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Anthropocene Boosters and the Attack on Wilderness Conservation

Independent Science News

May 12, 2015

by George Wuerthner

 

A growing debate has serious consequences for our collective relationship to Nature. Beginning perhaps twenty years ago, a number of academics in disciplines such as history, anthropology, and geography, began to question whether there was any tangible wilderness or wild lands left on Earth. These academics, and others, have argued that humans have so completely modified the Earth, we should give up on the notion that there is anyplace wild and instead recognize that we have already domesticated, in one fashion or another, the entire planet for human benefit.

These individuals and groups are identified under an umbrella of different labels, including “Neo Greens” Pragmatic Environmentalists” “New Conservationists” “Green Postmodernism” and Neo-environmentalists” but the most inclusive label to date is “Anthropocene Boosters” so that is the term I will use in this essay.

The basic premise of their argument is that humans have lived everywhere except Antarctica and that it is absurd to suggest that Nature exists independent of human influences. Wilderness was, just like everything else on Earth, a human cultural construct—that does not exist outside of the human mind (1). With typical human hubris, Anthropocene Boosters suggest we need a new name for our geological age that recognizes the human achievement instead of the outmoded Holocene.

Great Egret (Casmerodius albus)

Not only do these critics argue that humans now influence Nature to the point there is no such things as an independent “Nature”, but we have a right and obligation to manage the Earth as if it were a giant garden waiting for human exploitation (2). Of course, there are many others, from politicians to religious leaders to industry leaders, who hold the same perspective, but what is different about most Anthropocene Boosters is that they suggest they are promoting ideas that ultimately will serve humans and nature better.

From this beginning, numerous other critiques of wilderness and wildness have added to the chorus. Eventually these ideas found a responsive home in some of the largest corporate conservation organizations like The Nature Conservancy as well as some think tanks like the Breakthrough Institute  (3), Long Now Foundation (4), The Reason Foundation (5), and others.

The Anthropocene Boosters make a number of assertions.
1.    Pristine Wilderness never existed, or if it did, is now gone. Making wilderness protection the primary goal of conservation is a failed strategy.
2.    The idea that Nature is fragile an exaggeration. Nature is resilient.
3.    Conservation must serve human needs and aspirations, and do so by promoting growth and development.
4.    Managing for “ecosystem services”, not biodiversity protection, should be the primary goal of conservation.
5.    Conservation efforts should be focused on human modified or “working landscapes” not creating new strictly protected areas like national parks, wilderness reserves and the like. Wildlands protection is passe.
6.    Corporations are key to conservation efforts, so conservationists should partner with corporate interests rather than criticize capitalism or industry.
7.    In order to garner support for these positions, conservation strategies like creation of national parks and other reserves are attacked as “elitism” or “cultural imperialism” or “colonialism.” (6)

Many holding these viewpoints seem to relish the idea that humans are finally “masters of the Earth”. They celebrate technology and the “path of progress” and believe it will lead to a new promised land where Nature is increasingly bent to human desires, while human poverty is alleviated. For instance, Stewart Brand, of Whole Earth Catalog fame, embraces the idea of altering evolution with genetic modifications of species by “tweaking” gene pools. (7)

These trends and philosophical ideas are alarming to some of us who work in conservation. The implications of these goals and observations imply no limits upon consumption that is destroying the planet’s ecosystems and contributing to a massive Sixth Extinction of species. Whether intentional or not, these ideas justify our current rapacious approach that celebrates economic and development growth.

These ideas represent the techno-optimism of a glorious future, where biotech, geoengineering, nuclear power, among other “solutions” to current environmental problems save us from ourselves.

Many Anthropocene Boosters believe expansion of economic opportunities is the only way to bring much of the world’s population out of poverty. This is a happy coincidence for global industry and developers because they now have otherwise liberal progressive voices leading the charge for greater domestication of the Earth. But whether the ultimate goals are humane or not, these proposals appear to dismiss any need for limits on human population growth, consumption, and manipulation of the planet.

Many of those advocating the Anthropocene Booster world view either implicitly or explicitly see the Earth as a giant garden that we must “steward” (original root from “keeper of the sty” or caretaker of domestic livestock) the land. In other words, we must domesticate the planet to serve human ends.

But the idea of commodifying Nature for economic and population growth is morally bankrupt. It seeks only to legitimize human manipulations and exploitation and ultimately is a threat to even human survival.

Our book, Keeping the Wild—Against the Domestication of the Earth, explains why this is so. It advocates a smaller human footprint where wild Nature thrives and humans manage ourselves rather than attempt to manage the planet.

However let us take these assertions one by one.

Pristine wilderness
First is the Anthropocene Booster’s assertion that “pristine” wilderness never existed, and even if it did, wilderness is now gone. Boosters never define what exactly they mean by wilderness, but their use of “pristine” suggests that they define a wilderness as a place that no human has ever touched or trod (8).

That sense of total human absence is not how wilderness advocates define a wild place. Rather, the concept of a wilderness has much more to do with the degree of human influence. Because humans have lived in all landscapes except Antarctica does not mean the human influence is uniformly distributed. Wilderness is viewed as places largely influenced by natural forces, rather than dominated by human manipulation and presence. Downtown Los Angeles is without a doubt a human-influenced landscape, but a place like Alaska’s Arctic Wildlife Refuge is certainly not significantly manipulated or controlled by humans. Though certainly low numbers of humans have hunted, camped, and otherwise occupied small portions of the refuge for centuries, the degree of human presence and modification is small. The Alaska Refuge lands are, most wilderness advocates would argue, self-willed.  By such a definition, there are many parts of the world that are to one degree or another largely “self-willed”.

Nature is resilient
Peter Kareiva, The Nature Conservancy’s Chief Scientist, is one of the more outspoken proponents of the idea that Nature is not fragile, but resilient.  Kareiva says “In many circumstances, the demise of formerly abundant species can be inconsequential to ecosystem function.” He cites as an example the loss of the passenger pigeon, once so abundant that its flocks darkened the sky, whose demise, according to Kareiva, had “no catastrophic or even measurable effects.”

Stewart Brand also sees no problem with extinction. Brand recently wrote “The frightening extinction statistics that we hear are largely an island story, and largely a story of the past, because most island species that were especially vulnerable to extinction are already gone.” (10)

Indeed Brand almost celebrates the threats to global species because he suggests that it will increase evolution, including biodiversity in the long run.

Such a cavalier attitude towards the demise of species, and the normalizing of species declines, undermines the efforts of many conservation organizations to preclude these human-caused extinctions.

Many biologists disagree with Brand and the authors he references. They believe we are on the verge of a Sixth Mass Extinction. There have been other extinctions, but this is a preventable mass extinction. We know it is occurring and the cause of this extinction spiral is human-domination of the Earth and its resources (11).

There is something callous and morally bankrupt in asserting that it is OK for humans to knowingly drive species to extinction.  There seems to be no expression of loss or grief that we are now pushing many species towards extinction. Humans have survived the Black Plague, the Holocaust, and many other losses over the centuries, but one doesn’t celebrate these losses.

Conservation must serve human needs
Another pillar of the Anthropocene Boosters platform is that conservation’s main purpose must be to enhance and provide for human needs and desires. Of course, one consequence of conservation is that protected landscapes nearly always provide for human needs—contributing clean water, biodiversity conservation (if you think that is important), moderation of climate change, to name a few.

However, the main rationale for conservation should surely be much broader and inclusive. Despite the fact that most conservation efforts do have human utilitarian value, the ultimate measurement of value ought to be how well conservation serves the needs of the other species we share the planet with.

The problem with Anthropocene Boosters promotion of growth and development is that most species losses are due to habitat losses. Without reigning in population and development, plants and animals face a grim future with less and less habitat, not to mention changes in their habitat that makes survival difficult if not impossible.

Even when species do not go extinct, the diminishment of their ecological effects can also lead to biological impoverishment, for instance, when top predators are eliminated from ecosystems.

Conservation should focus on “working landscapes” not creation of more parks and wilderness
The term “working landscapes” was invented by the timber industry to put a positive spin on their rapacious operations. Americans, in particular, look favorably upon the “work ethic” and industry coined the phrase to capitalize on that affirmative cultural perspective. Working landscapes are typically lands exploited for economic development including logging, livestock grazing, and farming.

While almost no conservationists would deny that there is vast room for improvement in these exploited landscapes, the general scientific consensus is that parks, wilderness reserves and other lands where human exploitation is restricted provide greater protection of ecosystems and biodiversity.

For this reason, many scientists, including such eminent biologists as Harvard biologist, E.O. Wilson, are calling for protecting half of the Earth’s terrestrial landscapes as parks and other reserves.

Conservationists should stop criticising corporations
Some Anthropocene Boosters believe conservationists should stop criticizing corporations and work with them to implement more environmentally friendly programs and operations.

Almost no conservationist would argue that corporate entities should not adopt less destructive practices. However, it is overdevelopment that is the ultimate threat to all life, including our own. Implementing so called “sustainable” practices may slow the degradation of the Earth’s ecosystems and species decline, but most such proposals only create  “lesser unsustainable” operations.

At a fundamental level, the promise of endless growth on a finite planet is a dead end street, and it is important for conservationists to continuously harp upon that message. To halt criticisms of corporations invites greenwashing, and precludes any effective analysis of the ultimate problems of development and growth.

