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

The Grayzone

September 7, 2020

By Max Blumenthal

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Josh Fox Planet of the Humans billionaires

Filmmaker Josh Fox

“Censorship, plain and simple”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mining a green future and burying the cost

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

minerals renewable energy IEA

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mining com Greta Thunberg AOC

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

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

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

minerals electric cars IEA

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The shell game of fossil fuel divestment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Green Century Funds Bill McKibben invest fossil fuels

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Rockefeller Brothers Fund incubates 350.org

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Rockefeller Brothers go “green,” invest in Halliburton

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

A foundation-supported “ragtag bunch”

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

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

Josh Fox International WOW funding foundations

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Producer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Danish connection

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Seeing green in Biden

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

The Militarisation & Marketisation of Nature: An Alternative Lens to ‘Climate-Conflict

The Militarisation & Marketisation of Nature: An Alternative Lens to ‘Climate-Conflict

November 2014

“The Militarisation & Marketisation of Nature: An Alternative Lens to ‘Climate-Conflict”

By ALEXANDER DUNLAP, Global Studies, University of Sussex, Brighton, UK & JAMES FAIRHEAD, Anthropology, Justice and Violence Research Centre, International Development, University of Sussex, Brighton, UK

 

“Policies addressing climate change are driving major transformations in access to global land, forests and water as they create new ‘green’ markets that reinforce, and attracts the financial grid and its speculators. This leads us to examine the rise of state violence and subsequent environmental policies in forests, transferring into both ‘fortress’ and ‘participatory’ conservation, enhancing this relationship with new environmental commodity markets. We go on to document how the new and intensifying commodification of the environment associated with climate change is manifest in conflicts linked to the UN-REDD+ programme, industrial tree plantations (ITPs), and land-use practices associated with conservation and biofuels. We trace conflicts to business practices associated with land acquisitions and mining practices which claim to address climate change and mitigate ecological crises. This paper thus grapples with systemic issues of the modern industrial economy and the mechanisms legitimising and advancing the militarisation and marketisation of nature.”

 

Bolivia’s President Evo Morales who was forced to resign during a horrific coup d’état that took place on November 10, 2019. With an estimated 9,000,000 tons, Bolivia holds about 43% of the world’s known lithium reserves. Lithium is the backbone of a “Global Green New Deal – the popular term for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (as sought by World Economic Forum, now partnered w/ the UN) The Lithium ABC countries are — A-rgentina B-olivia & C-hile. Photographer: STR/AFP via Getty Images

INTRODUCTION

There is more to ‘climate and security’ than worrying whether people fight more in increasingly bad weather. Policies addressing climate change are driving major transformations in access to global land, forests and water as they create new commodities and markets for carbon, biofuels, biodiversity and climate-secure food. The emergence of these new ‘climate change commodities’ reinforces, and also attracts the financial grid and its speculators. What interests us in this paper is how the advent and expansion of these new commodities and their markets generate or prolong conflicts. ‘Climate conflicts’ become manifest in these new economic and political orders that, we argue, arise around these markets, driving ‘land grabs’, ‘water grabs’ and ‘green grabs’, and which are further animated by food and energy securitisation in the face of new climatic threats.

It is our contention, then, that pressing links between climate change and security are to be perceived through these mitigation markets and the resource capture and militarisation associated with them. It is our worry that
current discourses that ‘securitise’ climate change are actually part and parcel of these markets, and thus play a part in bringing about the very insecurities that they might purport to address. Moreover, these discourses nourish these new global ‘green’ markets that remain dependent on resource intensive structures and a military-industrial complex to police them. Climate Security, in the tradition of mainstream development, assumes the continuation of the industrial and financial economy as the implicit reason for mitigation and adaptation, and fails to address, or even acknowledge at times, the inherent environmental insecurity and widespread degradation built into this industrial economy. The popular and widespread belief that environmental  degradation and climate change directly induces and intensifies conflict, thus risks creating a self-fulfilling prophecy in a second way by extending and intensifying the existing political and industrial economic relationships dependent on growth imperatives and the subsequent consumption and usurpation of the natural environment.

To proceed, we review literatures on climate-conflict/security to render visible the violence in land frontiers. We then examine the rise of state violence and subsequent environmental policies in forests and protected areas,
and how these relationships transfer into both the ‘fortress’ and ‘participatory’ conservation, that are now enhanced by ‘green’ or environmental commodity markets. We go on to document how the new and  intensifying commodification of the environment associated with climate change is manifest in land conflicts linked to the UN-REDD+ programme, industrial tree plantations (ITPs), and land-use practices associated with conservation and ‘offsetting’.

We trace conflicts to business practices associated with land acquisitions and mining practices which claim to address climate change and mitigate ecological crises – expanding our analysis to embrace such Orwellian concepts as ‘sustainable mining’ and ‘green uranium’. This paper thus grapples with systemic issues of the modern industrial economy and the mechanisms legitimising and advancing the militarisation and marketisation of nature.

These concerns are generally pushed to the margins, if not neglected in their entirety by the climate conflict debate, requiring immediate reflection and thoughtful action.

  • Climate Conflict and the Problem of Political Economy
  •  

  • COUNTERINSURGENCY AT THE CONJUNCTURE OF STATE AND NATURE: POLITICAL FORESTS
  •  

  • With Devastation Comes (Market) Opportunity: ‘Green’ Markets and Land Control
  •  

  • Self-Fulfilling Climate-Conflict?
  •  

    Download the paper: The_Militarisation_and_Marketisation_of

     

    How Circular is the Circular Economy?

    Low-tech Magazine

    November 3, 2018

    By Kris De Decker

    The circular economy – the newest magical word in the sustainable development vocabulary – promises economic growth without destruction or waste. However, the concept only focuses on a small part of total resource use and does not take into account the laws of thermodynamics.

    Circular-economy-2

    Illustration: Diego Marmolejo.

    Introducing the Circular Economy

    The circular economy has become, for many governments, institutions, companies, and environmental organisations, one of the main components of a plan to lower carbon emissions. In the circular economy, resources would be continually re-used, meaning that there would be no more mining activity or waste production. The stress is on recycling, made possible by designing products so that they can easily be taken apart.

    Attention is also paid to developing an “alternative consumer culture”. In the circular economy, we would no longer own products, but would loan them. For example, a customer could pay not for lighting devices but for light, while the company remains the owner of the lighting devices and pays the electricity bill. A product thus becomes a service, which is believed to encourage businesses to improve the lifespan and recyclability of their products.

    The circular economy is presented as an alternative to the “linear economy” – a term that was coined by the proponents of circularity, and which refers to the fact that industrial societies turn valuable resources into waste. However, while there’s no doubt that the current industrial model is unsustainable, the question is how different to so-called circular economy would be.

    Several scientific studies (see references) describe the concept as an “idealised vision”, a “mix of various ideas from different domains”, or a “vague idea based on pseudo-scientific concepts”. There’s three main points of criticism, which we discuss below.

