issue of imperialism in the Anthropocene at the center of its analysis is the greatest weakness of the Western ecological movement. It is often acknowledged that the effects of climate change and the crossing of planetary boundaries in general are having their greatest effects on the global South, where millions are already suffering from climate change… Nevertheless, there is very little consciousness at present that imperialism, representing the global rift inherent in the world capitalist system, is an active force organized against ecological revolution, seeking to lock in the fossil fuel system and the current regime of maximal environmental degradation and human exploitation. Twenty-first-century imperialism is, in this sense, the exterminist phase of capitalism.”

     

    — Imperialism in the Anthropocene, July 1, 2019

     

    At the 2015 WEF annual gathering in Davos, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Stockholm Resilience Centre held a press conference titled “Planetary Boundaries: Blueprint for Managing Systemic Global Risk” in order to highlight the “New Global Context for the Planet”. Speakers on the panel included Georg Schmitt, head of corporate affairs, World Economic Forum, Johan Rockström, director, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Marco Lambertini, director-general, WWF International, Jan Eliasson, deputy secretary-general, United Nations, and Hans Vestberg, chief executive officer, Verizon Communications. [Wall Street Journal, September 12, 2019: Verizon Ventures Prepares for 5G Startup Wave]

    Rockström declared:

    I represent the global community of earth system scientists, that today stand on a vast mountain of empirical evidence, to conclude from a scientific perspective, that the new global context is really about recognizing that humanity has become a global force of change at the planetary scale. We can today unfortunately envisage the global world economy itself disrupting the stability of the earth system.

     

    Science has now finally been able to translate this into a constructive new paradigm for world development. Shedding off the old sustainable development paradigm which as you are all aware is about economic growth and minimizing environmental impacts to recognize that the economy must operate within the safe operating space of the planetary boundaries.”

    As the press conference comes to a close, Rockström assures his audience that “using planetary boundaries is not a way to hamper development. It is rather a way to put the incentives in place, to guide the kind of incentives and innovations that Hans in talking about. So it is about a transformation of abundance within a safe operating space. So it is not limited growth – but growth within limits.”

    In the age of storytelling, we call this convenient doublespeak – the utilization of language to disguise the truth. In a planet under siege by a global corporatocracy, what should be absolute partition between science and corporate power, is instead, shattered, blurred and enmeshed.

    “The scaling of solutions is the biggest challenge we have.”

     

    Hans Vestberg, CEO of Verizon Communications, WEF, 2015 press conference, Planetary Boundaries: Blueprint for Managing Systemic Global Risk

    +++

    In addition to his position as director designate of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, and chief scientist at Conservation International Johan Rockström serves as co-chair of the Future Earth Advisory Committee.

    In the July 16, 2019 article “Three steps to meeting the climate and nature emergency”, Rockström articulates how society must move from incremental to exponential action.

    In the first major step identified by Rockström, he divulges a new commission: “First, the scientific community needs urgently to explore targets and set scientific boundaries for the entire Earth system, beyond those set to combat climate change. As part of a new global commons alliance, the first Earth Commission, to be announced later this year, will do just that.”

    Outlining the second step, Rockström states the imperative to “go beyond GDP as a measure of economic and social wellbeing“. What Rockström is actually speaking to is the assigning of monetary value to nature’s “goods and services”. That is, the financialization of nature via the coming “New Deal For Nature”. This ties into the third major step articulated by Rockström:

    “And, finally, we need to take full advantage of 2020, a super-year for international policy on the environment, with three big milestones in the journey to build global co-operation. The UN Convention on Biological Diversity will meet to agree new targets. On climate, nations must submit more ambitious targets for the Paris Agreement. And a UN ocean summit may reshape marine policy for the next generation.” [Emphasis added]

    Again, this is emotive holistic linguistics framing for the very ugly monetization of nature.

    “This leads to an intriguing possibility. In 2020, the UN will 75 years old. Following the lead of the UK and Ireland, is it now time for the UN to declare a climate and nature emergency?”

     

    Johan Rockström, director, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, chief scientist, Conservation International, July 16, 2019

    Rockström ends his article stating: “The next decade must bring the fastest economic transition in history to prosperity that protects the planet. This is necessary, achievable and desirable. But the work must start now.” [Emphasis added]

    Here again, we must pay close attention to the language, framing and repetition. The phrase “this is necessary, achievable and desirable” is one echoed by partner “climate leaders” and faux environmental groups:

    “Bending the emissions curve by 2020. Net zero by 2050. Necessary, desirable and achievable.”

     

    Christina Figueres, Twitter

     

    “2020: the necessary, desirable and achievable turning point to safeguard our climate.”

     

    Leonardo DiCaprio website

     

    “Corporate climate action: what’s necessary, desirable and achievable.”

     

    Natural Capital Partners

     

    “Within the next three decades, the Fourth Industrial Revolution — driven by digitalization such as mobile internet, cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things — will transform everyone’s lives and every business on the planet… With the goal of catalyzing broad and rapid progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. This is necessary, desirable and achievable.”

     

    Step Up Declaration, Harnessing the Fourth Industrial Revolution

    Other institutions, NGOs and declarations reverberating the terminology and/or sharing articles attributed to Figueres (containing the “desirable” phrase), include the Grantham Institute, Futerra, The B Team, the UNFCC, and so on.

    +++

    In May 2016, the map “Indigenous Peoples, Protected Areas and Natural Ecosystems in Central America,” released by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), is the most comprehensive map of its kind ever produced for the region. The map details that “approximately 51 percent of Central America’s current forest cover is either inside or adjacent to indigenous territory”. [Source]

    Upon release of the map, Grethel Aguilar, Regional Director of the IUCN Office for Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean stated: “You cannot talk about conservation without speaking of indigenous peoples and their role as the guardians of our most delicate lands and waters. This map shows that where indigenous people live, you will find the best preserved natural resources. They depend on those natural resources to survive, and the rest of society depends on their role in safeguarding those resources for the well-being of us all.” [Source]

    Actions speak louder than words, however, with IUCN a leading partner in the Natural Capital Coalition tasked with the financialization of nature. That is, the corporate coup of the Earth’s commons. [“IUCN’s Global Business and Biodiversity Programme, along with World Business Council for Sustainable Development and a consortium of organisations, has led the business outreach on the new Natural Capital Protocol (the Protocol)”.] [Source]

    In addition, IUCN is a co-founder of “Business for Nature” and “We Value Nature”. [Both to be explored in this Volume.]

    If we are to listen to the science, we must come to the conclusion that the stolen lands we occupy must be returned to the Indigenous peoples – with zero strings attached. We reach the inevitable conclusion that those who stole the land, those who carried out genocide against Indigenous peoples (which continues to this day), those who have destroyed our natural world, those who create global institutions to which they appoint themselves, have no authority whatsoever to “lead” the global citizenry in any way, shape, or form.

    Global Commons Alliance – “A Plan For the Planet”

    “What we need—and urgently—is a radical shift in perception by the private sector to view the global goals as the greatest economic opportunity any generation has had, rather than a burden and constraint to growth.”

     

    — Mark Malloch-Brown, Chair of the Business and Sustainable Development Commission, The Opportunity of the Commons, Global Environment Facility (GEF), IUCN, Global Commons Alliance, July 19, 2018, p. 4

    “Davos, Switzerland – Standing outside in the pitch-black cold at the World Economic Forum on January 23, 2019, a panel including Future Earth and partners announced to a live audience their intent to launch an Earth Commission.”

     

    Future Earth website, January 31, 2019

     

    “The Global Commons Alliance is a massive collaboration developed by world leading institutions.”

     

    Global Commons Alliance website

    In January 2019, the “Why our Planet needs an Earth Commission” lecture was hosted by Arctic Basecamp with long-standing partner Christiana Figueres. Moderated by Gail Whiteman (professor in-residence at WBCSD and co-founder of the Davos Arctic Basecamp), the panel included Rockström, Amy Luers, executive director of Future Earth, Nigel Topping, CEO of We Mean Business, and Greta Thunberg. The Earth Commission would be led by Future Earth and the International Union on the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). [Source]

    Future Earth, launched at Rio+20 (2012) is funded extensively by foundations, governments and institutions including ClimateWorks, The European Climate Foundation, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation and the Skoll Foundation. [Full list] It is governed by institutions including the United Nations Environment Programme. [Full list of Governing Councils] Partners include IPCC, the UN and IPBES. [Partners] The Future Earth Twitter account was created in December 2012. The Climate Group and GCCA/TckTckTck are included within the first 22 chosen accounts chosen to follow out of 883.

    The Global Commons Alliance brands itself as a new 21st century platform to transform the global economy under the pretense that doing so will benefit society and “sustain the natural systems of Earth”.