National parks and reserves are a form of cultural imperialism
Many Anthropocene Boosters, in order to validate their particular view of the world, go beyond merely criticizing environmental and conservation strategies. They seek to delegitimize parks and other wild lands protection efforts by branding them with pejorative terms like “cultural imperialisms”, “colonialism” and other words that vilify protected lands.

The creation of parks and protected areas began with Yellowstone National Park in 1872  (or arguably Yosemite, which was a state park earlier). The general Anthropocene Boosters theme is that this model has been “exported” and emulated around the world and that Western nations are forcing parks upon the poor at the expense of their economic future.

Notwithstanding that nearly all cultures have some concept of sacred lands or places that are off limits to normal exploitation, to denigrate the idea of parks and wildlands reserves as “Imperialism” because it originated in the United States is crass. It is no different than trying to scorn democracy as Greek imperialism because many countries now aspire to adopt democratic institutions. Western countries also “export” other ideas, like human rights, racial equality and other values, and few question whether these ideas represent “imperialism.”

Of course, one of the reasons protected areas are so widely adopted is because they ultimately are better at protecting ecosystems and wildlife than other less protective methods.

But it is also true that strictly protected areas have not stemmed the loss of species and habitat, though in many cases, they have slowed these losses. When parks and other reserves fail to safeguard the lands they are set aside to protect, it is typically due to a host of recognized issues that conservation biologists frequently cite, including small size, lack of connecting corridors, lack of enforcement, and underfunding.

To criticize parks for this is analogous to arguing we should eliminate public schools because underfunding, lack of adequate staffing, and other well publicized problems often result in less than desirable educational outcomes. Just as the problem is not with the basic premise of public education, nor are the well-publicized difficulties for parks a reason to jettison them as a foundation for conservation strategies.

Another criticism is that strictly-protected parks and other reserves harm local economic and sometimes subsistence activities. In reality that is what parks and other reserves are designed to do. The reason we create strictly protected areas is that on-going resource exploitation does harm wildlife and ecosystems or we would not need parks or other reserves in the first place.

While park creation may occasionally disrupt local use of resources, we regularly condone or at least accept the disruption and losses associated with much more damaging developments. The Three Gorges Dam in China displaced millions of people. Similar development around the world has displaced and impinged upon indigenous peoples everywhere. Indeed, in the absence of protected areas, many landscapes are ravaged by logging, ranching, oil and gas, mining and other resource developers, often to the ultimate detriment of local peoples and of course the ecosystems they depend upon. In the interest of fairness, however, people severely impacted should be compensated in some way.

Nevertheless it should also be recognized that the benefits of parks and other wildlands reserves are nearly always perpetual, while logging the forest, killing off wildlife, and other alternatives are usually less permanent sources of economic viability.

Summary
The Wild does have economic and other benefits for human well-being. However, the ultimate rationale for “Keeping the Wild” is the realization there are intangible and intrinsic value to protecting Nature. Keeping the Wild is about self-restraint and self-discipline. By setting aside parks and other reserves, we, as a society and a species, are making a statement that we recognize that we have a moral obligation to protect other lifeforms. And while we may have the capability to influence the planet and its biosphere, we lack the wisdom to do so in a manner that does not harm.

Keeping the Wild: Against the Domestication of the Earth is a new book edited by George Wuerthner, Eileen Crist, and Tom Butler. In bringing together essays in one volume, we seek to examine and challenge the assumptions and epistemology underlying the Anthropocene Booster’s world view. We seek to offer another way forward that seeks to preserve wildness, wildlands, and Nature and ultimately a co-existence that emphasizes humility and gratitude towards this planet—our only home.

List of people, corporate partners, key words, strategies, and concepts.

(1) Cronon, William The Trouble with Wilderness in Uncommon Ground: Toward Reinventing Nature (1995)
(2) Marris, Emma (2011). Rambunctious Garden. Bloomsbury NY.
(3) Breakthrough Institute
(4) The Long Now Foundation
(5) Ronald Bailey 2011 The Myth of Pristine Nature.
(6) Peter Kareiva, Michelle Marvier and Robert Lalasz  Conservation in the Anthropocene.
(7) Steward (Brand 2015) Rethinking Extinction.
(8) Interview with Emma Marris.
(9) Peter Kareiva, Michelle Marvier and Robert Lalasz  Conservation in the Anthropocene.
(10) Stewart Brand (2015) Rethinking Extinction.
(11) Brian Miller, Michael Soulé, and John Terborgh, The “New Conservation’s” Surrender to Development.

 

[George Wuerthner is Ecological Projects Director of the Foundation for Deep Ecology]

The Dying Planet Index: Life, Death and Man’s Domination of Nature

The White Horse Press

Environmental Values 24 no.1: 1-7, 2015

by Clive Spash

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Excerpt:

During my time working in Australia for the Commonwealth Scientific Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) I visited a nondescript building on the rural work site outside Canberra. This restricted access building held the Australian National Wildlife Collection. What the building in fact held was the preserved dead bodies of species, some of which were extinct. The curator was especially pleased at having collected rare specimens. He told of finding one such for sale in a rural market and how he proceeded to order more from the vendor so other collections around the world could have a specimen as well. That this egalitarian act on behalf of collectors would have wiped out the last remnant of a species did not seem to have crossed his mind. Looking at the bottles of rare pickled amphibians and drawers of compressed and preserved bodies of birds was for me a bizarre experience. In this mortician’s chamber the careful cataloguing of decline was ongoing but with some kind of abstraction from the reality of it all. There was nothing wild here and certainly no life. The Australian National Dead Animal Collection would certainly have been a more accurate and truthful description.There was nothing wild here and certainly no life. The Australian National Dead Animal Collection would certainly have been a more accurate and truthful description.

I was reminded of this incident by publication of the Living Planet Index (LPI) measuring the abundance of more than 10,000 representative populations of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish. In the most recent report this had decline by 52 per cent since 1970; that is, ‘in less than two human generations, population sizes of vertebrate species have dropped by half’ (WWF 2014: 4). The statistical decline of species on Earth is another reminder of how humanity watches, observes and statistically enumerates the ongoing destruction. Like the CSIRO collection, the LPI is not a measure of life but rather the death toll relating to human appropriation of resources for human ends. Presenting death as life seems to fit well with the optimistic messages in the rest of the WWF report, which finds an organisation that was once concerned with wildlife now stating ‘we love cities’ because urbanisation is becoming the dominant form of human lifestyle. Meanwhile they treat Nature as capital that is valued for supporting production to provide new greener consumption possibilities and financial rewards. This is the economic discourse now common amongst the environmental non-governmental organisations (ENGOs). The contradictions of supporting extractivist capital accumulation and consumerism while wanting to conserve Nature are reconciled as easily as calling death life.Like the CSIRO collection, the LPI is not a measure of life but rather the death toll relating to human appropriation of resources for human ends.

The ongoing decimation of the natural world is now reaching such heights that the term Anthropocene is being put forward as encapsulating the overwhelming influence of man on natural processes. You might expect this to raise concern over stopping abusive and unthinking advance of economic growth and technology and promoting the need for precaution. However, Baskin opens this issue by describing how the urgency of problems is being used by an elitist expert grouping to promote the rapid implementation of global management and high-tech ‘solutions’ bypassing democratic institutions. This same approach is reflected in the Better Growth, Better Climate report (GCEC 2014), which recommends strong economic growth stimulated by public investment in new technologies and deregulation to aid corporate innovation (Spash 2014).

In a strange twisted logic the dominance of man and his destruction of the environment via technology and industrialisation changes from a negative to a positive. Rather than ignorant and unthinking innovation risking life on Earth this becomes man controlling everything. Here man may be taken as meaning male because this discourse strikes me as highly patriarchal, with the overt goal of dominating and controlling all that Nature represents. As Baskin explains, the Anthropocene is for many a modernist triumph signalling the final dissolution of Nature because everything is now man-made.

Download the full editorial here.

 

[Clive Spash is an economist who writes, researches and teaches on public policy with an emphasis on economic and environmental interactions. His main interests are interdisciplinary research on human behaviour, environmental values and the transformation of the world political economy to a more socially and environmentally just system.]

McKibben’s Divestment Tour – Brought to You by Wall Street | Part IX: Mainstreaming Sustainable Capitalism

April 30, 2015

By Cory Morningstar

[Part I of this series, McKibben’s Divestment Tour – Brought to You by Wall Street, can be found here. Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI, Part VII, Part VIII]

“Sometimes people hold a core belief that is very strong. When they are presented with evidence that works against that belief, the new evidence cannot be accepted. It would create a feeling that is extremely uncomfortable, called cognitive dissonance. And because it is so important to protect the core belief, they will rationalize, ignore and even deny anything that doesn’t fit in with the core belief.” ? Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks

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

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

Beyond shelling out billions of (tax-exempt) dollars (i.e., investments) to those most accommodating in the non-profit industrial complex (via foundations), the corporations need not lift a finger; the feat is being carried out by both the legitimate and the faux environmentalists in tandem with an unsuspecting public … a public with almost no comprehension of 1. the magnitude of our ecological crisis 2. the root causes of the planetary crisis, or 3. the non-profit industrial complex as an instrument of hegemony.