    Too Complex to Recycle

    The first dent in the credibility of the circular economy is the fact that the recycling process of modern products is far from 100% efficient. A circular economy is nothing new. In the middle ages, old clothes were turned into paper, food waste was fed to chickens or pigs, and new buildings were made from the remains of old buildings. The difference between then and now is the resources used.

    Before industrialisation, almost everything was made from materials that were either decomposable – like wood, reeds, or hemp – or easy to recycle or re-use – like iron and bricks. Modern products are composed of a much wider diversity of (new) materials, which are mostly not decomposable and are also not easily recycled.

    For example, a recent study of the modular Fairphone 2 – a smartphone designed to be recyclable and have a longer lifespan – shows that the use of synthetic materials, microchips, and batteries makes closing the circle impossible. Only 30% of the materials used in the Fairphone 2 can be recuperated. A study of LED lights had a similar result.

    The large-scale use of synthetic materials, microchips, and batteries makes closing the circle impossible.

    The more complex a product, the more steps and processes it takes to recycle. In each step of this process, resources and energy are lost. Furthermore, in the case of electronic products, the production process itself is much more resource-intensive than the extraction of the raw materials, meaning that recycling the end product can only recuperate a fraction of the input. And while some plastics are indeed being recycled, this process only produces inferior materials (“downcycling”) that enter the waste stream soon afterwards.

    The low efficiency of the recycling process is, on its own, enough to take the ground from under the concept of the circular economy: the loss of resources during the recycling process always needs to be compensated with more over-extraction of the planet’s resources. Recycling processes will improve, but recycling is always a trade-off between maximum material recovery and minimum energy use. And that brings us to the next point.

    How to Recycle Energy Sources?

    The second dent in the credibility of the circular economy is the fact that 20% of total resources used worldwide are fossil fuels. More than 98% of that is burnt as a source of energy and can’t be re-used or recycled. At best, the excess heat from, for example, the generation of electricity, can be used to replace other heat sources.

    As energy is transferred or transformed, its quality diminishes (second law of thermodynamics). For example, it’s impossible to operate one car or one power plant with the excess heat from another. Consequently, there will always be a need to mine new fossil fuels. Besides, recycling materials also requires energy, both through the recycling process and the transportation of recycled and to-be-recycled materials.

    To this, the supporters of the circular economy have a response: we will shift to 100% renewable energy. But this doesn’t make the circle round: to build and maintain renewable energy plants and accompanied infrastructures, we also need resources (both energy and materials). What’s more, technology to harvest and store renewable energy relies on difficult-to-recycle materials. That’s why solar panels, wind turbines and lithium-ion batteries are not recycled, but landfilled or incinerated.

    Input Exceeds Output

    The third dent in the credibility of the circular economy is the biggest: the global resource use – both energetic and material – keeps increasing year by year. The use of resources grew by 1400% in the last century: from 7 gigatonnes (Gt) in 1900 to 62 Gt in 2005 and 78 Gt in 2010. That’s an average growth of about 3% per year – more than double the rate of population growth.

    Growth makes a circular economy impossible, even if all raw materials were recycled and all recycling was 100% efficient. The amount of used material that can be recycled will always be smaller than the material needed for growth. To compensate for that, we have to continuously extract more resources.

    Growth makes a circular economy impossible, even if all raw materials were recycled and all recycling was 100% efficient.

    The difference between demand and supply is bigger than you might think. If we look at the whole life cycle of resources, then it becomes clear that proponents for a circular economy only focus on a very small part of the whole system, and thereby misunderstand the way it operates.

    Accumulation of Resources

    A considerable segment of all resources – about a third of the total – are neither recycled, nor incinerated or dumped: they are accumulated in buildings, infrastructure, and consumer goods. In 2005, 62 Gt of resources were used globally. After subtracting energy sources (fossil fuels and biomass) and waste from the mining sector, the remaining 30 Gt were used to make material goods. Of these, 4 Gt was used to make products that last for less than one year (disposable products).

    Circular-economy-diego

    Illustration: Diego Marmolejo.

    The other 26 Gt was accumulated in buildings, infrastructure, and consumer goods that last for more than a year. In the same year, 9 Gt of all surplus resources were disposed of, meaning that the “stocks” of material capital grew by 17 Gt in 2005. In comparison: the total waste that could be recycled in 2005 was only 13 Gt (4 Gt disposable products and 9 Gt surplus resources), of which only a third (4 Gt) can be effectively recycled.

    About a third of all resources are neither recycled, nor incinerated or dumped: they are accumulated in buildings, infrastructure, and consumer goods.

    Only 9 Gt is then put in a landfill, incinerated, or dumped – and it is this 9 Gt that the circular economy focuses on. But even if that was all recycled, and if the recycling processes were 100% efficient, the circle would still not be closed: 63 Gt in raw materials and 30 Gt in material products would still be needed.

    As long as we keep accumulating raw materials, the closing of the material life cycle remains an illusion, even for materials that are, in principle, recyclable. For example, recycled metals can only supply 36% of the yearly demand for new metal, even if metal has relatively high recycling capacity, at about 70%. We still use more raw materials in the system than can be made available through recycling – and so there are simply not enough recyclable raw materials to put a stop to the continuously expanding extractive economy.

    The True Face of the Circular Economy

    A more responsible use of resources is of course an excellent idea. But to achieve that, recycling and re-use alone aren’t enough. Since 71% of all resources cannot be recycled or re-used (44% of which are energy sources and 27% of which are added to existing stocks), you can only really get better numbers by reducing total use.

    A circular economy would therefore demand that we use less fossil fuels (which isn’t the same as using more renewable energy), and that we accumulate less raw materials in commodities. Most importantly, we need to make less stuff: fewer cars, fewer microchips, fewer buildings. This would result in a double profit: we would need less resources, while the supply of discarded materials available for re-use and recycling would keep growing for many years to come.

    It seems unlikely that the proponents of the circular economy would accept these additional conditions. The concept of the circular economy is intended to align sustainability with economic growth – in other words, more cars, more microchips, more buildings. For example, the European Union states that the circular economy will “foster sustainable economic growth”.

    Even the limited goals of the circular economy – total recycling of a fraction of resources – demands an extra condition that proponents probably won’t agree with: that everything is once again made with wood and simple metals, without using synthetic materials, semi-conductors, lithium-ion batteries or composite materials.

     


    References:

    Haas, Willi, et al. “How circular is the global economy?: An assessment of material flows, waste production, and recycling in the European Union and the world in 2005.” Journal of Industrial Ecology 19.5 (2015): 765-777.

    Murray, Alan, Keith Skene, and Kathryn Haynes. “The circular economy: An interdisciplinary exploration of the concept and application in a global context.” Journal of Business Ethics 140.3 (2017): 369-380.

    Gregson, Nicky, et al. “Interrogating the circular economy: the moral economy of resource recovery in the EU.” Economy and Society 44.2 (2015): 218-243.

    Krausmann, Fridolin, et al. “Global socioeconomic material stocks rise 23-fold over the 20th century and require half of annual resource use.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2017): 201613773.