    Many of the names found under the heading of “Systems Change” are those now well-recognized within this series:

  • Naoko Ishii: CEO and chair of the Global Environment Facility and co-chair of the World Economic Forum’s Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy, co-chair of the Advisory Network of the High-Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy. [9]
  • Johan Rockström: Conservation International chief scientist, director designate of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, co-chair of the Future Earth Advisory Committee
  • Christiana Figueres: former executive secretary, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), B Team Leader, Global Covenant of Mayors
  • Dominic Waughray: managing director, head of the Centre for Global Public Goods, World Economic Forum
  • Andrew Steer: president and chief executive officer, World Resources Institute, former Special Envoy for Climate Change, World Bank
  • Amy Luers: executive director, Future Earth
  • Nigel Topping: CEO, We Mean Business
  • Sunny Verghese: WBCSD chair, co-founder, CEO of Olam International, (to be explored in Volume II)
  • Inger Anderson: UNEP executive director, former director general of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
  •  

    The organizations and institutions comprising the Global Commons Alliance include the World Economic Forum, We Mean Business Coalition, the World Resources Institute, the Natural Capital Coalition, CDP, Conservation International, International Union for the Conservation of Nature, the WBCSD, WWF, the Potsdam Institute and the Stockholm Resilience Centre.

    The Global Commons Alliance partners [accessed September 13, 2019]:

  • BSR™ (Business for Social Responsibility™)
  • CDP
  • Ceres
  • Circle of Blue
  • Conservation International
  • EAT
  • Future Earth
  • Globaïa
  • Global Environment Facility
  • International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis
  • Natural Capital Coalition
  • Ocean Unite
  • Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK)
  • Stockholm Resilience Centre
  • The Nature Conservancy
  • UN Global Compact
  • UNEP-WCMC
  • WBCSD
  • We Mean Business Coalition
  • World Benchmarking Alliance
  • World Economic Forum
  • World Resources Institute
  • WWF
  • “In July 2016, the world took a giant step towards natural capital accounting by officially launching the Natural Capital Protocol— opening a new pathway for companies… The combination of systems transformation at the industry and business level, and economic restructuring on the financial and reporting level, will push the world in the right direction. But we need to abandon incrementalism in favour of complete transformation.

     

    — Peter Bakker, President of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, Transformative change to safeguard the global commons could mobilise investment, The Opportunity of the Commons, Global Environment Facility (GEF), IUCN, Global Commons Alliance, July 19, 2018, p. 29 [Emphasis added]

     

     

    “Large reductions in the rate of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon—80% between 2004 and 2014—open up opportunities for an alternative model based on seeing the Amazon as a global public good of biological assets for creating high-value products and ecosystem services… We are rapidly gaining understanding of how things are created in nature, how organisms sense their surroundings, how they move in their environment and how they behave and function. This is bringing within reach a third pathway where we aggressively research, develop, and scale up a new high-tech approach that sees the Amazon as a global public good of biological assets that can enable the creation of innovative high value products, services and platforms for current, and entirely new, markets.”

     

    — The Amazon’s new industrial revolution, Carlos Nobre, Member of the UN Scientific Advisory Board for Global Sustainability and Juan Carlos Castilla-Rubio, Chairman of Space Time Ventures and a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on Environment and Resource Security, The Opportunity of the Commons, Global Environment Facility (GEF), IUCN, Global Commons Alliance, July 19, 2018, p. 42 [Emphasis added]

     

    A Plan For the Planet – The First Earth Commission

    The Earth Commission (to be announced later this year according to Rockström) is to comprise a select team of scientists. Future Earth will host the Earth Commission’s scientific secretariat in collaboration with the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA). The Commission will be “part of an extensive network which is complementary to and builds on existing assessments, such as the IPCC, IPBES and GEO [Global Environment Outlook] reports.”

    The insights of the Earth Commission will be central for informing the work of the new Science Based Targets network. This network will consist of a group of international NGOs that will create “practical applications”, and scalable solutions for corporations and cities. In addition, the NGO network will develop methodologies for corporations and municipalities “to set specific science-based targets to guide policies and practice.”

    The Earth Commission structure is set up very much like ClimateWorks:

    Again, we bear witness to the global mobilization of hundreds of millions, even billions, of citizens by a small yet powerful set of hegemonic institutions.

    +++

    Today we can learn more from the inspirational words and sound guidance left behind by Indigenous peoples and murdered revolutionaries, than all the scientists and experts in servitude to Western ideology combined. Thomas Sankara:

    “Colonial plunder has decimated our forests without the slightest thought of replenishing them for our tomorrows. The unpunished disruption of the biosphere by savage and murderous forays on the land and in the air continues.

     

    As Karl Marx said, those who live in a palace do not think about the same things, nor in the same way, as those who live in a hut. This struggle to defend the trees and forests is above all a struggle against imperialism. Because imperialism is the arsonist setting fire to our forests and our savannas…

     

    We can win this struggle if we choose to be architects and not simply bees. It will be the victory of consciousness over instinct. The bee and the architect, yes! If the author of these lines will allow me, I will extend this twofold analogy to a threefold one: the bee, the architect, and the revolutionary architect.”

     

    [Thomas Sankara: Imperialism is the Arsonist of our Forests and Savannas, at the International Conference on Trees and Forests, Paris, February 5, 1986]

    The solutions to our multiple ecological crises will not be discovered by Mission Innovation, Google, nor Verizon. The knowledge to live in harmony with the Earth already exists. The knowledge is retained and understood by the planet’s Indigenous peoples struggling to maintain their existence in the Earth’s remaining forests and natural spaces, protecting what remains of the Earth’s living natural communities.

    The fact that WWF, at the helm of the “new climate economy” being propelled forward by the UN-WEF Partnership, bears responsibility for the mass displacement, torture, murder and rape of Indigenous peoples with no public outcry from the Western citizenry, sheds an ugly light on white supremacist values that infect Western science, Western academia and Western society as a whole.

    The revolutionary architects are not to be found in the ivory towers of the West. We continue to indulge in willful blindness at our own peril.

     

     

    End Notes:

    [1] Other funders include the Compton Foundation, Instituto Arapyaú, Instituto Ekos Brasil, Kendeda Foundation, The Minor Foundation for Major Challenges, and the Stichting Global Climate Action.

    [2] “CBS’s emphasis on information sharing and coordination between stakeholders mirrors the GCCA’s own capacity-building approach. The fact that Jennifer Morgan, who had played an instrumental role in launching the GCCA, was now in charge of IPPI and was actively involved in the CBS project supports this idea. A number of those who were active in CBS had also been involved in the GCCA. Like the GCCA’s nerve centre, the CBS’s “global team” brought together members of the international climate community representing a wide array of both insider and outsider organizations—environmental and development NGOs, climate networks, campaign groups, think tanks and research organizations, as well as foundations. While some NGOs were initially reluctant to join, arguing that there was a risk of overlap between their activities and those of CBS, the global team ultimately brought together representatives from the most prominent and active organizations in the international climate arena. As with the GCCA, among those who were not represented were groups associated with the climate justice movement. Members of the “global team” regularly took part in conference calls, strategy sessions, workshops and conferences to share views, information and intelligence on policy-related issues, and collectively establish strategic priorities.” [Source: The Price of Climate Action-Philanthropic Foundations in the International Climate Debate, published in 2016 by Edouard Morena, p. 110]

    [3] On November 15, 2018, the Climate Markets and Investment Association reported that the parties that comprise the Climate Finance Partnership would “work together to finalize the design and structure of what we anticipate will be a flagship blended capital investment vehicle by the end of the first quarter, 2019.” All media inquiries pertaining to this announcement were to be directed to Climate Nexus (People’s Climate March) or the European Climate Foundation.