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

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

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

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

+++

Al Gore and David Blood

Blood & Gore Generation: of Commodification, Privatization, and Indoctrination

“Between 2008 and 2011 the company had raised profits of nearly $218 million from institutions and wealthy investors. By 2008 Gore was able to put $35 million into hedge funds and private partnerships through the Capricorn Investment Group, a Palo Alto company founded by his Canadian billionaire buddy Jeffrey Skoll, the first president of eBay Inc.” — Forbes, November 3, 2013

 

“Civil society has a central role in accelerating the transition towards Sustainable Capitalism. NGOs must take a 360-degree approach to the process of mainstreaming Sustainable Capitalism, realising their ability to influence stakeholders in every part of the business ecosystem. NGOs must engage with investors, companies, regulators and policy makers to encourage the rapid and effective adoption of Sustainable Capitalism through campaigns, lobbying efforts and partnerships with the private sector.” — Sustainable Investment Paper, Generation, February 15, 2012

For an accurate grasp of the true objective behind a national/international marketing campaign (the Keystone Pipeline campaign is another fine example), one is wise to bypass the non-profit industrial complex (NPIC) in its entirety and go directly to researching the investment firms and corporations who are set to increase market share and reap billions in profits via such campaigns. Campaigns funded by foundations (set up by the oligarchs) serve and protect the system with well-oiled precision. Billions of dollars funnelled into the NPIC laundering machine, on which corporations would be taxed otherwise, have never been such a sound and secure investment.

Perhaps the most telling and revealing of the world the NPIC wishes us to embrace is the investment firm recommended by 350.org et al: Generation. [PDF: A Complete Guide to Reinvestment] Under the section “What types of reinvestment exist?, Mutual Funds,” the top two examples listed (four in total) are 1) Generation Investment Management Climate Solutions Fund II and 2) Generation Investment Management Credit Fund.

“We are advocates for Sustainable Capitalism…. The first, which is our principal platform for activity, is a partnership model whereby we collaborate with individuals, organizations, and institutions in our effort to accelerate the transition to a more sustainable form of capitalism. In addition, the Foundation also supports select grant-giving related to the field of Sustainable Capitalism, engagement with the local communities where we operate, and an employee gift-matching program.” — Generation Foundation

Generation is an independent, private, owner-managed partnership with offices in London and New York. The firm was co-founded in 2004 by Al Gore and David Blood. From 1985 to 1999, Blood served in various positions at Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. From 1999 to 2003, Blood served as a Co-Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of Goldman Sachs Asset Management. Blood served as a director of Goldman Sachs International. Blood sits on many boards including his director position held at NewForests (“establishes US presence in May 2007 to capitalise on growing investment interest in environmental markets in the US”). Its investment strategies focus on forests, timberland, and environmental markets; “NewForests have a limited number of private accounts clients to develop particular project and policy expertise in reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD) in other countries.” (REDD and Biomass). Blood also holds a position as director of The Nature Conservancy, the revolving door for Goldman Sachs executives. [Blood’s full bio].

Mark Ferguson, Peter Harris, Peter Knight and Colin Mark Le Duc are also co-founders of Generation Investment. Both Ferguson and Harris held prestigious positions at Sachs. Al Gore is Co-Founder, Chairman, and Partner of The Climate Solutions Fund of which Marc Le Duk is also a co-founder.

Generation is largely an institutional investment management firm, operating at the wholesale level (major pension funds, foundations, etc). The corporatocracy and covertness behind such investing is apparent when one considers the fact that law restricts the amount of information that firms (that focus on institutional clients) can provide, to “ensure that the general public is not enticed into investing in unsuitable and overly complex products”. [1]

“Mainstreaming Sustainable Capitalism by *2020 will require independent, collaborative and voluntary action by companies, investors, government and civil society, which we hope to accelerate by advancing the discourse on the economic benefits of sustainability.” — Sustainable Investment Paper, Generation, February 15, 2012

[*David Blood: “…we say in our paper 2020, the truth is we have a view that it really needs to happen by 2015 – otherwise we are increasingly in trouble.” Breakthrough Capitalism Forum lecture, May 29, 2012]

A key area of focus is to ensure the capitalist system is kept intact; to establish the acceptable parameters of the “market revolution.” In particular, in concise language, Blood and Gore make it exceptionally clear that alternatives to the suicidal capitalist system need not, should not and will not be considered:

“Capitalism has great strengths and is fundamentally superior to any other system for organising economic activity. It is more efficient in allocating resources and in matching supply and demand. It is demonstrably effective in wealth creation. It is more congruent with higher levels of freedom and self-governance than any other system. It unlocks a higher fraction of the human potential with ubiquitous, organic incentives that reward hard work, ingenuity, and innovation. These strengths are why it is at the foundation of every successful economy.

 

“Critically, capitalism has proven itself to be adaptable and flexible enough to fit the specific needs of particular countries. Capitalism comes in many forms, from that practised in the US to the very different model that has been adopted within communist China. The causes and consequences of these variations are, of course, significant – but the more important fact remains: the mainstream debate is about how to practise capitalism not whether we should choose between capitalism and some other system.” [Emphasis added] [Source]

Generation Investment is acknowledged for its contribution in the May 2013 41-page document Institutional Pathways to Fossil-Free Investing in collaboration with Phil Aroneanu and Jamie Henn of 350.org, Bob Massie of the New Economics Institute and others interconnected within this campaign. The sponsors listed are 350.org, Responsible Endowments Coalition (REC), Sustainable Endowments Institute and Tellus Institute. [2]

“By Year Five of the simulation, the portfolio has become fossil free and its five-percent targeted reinvestment has been allocated, across a variety of asset classes, as shown in Figure 4. Half of the target (2.5 percent of the entire portfolio) can be re-allocated to sustainable, fossil-free domestic and international public equities, through existing strategies with investment managers such as Generation Investment Management, Impax Asset Management, Portfolio 21, and Trillium Asset Management, among others.” — Institutional Pathways to Fossil-Free Investing

Video: Ceres lecture featuring Bill McKibben with David Blood:

https://vimeo.com/66321774

Generation’s key action is “to accelerate mainstreaming Sustainable Capitalism.” Insight into the coming corporate capture / commodification of the commons via the global implementation of “payments for ecosystem services” (PES) is made clear under the Current Initiatives section where it is stated: “Until there are policies that establish a fair price for widely understood externalities, academics and financial professionals should strive to quantify the impact of stranded assets and analyze the subsequent implications for assessing investment opportunities.” [Emphasis added.]

The top three sectors of focus for Generation are key to how the 21st century is being shaped: 1) Agricultural and Forestry Solutions (think genetic engineering, biomass burning, land grabs, and commodification of forests/REDD 2); Behaviour Change (think Avaaz/Purpose); 3) Bio-based Fuels, Plastics and Chemicals. (See all key sectors of focus that have been publicly disclosed.) (Note that 350.org et al are now publicly campaigning on/promoting the false solution of biofuels.)

Three such partnerships (publicly disclosed) include World Resources Institute, Natural Resource Defense Council (both represented on the Ceres board of directors), and The Climate Reality Project (formerly identified as Alliance for Climate Protection). Under Memberships and Initiatives, we find Ceres, the Ceres Investor Network on Climate Risk (INCR), Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, and many others.

“We provide business-building expertise, access to Generation’s investment, corporate, NGO and sustainability networks and a long term strategic perspective and commitment to our portfolio companies.” [Source]

And the icing on the cake:

“Five percent of the profitability of the firm is allocated to The Generation Foundation, which will support global non-profit sustainability initiatives.”

Gore and Blood identify five key imperatives that “have the potential to accelerate the transition to Sustainable Capitalism”. The first imperative identified is the need to identify and incorporate risks from stranded assets.

Enter Carbon Tracker.

Carbon Tracker

carbon-tracker-presentation-anthony-hobley-at-sitra-helsinki-21-may-2014-10-638

Ruse: noun 1. an action intended to mislead, deceive, or trick; stratagem

Utilizing research from the Potsdam Institute [3], Carbon Tracker made the case for “unburnable carbon” in the July 2011 seminal report “Unburnable Carbon: are the world’s financial markets carrying a carbon bubble?” The report suggested that the top 100 coal and 100 oil-and-gas companies had a combined value in 2011 of $7.42 trillion, much of it based on reserves that can never be used. Such reserves are one example considered by Tracker that have the potential to become stranded assets – thereby exposing investors to risk. The tracker employs (and supplies) the so-called “carbon budget” as a measure (and apparatus) as to how much more carbon the world can continue to “safely” burn.

“The concept of ‘stranded assets‘ gained prominence last year when another report by the Carbon Tracker Initiative calculated that 60-80% of the world’s coal, oil, and gas reserves would be ‘unburnable’ if the world leaders agreed to emissions reductions to limit warming to 2°C…. In essence, any price on carbon or emissions reduction policy could cut oil demand enough to strand any number of a company’s proven reserves.” — Desmog Blog, September 13, 2014

Carbon Tracker’s second “unburnable carbon” report (Unburnable Carbon 2013: Wasted Capital and Stranded Assets (PDF) is co-authored with LSE’s (London School of Economics) Grantham Research Institute. The Institute has been financed/supported in part by the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) through a grant for US$2.16 million (£1.35 million) to fund several research project areas from 2012 to 2014. LSE’s Grantham Research Institute membership includes (but is not limited to) Fred Krupp, president of Environmental Defense Fund; Vikram Singh Mehta, chairman of Shell Companies (India); Carter Roberts, president and CEO of WWF (US); and Sir Evelyn de Rothschild, chairman of EL Rothschild Ltd.