    Korhonen, Jouni, Antero Honkasalo, and Jyri Seppälä. “Circular economy: the concept and its limitations.” Ecological economics 143 (2018): 37-46.

    Fellner, Johann, et al. “Present potentials and limitations of a circular economy with respect to primary raw material demand.” Journal of Industrial Ecology 21.3 (2017): 494-496.

    Reuter, Markus A., Antoinette van Schaik, and Miquel Ballester. “Limits of the Circular Economy: Fairphone Modular Design Pushing the Limits.” 2018

    Reuter, M. A., and A. Van Schaik. “Product-Centric Simulation-based design for recycling: case of LED lamp recycling.” Journal of Sustainable Metallurgy 1.1 (2015): 4-28.

    Reuter, Markus A., Antoinette van Schaik, and Johannes Gediga. “Simulation-based design for resource efficiency of metal production and recycling systems: Cases-copper production and recycling, e-waste (LED lamps) and nickel pig iron.” The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment 20.5 (2015): 671-693.

    [Kris De Decker is the creator and author of “Low-tech Magazine”, a blog that is published in English, Dutch and Spanish. Low-tech Magazine refuses to assume that every problem has a high-tech solution. (Since 2007).]

    Well Funded Traditional Owner Splinter Group Continues To Fight Over Land Use Agreement With Adani Mining Company

    Wangan and Jagalingou Family Council

    December 2, 2017

     

    “We, the Wangan and Jagalingou people, are the Traditional Owners of the land in Queensland’s Galilee Basin. Corporate conglomerate, Adani, wants to use our ancestral lands for their Carmichael coal mine. We do hereby firmly REJECT a Land Use Agreement with Adani for the Carmichael mine on our traditional lands. We DO NOT consent to the Carmichael mine on our ancestral lands.We DO NOT accept Adani’s “offers” to sign away our land and our rights and interests in it. We will not take their “shut up” money. We will PROTECT and DEFEND our Country and our connection to it.”

     

    The Wangan and Jagalingou people are the proud Traditional Owners and Native Title Applicants of a vast area of land in central-western Queensland. [Source]

    Commentary by Wrong Kind of Green’s Australian correspondent Michael Swifte:

    “People should be asking the Queensland South Native Title Services about that dodgy vote. They are the brokers on behalf of the W&J (Wangan and Jagalingou) claim group. We should also be asking the National Native Title Tribunal what information they actually collect from Registered Native Title Bodies Corporate and their agents for use in arbitration for disputes over ILUA negotiations. Having spent several hours on the phone with the NNTT trying to ascertain if the ILUA negotiations with the Juru, Birriah, and Jannga peoples over the North Galilee Basin Rail Project corridor I can say with absolute confidence that the NNTT is in no position to effectively arbitrate any conflict over negotiations and voting meetings.

    In a document titled ‘Unfinished Business‘ authored by the very same people who’ve written the installments in the recent New Matilda 5 part series on the W&J Family Council, the QSNTS and the NNTT are identified as active agents in delivering outcomes that favour the Queensland Government and Adani.

    “The W&J argue that their engagements with the native title regime, including through organisations including the NNTT and the local NTRB, Queensland South Native Title Services, have seen the consistent prioritising of state and mining interests over their own interests in exercising meaningful consent in relation to Country.” [p. 26, UNFINISHED BUSINESS: ADANI, THE STATE, AND THE INDIGENOUS RIGHTS STRUGGLE OF THE WANGAN AND JAGALINGOU TRADITIONAL OWNERS COUNCIL 2017]

    +++

    Watch this powerful video and commentary shared by Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners Council:

    “Murrawah’s question to ABC Q&A last night… If only they ran it! Instead, there are those who have nothing to do with our country or people, who aren’t correct about what’s been happening to W&J, like Warren Mundine, who get to speak instead of us. If this question was put, he wouldn’t get such a free run at misinforming the community, like he did last night.”

    Youth spokesperson for the W&J Traditional Owners Council, Murrawah Johnson:


    “Adani and the State Government didn’t ‘negotiate’ and achieve the free, prior, informed consent of the W&J people. Instead Adani, backed by the State Government and past NNTT decisions, relied on the threat that they would compulsorily take our land.

     

    The meeting, that all these Adani supporters cite where the purported majority voted for the ILUA 294 to 1, is not a true expression of the W&J Traditional Owners. Over 220 of that meeting’s attendees are people that are not Wangan and Jagalingou people according to our law and custom. They have never been involved in the W&J claim or decision making, and are identified with other people and claims. They were bussed in and paid for at Adani’s considerable expense, while hundreds of the rightful W&J Traditional Owners refused to attend this sham meeting.” [Source]

    Destroy Here and Destroy There: The Double Exploitation of Biodiversity Offsets

    World Rainforest Movement

    August 23, 2017

    Bulletin 232

     

     

    This issue of the WRM bulletin is focused on one of the key strategies that (mainly extractive) industries use to expand within the framework of the so-called “green economy”: biodiversity offsets. We believe it is important to warn about the strong corporate push that is trying to get governments to relax their environmental laws, and thus allow certain industrial activities to take place in areas previously considered to be unviable. The only requirement is that the biodiversity destroyed upon implementing the industrial activity be “offset.” These offset projects incur double destruction, exploitation and domination: on the one hand, of lands affected by industrial activities, and on the other hand, of lands targeted for offset projects. The latter generally entail severe social and cultural destruction.

    In order to understand the rationale behind “offsets”, whether they be for biodiversity, carbon, water or anything the like, it is important to always keep the following in mind: the main purpose of these compensation mechanisms is to enable the dominant economic model—which is dependent on fossil fuels—to continue to thrive and expand. In the context of the current socio-environmental crises, adopting offsets was necessary for both governments and companies responsible for these crises to appear to be taking action to move towards a “greener” model. Yet this smokescreen, full of misleading discourse and empty promises, actually further deepens these crises.

    Considering this starting point, we can understand why offset mechanisms do not seek to stop the driving forces behind the destruction of territories and forests. On the contrary, they enable destructive activities to expand into areas which, until recently, were impossible to imagine being handed over for exploitation. This is how mining, petroleum, infrastructure, monoculture plantations, mega-dams and many other industries—along with the thousands of kilometres of access roads, workers’ camps, drainage ditches and other impacts these industries cause—continue to grow their operations and profits. Let us not forget that the dominant economic model, which is structurally racist and patriarchal, unloads almost all of its destruction, invasion and violence on indigenous peoples and peasant families, so as to keep exploiting, producing and accumulating profits.

    Offsets also make it easier for industries and their allies (governments, conservation NGOs or others) to access more and more land. At the end of the day, offsets have become a green light for destructive activities to proceed within a legal framework; never mind that areas which previously could not have been legally or legitimately destroyed now will be. The only requirement is that the biodiversity destroyed at the site of operations be recreated or replaced elsewhere. In order to achieve this, the argument goes, the biodiversity lost in the area that is destroyed must be “equivalent” to the alleged protection or (re)creation in the area chosen to supposedly replace what is destroyed. Yet this “equivalence” argument actually covers up important contradictions and questions of power, territorial rights, inequalities, violence and colonial history.