    [4] GCCA’s multi-lingual digital publishing stream, The Tree, rose to meet the needs of this historic year, putting its network-based approach to good use keeping thousands of influencers informed and intervening in key climate debates. By the end of 2015, The Tree counted more than 2,500 actively engaged influencers (977 in Europe, 803 in North America, 493 in Australasia, and the remaining 293 in Latin America) – a rise of nearly 1,000 since 2014 – and had a cumulative potential Twitter reach of over 26 million. The Tree was also GCCA’s primary vehicle for circulating the ‘Road Through Paris’ narrative, working in five languages across nine countries and regions during COP21, with seven Tree editors on the ground in Paris to support the GSCC+ communications efforts and deliver special daily Tree Alerts for the network. [Source: Global Call for Climate Action Annual Report 2015–2016, p. 5]

    [5] “Thanks to all our judges for their nominations, and apologies that a lot of their excellent recommendations didn’t make it to the final fifteen: Alice Bows-Larkin, Max Boycoff, Simon Buckle, Mike Childs, Tan Copsey, Susannah Eliott, Sam Geall, Will Grant, Fiona Fox, Leo Hickman, Brendan Montague, Tim Nuthall, James Painter, Chris Rapley, John Timmer, James Wilsdon.” [Source]

    [6] Three years to safeguard our climate (Nature 546, 593–595; 2017), co-signatories:

  • Andrew Steer, president and CEO, World Resources Institute
  •  

  • Caio Koch-Weser, chairman, European Climate Foundation
  •  

  • Charlotte Pera, president and CEO, ClimateWorks
  •  

  • Daniela Saltzman, director, Generation Investment Management
  •  

  • David Blood, senior partner, Generation Investment Management
  •  

  • Helen Mountford, programme director, New Climate Economy
  •  

  • Jeremy Oppenheim, partner, SystemIQ
  •  

  • Joanna Haigh, co-director, Grantham Institute for Climate Change & Environment
  •  

  • Keith Tuffley, managing partner and CEO, B Team
  •  

  • Laurence Tubiana, CEO, European Climate Foundation (ECF)
  •  

  • Mark Malloch-Brown, chair, Business and Sustainable Development Commission
  •  

  • Mark Watts, executive director, C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group
  •  

  • Mary Robinson, president and chair of the board of trustees, the Mary Robinson Foundation
  •  

  • Mindy Lubber, president, CERES
  •  

  • Nigel Topping, CEO, We Mean Business
  •  

  • Paul Polman, CEO, Unilever
  •  

  • Paul Simpson, CEO, Carbon Disclosure Project
  •  

  • Peter Bakker, president and CEO, World Business Council for Sustainable Development
  •  

  • Peter Seligmann, chairman, CEO and co-founder, Conservation International
  •  

  • Rachel Kyte, CEO, Sustainable Energy for All
  •  

  • Sharan Burrow, International Trade Union Confederation, general secretary
  •  

  • Tom Brookes, executive director, strategic communications, European Climate Foundation
  •  

  • Tomas Insua, executive director, Global Catholic Climate Movement
  •  

  • Wael Hmaidan, international director, Climate Action Network (CAN)
  •  

  • Yacob Mulugetta, professor of Energy and Development
  •  

    [Source]

    [7] “The environmental devastation this would entail is meant to be addressed by the ‘endeavour to decouple economic growth from environmental degradation’, which is meaningless unless undertaken in absolute terms and that is simply impossible for the industrial economy being promoted in Goal 9. Yet, hoping for technological miracles fits well with faith in a never-ending economic expansion of material and energy throughput.” Source: Clive Spash, This Changes Nothing – The Paris Agreement to Ignore Reality, WU Vienna University of Economics and Business, Vienna, Austria, 2016

    [8] “Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All) is yet another striking example of the emerging trend of gradually shifting (“outsourcing”) activities from the UN to a multi-stakeholder body positioned outside the UN system, while still using the name and reputation of the UN… In addition to participating in the deliberations of the High-Level Group, the business actors also provided financial support. As the Report of the Co-Chairs from September 2012 pointed out, “(t)he Sustainable Energy for All initiative has depended on generous contributions from its sup-porters,” including, in addition to a few government donors, the UN Foundation, Masdar (the Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company), the Bank of America, First Solar, Johnson Controls, Veolia Environment, and the International Copper Association. In addition, the consulting firm Accenture and the Norwegian oil company Statoil seconded senior man-agers to the Sustainable Energy for All secretariat, and Statoil designed the Sustainable Energy for All logo.” [Source: Fit for whose purpose? Private funding and corporate influence in the United Nations, 2015]

    [9] Naoko Ishii, elected as CEO and Chair of the Global Environment Facility in 2012. Before Joining the GEF, Naoko was Japan Deputy Vice Minister of Finance, and represented the Japanese Government during the design of the Green Climate Fund. She worked as a Country Director for the World Bank, and has held positions at the IMF and Harvard Institute for International Development. Naoko is co-chair of the World Economic Forum’s Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy, and co-chair of the Advisory Network of the High-Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy. She is a special advisor to the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development, a Commissioner for the Global Adaptation Commission, Member of the Leadership Council of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, and of the Advisory Committee of Future Earth. [Source]

    ExxonMobil strikes US$200 billion offshore oil reserves in Guyana. Gives US$10 million to Conservation International

    Redd Monitor

    August 7, 2018

     

    Conservation International and the University of Guyana recently accepted US$10 million from ExxonMobil Foundation. This grant (or “investment”, as ExxonMobil likes to call it) reveals a lot about Conservation International and its support for the REDD carbon trading scheme.

    ExxonMobil isn’t just any oil and gas company. It’s the world’s biggest. And it has played a key role in promoting climate science denial.

    A 2015 investigation by Inside Climate News revealed that Exxon knew for decades that burning fossil fuels causes climate change.

    In July 1977, a senior company scientist at Exxon called James Black spoke at a meeting in Exxon’s headquarters. He told them that,

    “In the first place, there is general scientific agreement that the most likely manner in which mankind is influencing the global climate is through carbon dioxide release from the burning of fossil fuels.”

    Climate denial

    But Exxon’s response was not to stop profiting from oil. The company spent decades refusing to acknowledge publicly the role of fossil fuels in climate change. Exxon expanded to become ExxonMobil, the world’s biggest oil and gas corporation.

    Exxon funded climate denial organisations, such as the Global Climate Coalition, which argued nonsense such as, “The role of greenhouse gases in climate change is not well understood.”

    Today, ExxonMobil states on its website that,

    The risk of climate change is clear and the risk warrants action. Increasing carbon emissions in the atmosphere are having a warming effect. There is a broad scientific and policy consensus that action must be taken to further quantify and assess the risks.

    At least ExxonMobil now admits that increasing carbon emissions are causing climate change. Obviously though, it is still a step too far for ExxonMobil to admit that action must be taken to dramatically reduce emissions from burning fossil fuels, rather than just to “further quantify and assess the risks”. And ExxonMobil is still funding climate science deniers.

    While ExxonMobil may have adjusted its rhetoric slightly on climate change in recent years, its actual policy remains the same: Drill as much oil and gas as possible, as quickly as possible.

    Massive oil find in Guyana

    Since 2015, ExxonMobil has drilled 10 exploration wells in the Stabroek exploration area off the coast of Guyana, 8 of which have struck oil. The company has identified a further 19 exploration wells to drill and estimates that Stabroek holds at least 4 billion barrels of oil. That could be worth more than US$200 billion.

    Neil Chapman, senior Vice-President at ExxonMobil, describes the oil discovery in Guyana as a “fairy tale”.

    Conservation International’s green PR

    Conservation International doesn’t care about ExxonMobil’s record of climate denial, or about its ongoing contribution to climate change. Last month, Conservation International and the University of Guyana accepted US$10 million from ExxonMobil Foundation.

    The money will be given over a five year period and is “to train Guyanese for sustainable job opportunities and to expand community-supported conservation”.

    press release from ExxonMobil explains that,

    The investment is also intended to support Guyana’s Green State Development Plan, the country’s 15-year development plan that aims, among other things, to diversify Guyana’s economy and balance economic growth with the sustainable management and conservation of the country’s ecosystems.

    None of this should come as a surprise. Conservation International has a list of “corporate partners” that includes representatives of some of the most polluting companies on the planet.

    The money from ExxonMobil shows that there is no corporate polluter too dirty for Conservation International. The reality is that Conservation International is not much more than a green PR company.

    Oil money and REDD

    Conservation International is closely involved in developing REDD in Guyana. In 2009, Conservation International helped set up and fund a REDD Secretariat within the Guyana Forest Commission. According to Global Canopy’s REDD desk website, Conservation International was “closely involved with the development of the Low Carbon Development Strategy and the Readiness Preparation Proposal.”

    This cosy relationship between a so-called environmental organisation and the world’s biggest oil and gas corporation is typical of REDD. Conservation International has long been in favour of allowing the oil industry to continue polluting while generating carbon credits to “offset” the greenhouse gas emissions.

    ExxonMobil’s massive oil discovery in Guyana helps guarantee that climate change will continue to get worse, putting forests everywhere at increasing risk of going up in smoke as the climate warms and rainfall becomes erratic.

    Meanwhile, in July 2018, Norway announced that it would release the remaining US$135 million of the Norway-Guyana US$250 million REDD deal. This is despite the fact that the deal expired in 2015, and the fact that since the REDD deal was signed in 2009, Guyana has made absolutely no attempt whatsoever to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in the country. Gold mining and destructive logging has continued just as it did before the REDD deal.