The aim of the Grantham Research Institute is to strengthen the analytical and empirical underpinnings of the ‘green growth’ concept in relation to both developing and developed countries.” [Source] [GGGI Partners] Yvo de Boer is the Director-General of GGGI [People]. Prior to joining the global accountancy firm KPMG in 2010, Mr. de Boer led the international process to respond to climate change in the role of Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) from 2006 to 2010.

Carbon Tracker could very much be considered the key stratagem, foundation, glue and more importantly, a veil or even a shield for both the divestment campaign (global in scale), and the so-called carbon “budget.” Reports, data and papers released by this foundation-financed think tank are pumped through the channels of power, the result being the legitimization of concepts that have no basis in reality if it were not for the non-profit industrial complex, in tandem with media, ensuring no one states – or even notices – the obvious, that the emperor has no clothes.

“A vain Emperor who cares about nothing except wearing and displaying clothes hires two swindlers who promise him the finest, best suit of clothes from a fabric invisible to anyone who is unfit for his position or ‘hopelessly stupid.’ The Emperor’s ministers cannot see the clothing themselves, but pretend that they can for fear of appearing unfit for their positions and the Emperor does the same. Finally the swindlers report that the suit is finished, they mime dressing him and the Emperor marches in procession before his subjects. The townsfolk play along with the pretense, not wanting to appear unfit for their positions or stupid. Then a child in the crowd, too young to understand the desirability of keeping up the pretense, blurts out that the Emperor is wearing nothing at all and the cry is taken up by others. The Emperor cringes, suspects the assertion is true, but continues the procession.” [Source]

In this instance, the emperor is the oligarchy as a collective, the ministers are the sycophants that comprise the NPIC, and the townsfolk – not wanting to appear stupid or undeserving.

Reports such as Carbon Tracker’s serve to legitimate, normalize and thus sanction the already capitalist-sanctioned “activism” that deliberately assists in pushing forward particular policies and agendas already conceptualized (years and even decades in advance) by the funders and the elite.

carbon-tracker-presentation-anthony-hobley-at-sitra-helsinki-21-may-2014-3-1024

Consider who finances the work of the Carbon Tracker. “The work of Carbon Tracker has been made possible by the vision and openness to innovation shown by organisations such as the following”: The Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Bloomberg Philanthropies, The Tellus Mater Foundation, Generation Foundation, Wallace Global Fund, The European Climate Foundation, The Growald Family Fund, The Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust ,The Polden Puckham Charitable Foundation, The Ashden Trust, Zennstrom Philanthropies, MAVA Foundation, The Velux Foundation, and The Grantham Foundation. After you consider the “who” behind the financing, consider “why” the financing.

Wallace Global Fund refers to its interest in funding Carbon Tracker as Support for a collaboration between climate activists and financial analysts seeking to align the action of world capital markets with the reality of global warming.”

“The ability to deal with people is as purchasable a commodity as sugar or coffee and I will pay more for that ability than for any other under the sun.” — John D. Rockefeller

Millions of dollars funnelled through foundations into institutions, who in turn churn out reports, serve a pivotal purpose. Slick reports, marketing and PR build security (and acceptance/acquiescence amongst the populace) for the investment strategies belonging to the endowments (as well as the trustees) of the very foundations such institutions/NGOs are funded by. This is nothing more than polished PR at arm’s length intended/financed to promote said investments – as well as divestments. The appearance of an independent think tank evokes trust in the public realm. The oligarchs know how to manage, shape and modify behavioural change amongst the public. We are a public of rampant consumption and continued devolution, by design. There is little doubt that the billions of dollars the elite have pumped into the NPIC must quantify as one of the best long-term investments they have ever made.

The concepts of carbon budget, stranded assets and carbon asset bubbles have indeed gained traction with many people. This is in part due to the repetitive messaging of familiar language and unthreatening implications (via a massive injection of funding; Rockefeller et al must be pleased), the précis being that a person of privilege and monetary wealth can simply move his/her money from coal or Exxon and re-invest it into “clean” investments such as massive solar projects in deliberately impoverished Africa that will export the energy to those who already have it in Europe, geothermal, biomass projects that burn the remaining Earth’s forests and whole cultures into ashes, or REDD, which commodifies Earth’s forests for the even further expansion of capital. Pick your poison wisely. In less than 30 minutes we have “saved the world” and we still retain our wealth and privilege. Yet in reality, nothing has changed, the system demands continued growth, clean energy demands fossil fuels and vast resources from an already depleted planet, and the world continues to warm. To divest and feel no consequences is far preferred (by the 1% creating 50% of all global GHG emissions) than actual/tangible divesting from vacations (flying), personal automobiles, clothes dryers, steaks, lawn-mowers, leaf-blowers, Starbucks, etc. etc. etc. – including iPhones, iPods, iEverthing, with emphasis on the word “I.”

“The investor effort, called the Carbon Asset Risk (CAR) initiative, is being coordinated by Ceres and the Carbon Tracker initiative, with support from the Global Investor Coalition on Climate Change.” — Ceres Press Release, October 24, 2013

The organizations behind the quickly-emerging “new” economy are all very much interwoven, as are the players and key people. James Leaton, Research Director for the Carbon Tracker Initiative (2010 onward), was recently featured at the May 1-2, 2013 Ceres conference with 350.org’s McKibben and Bob Massie (former president and CEO of the New Economy Coalition). Leaton was also featured at the INCR Annual Meeting at the Ceres conference titled The 21st Century Investor: Ceres Blueprint for Sustainable Investing conference which took place April 30, 2013.

Carbon Tracker is identified as one of the key NGOs engaged with the US Divest-Invest Coordinating Committee (USCC). The combination of a need to be both an environmentalist and a capitalist (definitely not in that order) in the organization is represented in the following job posting:

As You Sow job description, February 13, 2015: “Organizations in the Coalition: 350.org, Responsible Endowments Coalition, Intentional Endowments Network, Hip-Hop Caucus, Energy Action Coalition, Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Black Mesa Water Coalition, Carbon Tracker, California Student Sustainability Coalition, Divest-Invest Philanthropy, Divest-Invest Individual, Fenton Communications, Mayors Innovation Project, Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies (CERES), New Economy Coalition, GreenFaith, Healthcare without Harm, Sustainable Initiatives at Partners HealthCare, As You Sow, or other organizations engaged with Divest-Invest.”

Key staff at Carbon Tracker demonstrate that a vital prerequisite to being hired/chosen by the Tracker is vast experience in carbon markets.

Prior to his role at Carbon Tracker, Leaton was a sustainability and climate change consultant at PricewaterhouseCoopers, focusing on the financial sector, advising blue chip clients on risks and “opportunities.” Prior to PricewaterhouseCoopers, Leaton spent five years at WWF as a senior policy advisor, focusing on the links between energy and finance.

“‘Assets are already being written down due to increasing competition between energy sources, air quality standards being introduced to reduce health impacts, and measures to reduce carbon pollution combining to change the energy landscape,’ said James Leaton, Research Director at Carbon Tracker. ‘Avoiding high cost, high carbon projects which are failing to deliver a return on capital will improve shareholder returns.'” — Ceres Press Release, October 24, 2013

Mark Fulton is currently an adviser to the Carbon Tracker Initiative and Senior Fellow at Ceres. He is a recognized economist (of 35 years) and market strategist at leading financial institutions including Citigroup, Salomon Bros and County Natwest. Prior to this role, Fulton was head of research at Deutsche Bank Climate Change Advisors at Deutsche Bank (from 2007 to 2012). He is currently a member of the Capital Markets Climate Initiative, UK Department of Energy and Climate Change. From 2010 to 2012 he was co-chair of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Finance Initiative Climate Change Working Group. In 2011 and 2012, Fulton served on the technical committee of the UN Secretary-General’s Sustainable Energy for All.

“‘Many of the responses investors have received from the companies thus far acknowledge that there is a legitimate risk issue around carbon reserves, and companies are open to continued engagement from the investor community to determine the scope,’ said Mark Fulton, a member of the Carbon Tracker’s Advisory Board and a Ceres adviser.” — Ceres Press Release, October 24, 2013

Anthony Hobley has been Chief Executive Officer of the Carbon Tracker Initiative since February 2014. Hobley played a key role in helping design the UK’s pilot emissions trading scheme and also in developing key aspects of the EU ETS (Emissions Trading System). Hobley was seconded to Norton Rose Fulbright’s Sydney office between 2010 and 2012 where he was heavily involved in the development of the emerging carbon and clean energy markets in Australia and Asia. He was a key figure behind the creation of the business advocacy group Businesses for a Clean Economy, a coalition of businesses arguing for a price on carbon. Anthony was also behind the creation of the business group Climate Markets & Investment Association where he is the current president. He also sits on the boards of the Verified Carbon Standards Association and on the Advisory Board to the Climate Bonds Initiative. [Source | Full Bio]

The Carbon Tracker advisory board is made up of representatives of carbon market institutions.