    Since the aim is not to stop the destruction, but rather to “offset” it, most offset projects are focused on indigenous peoples’ and other traditional forest-dependent communities’ territories. In many cases, forest-dependent communities are required to surrender their land—or control of it—in the name of the offset project. Offset mechanisms thus incur double destruction, exploitation and domination—on the one hand, of land affected by extractive/capitalist industrial activities, and on the other hand, of territories targeted for offset projects. The latter generally do not involve environmental destruction, since they supposedly protect an area for conservation; however experience has shown that they do, indeed, entail severe social and cultural destruction.

    “Offset areas” must be under some kind of threat, at least on paper—since, if this were not the case, why would a project be needed to protect them? Thus, almost all projects identify traditional communities as the main threat to conservation. Numerous restrictions are placed on communities’ access to, control of, and rights to use these forests that are turned into offsets. Project proponents argue that “conservation” can only be “successful” through the dominant Western approach (which has its roots in colonization); that is, through the creation of fenced-off parks, or “nature without people.” Usurping forest-dependent communities’ customary rights and territorial control—and hence also their traditions, cultures and livelihoods—is fundamentally racist and violent. (See more on Environmental Racism in Bulletin 223 from April 2016.) 

    So, how do so-called biodiversity offsets work in practice?

    First and foremost, offsets for loss of biodiversity must be able to measure and quantify “biodiversity.” The elements that will be destroyed must be established and categorized in order to later be recreated elsewhere, or to ensure that the protection of another area has an “equivalent” amount of these elements. Of course, reducing the destruction of a territory—in a specific place and time, and with a specific history and stories—to mere categories and measurements, ignores the coexistence of peoples, cultures, traditions and interconnections within forests and lands, as well as many other aspects. The only thing that matters in this logic is that which can be measured, and therefore exchanged or replaced.

    The investment criteria of multilateral banks—such as regional development banks or the World Bank—aim to influence countries’ environmental legislation. In this vein, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector arm of the World Bank, changed its Performance Standard 6 in 2012. Any company wishing to access an IFC loan for a project that will destroy what the IFC considers to be “critical habitat,” must present a plan stating that the biodiversity destroyed will be compensated elsewhere. Accordingly, governments mainly from the Global South are increasingly relaxing their environmental laws to follow the “rules” established by corporate power—concentrated in financial institutions. They can now accept the viability of certain operations previously considered to be unviable, as long as they offset the biodiversity which will be destroyed upon project implementation.

    Many biodiversity offset projects are presented as “conservation projects”. About many of them, there is scarce and difficult-to-access information. In these cases, forest-use restrictions imposed on communities are also framed within conservation arguments. This is very problematic: it covers up the fact that, in practice, offset projects prevent communities from carrying out subsistence agriculture, hunting or fishing activities, meanwhile permitting corporations to extract petroleum or build mega-dams in areas that are often protected due to their biological diversity. Once again, the prevailing economic model—reinforced by the offset system—reveals its dominating and racist characteristics.

    Worse yet, in some cases, companies claim they even “create” “more biodiversity”; for example, when in addition to the offset project, they implement complementary activities—such as planting trees to “enrich the biodiversity” of the area. They call this having a “net positive impact.” The result is that a mining company—which is extremely destructive—can advertise that its activities not only have no impact, but are also positive for the environment. Meanwhile, communities are forced to change their practices, a few might be offered employment as park rangers – reporting on whether their relatives and neighbours comply with the rules imposed by the offset project -, or leave their territories because they can no longer obtain a livelihood from the land.

    In other words, biodiversity offset mechanisms are a strategy for destructive industries to expand even more without violating legislation. The diverse life that is destroyed can never be recreated or replaced. Each space, time and interconnection is unique. These kinds of compensation mechanisms—whose proponents seek to turn them into national and regional policies, international treaties, and ultimately the “status quo,”—impose a worldview based on dominating others’ lives. Clearly, this is not a fortuitous imposition, but rather a violently racist one.

    Therefore, it is essential to actively stand in solidarity with struggles to defend lands and territories, and simultaneously expose these mechanisms for what they are. This is necessary in order to break paradigms of domination and open up space—not only to respect, but to learn from, the many other worlds that exist.

     

    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.]

    May the Earth Tremble at Its Core

    Zapatista Army for National Liberation

    November 9, 2016

    wireap_aaeed14014fa4374a8c13eef1b1a57f3_16x9_1600-1024x576

    Photo credit: (AP Photo/Moyses Zuniga, File)

    To the people of the world:

    To the free media:

    To the National and International Sixth:

    Convened for the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the National Indigenous Congress and the living resistance of the originary peoples, nations, and tribes of this country called Mexico, of the languages of Amuzgo, Binni-zaá, Chinanteco, Chol, Chontal de Oaxaca, Coca, Náyeri, Cuicateco, Kumiai, Lacandón, Matlazinca, Maya, Mayo, Mazahua, Mazateco, Mixe, Mixteco, Nahua, Ñahñu, Ñathô, Popoluca, Purépecha, Rarámuri, Tlapaneco, Tojolabal, Totonaco, Triqui, Tzeltal, Tsotsil, Wixárika, Yaqui, Zoque, Chontal de Tabasco, as well as our Aymara, Catalán, Mam, Nasa, Quiché and Tacaná brothers and sisters, we firmly pronounce that our struggle is below and to the left, that we are anticapitalist and that the time of the people has come—the time to make this country pulse with the ancestral heartbeat of our mother earth.

    It is in this spirit that we met to celebrate life in the Fifth National Indigenous Congress, which took place on October 9-14, 2016, in CIDECI-UNITIERRA, Chiapas. There we once again recognized the intensification of the dispossession and repression that have not stopped in the 524 years since the powerful began a war aimed at exterminating those who are of the earth; as their children we have not allowed for their destruction and death, meant to serve capitalist ambition which knows no end other than destruction itself. That resistance, the struggle to continue constructing life, today takes the form of words, learning, and agreements. On a daily basis we build ourselves and our communities in resistance in order to stave off the storm and the capitalist attack which never lets up. It becomes more aggressive everyday such that today it has become a civilizational threat, not only for indigenous peoples and campesinos but also for the people of the cities who themselves must create dignified and rebellious forms of resistance in order to avoid murder, dispossession, contamination, sickness, slavery, kidnapping or disappearance. Within our community assemblies we have decided, exercised, and constructed our destiny since time immemorial. Our forms of organization and the defense of our collective life is only possible through rebellion against the bad government, their businesses, and their organized crime.

    We denounce the following:

    In Pueblo Coca, Jalisco, the businessman Guillermo Moreno Ibarra invaded 12 hectares of forest in the area known as El Pandillo, working in cahoots with the agrarian institutions there to criminalize those who struggle, resulting in 10 community members being subjected to trials that went on for four years. The bad government is invading the island of Mexcala, which is sacred communal land, and at the same time refusing to recognize the Coca people in state indigenous legislation, in an effort to erase them from history.