    In late 2017, Per Fredrik Pharo, the director of the Norwegian International Climate and Forest Initiative, told the Stabroek News that in order to get the remaining money under the REDD deal,

    “Guyana needs to establish a credible pathway to a clean and renewable energy transition in line with its NDC [Nationally Determined Contributions] and our original agreement.”

    Obviously four billion barrels of oil makes talk of a “clean and renewable energy transition” sound like a bit of a joke. But Guyana promised to build a 100 MW solar farm and Norway agreed to release the money.

    Norway’s riches come from the country’s oil industry. And Norway has no interest in reducing emissions from burning fossil fuels. When Earth Island Journal asked Pharo about ExxonMobil’s offshore oil drilling, Pharo replied, “It would be bordering on the hypocritical if we told them not to develop their oil resources.”

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    WATCH: What is Nature ®Inc?

    WATCH: What is Nature ®Inc?

    Video Published August 22, 2012 by Transnational Institute

     

    “Bram Büscher is Professor and Chair of the Sociology of Development and Change group at Wageningen University, The Netherlands and holds visiting positions at the Department of Geography, Environmental Management and Energy Studies of the University of Johannesburg and the Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology of Stellenbosch University, in South Africa. [Full bio]

     

    Environmentalism and Democracy in the Age of Nationalism & Corporate Capitalism

    December 14, 2017

    by Clive Spash

     

     

    Recently my masters’ students and I watched the film Carbon Rush. This reveals how numerous carbon offset projects – under the Kyoto Protocol’s emissions trading related Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) – are devastating the lives of some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world, and simultaneously destroying the environment on which they depend for their survival. CDM projects (such as dams, waste incinerators, wind farms, commercial forestry and oil palm plantations) suffer from dubious or no additionality and may as easily increase as reduce net greenhouse gas emissions. Yet, the international climate community commonly regards offsetting as central to climate change policy. Such schemes have proliferated due to the desire for making money out of environmental crises and a total disregard for exploitation of the poor and weak, the very groups that ‘development’ (clean or dirty) was supposed to help. In the neoliberal era the rule of the banking and finance sector and multi-national corporations means prioritising making profits by shifting costs onto others; something that has long been recognised as the modus operandi of the business enterprise (Kapp, 1978).

    Environmental commodification, trading and offsetting are business as usual approaches to  environmental policy. Whether converting wetlands into bankable assets as in the USA or greenhouse gases into tradable permits as in Europe, the justification is that the preservation of the capital accumulating growth economy requires mechanisms that institutionalise the ‘right’ to undertake environmental degradation. There is also consensus across political divides about the need for economic growth. In the UK, neither Corbyn (Labour) nor May (Conservative) had any meaningful environmental agenda, and both their parties remain totally committed to a growth economy. Diverse nation states are similarly united in promotion of environmental crises as growth opportunities. For example, the European Union and China are pushing the rhetoric of ‘Green Growth’. This combines increasing domestic greenhouse gas emissions through the extension of market based mechanisms and offsets with the promise of new future technologies as the ultimate ‘solution’ to address those same emissions. Faith in markets and technology remains core to international climate policy and unaffected by whether the USA is in or out of the Paris Agreement. Similarly, faith in markets and technology as environmental saviour would have remained the same regardless of having Trump or Clinton in the White House.

    In actual fact, the USA has never been a leader in greenhouse gas emissions reduction or climate policy, and both Democrat and Republican administrations have contributed to weakening international treaties. The Paris Agreement was watered down at the behest of the Obama administration compared to a more rigorous treaty, with common base year and targets, recommended by the European Commission (Spash, 2016a). Obama made clear his commitment to protect American jobs over the environment and specifically over any need to address human induced climate change. In this logic, environmental policy is justified if it creates jobs and growth, which always come first despite the inevitable contradictions. Obama’s administration massively expanded domestic oil and gas exploration to make the USA the worlds largest oil exporter (Spash, 2016a: 70). Non-conventional oil has been part of this strategy, despite the world already having over 6 times the reserves it could possibly burn and still have a ‘likely chance’ of the 2°C target (Spash, 2016b). Obama boasted that under his administration enough oil and gas pipelines had been built to ‘encircle the Earth and then some’ (see full quotation in Spash, 2016a). He ignored the associated ecological and social harm, not least that to indigenous communities. In 2016, Native American protestors at Standing Rock opposing construction work on the Dakota Pipeline that, now operational, transports fracked oil, were brutally suppressed by the combined efforts of the construction corporation’s security forces, riot police and the national guard. All that was before the election of a climate denialist with personal investments in fossil fuels.

    The USA is one amongst many nations putting their own interests before the common good, and with a record of saying one thing and doing another. Modern development is allied to a military-industrial complex that ensures nation states work to secure, maintain and expand their fossil fuel resource supplies at all costs. Current fossil fuel and infrastructure polices totally contradict the supposed  commitment of nations to the Paris Agreement, and its already exceeded, scientifically unhinged, target for a potentially catastrophic 2°C average global temperature increase (Spash, 2016a). Meanwhile, the
    United Nations, the European Commission, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and similar international bodies have continuously pushed market approaches that fail to address  biophysical reality, permitting exploration for and exploitation of fossil fuels leading to emissions that should never have been allowed. Thus, there is no surprise that recent moves by the airline industry to justify its plans for 700% expansion by 2050 rely on carbon offsetting, while numerous governments (e.g. Austrian, British, French, Turkish) support airport expansion as an economic necessity to create domestic jobs and growth.

    Sadly, over the last two decades, in the midst of our ongoing ecological and associated geo-political crises, a range of environmental non-governmental organisations (ENGOs), rather than opposing such schemes, have formed alliances with some of the worst corporate polluters and resource extractors in the world and now actually promote them (Spash, 2015a). Greenwashing has become a major occupation for ENGOs. Many have become apologists for corporate self-regulation, market mechanisms, carbon pricing/trading and biodiversity offsetting/banking, while themselves commercialising species ‘protection’ as eco-tourism. Foremost amongst the neoliberal ENGOs is The Nature Conservancy (TNC). Its President and CEO is Mark Tercek, previously a managing director at Goldman Sachs. Its Vice President until recently was Peter Kareiva, a key player in the Stanford University flagship ‘natural capital’ project with its mission to convert ecosystems into environmental services that can be traded off. Together Tercek and Kareiva have promoted capitalism as natural and berated conservation biologists for not allying with corporations. In a revival of social Darwinism, Kareiva has even claimed that corporations are a keystone species!

    ENGOs have been deliberately targeted by corporate strategists and in several cases they have been captured at management level. For example, Holmes (2011) reports on some of the boards of American ENGOs that include large numbers of current or former directors of major transnational corporations:

    TNC 15 out of 26; Conservation International 26 out of 36; WWF-USA 13 out of 21. In addition, ‘these NGOs each have a business council, made exclusively from corporate directors, to advise the board of directors’ (Holmes, 2011: 9). Besides TNC, Conservation International and WWF, Hari (2010) cites the National Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club, and the Natural Resources Defense Council as all suffering from corporate capture and conformity to the basic tenets of neoliberalism. This is the spread of what I have referred to as new environmental pragmatism (Spash, 2009). The inroads into conservation by corporate interests are deep. Recently, Adams (2017) has analysed the pragmatic reasons behind this alliance, terming it ‘sleeping with the enemy’ and a ‘Faustian bargain’, that is sold as promoting the mythical Green and growing economy. There is, then, much to concern environmentalists about the role of environmentalism today and whether it can help or will hinder the achievement of a more just, ethical and equitable future.

    In this issue of Environmental Values the state and direction of the environmental movement are at the fore. The extent to which conformity to current institutions and their values is regarded as pragmatic is the topic addressed by D’Amato et al. They contrast such pragmatism with the need for revolutionary change and consider which will achieve social ecological transformation. That ‘business as usual’ might no longer be an option leaves open what that implies for the existing political economy (from high-tech competitive corporate growth to low-tech cooperative community degrowth). However, as mentioned above, the hegemonic approach is techno-market optimism with the promise of preserving and  protecting the current capital accumulating economic system.

    Productivist rhetoric is dominant in government circles and provides an imaginary that can fit with liberal, neoliberal, social democratic welfarist, socialist and centrally planned political systems. While some things must change the utopian vision of a ‘sustainable growth economy’ will not be surrendered.

    The sustainable development agenda, from Norwegian premier Gro Bruntland onwards, has seen no conflict between achieving social and ecological goals and maintaining the growth economy. The United Nations has spent decades pushing various brands of ‘sustainable development’ as economic growth, with the Green Economy its latest incarnation (Spash, 2012). The basic aim is to make capital accumulation resilient, whether in the West or East, under democracy or despotism, whether state or corporate owned and run. How then should the environmentally concerned address this hegemony?