The board includes: Nick Robins (co-director of the UNEP Green Finance Enquiry), Lois Guthrie (CEO of the Carbon Disclosure Standards Board), Tessa Tennant (founder and board member, Association for Sustainable and Responsible Investment in Asia – ASrIA), Ben Caldecott (programme director, Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, University of Oxford) Catherine Howarth (CEO at ShareAction), James Stacey (head of sustainable finance strategy at Earth Capital Partners), Jemma Green (previously VP of sustainable finance at JP Morgan), Meg Brown (previously director of climate and sustainability research at Citi Investment Research), Stanislas Dupré (founder & director at 2° Investing Initiative), Bevis Longstreth (previously commissioner of the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Laura Sandys (member of parliament for South Thanet), Mark Lewis (senior sustainability analyst and co-ordinator of energy transition & climate change research at Kepler Cheuvreux), and Neil Morisetti (director of strategy at UCL Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy Department, previously special representative for climate change at the UK Foreign Secretary.)

Ben Caldecott’s elite standing in the interlocking directorate is extensive. Identified as a British environmentalist, economist, and commentator, he serves on the advisory board of Carbon Tracker, and as a trustee of the Green Alliance think tank. He serves as head of government advisory for Bloomberg New Energy Finance, director of the Stranded Assets Programme at the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, adviser to The Prince of Wales’ International Sustainability Unit, academic visitor at the Bank of England, and visiting fellow at the University of Sydney. He is head of European Policy at Climate Change Capital, directing the CCC think tank and advising CCC funds and clients on the development of policy-driven markets. Caldecott has previously worked as research director for environment and energy at the think tank Policy Exchange. Caldecott serves on the advisory network of the Natural Capital Declaration, which is key (discussed at length further in this report). Caldecott has worked in parliament and for a number of different UK government departments and international organisations, including UNEP and the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO).

Caldecott has been instrumental in building government support for “clean coal.” Thus, UK leaders are all calling for an end to unabated coal – code for carbon capture and sequestration/storage.

Ben C

Above: Business Summit on Climate Leadership 2011 Speakers. Ben Caldecott – Head of European Policy, Climate Change Capital, second in from far right (Flickr, Climate Group)

Carbon capture and sequestration (CSS) and enhanced oil recovery (EOR) (which uses the sequestered CO2 to recover more oil out of depleted oil fields) is a critical component of the “new economy.” CCS is to gain acceptance as a vital component of the new “low carbon” economy where societies can continue production/burning of both coal and oil under the guise of “emissions reduction measures.” In tandem with the quiet proliferation of biomass (supported by the NPIC) and other false solutions, this economy has already begun:

“In the Weyburn oil field in Saskatchewan, Canada – where CO2 from the Dakota Gasification Company’s coal gasification plant in Beulah, ND is piped north to pump into the oil field, buying 25 more years of oil production – 2.8 times more CO2 would be released from all of the extra oil they expect to produce than the amount they ‘sequester’ (ignoring reports of leakage). In the Permian Basin (TX/NM), 47% of the amount of CO2 pumped into the ground is re-released by burning the extra oil produced (that would otherwise stay in the ground).” [Source]

Stephen Tindale, former executive director of Greenpeace UK, is another “environmentalist” in support of carbon capture and storage. In a series on his website Climate Answers , the commentary CCS: What the EU Needs to Do – Part 1, with Nick Horler, chief executive of ScottishPower, is supported by Caldecott. Both Tindale and Caldecott have contributed significant language and concepts to the discourse on climate since this 2010 piece. Here we witness just one aspect of the many realms of genius behind the marketing/branding of the instrumental stranded/bubble/budget language that has “changed everything.” Coal in particular, has been identified and condemned by both the media and NPIC as a coming stranded asset. Thus coal is “saved” from stranded status when CCS is deployed; the “carbon bubble” refrains from bursting; and the amount of “unburnable carbon” in the “carbon budget” reduced.

As with all the shaping of our shared futures by the elite, the pathway to CCS is clear in the 2008 Green Alliance paper, A Last Chance for Coal, with contributions from Ben Caldecott while at the Policy Exchange think tank. The paper notes that it is critical Europe’s commitment to CCS be realized before 2020; 12 short years away from the paper’s publication date. The year 2020 is a critical date of vast significance – a recurring deadline for all environmental market solutions to be in place.

While the front figures in the “movement” such as 350’s Bill McKibben and Naomi Klein repeat and inflate the language of stranded assets, carbon bubbles, budgets, divestment and renewable energy, the issue of CCS is rarely mentioned or touched upon, while the most critical issue that has ever faced humanity, the financialization of nature, via the global implementation of “payments for ecosystem services,” receives no attention whatsoever. It’s not that these appointed “leaders” don’t understand the “this changes everything” world that the oligarchs have been working toward for decades. They do. Consider that Caldecott, as a key figure in the delivering/marketing of mainstream finance to “clean energy” partnered with 350.org for the 2014 “Stranded Down Under Tour” in Australia.

“It appears to us that divestment is the bait and engagement is the fishing rod – divestment is vital in hooking people’s attention, and the engagement tools and analysis is [sic] essential to reel the capex [capital expenditures] in. Investors and NGOs now need to have the patience to catch enough fish.” — Carbon Tracker Website

Most, if not all organizations and investment firms promoting or affiliated with the divestment campaign have vested interests in the expansion of false solutions such as CCS, biomass, carbon credits/trading and environmental markets – all clamouring to cash in on the promise of the most unparalleled wealth opportunity of the 21st century.

The Investor Expectations: Oil and Gas Companies was developed by the IIGCC with support from Ceres’ INCR, IGCC and AIGCC. It builds on the Carbon Asset Risk (CAR) Initiative, through which 75 investors managing more than $3 trillion in assets engaged with 45 of the world’s largest fossil fuel companies. The CAR initiative is coordinated by Ceres and Carbon Tracker, with support from IIGCC and IGCC, which lead engagement with fossil fuel companies in Europe and Australia/New Zealand respectively.

The Carbon Asset Risk (CAR) Initiative: “In the long term, investors want to see fossil fuel companies adapt, remaining successful by: Focusing on fewer projects at the low end of the cost curve; Returning capital to investors; and Diversifying business toward cleaner, lower-carbon energy sources, including renewables, energy efficiency and carbon capture and storage (CCS).”

Divest-Invest

“The transition to a low-carbon economy will be the most significant economic change in history. It will be deeper, more fundamental than the industrial revolution, and faster than the technology revolution. And it’s going to happen in the next five to 10 years…. The leadership of Divest-Invest is important, the leadership at 350.org.” — David Blood, Generation Investment, Divest-Invest Transcript, Fenton Communications, Wallace Global Fund, and Inst. for Policy Studies, September 22, 2014

 

The common definition of a Divest-Invest commitment is a pledge to divest from the top fossil fuel companies within five years and to move those assets into clean energy investments. As the movement has spread, participants have tailored the timing and sequence of commitments to their particular circumstances. The working group has recognized the variety of these circumstances and has designed this process to allow institutions to meet both their fiduciary and moral responsibilities. — Arabella Advisors, Measuring the Global Fossil Fuel Divestment Movement, September 19, 2014

The global divestment campaign targets 200 of the world’s largest publicly traded fossil-fuel corporations: 100 from oil and gas and 100 from coal. These are ranked according to the size of their proven reserves. The Measuring the Global Fossil Fuel Divestment Movement report (September 19, 2014) discloses the following:

“The working group relied upon self-reported data from individual commitments to determine the number and scope of divest-invest pledges. Individuals agreed to a standard pledge, and most completed a brief survey. The standard pledge (available at http://divestinvest.org/individual) states:

  1. I will make no new investments in the top 200 oil, gas, and coal companies [as defined by the Carbon Tracker 200].
  2. I will sell my existing assets tied to these oil, gas, and coal investments within three to five years.
  3. I will invest in the new energy economy.

It is critical to note the language and the framing of the divest-invest campaign (which isn’t necessarily the same as divestment at large). To begin, the term “new” (in #3) refers to both the “new economy” and, in this instance, the “new energy economy,” which is strategic. As discussed in 2014 by Avaaz/Purpose Inc. co-founder Jeremy Heimans, the former term “green” (as in “green economy”) is, for all marketing intents and purposes, dead. For clarity, individuals agree to not invest in the top 100 public coal, oil and gas companies listed by the “Carbon Tracker 200.” All other investments appear to be fair game: biofuel/biomass, nuclear, the military-industrial complex/weapons industry, the chemical industry, factory farming, aviation, BNSF, pornography… it’s all up for grabs. One can move their investments from Exxon over to Lockheed Martin & make a killing – both literally and figuratively. Not only is there a plethora of fuel-intensive stock options/investments, those divesting are given a full five years to follow through on their commitment “to meet both their fiduciary and moral responsibilities,” meaning that a corporation/entity can announce their “commitment,” have 350.org greenwash their persona, and then five years later, when staff positions, economic opportunities, etc. have changed, toss it out with the bath water if they wish to do so. Further, it is not enough to simply divest – one must agree, most importantly, to “invest in the new energy economy.” Thus, the idea of starving the corporate stranglehold, even if only in a limited way, is effectively out the window.

Oil services companies, pipeline companies, refiners, holding facility companies, etc. are all fair game for those wishing to divest. Yet the reality is that none of these industries/companies make their big money from shareholders or stock markets. These companies make the bulk of their profits by booking reserves and selling their product directly to market. Further, most of the capital for the shale gas and oil revolution comes from private equity. “Big oil” has not been at the centre of it. Rather, the centre is comprised of smaller independent and private companies. The more one understands the industries and the business, the more one comes to the realization of what a hoax the “divest-invest” campaign actually is.