     

    The Otomí Ñhañu, Ñathö, Hui hú, and Matlatzinca peoples from México State and Michoacán are being attacked via the imposition of a megaproject to build the private Toluca-Naucalpan Highway and an inter-city train. The project is destroying homes and sacred sites, buying people off and manipulating communal assemblies through police presence. This is in addition to fraudulent community censuses that supplant the voice of an entire people, as well as the privatization and the dispossession of water and territory around the Xinantécatl volcano, known as the Nevado de Toluca. There the bad governments are doing away with the protections that they themselves granted, all in order to hand the area over to the tourism industry. We know that all of these projects are driven by interest in appropriating the water and life of the entire region. In the Michoacán zone they deny the identity of the Otomí people, and a group of police patrols have come to the region to monitor the hills, prohibiting indigenous people there from going to the hills to cut wood.

     

    The originary peoples who live in Mexico City are being dispossessed of the territories that they have won in order to be able to work for a living; in the process they are robbed of their goods and subjected to police violence. They are scorned and repressed for using their traditional clothing and language, and criminalized through accusations of selling drugs.

     

    The territory of the Chontal Peoples of Oaxaca is being invaded by mining concessions that are dismantling communal land organization, affecting the people and natural resources of five communities.

     

    The Mayan Peninsular People of Campeche, Yucatán, and Quintana Roo are suffering land disposession as a result of the planting of genetically modified soy and African palm, the contamination of their aquifers by agrochemicals, the construction of wind farms and solar farms, the development of ecotourism, and the activities of real estate developers. Their resistance against high electricity costs has been met with harassment and arrest warrants. In Calakmul, Campeche, five communities are being displaced by the imposition of ‘environmental protection areas,’ environmental service costs, and carbon capture plans. In Candelaria, Campeche, the struggle continues for secure land tenure. In all three states there is aggressive criminalization against those who defend territory and natural resources.

     

    The Tzotzil, Tzeltal, Tojolabal, Chol and Lacandón Maya People of Chiapas continue to be displaced from their territories due to the privatization of natural resources. This has resulted in the imprisonment and murder of those who defend their right to remain in their territory, as they are constantly discriminated against and repressed whenever they defend themselves and organize to continue building their autonomy, leading to increasing rates of human rights violations by police forces. There are campaigns to fragment and divide their organizations, as well as the murders of compañeros who have defended their territory and natural resources in San Sebastián Bachajon. The bad governments continue trying to destroy the organization of the communities that are EZLN bases of support in order to cast a shadow on the hope and light that they provide to the entire world.

     

    The Mazateco people of Oaxaca have been invaded by private property claims which exploit the territory and culture for tourism purposes. This includes naming Huautla de Jimenéz as a “Pueblo Mágico” in order to legalize displacement and commercialize ancestral knowledge. This is in addition to mining concessions and foreign spelunking explorations in existing caves, all enforced by increased harassment by narcotraffickers and militarization of the territory. The bad governments are complicit in the increasing rates of femicide and rape in the region.

     

    The Nahua and Totonaca peoples of Veracruz and Puebla are confronting aerial fumigation, which creates illnesses in the communities. Mining and hydrocarbon exploration and exploitation are carried out through fracking, and 8 watersheds are endangered by new projects that are contaminating the rivers.

     

    The Nahua and Popoluca peoples from the south of Veracruz are under siege by organized crime and also risk territorial destruction and their disappearance as a people because of the threats brought by mining, wind farms, and above all, hydrocarbon exploitation through fracking.

     

    The Nahua people, who live in the states of Puebla, Tlaxcala, Veracruz, Morelos, Mexico State, Jalisco, Guerrero, Michoacán, San Luis Potosí, and Mexico City, are in a constant struggle to stop the advance of the so-called Proyecto Integral Morelos, consisting of pipelines, aqueducts, and thermoelectric projects. The bad governments, seeking to stop the resistance and communication among the communities are trying to destroy the community radio of Amiltzingo, Morelos. Similarly, the construction of the new airport in Mexico City and the surrounding building projects threaten the territories around Texcoco lake and the Valle de México basin, namely Atenco, Texcoco, and Chimalhuacán. In Michocan, the Nahua people face the plunder of their natural resources and minerals by sicarios[hitmen] who are accompanied by police or the army, and also the militarization and paramilitarizaiton of their territories. The cost of trying to halt this war has been murder, persecution, imprisonment, and harassment of community leaders.

     

    The Zoque People of Oaxaca and Chiapas face invasion by mining concessions and alleged private property claims on communal lands in the Chimalapas region, as well as three hydroelectric dams and hydrocarbon extraction through fracking. The implementation of cattle corridors is leading to excessive logging in the forests in order to create pastureland, and genetically modified seeds are also being cultivated there. At the same time, Zoque migrants to different states across the country are re-constituting their collective organization.

     

    The Amuzgo people of Guerrero are facing the theft of water from the San Pedro River to supply residential areas in the city of Ometepec. Their community radio has also been subject to constant persecution and harassment.

     

    The Rarámuri people of Chihuahua are losing their farmland to highway construction, to the Creel airport, and to the gas pipeline that runs from the United States to Chihuahua. They are also threatened by Japanese mining companies, dam projects, and tourism.

     

    The Wixárika people of Jalisco, Nayarit, and Durango are facing the destruction and privatization of the sacred places they depend on to maintain their familial, social, and political fabric, and also the dispossession of their communal land in favor of large landowners who take advantage of the blurry boundaries between states of the Republic and campaigns orchestrated by the bad government to divide people.

     

    The Kumiai People of Baja California continue struggling for the reconstitution of their ancestral territories, against invasion by private interests, the privatization of their sacred sites, and the invasion of their territories by gas pipelines and highways.

     

    The Purépecha people of Michoacán are experiencing deforestation, which occurs through complicity between the bad government and the narcoparamilitary groups who plunder the forests and woods. Community organization from below poses an obstacle to that theft.

     

    For the Triqui people of Oaxaca, the presence of the political parties, the mining industry, paramilitaries, and the bad government foment the disintegration of the community fabric in the interest of plundering natural resources.

     

    The Chinanteco people of Oaxaca are suffering the destruction of their forms of community organization through land reforms, the imposition of environmental services costs, carbon capture plans, and ecotourism. There are plans for a four-lane highway to cross and divide their territory. In the Cajono and Usila Rivers the bad governments are planning to build three dams that will affect the Chinanteco and Zapoteca people, and there are also mining concessions and oil well explorations.

     

    The Náyeri People of Nayarit face the invasion and destruction of their sacred territories by the Las Cruces hydroelectric project in the site called Muxa Tena on the San Pedro River.

     

    The Yaqui people of Sonora continue their sacred struggle against the gas pipeline that would cross their territory, and in defense of the water of the Yaqui River, which the bad governments want to use to supply the city of Hermosillo, Sonora. This goes against judicial orders and international appeals which have made clear the Yaqui peoples’ legal and legitimate rights. The bad government has criminalized and harassed the authorities and spokespeople of the Yaqui tribe.