    D’Amato et al. provide a new classification of the debate based upon qualitative interviews and a focus group with twenty young researchers working in the area of social ecological transformation. They  contrast perceptions of the role of research as extending from promoting a simple form of pragmatism through to radical change based on strong value commitments. The mode of social change regarded as necessary is described as extending from a gradual evolution to a radical revolution. The concept of the Green Economy was classified by respondents as falling within the pragmatic and evolutionary. The  majority (60%) of respondents themselves held the pragmatic revolutionary position, followed by those classified as radical revolutionary (25%) and pragmatic evolutionary (15%). Thus, while 85% of these young researchers felt revolutionary social change was necessary, 75% believed research should be  pragmatic. While qualified by this being a small convenience sample, the findings do indicate the   potential prevalence of new environmental pragmatism and supports previous work indicating that this  is a wider phenomenon amongst researchers (Spash and Ryan, 2012). More generally, D’Amato et al.’s work raises some serious questions over the general direction of environmental research and how far researchers are prepared to make their work conform to hegemonic values, norms and practices, including those they in principle oppose.

    Yet, those who stick to their principles are often described as fundamentalists or uncompromising radicals who deny democratic process. Amongst environmentalists, animal activists have typically been painted as such extremists with their claims based on contentious rights based arguments. In some (supposed) democracies they are even regarded and treated as terrorists. Parry raises the issue of how animal activists should operate within an idealised deliberative democracy and what they could then legitimately justify doing to further their cause. The arguments for and against the use of different campaigning tactics are raised with specific attention given to the example of using video footage showing animal suffering. Such tactics are described in terms of creating a moral shock. Can this be legitimate in a democracy?

    Parry makes the case that deliberative democracy offers a justification for representing animals in decision making, but that this does not require appeals to claims about moral worth. Instead existing democratic political principles and institutions are invoked. Three principles are then given, namely that deliberative democracy should be inclusive, authentic and consequential. Parry’s article evaluates animal activism on these grounds.

    Inclusion refers to the right of representation in a decision on the basis of having interests that are subject to being affected by that decision. Political theorists have criticised animal rights activists for using undemocractic/deliberative approaches, which they claim are unjustified because these activists are just another group of humans seeking to promote their own interests. Such theorists believe animal activism should be undertaken through ‘normal’ democratic processes. However, as Parry points out, this is a conversion of human to non-human relations into a human to human relationship. Central to the politics of non-human Nature is the representation of silent voices (O’Neill, 2001). How the non-human get a voice in the human world is the central question here.

    One aspect of the problem is the tension between attribution of value on the basis of possessing human-like qualities and possessing value despite clearly being non-human like (see for example Coyne, 2017; Vetlesen, 2015). The value basis of interests is then a core concern. Contra Parry, the application of deliberative democratic principles does not then seem to avoid the need for adopting a value basis, nor the need for moral reasoning. Notions of value are employed both in arguments for moral standing and rights of political representation.

    A common approach in determining such attributions is to appeal to sentience and the ability for non- humans to suffer pain like humans. One reason is the search for generalisable and common interests, which are regarded as constituting authentic deliberation. Here there is an implicit appeal to Kantian moral criteria for establishing a valid moral argument, so once again contention over moral positions appear unavoidable.

    Parry’s second concept, authentic deliberation, aims to encapsulate the desired qualities of democratic deliberation, namely: truthfulness, mutual respect, non-coercive persuasion, constructively seeking acceptable outcomes, reflexivity and prioritisation of generalisable interests. Parry then explores how far different tactics of animal activists match such qualities, and the same is undertaken for the third concept, that requires deliberative democratic criteria be consequential. The latter entails identification of discernible impacts of tactics on decisions, where the consequences are evaluated at a systemic level (i.e. taking into account various aspects of repercussions). Put more crudely this is an assessment of ends justifying means.

    The question Parry debates is the extent to which the tactics of animal activists are non-democratic and yet still might be justified. Two tactics classified as non-democratic are imposing costs on others and the rhetorical exaggeration of moral disagreement. The former covers the making of an action (unwanted by activists) financially more costly for the actor, but is also extended by Parry to include imposing psychological costs on such actors. The latter concerns highlighting moral differences to emphasise what is deemed unethical. Such tactics are problematic for deliberative democrats – being termed exaggeration’ and ‘rhetoric’ – because of their commitment to political process as a consensus-seeking compromise. As Parry notes, in passing, there are those arguing that the worth of democracy lies in allowing for contestation over values, and that would involve the recognition of differences held as moral principles rather than seeking compromise and reasons to justify why everyone make trade-offs. A possibly related issue (not addressed) is the apparent contradiction involved in evaluating a social movement that emphasises deontology, community responsibility and duties on the basis of consequences and individual action.

    Parry concludes that some of the non-democratic tactics of animal activists may have a role, but should be employed with reflection and moderation. In reaching this conclusion some aspects are only briefly mentioned, but seem central to any justification for radical action within the social reality in which we live today. Perhaps most important are the inequity in power relationships in society and the undemocratic state of the institutions empowered by the idea of a neoliberal economy. Such things as corporate power, greed and the capital accumulating economy lie behind the prevalence of threats to the nonhuman world. The associated institutions perpetuate and legitimise a range of practices against the interests of both non-human and human animals. In the struggles of indigenous communities, who are on the frontline of the extractivist economy and its accumulation by dispossession and land grabbing, there are few signs of legitimate democracy let alone the deliberative democratic ideal. How to live up to the ideals of deliberative democracy, in seeking to right some wrongs, seems of lesser relevance than asking how and by what means can the transformation of such an undemocratic system be achieved? Related to this is the question: what are the legitimate grounds for the institutionally powerless to fight institutionalised power?

    Quist and Rinne are concerned with the challenges that disenfranchised groups face in building shared agendas and expressing themselves in their struggles to protect the environment and their ways of life. Their particular context is the conflict between different forms of resource exploitation and specifically fisheries versus oil extraction. They present a case study from Mexico that investigates media (two regional newspapers) representation of the conflict over access to the sea after Pemex, the eleventh largest oil corporation in the world, was empowered by the Mexican State to create marine exclusion zones. They reveal how the media operates with implicit rules of newsworthiness that play to the dominant moral discourses promoted by political and economic elites. In addition, they expose how this has played up divisions within the fisher community (e.g., between licence holders and other fishers working for them or independently).

    The central concept in their case study is ‘patrimony’, or regarding natural resources as an intergenerational heritage that creates a community understanding and sense of common purpose. Under patrimony the community is typically the nation state, with patrimony operating as national heritage, but the study identifies how the concept is also applied at the fisher community level by its leaders. However, rather than being empowered, the fishers appear to be captured by the discourse of patrimony, while their own discourse, expressing ecological values that include their way of life, is excluded. Fisher leaders are shown to adopt the patrimony discourse against the interests of the wider fisher community, even to the extent that the prospect of fishers becoming oil workers is considered. Oil is judged superior in patrimonial value and for the national collective compared to the value of fishing for the local community. In this discourse, there is no questioning of the oil industries right to exploit the resource. There is a clear underlying productivist logic that excludes environmental concerns and narrowly frames the social as national.

    How natural resource extraction issues are framed by the media is also the concern of Davies et al. Their particular case study is Greenland, where the population of 57,000 live in the twelfth largest country by land area. That 90 per cent of the people claim Inuit ethnicity adds to the distinct character of the society, as does having 80 per cent of the country under ice. In this last respect, climate change has been presented by some as an opportunity for opening-up territory for resource extraction. Indeed, this forms one of the major discourses revealed by Davies et al. in their analysis of 1000 English language media articles about Greenland. The potential for extracting oil, gas and rare Earth metals to supply the fossil fuel economy and its high-tech industries means climate change is not denied but accepted as an actual phenomenon by corporate fossil fuel and resource extracting interests. Rather than being a problem, climate change is seen as an opportunity. The media being reported here seems clearly focused on serving the speculations of corporations, bankers and financiers over where to make money. Such media coverage regards risk purely in financial terms of returns on investment (not strong uncertainty over climate change), and on the same basis the potential for oil spills due to new extraction is addressed as a risk to corporate investors’ returns, not the environment.

    Other aspects of the media coverage over extracting Greenland’s resources relate to the geo-politics of a small Inuit led country facing the likes of China and the European Union, and multi-national corporations. The vulnerability of Inuit culture is also raised, including the potential impact on the relatively small existing national population being swamped by incoming labour. Yet, somewhat paralleling the case of Mexico, coverage also regards investment in resource extraction as a necessity for ‘development’ that promises jobs and the eradication of social problems through material wealth.