Divest-Invest Philanthropy

Divest Invest Allies and Advisors

The Divest-Invest NGO is comprised of three pillars: 1) Divest-Invest Philanthropy [4], 2) Divest-Invest Individual and 3) the Divest-Invest Advisors and Allies.

In her role as CEO of Phoenix Global Impact, Jenna Nicholas is consulting with the World Bank on social impact bonds; she is coordinating the Divest-Invest: Philanthropy Initiative, appointed by the Wallace Global Fund as of March 2014. Nicholas is an associate to Calvert Special Equities and sits on the advisory groups of the Impact Hub DC, Nexus Global Youth Summit and High Water Women. [Full Bio]

Allies and advisors of the Divest-Invest campaign are to ensure success: “Advisors and allies keep core campaign staff informed on various financial, business, community and legal trends relevant to the pledge and/or steps for follow-through…. In collaboration with Divest-Invest Philanthropy and many other movement partners and allies, we are accelerating the transition to a sustainable and equitable economy. [Source]

Such groups are popping up everywhere. Whether there are dozens, hundreds or even thousands has yet to be ascertained. But one thing is certain. They have been tactically preparing for the “new economy” windfall.

Consider the 2° Investing Initiative [2°ii], a multi-stakeholder think tank working to align the financial sector with 2°C climate goals: “Our association consists of more than 30 member organizations and 60 individual members, most of whom are serving in financial institutions (banks, asset management, private equity, brokerage, etc.). Some other members are experts from different fields (consulting, accounting, extra-financial analysis, etc.), either researchers (economy, climate economics), or public servants. Two of our members are Members of the European Parliament (former Ministers of Environment in their respective countries).”

Members:

2C Investing Members

Peers and links within this particular interlocking directorate include the Carbon Tracker Initiative (which coined the term “carbon bubble”), Long Finance, Finance Watch, OECD, Climate Change Capital, UNEP-FI (a partnership between the United Nations Environment Programme and financial institutions), Asset Owners Disclosure Project, Climate Policy Initiative, E3G (Third Generation Environmentalism), CDC Climat, McKinsey Global Institute, Climate Bonds Initiative, BNEF (Bloomberg), GABV (Global Alliance for Banking on Values), BankTrack and The Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC is a Ceres initiative).

Over and over again we witness (yet ignore) the interlocking directorate: NGOs, executive board members, advisors, fellows, CEOs, politicians, bankers and media – all working together for the expansion of capital markets. And although the divestment campaign appears fresh out of nowhere, the NGOs assigned to capture the public’s trust, waiting in the wings, did not simply fall from the summer sky. The organizing and deployment is precise, strategic, seductive and global in scale.

As one investigates the history and financing of the divestment campaign, one begins to recognize specific organizations that appear/overlap more frequently than others, for example, Ceres, Ceres entities, United Nations organizations, 350.org and Carbon Tracker. These groups lead in shaping the public opinion and providing the discourse required to implement already conceived/awaiting policies that serve hegemonic interests (expansion of capital markets), while simultaneously securing, strengthening and insulating capitalism itself.

Investment Terminology

In the July 7, 2014 article, Why the Fossil Fuel Divestment Movement is a Farce, the author sheds much needed light on investment terminologies and information that are little understood by the average citizen:

“Notice the words ‘publicly traded.’ In other words, fossil fuel divestment would target only major corporations that are listed on the stock market. But pension funds and endowments, the entities largely targeted by the 350.org campaign, invest hundreds of billions of dollars in privately traded securities, such as hedge funds and private equity – vehicles that are invested at all levels of the fossil fuel economy. (In particular, hedge funds and private equity have been found to be the key financial backers of the fracking boom.) Were the Massachusetts divestment bill to pass, state pension funds would invariably still be invested in the fossil fuel economy.”

The20billioncarbonbubble1

Graphic: Public companies represent a small piece of the pie; $7 trillion in fossil fuel reserves as opposed to private and national companies that represent three times this market size. Source

The cautionary reference to hedge funds is significant. Note that Blood & Gore’s Generation Investment is a hedge fund. Also note the tight relationship between 350.org founder Bill McKibben, hedge fund billionaire Tom Steyer, the US Democratic Party and the crème de la crème of the establishment Left (to be discussed later in this report). On May 6, 2014 CNN reported that the top 25 hedge fund managers took home $21 billion among them.

The author [Why the Fossil Fuel Divestment Movement is a Farce] continues:

“The divestment campaign argues that 200 publicly traded fossil fuel companies dominate the fossil fuel exploration market. But they ignore that such companies frequently depend on private equity and hedge funds for financing new investments when large banks are uninterested in taking on further risk. The public can rarely (if ever) verify that these types of arrangements take place, even if it is a teacher attempting to verify what her pension fund is doing with her money.

 

“The divestment campaign argues that 200 publicly traded fossil fuel companies dominate the fossil fuel exploration market. But they ignore that such companies frequently depend on private equity and hedge funds for financing new investments when large banks are uninterested in taking on further risk. The public can rarely (if ever) verify that these types of arrangements take place, even if it is a teacher attempting to verify what her pension fund is doing with her money.

 

“Pension funds and endowments have not always invested in the private market. In the 1980s and before, in fact, they were almost exclusively invested in publicly traded securities. Laws such as the Securities Act of 1933, the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and the Investment Company Act of 1940 allowed the public to verify how the companies in which pension funds and endowments were investing used their funds and provided transparency to investors in order to prevent fraudulent activity.

 

“By focusing only on publicly traded securities, the fossil fuel divestment campaign ignores the corporate misdeeds of a sector that holds billions of dollars of investments in a dirty energy economy.

 

“The same is not possible with privately traded alternative investments, which have been on the rise since the early 1990s. (It is difficult to ascertain why exactly pension funds and endowments have funneled assets into private markets, as there is little evidence that they perform any better than stocks and bonds and a great deal of evidence that they are far riskier. Private market money managers are notorious as great salesmen, and a series of pay-to-play scandals have implicated some of the largest hedge funds and private equity firms.) Regardless, today pension funds and endowments are by far the largest investors in hedge funds and private equity.” [Emphasis added]

carbon-tracker-presentation-anthony-hobley-at-sitra-helsinki-21-may-2014-6-1024

Above: Private and institutional investors represent Carbon Tracker’s largest/key target audience.

The author continues, citing conflict of interest:

“Further compromising the campaign is its questionable line of funding. It has received at least $350,000 from Jeremy Grantham, a hedge fund manager who oversees more than $500 million in assets for public pension funds in Massachusetts. According to a report from Inside Philanthropy, 350.org also receives funding from billionaire hedge fund manager Tom Steyer. (The organization declined to state exactly how much money it has received from Steyer and Grantham.)

 

“Farallon Capital Management, which Steyer founded, has major investments at all levels of the fossil fuel economy. While he is no longer at the helm, during his leadership it pursued major deals in fossil fuels, as a recent report from Reuters showed. In fact, the firm had been a target of student activists before he began funding them.

“Grantham, for his part, argued in an interview with The Guardian that he felt that student activists should ‘stamp their feet’ to get their university endowments to divest from fossil fuels ‘because they can do that.’ With his firm’s significant investments in the fossil fuel economy – according to first quarter 2014 filings, $1.2 billion in Chevron, $570 million in ExxonMobil and $240 million in Monsanto – he, apparently, cannot.” [Emphasis added]

Jeremy Grantham apparently encourages others to stamp their feet and divest while his firm, decidedly, does not. He is not alone. Following the media saturation of September 22, 2014 that hailed the Rockefeller Brothers Fund (RBF) divestment as a historic world event, few reported that RBF had decided to hang on to their Exxon stocks. [This is discussed at length later in this report.]

Here it is important to recall that Carbon Tracker is affiliated with London School of Economics Grantham Research Institute. Jeremy Grantham co-founded the Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment in 1997. Funding was given to both Imperial College London and London School of Economics to establish the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment. In 2011, the Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment donated $1 million to both the Sierra Club and Nature Conservancy, and $2 million to the Environmental Defense Fund. The Foundation has also provided support to Greenpeace, the WWF and the Smithsonian. [Source] As noted earlier in this report, London School of Economics Grantham Research Institute membership includes (but is not limited to) Fred Krupp, president of Environmental Defense Fund; Vikram Singh Mehta, chairman of Shell Companies (India); Carter Roberts, president and CEO of WWF (US); and Sir Evelyn de Rothschild, chairman of EL Rothschild Ltd.

In the July 10, 2014 rebuttal, Why a Movement is Never a Farce, the author frames the divestment campaign as a Gandhi-esque movement. Yet there are items that an astute citizen must consider distinct red flags: “Endorsements have come from such unexpected places as the World Bank, and even former Treasury Secretary and Goldman Sachs’ COO Henry Paulson this past week.” Given the references to Gandhi and endorsements that “have come from such unexpected places as the World Bank,” it is of interest to note that Martin Luther King’s first trip to India to study Gandhi was paid for by the RJ Reynolds (tobacco empire) family (funneled through Quaker group American Friends Service Committee.) In a letter, an AFSC official writes that the trip seems to have been designed as a photo-op to “build up King as a world figure, and to have this buildup recorded in the US.”