     

    The Binizzá and Ikoot people organize to stop the advance of the mining, wind, hydroelectric, dam, and gas pipeline projects. This includes in particular the Special Economic Zone on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec and the infrastructure that threatens the territory and the autonomy of the people on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec who are classified as the “environmental Taliban” and the “indigenous rights Taliban,” the precise words used by the Mexican Association of Energy to refer to the Popular Assembly of the Juchiteco People.

     

    The Mixteco people of Oaxaca suffer the plunder of their agrarian territory, which also affects their traditional practices given the threats, deaths, and imprisonment that seek to quiet the dissident voices, with the bad government supporting armed paramilitary groups as in the case of San Juan Mixtepec, Oaxaca.

     

    The Mixteco, Tlapaneco, and Nahua peoples from the mountains and coast of Guerrero face the imposition of mining megaprojects supported by narcotraffickers, their paramilitaries, and the bad governments, who fight over the territories of the originary peoples.

     

    The Mexican bad government continues to lie, trying hide its decomposition and total responsibility for the forced disappearance of the 43 students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers College in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero.

     

    The state continues to hold hostage: compañerosPedro Sánchez Berriozábal, Rómulo Arias Míreles, Teófilo Pérez González, Dominga González Martínez, Lorenzo Sánchez Berriozábal, and Marco Antonio Pérez González from the Nahua community of San Pedro Tlanixco in Mexico State; Zapotec compañero Álvaro Sebastián from the Loxicha region; compañeros Emilio Jiménez Gómez and Esteban Gómez Jiménez, prisoners from the community of Bachajón, Chiapas; compañeros Pablo López Álvarez and the exiled Raul Gatica García and Juan Nicolás López from the Indigenous and Popular Council of Oaxaca Ricardo Flores Magón. Recently a judge handed down a 33-year prison sentence to compañero Luis Fernando Sotelo for demanding that the 43 disappeared students from Ayotzinapa be returned alive, and to the compañeros Samuel Ramírez Gálvez, Gonzalo Molina González and Arturo Campos Herrera from the Regional Coordination of Community Authorities – PC. They also hold hundreds of indigenous and non-indigenous people across the country prisoner for defending their territories and demanding justice.

     

    The Mayo people’s ancestral territory is threatened by highway projects meant to connect Topolobampo with the state of Texas in the United States. Ambitious tourism projects are also being created in Barranca del Cobre.

     

    The Dakota Nation’s sacred territory is being invaded and destroyed by gas and oil pipelines, which is why they are maintaining a permanent occupation to protect what is theirs.

    For all of these reasons, we reiterate that it our obligation to protect life and dignity, that is, resistance and rebellion, from below and to the left, a task that can only be carried out collectively. We build rebellion from our small local assemblies that combine to form large communal assemblies, ejidal assemblies, Juntas de Buen Gobierno [Good Government Councils], and coalesce as agreements as peoples that unite us under one identity. In the process of sharing, learning, and constructing ourselves as the National Indigenous Congress, we see and feel our collective pain, discontent, and ancestral roots. In order to defend what we are, our path and learning process have been consolidated by strengthening our collective decision-making spaces, employing national and international juridical law as well as peaceful and civil resistance, and casting aside the political parties that have only brought death, corruption, and the buying off of dignity. We have made alliances with various sectors of civil society, creating our own resources in communication, community police and self-defense forces, assemblies and popular councils, and cooperatives; in the exercise and defense of traditional medicine; in the exercise and defense of traditional and ecological agriculture; in our own rituals and ceremonies to pay respect to mother earth and continue walking with and upon her, in the cultivation and defense of native seeds, and in political-cultural activities, forums, and information campaigns.

    This is the power from below that has kept us alive. This is why commemorating resistance and rebellion also means ratifying our decision to continue to live, constructing hope for a future that is only possible upon the ruins of capitalism.

    Given that the offensive against the people will not cease, but rather grow until it finishes off every last one of us who make up the peoples of the countryside and the city, who carry profound discontent that emerges in new, diverse, and creative forms of resistance and rebellion, this Fifth National Indigenous Congress has decided to launch a consultation in each of our communities to dismantle from below the power that is imposed on us from above and offers us nothing but death, violence, dispossession, and destruction. Given all of the above, we declare ourselves in permanent assembly as we carry out this consultation, in each of our geographies, territories, and paths, on the accord of the Fifth CNI to name an Indigenous Governing Council whose will would be manifest by an indigenous woman, a CNI delegate, as an independent candidate to the presidency of the country under the name of the National Indigenous Congress and the Zapatista Army for National Liberation in the electoral process of 2018. We confirm that our struggle is not for power, which we do not seek. Rather, we call on all of the originary peoples and civil society to organize to put a stop to this destruction and strengthen our resistances and rebellions, that is, the defense of the life of every person, family, collective, community, or barrio. We make a call to construct peace and justice by reweaving ourselves from below, from where we are what we are.

    This is the time of dignified rebellion, the time to construct a new nation by and for everyone, to strengthen power below and to the anticapitalist left, to make those who are responsible for all of the pain of the peoples of this multi-colored Mexico pay.

    Finally, we announce the creation of the official webpage of the CNI: www.congresonacionalindigena.org

    From CIDECI-UNITIERRA,

    Chiapas, October 2016

    For the Full Reconstitution of Our Peoples

    Never Again a Mexico Without Us

    National Indigenous Congress

    Zapatista Army for National Liberation

    Translation source: Enlace Zapatista

     

    Water is More Valuable than Gold

    Nacla

    April 25, 2016

    by Ellie Happel

     

    The destructive impact of metal mining in the Dominican Republic has lessons for neighboring Haiti, where activists are seeking a moratorium on all mining projects.

    KJM Delegation Looking at Tailings Pond, Pueblo Viejo, Dominican Republic (Photo by Ellie Happel)

    KJM Delegation Looking at Tailings Pond, Pueblo Viejo, Dominican Republic (Photo by Ellie Happel)

    The hill overlooking the tailings pond—a vast, dammed tub of liquid residue—was littered with bones.  Residents from the area said the goats and cattle that once grazed the land had died since mining operations began a few years ago.  They held our hands as we crossed a river, directing us to jump from rock to rock to avoid plunging a foot into the polluted current.  The human settlements tucked in the valley beneath the white smoke snaking into the sky appeared to be the only life remaining in the area.  We were at Pueblo Viejo in the Dominican Republic, one of the largest gold mines in the world.

    I am an attorney with the Global Justice Clinic (GJC) of NYU School of Law. Since 2013, GJC has provided technical support to the Kolektif Jistis Min (Justice in Mining Collective or KJM), a group of Haitian social movement organizations formed to support communities in Haiti’s mineral belt and to encourage a national dialogue about the industry.  In March, I traveled with members of KJM to the Dominican Republic to meet with organizations and academics studying the mining sector and with residents from communities directly affected by mining.