    The idea of wilderness, so antithetical to advocates of the anthropocene (Baskin, 2015), appears in the media in both its positive form as pristine and untouched, as well as its negative form of waste land. The absence of human use is bemoaned by the latter as resources going to waste, while for the former this is where the environmental value lies. However, what is interesting in the reported media coverage presented by Davies et al. is how human–nature interactions are so easily turned into, and exclusively discussed as, human to human value relationships (e.g. human induced climate change having consequences for humans). Nature then has no voice in this media coverage.

    Therein lies the failure of the environmental movement in its pragmatic neoliberalism. That the mainstream media is obsessed by framing its reportage in terms of financial and economic consequences is hardly a secret (see Chalmers, 2012). What is less readily admitted is the extent to which ENGOs have done likewise and so lost their connection to the non-human world that environmentalism aimed to represent in the first place. In the appeasement of presumed state and corporate economic interests, the language of environmental values is commonly reformulated to actually deny the existence of value in nature, non-human to non-human value and even the importance of human to non-human relationships. There is only the human-to-human relationship and associated values, and clearly some humans are more equal than others.

    Issues of power, inclusion and representation in the environmental movement also concern the paper by Fenney, but from a different perspective. The argument is made that the disabled are subject to both oppression (disablism) and also the assumption of a non-disabled norm as valid and desirable (ableism). Evidence from interviews with disabled people in the UK is presented to illustrate the issues. In particular, Fenney highlights discourses on cycling and self-sufficiency as problematic. The former is criticised as specifically focussed on the able bodied, while the latter is seen as promoting a form of independence that is unavailable to many disabled people. Both are then loosely associated by Fenney with a neoliberal agenda in environmentalism.

    The broader concern raised by Fenney is where in the environmental movement’s vision of the future will the disabled find themselves, how will their voice achieve inclusion and their concerns over social justice be met? Implicitly, alternative systems and their conceptualisations of freedom underlie this discussion. The modern (neo)liberal model of ‘freedom’ might be characterised as the individual holding others at a distance with dependency on high technology, machines, biotech and chemicals. The environmental movement has traditionally rejected this in preference for a low technology world based on community and explicitly recognising interdependence, where labour substitutes for capital. There are clearly many questions left unanswered by the environmental movement concerning diverging visions of the future, including the absence of implications for the disabled. However, environmentalism, especially eco-feminism, has strongly advocated a caring society in which issues of dependency and interdependency are made explicit, rather than hidden by production chains, technology and patriarchy.

    In addition, the case made by Fenny does not establish any necessary link between environmentalism and abelism/disablism. For example, why does cycling need to be regarded as so exclusionary? Whether two, three, four or more wheeled there are many forms of locomotion that can be powered by humans singly or in numbers and be inclusive of different (dis)abilities as well as passengers. Perhaps the UK remains unfamiliar with the variety of machines available, but the idea that recommending cycling need necessarily be problematic and discriminatory appears to be in part based upon a limited conception of the options. The structural limits in the current infrastructure that favour cars also affects the imagination of what is possible and creates dependencies. That cars are part of our environmental problems is indisputable.

    I take Fenny’s point as being that too little thought is given to the implications of getting rid of cars in terms of the implications for disabled people who have lives currently dependent upon cars. Their concerns need to be voiced and addressed when cars are targeted or bikes promoted, but such polices should alsonot simply be equated with discrimination per se.

    Fenny notes that there is a growing (physically and mentally) disabled population and states that it is already approximately one-fifth of the UK population. Clearly the able do become the disabled as population ages, and there is an element of denial of this basic fact in Western society with its emphasis on health and beauty as youth. While Fenny presents the case for why transformation to environmental futures is inadequately addressing the issue, there is also a more general problem for the environmental movement here.

    Social ecological transformation is discussed as requiring major systemic change, and for many that means changing away from modernist utopias (Spash, 2015b). The scale of change required in removing fossil fuels from the economy is far-reaching and involves major distributive impacts. All those with dependencies on the structures of modernity, its technologies, energy and material intensive devices are vulnerable. The environmental movement needs to seriously consider and address the implications rather than pretending everything can be substituted and energy transition will be straightforward. Environmental policy is no more a win-win than any other policy; different polices change winners and losers. For the environmental movement, some specific groups, practices and ways of life are deliberately the target of change because they are deemed exploitative, unjust and unethical. Societal change is an inherently value laden and political issue.

    Currently major societal change occurs through undemocratic imposition of technology and infrastructure at the behest of minority interests, while the majority are just along for the ride, whether they like it or not. The rise of nationalism accompanied by militarisation and securitisation justifies exploitation of others who must be outcompeted in the fight for resources to maintain national and corporate economic growth. The depoliticising pragmatism of the environmental movement means loss of both direction and voice. The central issue, which was the reason for an environmental movement in the first place, is: how can different people live together and find meaning in their lives without engaging in the environmental degradation and mistreatment of others, both human and non-human, that is central to the currently dominant economic system?

    Download the paper:

    2017 Spash Env_Nationalism_Corporate_Capitalism EV_24_4

    References

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    and the green economy. Journal of Political Ecology 24: 243–257.

    Baskin, J. 2015. ‘Paradigm dressed as epoch: The ideology of the anthropocene’.
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    Chalmers, P. 2012. Fraudcast News: How Bad Journalism Supports Our Bogus
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    Coyne, L. 2017. ‘Phenomenology and teleology: Hans Jonas’s philosophy of life’.
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    D’Amato, D., N. Droste, S. Chan and A. Hofer. 2017. ‘The green economy: Pragmatism
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    Davies, W., S. Wright and J. Van Alstine. 2017. ‘Framing a “climate
    change frontier”: International news media coverage surrounding
    natural resource development in Greenland’. Environmental Values 24(4): 481–502.

    Fenney, D. 2017. ‘Ableism and disablism in the UK environmental movement’.
    Environmental Values 24(4): 503–522.

    Hari, J. 2010. ‘The wrong kind of Green’. The Nation. https://www.thenation.com/
    article/wrong-kind-green-2/.

    Holmes, G. 2011. ‘Conservation’s friends in high places: Neoliberalism, networks, and
    the transnational conservation elite’. Global Environmental Politics 11(4): 1–21.

    Crossref
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    O’Neill, J.F. 2001. ‘Representing people, representing nature, representing the world’.
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    Quist, L.-M. and P. Rinne. 2017. ‘The politics of justification: Newspaper representations
    of environmental conflict between fishers and the oil industry in Mexico’.
    Environmental Values 24(4): 457–479.
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    Capitalism. Abindgdon and New York: Routledge.

    Greenwashing Capitalism: Conservation’s Cosy Relationship with Corporations

    Conservation Watch

    By Chris Lang

    March 21, 2017

    Since the year 2000, there have been many partnerships between conservation organisations and the industrial corporations responsible for destroying nature. Mining companies are particularly popular.

    A new paper by William M. Adams published in the Journal of Polical Ecology explores the “surprising closeness and apparent warmth of the relations between biodiversity conservation organisations and corporations”.

    The paper is titled, “Sleeping with the enemy? Biodiversity conservation, corporations and the green economy”, and can be downloaded here.

    Adams traces the partnerships between conservation organisations and the mining industry to a series of initiatives starting in the 1990s:

    1997: Conservation International published Reinventing the well, a report on “minimizing the environmental and social impacts of oil development in the tropics”.

    1998: a Global Mining Initiative, “to provide sustainable leadership for the mining and minerals industry in the areas of our economic, social and environmental performance”.

    1999: The World Business Council for Sustainable Development began a Mining, Minerals and Sustainable Development project.

    1999: Rio Tinto started working with Conservation International.

    2000: Conservation International published a report on large-scale mining, titled, Lightening the lode.

    2001: The International Council on Mining and Metals was formed, “to act as a catalyst for performance improvement in the mining, minerals and metals industry”.

    2000–2002:The Mining Minerals and Sustainable Development Project, a research collaboration between the WBCSD and IIED.

    Adams argues that,

    [C]onservationists are turning a blind eye to their own past and to the working of neoliberal capitalism, showing a remarkable willingness to entertain future risks to biodiversity from the outworking of neoliberalism.

    Conservation has been transformed by neoliberalism. Instead of looking at how capitalism uses (and destroys) nature, neoliberal conservation presents capitalism as the way of achieving environmental sustainability.

    In their 2012 paper, Bram Büscher, Sian Sullivan, Katja Neves, Jim Igoe and Dan Brockington write that,

    [N]eoliberal conservation shifts the focus from how nature is used in and through the expansion of capitalism, to how nature is conserved in and through the expansion of capitalism.