The author then writes: “It is a sign of divestment’s power that it has gained endorsements from the likes of Wall Street, but we shouldn’t fool ourselves into trusting either Wall Street or the White House to show us the way to a new economy. Accepting endorsement, however, is not the same as taking direction; fossil fuel divestment is a grassroots movement led by students, not billionaires, and is firmly committed to justice and solidarity. I know because myself and countless other students and recent alumni – with the vital support of nonprofits – have poured the last few years of our lives into building it. Call that misdirected, sure, but don’t call it Astroturf.”

Yet it’s not “a sign of divestment’s power that it has gained endorsements from the likes of Wall Street” – the divestment campaign is Wall Street. 350.org (with McKibben at the helm) developed the divestment campaign in consultation with Wall Street. The author is, however, correct that the purpose of the divestment campaign is very much “to show us the way to a new economy.” As 21st century lambs of the oligarch, well-intentioned students are utilized, used and misdirected via tactical manipulation.

Steyer, Bloomberg, Soros & the Democrats

McKibben and Steyer March-7

Photo: People’s Climate March, 2014. Bill McKibben (350.org founder) with Tom Steyer, hedge fund billionaire and founder of Generation Next

“It’s a big club, and you ain’t in it.” — George Carlin

An example of so-called progressive media amplifying Carbon Tracker’s disapproval of coal use in China (Carbon Tracker report: “Energy Access: why coal is not the way out of energy poverty”) appears straightforward. As does the slide presentation published October 29, 2014 by Carbon Tracker: Is Coal a Sinking Ship? Yet perhaps it isn’t.

Consider that the demand for coal in both China and India is going to do nothing but grow. Then consider this: In an effort to support its own mines and workers and economy, China is in the process of cutting all purchases of imported coal as rapidly as possible (April 14, 2015: “China’s coal imports decline by 42 percent during first quarter…. The international coal market is saddled with excessive supplies for the moment….”). India, still trying to provide basic power to citizens, is also rejecting further dependence on international coal. On November 12, 2014 the Power and Coal Minister of India, Piyush Goyal, stated “in the next two or three years we should be able to stop imports of thermal coal.” This position has been endorsed by India’s Prime Minister. This certainly puts a damper on U.S. plans to ship an additional 100 million tons of coal per year to Asia via three proposed coal ports – an aggravating deterrent that must also extend to Australia which plans to open mega coal mines in Queensland’s Galilee Basin, as well as the world’s largest port (at Abbot Point right in the middle of the Great Barrier Reef) for export to China. Not only does India have more coal than Australia, India has 57 times more labourers.

A “no coal for China” anthem as sung by the non-profit industrial complex can also be interpreted as de facto promotion of natural gas/fracking, nuclear, etc. Consider the Bloomberg media coverage (referencing Carbon Tracker) in the article covering China moving from coal to gas. As Bloomberg (Bloomberg Philanthropies being a financial backer of Carbon Tracker) has been financing the fracking boom, one might question if there is a coordinated effort between Michael Bloomberg and former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson who, along with billionaire Tom Steyer’s Next Generation, have launched the Risky Business Project.

From the Risky Business website:

“Launched in October, 2013, the Risky Business Project focuses on quantifying and publicizing the economic risks from the impacts of a changing climate.

 

“Risky Business Project co-chairs Michael R. Bloomberg, Henry Paulson, and Tom Steyer tasked the Rhodium Group, an economic research firm that specializes in analyzing disruptive global trends, with an independent assessment of the economic risks posed by a changing climate in the U.S. Rhodium convened a research team co-led by climate scientist Dr. Robert Kopp of Rutgers University and economist Dr. Solomon Hsiang of the University of California, Berkeley. Rhodium also partnered with Risk Management Solutions (RMS), the world’s largest catastrophe-modeling company for insurance, reinsurance, and investment-management companies around the world. The team’s complete assessment, along with technical appendices, is available at Rhodium’s website, climateprospectus.rhg.com.”

The Risky Business Project is a joint partnership of Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Paulson Institute, and TomKat Charitable Trust (established in 2009 with funding from Tom Steyer and Kat Taylor), one of many financiers of 350.org (see image below). Additional support for the project has been provided by the Skoll Global Threats Fund, the Rockefeller Family Fund, the McKnight Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the Heising-Simons Foundation. Staff support for the Risky Business Project is provided by Next Generation, also co-founded by Steyer.

350 Funders

Bloomberg Philanthropies also invests in oil and gas via Willet Advisors. Logic dictates that due to its holdings/investments in the gas/fracking industry, Bloomberg will therefore highlight any victories against dirty coal – including faux ones. Thus although the divestment campaign is successful in the stigmatization of coal corporations, the label of corporate pariah does not extend to carbon sequestration schemes, industrial biomass and a score of other false solutions that will comprise the bulk share of the “clean” economy. Rather, such false solutions are grossly labeled as victorious and sought after by the appointed “leaders” of the environmental “movement.” Consider the re-tweet of the article Shell’s Global Warming Strategy Is Psychopathic & Paranoid, Says Former UK Climate Envoy by Bill McKibben in which the gist of the argument is why Shell is dragging their feet on carbon capture and sequestration. Further consider that the Bureau of Land Management’s plan to convert Nevada’s Pinyon Forests to biomass that threatens ancient rituals is backed by partner organizations such as Sierra Club, in partnership with Barrick Gold and Barrick Corp. This is just one instance of biomass facilities planned or already in operation under the guise of “clean” energy and/or carbon neutrality.

Bill McKibben Tweet CCS Shell 2

Steyer must be considered king hedge fund bourgeois extraordinaire with close ties to those in power. Time magazine, May 22, 2014: “So when Barack Obama appeared at Tom Steyer’s San Francisco home for a fundraiser last year, the President had to know there would be an ask. The 56-year-old Steyer is a hedge-fund billionaire and a major-league Democratic donor.”

August 6, 2014, Politico:

Billionaire Tom Steyer joined fellow liberal billionaire George Soros for a lunchtime meeting with Obama adviser John Podesta at the White House on Feb. 20, according to White House visitor logs. That was just days after Steyer pledged to spend $100 million on the midterm elections. Steyer also met with Podesta on March 31, along with NextGen Climate Action COO Josh Fryday and Denver attorney Ted White, managing partner of Fahr LLC, an ‘umbrella entity’ for Steyer’s various organizations.

 

“According to records, Steyer has visited the White House on at least 12 occasions since 2009 for meetings with top-level administration officials including Rahm Emanuel, Bill Daley, Pete Rouse, Heather Zichal, Jon Carson and David Lane. Those records only cover through April, and Steyer is known to have attended a June 25 meeting with Podesta, John Holdren, Valerie Jarrett and others to discuss his ‘Risky Business’ report on climate change.”

Exploiting climate change destruction to garner votes for the Democrats is par for the course within the NPIC; exploiting climate change destruction to further unprecedented “climate wealth opportunities” is not only the best game in town – it’s the best game on the industrialized planet.

 

 

End Notes:

[1] Source: “M. Mills, personal communication, 2010.” In Howell, Robert. “The Challenge of Sustainability for the Financial Sector.” International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability.

[2] The Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment (US) also serves to promote the divestment campaign in the “Education Center” where one finds “Fossil Fuels, Divestment & Reinvestment.” Within this section, under other resources, the link titled Institutional Pathways to Fossil Free Investing brings us back to the May 2013 41-page document Institutional Pathways to Fossil-Free Investing [emphasis added].

[3] “Thanks to the Carbon Bubble report, we now have some better numbers to help us grapple with that question. Based on research by the Potsdam Institute, the report suggests that if the world wants an 80% chance of staying within the 2ºC limit, we should avoid emitting more than 565 gigatonnes (GT) of CO2 by 2050. That equates to just one-fifth of the world’s total proven fossil fuel reserves, which contain enough carbon to produce a massive 2,795GT of CO2, the report estimates.”

[4] The DivestInvest Philanthropy steering committee and working group members include: Ellen Dorsey, Ellen Friedman, Richard Woo, Tom VanDyck, Melissa Beck, Jenna Nicholas, Farhad Ebrahimi, Vic de Luca, David Gordon, Florence Miller, Peter Martin, Anne Stetson, Jon Jensen, John Goldstein, Shally Shanker and Ginny Quick.

Montana Logging Collaborative Fails Restoration Goals

The Wildlife News

March 23, 2015

 by George Wuerthner

The Forest Service (FS), the timber industry and some environmental groups formed a collaborative groups several years ago known as the Southwest Crown of the Continent (SWCC). The goal ostensibly is to promote healthy ecosystems, but the real goal is to increase logging in the Seeley-Swan and Lincoln areas. The SWCC “restoration” objectives appear to be in direct conflict with sound science and well established principles.

The Southwestern Crown Collaborative

The collaborative first misinterprets ecological parameters to create a problem that they can solve with logging. Then the logging creates extra problems like spread of weeds on logging roads, which in turn requires more management. It is a self-fulfilling management that damages our forest ecosystems, and wastes tax payer money to subsidize private timber interests.

The Forest Landscape Restoration (CFLR) program supported by the SWCC collaborative has the following goals.

Reduce the risk of uncharacteristic wildfire

Improve fish and wildlife habitat

Maintain or improve water quality and watershed function

Maintain, decommission, and rehabilitate roads and trails

Prevent or control invasions of exotic species, and

Use woody biomass and small-diameter trees produced from restoration projects.

Unfortunately this is not “restoration” rather it is degradation.