    The message from residents of communities near Pueblo Viejo to Haitian activist was simple: Do not let a company build a gold mine in Haiti.  Farmers said that their coffee plants failed every year since operations began. The situation has become so dire that they no longer even bother to plant coffee and other crops that previously sustained them.  Parents spoke of rains that fall with such a peculiar stench that they pull their kids out of school and remain indoors with their families, windows closed, for a full twenty-four hours.

    During our visit, a man lifted up his pant leg to reveal his calves, pock-marked like a burn.  He explained that the acidic river water had eaten away at his skin.

    “We did not know that mining would lead to this,” said a woman, pointing to the wall of the tailings dam in the distance.

    Residents showed us shelves of five-gallon jugs of water.  They explained that “the company”— Pueblo Viejo is operated by the Pueblo Viejo Dominicana Corporation (PVDC), a joint venture between the Canadian companies Barrick and Goldcorp— provides four jugs of water to local residents a few times a week, but complained that the water was insufficient to meet their most basic needs.  The sealed, treated water, they explained, is not just the only water safe to drink; it is the only water safe to use for any purpose, be it washing, bathing, or giving to animals.

    Unfortunately, few scientific studies that document the contamination and its impacts have been made public.  PVDC claims to regularly test the water and the air quality, but residents told The Economist that they were unaware of such monitoring.  Meanwhile, the Ministerio de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (Dominican Ministry of the Environment) conducted water quality sampling that confirmed that the river downstream from Pueblo Viejo was found to be “highly acidic, with copper and other pollutants above legal limits.”  The test results were available only through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Request.  There are numerous reported incidents of mine workers falling illalong with local residents.  PVDC claims that pollution in the area was caused decades ago by the previous operators of the mine.

    Refinery in Pueblo Viejo, Cotuí, Dominican Republic (Photo by Ellie Happel)

    Refinery in Pueblo Viejo, Cotuí, Dominican Republic (Photo by Ellie Happel)

    The refrain water is more valuable than gold has rallied Dominicans to declare Loma Miranda, the site of a potential nickel mine and also home to the headwaters of some of the Dominican Republic’s most important rivers, a national park.  Community members and allies maintain a permanent camp near the base of Loma Miranda.  They told the KJM that the water contamination at Pueblo Viejo and the mining industry’s mixed economic impacts to have led a diverse and broad cross-section of Dominicans to oppose the nickel mine.  As in El Salvador, Peru, and Guatemala, the experience of living in the shadow of an open pit mine has created determined resistance to future projects.

    KJM is building a national network with the ultimate goal of preventing metal mining in Haiti for the foreseeable future.  “We must learn from these stories,” said a KJM leader who traveled to the Dominican Republic.  “We have an opportunity in Haiti to avoid a disaster.”

    +++

    There are no active metal mines in Haiti yet.  But the Haitian government has declared the mineral sector key to the country’s economic growth and has encouraged foreign investment.  Between 2006 and early 2013, two Canadian and two U.S. companies reportedly spent more than $30 million on exploration for gold, copper, silver, and other metals.  For the past five years, company activity has been on hold as the industry awaits the adoption of a new mining law, a draft of which was written with World Bank technical support in 2014.  Because the political situation remains uncertain, however, legal changes are in limbo— and so too is the future of metal mining in Haiti.

    Byen Konte, Mal Kalkile?  Human Rights and Environmental Risks of Gold Mining in Haiti, a report released in December by the Global Justice Clinic of NYU School of Law and the Haiti Justice Initiative at the University of California, Hastings College of Law, recommends a moratorium on metal mining in Haiti.   As the report concludes, mining projects often perpetuate global inequalities, with companies from the “Global North” extracting resources from the “Global South.”  It has become evident that communities near mining sites often lack the information and resources necessary to demand participation in decisions that affect their well-being, both in the immediate future and for generations to come.  Meanwhile, host governments often fail to equip these communities to assert their rights, leaving them to fend for themselves in the face of encroachment on their land and serious risks to the environment and human rights.  And Haiti is uniquely vulnerable to the consequences of mining.

    Water is already scarce in Haiti— less than half of rural households have access to safe drinking water—and too often, its consumption causes illness.  More than half the annual death toll in Haiti is caused by waterborne illnesses, such as typhoid, cholera, and chronic diarrhea.  At least 10,000 Haitians have died of cholera, introduced to Haiti by United Nations’ troops ten months after the 2010 earthquake.  A recent study suggests that the official count of those sickened and killed by cholera far underestimates the actual total.  Cholera could have been avoided if the United Nations had taken simple, affordable precautions.  The environmental devastation that an open pit mine could cause in Haiti is also foreseeable and preventable.

    As if Haiti’s pre-existing vulnerabilities did not present enough of a risk, the legal and institutional framework regulating mining in Haiti fails to adequately safeguard human rights and the environment.  As Byen Konte, Mal Kalkile shows, the draft new mining law co-written with the World Bank falls short of protecting rights guaranteed in the Haitian Constitution, including the right to a healthy environment, the right to property, and the rights to information and participation.  One proposed article— dangerously out of step with recent trends toward greater industry transparency— would require all mining-related information to be kept confidential for a period of ten years, effectively foreclosing meaningful public oversight of mining activities and regulatory compliance. As the Haitian proverb goes, Konstitisyon se papye, bayonet se fe— the Constitution is made of paper, the bayonet is made of steel.

    Even in countries with more robust governance and oversight than Haiti, industrial-scale mining has contaminated water resources, destroyed livelihoods, increased security threats, forcibly displaced thousands of people, and damaged entire ecosystems for generations. Recent mining disasters in Brazil and the United States provide sobering reminders of the tremendous risks that Haiti faces and the enormous challenge of preventing mining-related harm.

    On top of all this, Haiti is one of the countries most vulnerable to natural disasters.  Earthquakes, hurricanes, floods and drought regularly ravage the nation, and the government demonstrates a lack of capacity to anticipate or mitigate these disasters.  Haiti is densely populated and mountainous—nearly two-thirds of the land is too steep to till.  In February, the World Food Program declared a food crisis, reporting that over 3.6 million Haitians face food insecurity and more than 1.5 million live with severe food insecurity.

    “Maybe, for once, the state of our environment can work in our favor—can help us resist,” explained a resident from the north of Haiti, where a transnational company has explored for gold.  “We understand, maybe more than others, that water is life.  When we hear what has happened in other countries, when we see the videos and see the photos, we understand that our land cannot take one more blow.”

    In early May, activists from communities affected by metal mining in Peru, El Salvador, Colombia, South Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic will converge in Haiti to participate in Kale Je Nou pou Defann Lavi Nou (Open our Eyes Wide to Defend Our Lives), ten days of action and dialogue about the mining sector.  KJM hopes that little by little they can build an alliance to resist metal mining without having to suffer through it first.

     

     

    [Ellie Happel is the Haiti Program Attorney with the Global Justice Clinic of New York University School of Law.  She is based in Port-au-Prince, where she has lived for the past four years.  Ellie is also co-author of Byen Konte, Mal Kalkile?  Human Rights and Environmental Risks of Gold Mining.]