    Benefits and consequences

    Adams highlights the benefits and the consequences of partnerships between conservation organisations and corporations. There are three benefits:

    1. Power: Conservationists see corporations as having the power to make decisions to either conserve or destroy biodiversity. “Conservationists therefore engage because they want influence.”
    2. Funding: Corporations are key financiers of conservation, from sponsorship of NGO activities, to support for partnership activities, to philanthropic support from individuals in corporations, to linked for-profit enterprises, such as conservation-endorsed commodity chains.
    3. Careers: Corporate executives on NGO Boards allows for career mentoring, and access to networks of corporate contacts. “Corporate support also offers opportunities for career development: all NGOs depend on cash income to develop their programmes, and working in a way that aligns your programme with the interests and activities of corporations is a good way to keep your job and grow your program.”

    An obvious problem with conservationists partnering with corporations is what Adams calls the “fundamental nature of capitalism”.

    Capitalism is parasitic on nature, in that it “continuously gnaws away at the resources base that sustains it”, as Geographer David Pepper puts it in his 1993 book, Eco-Socialism: From deep ecology to social justice.

    Corporations need to make only slight changes to their corporate strategies. But for the conservation organisations working with corporations, the ideological and organisational changes are significant. Biting the hand that feeds, by criticising corporate partners, is out of the question.

    And conservation organisations that work closely with corporations start to look more like corporations themselves. Mark Tercek, the President and CEO of , previously worked at Goldman Sachs, rising to Managing Director and Partner.

    Adams points out that corporate partnerships “do not in any obvious way ‘work’ for conservation, in terms of systematically addressing the fundamental drivers of biodiversity loss”.

    Adams writes that the partnership between conservation organisations and corporations is a Faustian bargain, “a deal with the devil to acquire power in exchange for the soul”. Adams adds,

    If conservation is Faust, the power it wins by its bargain with capitalism is inevitably trivial and transient: ultimately, in the face of capitalism’s destruction of nature, conservation will lose.

    And he concludes that,

    The reframing of nature as natural capital and the reinvention of conservation as the management of capital flows through market-based instruments, might make a close engagement between neoliberal conservation and corporations look unproblematic. Such a relationship offers the lure of financial resources and power. But conservationists considering getting into bed with corporations should remember the tale of Faust’s bargain. The story takes many forms, but in none of them does the pact turn out well.

     

    [Conservation Watch is run by Chris Lang (conserwatch@gmail.com). The views expressed on Conservation Watch do not necessarily reflect the formal positions of any organisations or individuals, except when this is clearly stated. Conservation Watch is funded by the Rainforest Foundation UK.]

    The Bankers at the Helm of the ‘Natural Capital’ Sector

    January 26, 2017

    by Michael Swifte

     

    bankers-at-the-helm

    Let’s put a spotlight on four bankers who positioned themselves in the ‘natural capital’ sector around the time of the Global Financial Crisis (GFC). Let’s have a look at some of their networks.

    The reason these bankers have positions at the intersection of big finance and the conservation sector is because of their intimate knowledge of financial instruments and what some call “financial innovation”. They follow the edict ‘measure it and you can manage it’. They are the perfect addition to decades of work – as part of the sustainable development agenda – aimed at quantifying the economic value of nature in order to exploit it as collateral to underwrite the new economy.

    Banker 1

    fullerton_pes_small

    John Fullerton is a former managing director at JPMorgan, he founded the Capital Institute in 2010, in 2014 he became a member of the Club of Rome, he has written a book called Regenerative Capitalism.

    “No doubt the shift in finance will require both carrots and sticks, and perhaps some clubs.” [Source]

    The first of Fullerton’s key networked individuals is Gus Speth who consults to the Capital Institute, he sits on the US Advisory Board of 350.org and the New Economy Coalition board and is good buddies with the godfather of ‘ecosystem services’ Bob Costanza. He has a long history supporting sustainable development projects and has some seriously heavy hitting networks. He founded two conservation organisations with which he was actively engaged up until 2o12, both organisations continue to support ‘natural capital’ projects among other diabolical efforts.

    The second networked individual is Hunter Lovins, an award winning author and environmentalist who heads up Natural Capital Solutions and is an advisor to the Capital Institute. She is a long term cheer leader for green capitalism, climate capitalism, and sustainable development.

    Banker 2

    tercek_pes_small

    Mark Tercek was a managing director at Goldman Sachs and became the CEO of The Nature Conservancy in 2008, he has written a book called Nature’s Fortune: How Business and Society Thrive by Investing in Nature.

    “This reminds me of my Wall Street days. I mean, all the new markets—the high yield markets, different convertible markets, this is how they all start.” [Source]

    One of Tercek’s networked individuals is conservation biologist Gretchen Daily, the person Hank Paulson sent him to meet when he accepted the leadership of The Nature Conservancy (TNC). Daily co-founded the Natural Capital Project in 2005 with the help of  WWF, TNC and the University of Minnesota.

    Another prominent figure in TNC is Peter Kareiva, senior science advisor to Mark Tercek and co-founder of the Natural Capital Project, he is also the former chief scientist of TNC and its former vice president.

    Taylor Ricketts is also a co-founder of the Natural Capital Project, at the time of founding he was the director of conservation science at WWF. He’s now the director of the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics which was founded by Bob Costanza.

    Banker 3

    tall-paulson-misconstrued

    Hank Paulson is the former CEO of Goldman Sachs, he was US treasury secretary during the GFC, he’s a former chair of the TNC board and the driving force behind the 2008 bail out bill. In 2011 he launched the Paulson Institute which is focussed on China, he has written a memoir called On the Brink: Inside the Race to Stop the Collapse of the Global Financial System.

    Even before he was made treasury secretary by George W Bush, Paulson had an interest in conservation finance and greening big business. He was a founding partner of Al Gore and David Blood’s, Generation Investment Management which operates the “sustainable capitalism” focussed Generation Foundation. He has worked with Gus Speth’s World Resources Institute and the Natural Resources Defense Council to develop environmental policy for Goldman Sachs. In 2004 he facilitated the donation from Goldman Sachs of 680,000 acres of wilderness in southern Chile to the Wildlife Conservation Society and in 2002-04 he and his wife Wendy donated $608,000 to the League of Conservation Voters. He has also worked with the second largest conservation organisation on the planet Conservation International.

    “The environment and the economy have been totally misconstrued as incompatible,”[Source]

     

    “[…] It is is clear that a system of market-based conservation finance is vital to the future of environmental conservation.” [Source]

    Banker 4

    pavan-maxresdefault

    Pavan Sukhdev is a former managing director and head of Deutsche Bank’s Global Markets business in India, he was the study leader of the G8+5  project, he founded the Green Accounting for Indian States Project, he co-founded and chairs an NGO in India called the Conservation Action Trust, he headed up the United Nations Environment Program – Green Economy Initiative which was launched in 2008, he has written a book called  Corporation 2020: Transforming Business For Tomorrow’s World 

    Sukdev’s work cuts across more than a dozen UN agencies and scores of international agencies and initiatives. Here are just some of them: IUCN, ILO, WHO, UNESCO, IPBES, WEF, IMF, OECD. Every kind of commodity and economic activity has been covered through his work.

    “We use nature because she’s valuable, but we lose nature because she’s free.” [Source]

    There are only a one or two degrees of separation between these bankers and the environmental movements with which we are very familiar. Looking at key networked individuals connected to the representatives of the financial elites – bankers – helps to highlight the silences and privately held pragmatic positions of many an environmental pundit. “Leaders” of our popular environmental social movements don’t want to be seen or heard supporting the privatisation of the commons, but they remain silent in the face of a growing surge towards collateralization of the earth. Perhaps they too believe that using nature to capitalise the consumer economy is preferable to the toxic derivatives that precipitated the GFC. Either way the underlying motivation – for anyone who might feel that ecosystem services thinking is useful for the earth – is the desire for the continuation of our consumer economy.

     

    nature-bar-code

    Wildlife Conservationists need to Break out of their Stockholm Syndrome

    Global Policy

    August 30, 2016

    by Margi Prideaux

     

    Instead of fighting a destructive economic system, international conservation NGOs are bonding with its brutality.

    staved-polar-bear

    “A male polar bear starved to death as a consequence of climate change. This polar bear was last tracked by the Norwegian Polar Institute in April 2013 in southern Svalbard. Polar bears need sea ice to hunt seals, their main prey. The winter of 2012-2013 was one of the worst on record for sea ice extent. The western fjords on Svalbard that normally freeze in winter remained ice-free all season.” Ashley Cooper/Corbis [Source: Polar Bears on Thin Ice]

    Conservationists like me want a world where wildlife has space, where wild places exist, and where we can connect with the wild things. Yet time after time, like captives suffering from Stockholm syndrome, wildlife conservation NGOs placate, please and emulate the very forces that are destroying the things they want to protect.