The first goal to cut risk of “uncharacteristic wildfire demonstrates a failure to understand wildfire ecology. . There are  no uncharacteristic wildfires occurring in the SWCC. The bulk of this area consists of forests like lodgepole pine, subalpine fir, western larch and so forth that naturally burn as mixed to high severity fires. They burn in large fires whenever there is drought coupled with warm temperatures, low humidity and high winds—assuming an ignition. That is the way these forests replace themselves. There is nothing unusual about any of the fires that have burned and will burn in this area.

Then the second objective is “improve fish and wildlife habitat”. Ironically large severe wildfire fire is one of the major factors that creates dead wood. Dead wood is critical to many wildlife species. Fires also create the patchy age forest stands that is important for many wildlife species. Fires are even important for aquatic ecosystems.  Dead wood in streams is important for bull trout and other fish. Fire promotes the young forests that snowshoe hares like–hence also lynx. Etc. So if the FS reduces the “risk” of wildfire–especially large fires, it is harming wildlife and fish habitat.

Next we come to maintain or improve water quality and watershed function. Again this is a good goal, but when you put in a bunch of roads and disturb the forest floor with logging equipment you are not improving water quality. Even temporary roads can cause significant run-off of sediment. Cutting of the sub-surface water flow by road construction can also cause more surface flow leading to greater erosion and sedimentation in streams. So “treating” the forests here automatically degrades the water.

Of course, one of the justifications I hear all the time for logging is that after cutting the trees the FS will close roads. Yet one doesn’t have to create logging roads, so you can close them, nor do you need to cut trees to close roads. If existing roads are causing problems for water quality or wildlife than the FS legally should close them, and they don’t need to log to do this.

Another goal is to prevent and control invasions of exotic species. A very laudable goal. But the biggest factor in the spread of weeds is disturbance from logging roads and equipment. So in treating the forest, you create the problem you need to solve. This is great for creating an endless job for the FS but it’s not in the public interest.

Finally the last objective is to use woody biomass from “restoration” projects. This last aim acts as if biomass is somehow unnecessary for forest ecosystem function. Nothing could be further from the truth. The removal of biomass harms forest ecosystems, nutrient cycling, wildlife habitat, etc. There is a deficiency of dead wood in many of our forested landscapes, particularly the heavily logged Seeley Swan Valley.

In short, the SWCC is clearly not using good science, and ignoring the multiple ways that logging harms the environment. Furthermore, since nearly all timber sales are money losers, this policy just foster greater dependency by communities and industry on government largess or welfare. It’s time to wean the Montana timber industry off of the government teat.

FLASHBACK | Conservation International: Privatizing Nature, Plundering Biodiversity

conservation-international

Seedling | Grain

October 2003

by Aziz Choudry

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

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

Symphony of Failure

Vickrey

Environmental Activism in Four Movements

Counterpunch

October 16, 2013

by Gregory Vickrey

 

Allegro – Local Failure

In 2010, I wrote an article titled, “Environmentalism is Dead,” decrying the ineptitude and/or downright skullduggery of large environmental nonprofit organizations. At the time, I still held the foolhardy belief that we could keep environmental activism alive at the local level through traditional nonprofit vehicles, particularly because of the “good people” typically involved in such outfits and the hypothesis suggesting small and nimble – and the development of personal relationships – could create more effective tactics within a comprehensive strategy or agenda.

Of course, I was wrong.

I suppose one could argue isolated circumstances prove exceptions to the more idealistic rule, but conversations with activists around the United States and Canada, in particular, have only supplemented my own experiences to the point where the hypothesis above demonstrates abject failure in practice among the grassroots, local and regional fare.

Environmentalism truly is dead.

Keep Off The Grasslands | Mark Dowie On Conservation Refugees

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

Video | These people have names…

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

+++

The Sun Magazine

Issue 452 | August 2013

by Joel Whitney

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Boreal Forest Agreement With Industry: Not One Hectare Of Forest Has Been Protected In Three Years

Boreal Forest Agreement With Industry: Not One Hectare Of Forest Has Been Protected In Three Years

Canadian-Boreal-Forest-Ag-006

The Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement” (CBFA) was reached on 18 May 2010. Photograph: Richard Brooks/Greenpeace/EPA.

“Efforts to control corporations’ destructive impacts must have a critique of corporate power at their heart and a will to dismantle corporate power as their goal, otherwise they reinforce rather than challenge power structures, and undermine popular struggles for autonomy, democracy, human rights and environmental sustainability” – Corporate Watch [Britain]

FLASHBACK: How Nonprofit Careerism Derailed the “Revolution”

December 27, 2004

Greens and Greenbacks

by MICHAEL DONNELLY

My good friend Lisa Goldrosen is a veteran of many left causes. Lisa has spent her entire adult life working in various coop endeavors. She has a wonderful collection of buttons and posters from back when America rose from the slumber of the Eisenhower years. She has buttons from the early days of the clean-up of the Hudson River ­ Pete Seeger’s precursor to Greenpeace. More are from the early Civil Rights Movement. Others are from the anti-Vietnam War effort and the SDS era on campus. She has one anti-war poster that could be recycled as is and still be useful today.

Lisa has arranged them all in a wonderful historic collage. She regularly uses it to give history lessons to young radicals here in Oregon. Someone always asks, “Why didn’t I ever hear about this in school?”

Being a 60s activist myself, having grown up in Flint — steeped in the history of the Labor Movement, a Civil Rights activist at fourteen, a UAW member at eighteen and a draft resister/ Conscientious Objector/anti-war activist later — I always enjoy my discussions with Lisa.

Recently, she put my frustrations with the current state of activism in full perspective.

The Three-legged Stool of Counterrevolution

Lisa notes, “The Revolution was derailed by three things: the end of the draft; Roe v. Wade and the rise of the nonprofit sector. Once the children of privilege were no longer subject to any personal pain, it was over. It was a brilliant strategy by predatory capitalism.”

While I’m not sure if Revolution, or even Reform, was/is inevitable, I agree. Once the draft and the possibility that middle-to-upper class kids would be sent to fight Imperial Wars was over, it’s easy to see how the bottom fell out of the anti-war movement. Recent Imperial Wars, fought predominantly with “volunteers,” are just as heinous as Vietnam, but with few highly-educated, comfortable kids’ lives being on the line, we have yet to see anything approaching the across-the-board, massive opposition that Vietnam engendered. (Astonishingly, this very year during yet another ill-fated Imperial misadventure, we saw the “Peace” Movement line up vociferously behind a proudly-stated “I’ll hunt ‘em down and kill ‘em” warmonger for president!)

Same with Roe v Wade. A whole lot of steam went out of progressive social efforts once this same socioeconomic group could gain access to affordable, legal abortion. (It appears to be the sole bottom line litmus test still applied to the Democratic Party.) Remove the pain and the rulers gain.

It really did become — remove the personal pain from these me firsters and the hiccup of resistance vanishes. I already felt that way about these two issues. But, Lisa’s expansion of the concept to include the rise of the “Nonprofit Sector” put the final piece of the puzzle in place.

What’s the Fallout When Green Groups “Partner” with Arms Makers? | Conservation International & Nature Conservancy

Apr 30

Posted by

"Bombs Away!" by Anxious223 Chris Dixon. Creative Commons license.“Bombs Away!” by Anxious223 Chris Dixon. Creative Commons license. 

About a year ago Conservation International was pilloried by a couple of British videographers posing as executives of the arms maker Lockheed Martin. They bamboozled a C.I. official in London into a meeting where she outlined several ways the nonprofit could “partner” with the arms maker under terms that looked a lot like greenwashing. You can watch the video here and judge for yourself if C.I. did anything wrong.

I had a few issues with the “exposé;” chiefly that C.I. already had dealings with B2 bomber maker Northrop Grumman, whose chairman and CEO Wes Bush is a member of its board of directors. And another big group, The Nature Conservancy, was already in the pay of Lockheed. These existing relationships undermined the shock value the scamsters were going for.

Still, you’d think the critique, or at least the bad press coverage it generated, would inspire reflection about the reputational damage some corporate deals can bring down on a nonprofit organization. More specifically, is a company that makes weapons of war an appropriate partner for a group whose mission is saving the Earth’s biodiversity? Well, if those questions were raised, they didn’t lead to change.

C.I. has just cranked up its P.R. machine in service of a new partnership with Northrop, “a unique and innovative professional development program for public middle and high school science teachers.”

In a nutshell: The Northrop Grumman Foundation will pay for 16 teachers from four U.S. public school systems to visit CI’s Tropical Ecology Assessment and Monitoring Network’s Volcan Barva site inside La Selva Biological Station and Braulio Carrillo National Park in Costa Rica.

“We believe that supporting professional development opportunities for teachers will have the greatest impact on engaging students in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields. We expect this program will help cultivate the next generation of environmental stewards,” said Sandy Andelman, vice president at Conservation International in a press release the two partners issued April 19.

Whoa! That statement requires a reality check. According to the U.S. Department of Education, there are 3.6 million K to 12 grade teachers in the United States spread across 14,000 public school districts. The group selected for this program doesn’t even come close to representing 1 percent of the teachers in the country.

While they will surely have a rewarding time and may even return home to inspire their students, the scale of the program is too small to have the impact Andelman claims. Like so many of these corporate-conservationist joint ventures they are more symbolic than substantive.