    WKOG Op-Ed: Mining for Blood

    Wrong Kind of Green

    November 12, 2015

    by Forrest Palmer

     

    ademov-iphone2-1

    If Apple’s gold-tinted iPhone 6 isn’t enough for you, now you can upgrade to the real thing. For $7,300, luxury electronics store Ademov will sell you an iPhone 6 plated in 24-carat gold. Even the Apple logo is given special treatment, plated with 18-carat gold and encrusted with VS1 white diamonds. [Source]

    As I sit here at my computer, I realize the cost in human lives that came from the production of this outlet from which I am writing this presently. When people look at the electronics equipment and luxury items that are a staple of the Western world and our lifestyles, they rarely ever look at these objects within the context of what it takes to bring them to market in regards to the human life and environmental cost that is sacrificed to do so. As Western consumers, we have been indoctrinated into believing that the birthplace of our goods is the item residing in the packaging and the plastic that surrounds it as we throw it on the cashier conveyor belt to purchase it. The most costly dependence on bringing our smartphones, computers, gaming systems, car circuitry and innumerous other equipment to market is the outlay of human lives through manipulation of labor in the Third World or Global South. For however much importance we put on the Amerikkkan loss of life in mining (which is minimal at best), we feel as if it is simply “the price of doing business” for any life residing outside of its borders and progressively less ambivalent the darker the hue of the people providing us these resources through mining practices.

    child_in_mines

    AFRICA | Half of gold miners in Africa could be children: According to the UN International Labour Organisation (ILO) up to one million children aged as young as five work for small-scale mining and quarrying operations around the world. The statistics are particularly stark in Africa where more than a quarter of the world’s child labourers live. [Source]

    Regarding the loss of life in the Global South, which is more pronounced as many of the mining activities in the Western world have become mechanized in comparison to their counterparts in the aforementioned region, manual human labor is needed in the most impoverished nations to provide us with the precious and rare Earth metals that power Western lifestyles, with much of it being child labor. And in a nod to how exploitation of labor is at the foundation of the capitalist system, although the countries and workers that provide us with these elements should be rich, the fact of the matter is that they are the most impoverished regions in the world. Now, the narrative expressed by the leaders, media pundits and talking heads in the West is that in the Global South, comprised of continents like Africa and Asia, the problems reside in corrupt and/or inept leadership .

    Cell Phones and Western Children

    UNITED STATES | And where approximately half of of gold miners in Africa are children, in the U.S. a new survey finds most children get their first cell phone when they are just 6 years old. The study also found that 96% of children have a cell phone, 83% have a TV or sound system, 75% have a tablet, 71% have a handheld gaming console, 65% have an eBook reader and 51% have an Xbox or Playstation. [Source

    However, as even Western labor is starting to lose the gains that it was able to garnish over the past 70 or 80 years due to globalization and the need to extract labor at as minimal amount of cost as possible, it must now be recognized that any leaders in the Global South will be acceptable to the Western world as long as they can control the labor market to hold down wages to as low level as feasible and provide regional stability, a component which is rarely discussed as far as importance to the production of Western consumer goods that needs global commodities. As inanimate objects don’t have the ability to be controlled regarding the amount of money invested in them (for example, the cost to mine, to transport, to turn into manufactured goods), the only variable that can be manipulated by the corporate state is how much capital is expended on labor (to clothe, to feed, to house and provide MINIMAL resources to workers). Therefore, any entity that can control the cost of labor is seen as an ally of Western corporate interests, be it a despotic regime or the president by way of a “democratic” coup. As a capitalist state, the United States is more than willing to support anyone and everyone who can provide labor at the cheapest cost possible as well as keep stability in place that will never impede the daily transportation of resources from the Global South to its necessary destination in the Global North. Although the United States is most guilty since it has about 6% of the world’s population, but uses over 30% of its resources, the Western world is built upon cheap consumer goods with electrical devices being at the foundation of the present industrial age (which is rapidly declining).

    Ultimately, the Western world must exploit the Global South for its resources to power this energy intensive lifestyle. Since corporations will not eat the cost of a rise in production of goods and services and the consumer can only be expected to absorb the rise in prices of consumer goods to a certain extent, the producers of these goods can only depend upon labor providing the resources for manufactured goods at a lesser and lesser expense. As raw materials have always been provided by the ones who are seen as inferior, the Western world learned to view the physical conduits that provide us with these materials as useless adjuncts of resource procurement in regards to their humanity, be it the Western slaves of yesteryear that provided sugar or cotton or rice to the modern version today that provides coltan and cobalt in the mines of the Congo. With the caveat being that Western labor has been able to procure some concession from business, the story of all labor itself has been one of being perpetually viewed as living, breathing machinery that is nameless, faceless and always replaceable. Yet, it has been these few rights provided by the corporate state to Westerners that has disabled the totality of labor to ever be in solidarity, as there is the Global North and the rest that resides in the Global South, with the division being a seemingly insurmountable barrier of culture, ethnicity and nationalism.

    ISweat-660x440

    So, as we are presently, the link between affordable consumer goods and labor exploitation in the Global South are both inextricably intertwined with one another. Hence, there can be none of the trappings of the Western economic system without some type of exploitation of someone or something, no matter how people want to frame it as far as trying to find a “humane” way of living our current lifestyles and not blatantly taking advantage of those at the lowest rung of society that provide our toys and goodies.

    Although mining has been a part of man’s existence since ancient times, it is now turned from one of mere extravagance to a necessity to keep us alive since the everyday processes of all our existences is dependent on technology to some degree, with the basis being mining. However, the question now is how much longer can this continue?

    Time will tell, but until that day comes, the one externality that can’t be accounted for in any economic system in regards to this issue of mining: the present blood on our hands in the Western world.

     

    [Forrest Palmer is an electrical engineer residing in Texas.  He is a part-time blogger and writer and can be found on Facebook. You may reach him at forrest_palmer@yahoo.com.]

    Edited with Cory Morningstar, Wrong Kind of Green Collective.

     

    How Human Rights Watch Covers for Companies in Colombia

    Down Where the Death Squads Live

    Counterpunch

    October 29, 2013

    by Daniel Kovalik

    ColumbiaHuman-Rights-Watch

    On the CounterPunch masthead are these words proudly written, “Tells the Facts, Names the Names.” It’s because CounterPunch lives up to these words that I happily write for it and proudly donate to it.

    Human Rights Watch (HRW), on the other hand, fails to name the names in its recent report on Colombia entitled, “The Risk of Returning Home, Violence and Threats against Displaced People Reclaiming Land in Colombia.” [1] And, this is much to HRW’s discredit.

    Before diving into the report and its grave shortcomings, some general comments about HRW are in order. For years, I have been concerned about what appears to be HRW’s penchant for helping lay the groundwork for U.S. and NATO strikes against claimed enemies of the West. Most recently, HRW’s Executive Director, Kenneth Roth, has been fulminating on his Twitter account against anyone, including the EU, who refuses to acknowledge what has yet to be proven as fact – that the Syrian government was allegedly responsible for the chemical attack of August 21, 2013.

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