    Despite our collective, decades-long, worldwide commitment to protect wildlife, few indicators are positive. The Red List that’s issued by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature now includes 22,784 species that are threatened with extinction. Habitat loss is the main problem for 85 per cent of species on the list.

    The number of African rhinos killed by poachers, for example, has increased for the sixth year in a row. Pangolins are now the most heavily poached and trafficked mammals on the planet. One third of the world’s freshwater fish are at risk from new hydropower dams. Two hundred amphibians have already gone and polar bears are probably doomed. Human beings are simply taking too much from the world for its rich diversity to survive.

    baby-pangs-face-detail-christian-boix

    A close up of Katiti the Pangolin  ©Christian Boix

    None of this is news to people in the conservation movement. The reality of devastation has been apparent for many years, which should prompt some soul-searching about why we are failing.

    The main reason is that we are allowing the market to dictate conservation while ignoring the very people we should empower.

    Communities everywhere know their non-human kin—the animals that live among them. We know the seasons we share, and what grows when and where. We know the ebb and flow of life in our shared places. For some, those vistas are forests. Others look out to the sea, and some on endless frozen horizons. These are not empty places. They are filled with wildlife with which human beings commune.

    But if wildlife are local, the impacts of human activity on them are unquestionably global, and they require global management. Industrialized fishing, mining, forestry and mono-agriculture raze whole areas and replace diversity with a single focus. The illegal international trade in exotic species provides a path for the unethical to hunt, kill, package and commodify animals and plants. The market’s quest for resources and power floods, burns and devastates whole landscapes.

    For the last two decades, the conservation movement of the global North has believed that little can be done to counterbalance the might of this vast economic system, so the reaction has been to bond with it and accept its brutality—to please it and copy its characteristics. In the process, organizations in this movement have developed the classic symptoms of psychological capture and dependence through which victims develop a bond with, and sympathy for, their captors.

    I’m being deliberately provocative here by evoking Stockholm syndrome because it clarifies the crucial point I want to make: I believe that the conservation movement’s unhealthy relationship with the global economic system exacerbates harm to both people and wildlife.

    NGOs in Europe and North America raise money from philanthropists, corporations and other donors to arrange or establish protected areas that extend over large, pristine and fragile lands in Latin America, Asia and Africa. The public in the global North flock to their ambition, hoping it will lock precious places away from harm and raising even more money in the process. But this support turns a blind eye to the inconvenient fact that these areas exclude local communities—people who have lived for millennia beside flamingos and tigers, orangutans and turtles and who are just as wronged by big business and globalization as are wildlife.

    These agencies also court the market by selling ‘adoption products’ and ‘travel experiences’ to these protected areas. They smooth out the ripples from their messages so that their supporters’ sensibilities are not offended. They deflect attention away from harmful corporations. They expand their marketing departments and shut down their conservation teams. They adopt the posture and attributes of the very things—capitalism, consumerism and the market—that destroy what they seek to protect.

    Hence, their capture-bond is informing how they see the world. In their efforts to please and emulate the market they fail to look for the broader, systemic causes of elephant poaching or killing sharks for their fins. They trade stands of forests for agreements with corporations and international agencies not to campaign against dams that will flood whole valleys. They defend sport hunting by wealthy western tourists as legitimate ‘conservation’.

    For example, the Gonds and the Baigas—tribal peoples in India—have been evicted from their ancestral homelands to make way for tiger conservation. Tourist vehicles now drive through their lands searching for tigers, and new hotels have been built in the same zones from which they were evicted.

    Or take Indonesia, where massive illegal deforestation has burned and destroyed huge areas of precious rainforest. Even though a court order and a national commission have compelled the government to hand ownership of the forests back to the people who live there, the corporate sector is resisting. At times they hide behind their NGO partners through the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, a global, multi-stakeholder initiative that includes many conservation NGOs as members.

    International NGOs have scuppered efforts to control polar bear trophy hunting in the Arctic while they benefit from lucrative corporate partnerships for other areas of polar bear conservation. A major project run by Conservation International in the Ankeniheny-Zahamena Corridor of Madagascar has restricted villagers’ use of their traditional forests for food harvesting in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, yet Chevron, ExxonMobil, Shell and NRG Energy are all members of the organisation’s Business & Sustainability Council.

    Even worse is the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF), which stands accused of breaches of OECD Guidelines on the Conduct of Multinational Enterprises and of the UN Declaration on Human Rights. The complaint in question alleges that WWF has financed and supported ecoguards that have brutally displaced the Baka tribespeople who have traditionally lived in the area now declared as a national park in Cameroon, while turning a blind eye to the destruction of the Baka’s way of life through logging, mining and the trafficking of wildlife.

    wwf

    Stephen Corry, the director of Survival International (which in this case is blowing the whistle on another NGO), has this to say:

    “WWF knows that the men its supporters fund for conservation work repeatedly abuse, and even torture, the Baka, whose land has been stolen for conservation zones. It hasn’t stopped them, and it treats criticism as something to be countered with yet more public relations.”

    Writing on openDemocracy, Gordon Bennett argues that NGOs might avoid toxic situations like this if they undertook proper investigations before committing to new parks and protected areas. I agree, but I also believe that WWF should have supported the Baka people to propose their own solutions to conserving their forests instead of assuming that a park and ecoguards were the answer.

    These depressing examples are being replicated around the world. The situation will only get worse as human populations increase. Local communities and wildlife are bound to lose out.

    The world is changing, however, and local civil society is on the rise. International conservation NGOs therefore need to think long and hard about their relevance as local groups grow stronger. As more communities gain access to international politics, they will be trampled on less easily by agendas from afar. The challenge is to ensure that they become empowered to look after their own land and the wildlife around them.

    If the conservation movement is brave enough to transform the ways in which it works, it can support this process of empowerment and the radical changes that come with it. It can connect with local civil society groups as a partner and not as a decision maker. It can devolve its grip on how conservation is conceived and respond to community ideas and wisdom about protecting the wildlife with which they live.

    In this task the conservation movement has a lot to offer. International NGOs are skilled and experienced, and they have access to international processes of negotiation and decision making. If they free themselves from corporate pressures and transform themselves into supporters of local civil society, together everyone is stronger. NGOs can help to project the unpasteurised voices of local communities into the halls of the United Nations.

    To do any of these things, however, they must remember who they were before they were captured. It’s time to break free from Stockholm syndrome.

     

     

    [Dr Margi Prideaux is an international wildlife policy writer, negotiator and academic. She has worked within the conservation movement for 25 years. Her forthcoming book Birdsong After the Storm: Global Environmental Governance, Civil Society and Wildlife will be released in early 2017.  She writes at www.wildpolitics.co and you can follow her on twitter @WildPolitics.]

     

    FURTHER READING:

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

    FLASHBACK | Conservation International: Privatizing Nature, Plundering Biodiversity

    conservation-international

    Seedling | Grain

    October 2003

    by Aziz Choudry

    Conservation International’s corporate sponsor list reads like a list of the US’ top fifty transnational corporations. Biodiversity conservation is at the top of Conservation International’s list of goals. But as the list of Conservation International’s dubious ventures and questionable partners around the world grows, Aziz Choudry is starting to wonder if it is time to ‘out’ this ‘multinational conservation corporation’ and show its true colours.

    Headquartered in Washington, D.C, with operations in over 30 countries on four continents, Conservation International claims to be an environmental NGO. Its mission is “to conserve the Earth’s living natural heritage, our global biodiversity, and to demonstrate that human societies are able to live harmoniously with nature.” [1] This all sounds very laudable and Conservation International has some very high profile fans. This year Colin Powell shared the podium with Conservation International President Russell Mittermeier at the launch of the Bush Administration’s “Initiative Against Illegal Logging” at the US State Department. In December 2001, Gordon Moore, who founded Intel Corporation, donated US $261 million to Conservation International, supposedly the largest grant ever to an environmental organisation. Moore is chairman of Conservation International’s executive committee. Conservation International has repaid Moore’s largesse by nam-ing an endangered Brazilian pygmy owl after him. [2]

    Keep Off The Grasslands | Mark Dowie On Conservation Refugees

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

    Video | These people have names…

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

    +++

    The Sun Magazine

    Issue 452 | August 2013

    by Joel Whitney

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

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

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

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

    illustration: zeeninginlaos

    Walton Family Foundation Sunk $71.4 Million into Greenwashing Schemes

     

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

     

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

     

    California Progress Report

    November 19th, 2012

    By Dan Bacher

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Drive to Privatize Fisheries

    illustration: zeeninginlaos

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

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

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

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

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

    Times Articles Put Spotlight on Walmart, Highlight Media Failures

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Commercial Fishermen Back Boycott

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

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

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

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